How Can We Keep Art from Being Canonically Masculine?

Art can’t be kept away from being canonically masculine

If you’ve ever perused Hinge or studied a newspaper, you’ll recognize too properly that men, especially white, straight, cis ones, won’t prevent ingesting themselves alive. Much fuss has been revamped by our culture’s shift in gender expectancies and its attendant leakage over the last 3 decades, however, this specific cannibalizing impulse appears to have escaped the hand-wringing afforded greater headline-prepared habitus. Journalists fret over the incel subreddits, the frantic cancelations, the rise of Joe Rogan, and the stylized bombast of our dreadful president, and focused on good reason; disaffected white men can’t appear to prevent shooting up schools, effective white men can’t appear to prevent assaulting everybody inside cufflink distance. The maximum long-winded artists amongst us have already devoted endless bandwidth to each political ripple that bridged gaps or closed ranks should possibly animate, interrogating the supremacist contours of fellows who vote against their personal best interests or berate the women they’re allegedly seeking to bang. The white dude’s experience is abandoned, and redundant. If we laugh at them, they’ll homicide us. So, writers and artists and scientists and instructors decide to the breathless project of solubility, of reinscribed significance, as white men gnaw away at their palms and toes, hoping in useless that thickened flesh may mark them as concurrently used and useful.

This loss of appendages doesn’t save you from making art, though. I originally desired to put in writing a pithy piece explaining why most modern-day work made by white men is ugly, summary and rendered in green (I won’t name, however…you understand what I’m talking about), however, the greater I poked around, the more floored I was by “masculinity’s” ontological slipperiness inside and outside an artwork world context. For an idea so socially punitive and monolithic, it feels thin in practice. In his landmark book, Female Masculinity, queer theorist Jack Halberstam posits that masculinity “turns into legible in which and while it leaves the white male middle magnificence body”, invoking icon James Bond as the final gender-cipher, normatively described through the prosthetics that denote an ironically “natural” state of embodiment. While he refuses an elevator pitch, Halberstam makes a case for masculinity as an “epic” overall performance either blanketed or policed according to its anchored identity. Feminist aesthetics scholar Hilde Hein created some other workable ‘90s blueprint, describing the “feminine stain” as a diminishing agent; masculinity can be rigid, then, however best in the service of a self-consciously porous exterior.

The records of masculinity inspire a few head-scratching, too, especially in the context of race. Jacobean medical doctor’s idea women had been simply undercooked men, often caution little women that strolling too rapid would possibly inspire penises to spontaneously sprout from extra heat. Gender aberration doesn’t inspire swift, merciless correction through “grotesque” rarity, but, rather, because of its comparative prevalence. It follows that “fragile masculinity” itself is a tautology; the white male apotheosis of any range necessitates brittleness, and that frailty is compounded by white male conflation, not reduced. Power continually is predicated on precarity for its lure, and masculinity desires a white male host to perform in Hegelian terms; without that subterranean community of social concessions, racist entitlement, sexual conquest, and symbolic antagonism, masculinity manner something fundamentally different; separate, even, sometimes radical. As such, I find myself monitoring a shadow delineated by its very absence, private and collective in the same measure. Lesbian feminist Sarah Ahmed stated that “When we speak of white men, we’re describing an institution…reproduced as a “citational relational”; not to quote white guys isn’t to exist”. This “masculinity crisis” is white male trouble due to the fact it’s designed to be. They’re consuming themselves on purpose, you guys.

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