Marked Men: White Masculinity in Crisis

By Sally Robinson | Go to book overview

NOTES

INTRODUCTION: VISIBILITY, CRISIS, AND THE WOUNDED WHITE MALE BODY
1
A word on terminology: while some analysts of the contemporary crisis in masculinity do not specify white masculinity, my desire to do so stems from my conviction that the very particular dynamics of embodiment I am isolating here depend on whiteness and masculinity, insofar as the white man is the figure in American culture understood to be normative, his body unmarked. While some of what I say—particularly about male versus female representations of bodily experience—might apply to men of color, my argument is specifically directed at representations of bodies and subjectivities understood as unmarked by either gender or race. In recent books and articles on masculinity in crisis, there often comes a moment when the writer finds himself in a bit of a bind as to the racial category of the masculinity under analysis. This moment usually comes in the course of detailing how “men” either resent the inroads of, or try to appropriate the tactics of,“black men.”A representative instance is found in the last chapter of Michael Kimmel's Manhood in America: A Cultural History. In the process of detailing why “men” might turn to the men's movement, Kimmel points out that some men “seek to reclaim the proving ground from interlopers—like blacks, gays, and women” (298). The “interlopers” are racially (and sexually) marked, but the seekers are not. While Kimmel explicitly states elsewhere that his book “describes only one version of ‘Manhood in America’—albeit the dominant version” (6), his language in the above instance unwittingly works to unmark white masculinity. Scholars who struggle with competing impulses to generalize by gender and specify by race are struggling against deep-seated linguistic conventions that work to reproduce the normativity of whiteness and masculinity. For clarity's sake, I will use the construction “(white) masculinity” to refer to ideas or work that does not specify a racial category but which, in my view, implies one. At different points in

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