06 September 2008

Patriarchy Land

A book review written by Wesley Yang for the New York times critiques sociologist Michael Kimmel's new book titled Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. His new analysis of young men reveal the concern that they are not "growing up" (i.e. obtaining a career, starting a family) in rates as fast as women are. He believes it is the stereotypical activities of college-aged frat boys (video games, sex, beer, etc.) stunting the men of the future.

The article states "boys are all taught the 'Guy Code' -- a set of crude injuntions ('boys don't cry', 'don't get mad, get even,' 'bros before hos,' 'size matters' and so forth)". Oh, so you mean...PATRIARCHY? Guy code decoded is sexism! I won! What is this avoidance of terms like patriarchy, misogyny, and sexism* when it is so vividly the subject matter and the root of this particular problem?! "Guy Code" certainly plays it down, makes it socially acceptable, and hands it some innocent cake.
I do value Kimmel recognizing masculinity as not " 'hardwired' but rather 'coerced and policed relentlessly by other guys." He blames homophobic nature of masculinity that cracks the whip to men falling out of traditional male roles. Homophobia is a valid argument, but fear and hatred of women is at the core of anti-gay sentiments as well. And just to let you know...traditional gender roles equals PATRIARCHAL gender roles.

Analyzing what is wrong within fraternities, "gang rape" is casually mentioned as an "occasional occurence." Oh! So sexual assault only happens a couple of times a year? Violence against women should be at the center of this discussion. One in four women will be sexually assaulted during her academic career...that's not an occasional occurrence. 

Yang's critique of Guyland is that Kimmel "recapitulates too much lurid old news like the Glen Ridge rape case and Spur Posse" and how "it's absurd to use the same cultural dynamics to explain both gang rape and sports talk radio." Sexual violence is not old news and that "cultural dynamic" you're looking for is sexist, misogynist patriarchy.

Yang ends the article with an excerpt from the book on the shocking tale of casual sex occurrences of fraternity boys. I don't think the worry should be about safe, consensual sex and be in awe of how "girls are willing to do that" nowadays. They should only hope it is of the girls' will.

*Edit:  I want to make it clear to readers that I am criticizing Yang's article in the NY Times rather than Kimmel's actual work. A Kimmel reader has informed me that his work often times does talk about sexism and that his ideals are pro-feminist. 


Elizabeth said...

Thanks for your comment! This is a great piece too, and I'll keep my eye out for more

Sungold said...

I haven't read Guyland, but I do know Kimmel's work, and he is a serious, smart, reliably pro-feminist scholar. I teach women's studies and use article-length pieces by Kimmel in my intro class.

If you haven't actually read anything by Kimmel - and the tone of this post gives that impression - I'd highly recommend his stuff. He certainly does use the term sexism. He doesn't talk about patriarchy much, which is more than fine in my book, because it too often is used in ahistorical ways. But he certainly does dissect the internal workings of sexual violence and misogyny.

As for the Spur Posse reference - Kimmel wrote an article in the early '90s that addressed that incident and others. I'm sure he's recycling some of that older material. But that doesn't mean Kimmel trivializes sexual violence.

M.R.Ambrose said...

I was more critiquing the author of the NY Times piece, than Kimmel's actual work. Kimmel seems like a pretty pro-feminist guy. But the article never mentioned terms like "sexism". It was Yang's critique that recycling older material like Spur Posse was repetitive and absurd. In no way did I mean to sound like I thought Kimmel trivializes sexual violence...to the contrary.

Sungold said...

You might want to add an update to your post, then, clarifying your position. I'd suggest doing that rather than deleting portions of the original post. In my own writing, I sometimes make quick changes within the first minutes after the post goes up - often, I spot problems more easily once it's published - but I prefer to make later changes in a form that is transparent to the reader.

And I definitely recommend reading Kimmel's work. :-)

Marty Coleman said...

So, here is a reason patriarchy might not be referred to in this regard.

It seems there is an assumption that these sets of behaviors are caused by the boys being in a patriarchal society. However, it is completely possible to imagine boys behaving similarly even if they were not in a patriarchy. In other words, the mere existence of this code, while having roots in patriarchy, doesn't mean it wouldn't exist if the patriarchy ceased to exist any more than a bucket of water would cease to exist if the ocean it came from disappeared.

That is one reason the author might address issues within the phenomenon of 'guyland' without attaching it to a more general argument regarding patriarchy.