masculinity as a product of Western metaphysics

There’s a sinister little trick of Western metaphysics, and one has to examine it closely in order to understand its mechanism. (It is a much different thing to understand its results.) A sense of how this sinister rhetorical trick works has been lurking at the sidestream of my consciousness for several years, but it took Samuel Slipp ( The Freudian Mystique), and more indirectly Georges Bataille, to make its features plain to me.You see, Western masculinity, more often than not, is a product of rhetoric. Whether or not it exists prior to the imposition of this rhetoric, by which it sinks or swims, is difficult to say. What is certain is that the rhetoric intervenes to make a subject either masculine or feminine.

Bataille, of course, uses it against Nietzsche, to prove that he was self-defeating. (I understand this manouevre as an expression of Bataille’s will to power.) Nietzsche, he said, had a will to fall.

“How was that?”, you may well ask.

Well, he ended up hugging a horse in Turin, after he broke down from all the strain. His philosophy led him to that point, obviously, and consequently this must have been his unconscious goal all along. Touché . Or “hoisted with his own petard,” as the Brits of yore might have intoned.

For, masculinity, according to Samuel Slipp, was in Europe metaphysically described and circumscribed by the concept of the active will. Logically, then, for something to happen to you that you had not actively willed to happen, would take you outside of the boundaries of masculinity into unknown territory — perhaps territory that was fatefully “feminine”.

So Bataille was both “saving” Nietzsche’s masculinity and also scoring a point against him when he attributed what may have been a product of fate alone to Nietzsche’s active will: Nietzsche wanted to fall from grace because he had an Icarian complex, Bataille said.

According to Slipp, Freud was in on the same gig of masculinity creation. Except that it was primarily his own masculinity that Freud was creating, by using the logic of “active will” to imply that he was no feminine Jewish dame (an ethnic slur popular during his time). That is, his conceptual system had to posit only “active forces” so as not to be seen as being corruptly Jewish.

Unfortunately this logic of “active will” resulted in Freud seeing incest survivors as subjects who energetically seduced their parents. Passive victimisation would not do as a conceptual construct. The subjects had to be depicted as being at the centre of an active will. Like Bataille’s Nietzsche, then, they could also be seen as being instrumental in orchestrating their own demise.

Western masculinity, as per the above, is a product of a rhetorical device that is nothing if not contrived. This rhetorical device has a tendency to make anyone whose life isn’t 100 percent perfect look like a self-defeating asshole. It’s also very easy to defeat a Western masculinist purely on the basis of his own logic, by pointing out some of the failures in his life and insinuating that he must have wholly intended them, if he is to be masculine at all.


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