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Mother Pelican
A Journal of Sustainable Human Development

Vol. 7, No. 10, October 2011
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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The Masculinity Conspiracy - Part 1

Joseph Gelfer
Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Originally published in
The Masculinity Conspiracy, CreateSpace, 14 August 2011
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR


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The Masculinity Conspiracy
Print Edition      Kindle Edition
What if the biggest conspiracy in human history had gone completely unnoticed? What if that conspiracy was responsible for some of the biggest problems the world faces today? Wouldn't you want to know? Wouldn't you want to do something about it? Well guess what: You can. The Masculinity Conspiracy argues that nearly every assumption about masculinity in contemporary society is wrong. The result is nothing short of exposing a worldwide conspiracy that has been preventing humanity from reaching its fullest potential.

BOOK OUTLINE

Chapter 1 - Conspiracy, Problem, Solution
Chapter 2 - History
Chapter 3 - Sexuality
Chapter 4 - Relationships
Chapter 5 - Fatherhood
Chapter 6 - Archetypes
Chapter 7 - Spirituality
Chapter 8 - Conclusion
EDITOR'S NOTE: This book breaks new ground. The subject matter is bound to elicit controversy, but one that must be faced with humble courage for the sake of fostering human solidarity and ecological sustainability. With the author's permission the book will be serialized in eight parts, one for each of the eight chapters. The overview that follows, and the list of references at the end, will be included with each part.

OVERVIEW

Every person on the planet is affected by masculinity in some shape or form. This is why getting masculinity right is so important. If we get it wrong, everything falls apart. You might have noticed that everything seems to be falling apart... But the debate about masculinity rarely seems to progress.

On one side (I'll put my cards on the table here and say my side), progressive academic types mostly take a feminist position and talk about patriarchy and power, and how this marginalises women (and atypical men). Increasingly, these types also refer to queer theory, which is not solely about gay and lesbian people, rather resisting ways of pigeon-holing the identities of all people.

On the other side, are those who (often quite rightly) identify the many problems suffered by men in society, and simply do not see claims about patriarchy and power as valid any more, chiefly because they are looking at individual men who appear not to be enjoying the privileges of power, rather than the systemic and institutional nature of power. The very words 'systemic and institutional nature of power' will often make these types wince.

This debate has been going on for years: one side claiming they cannot state their watertight case about patriarchy any clearer, the other finding that case unrepresentative of the truth. We have to start finding different ways to frame this debate to make any progress. This is not about finding a middle ground; it as about finding a different ground. It is about finding a different lens through which to view the 'problem' of masculinity. Recently I have been using the lens of conspiracy logic.

The popular definition of conspiracy can be found in the idea of a cover-up, and to a large degree this is certainly the case. However, there are various aspects to conspiracy that are worth unpacking. In his book, A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America, political scientist Michael Barkun claims conspiracy is a method through which people explain the presence of evil in the world. They do this by viewing 'history as controlled by massive, demonic forces'. Conspiracies can therefore be seen as simultaneously frightening and reassuring: the demonic forces are at work, but at least they can be identified as the source of everything around us that is bad, as opposed to the true terror of random evil.

Barkun identifies three key aspects to conspiracy theories, which are worth spelling out. First, nothing happens by accident: there is always intent behind actions; the willed nature of reality is paramount. Second, nothing is as it seems: the source of a conspiracy tends to conceal its activities through the appearance of innocence or misinformation. Third, everything is connected: patterns abound in conspiracy; exposing conspiracy is about unveiling these hidden connections. Barkun sees this type of thinking as ultimately resulting in paranoia: a closed system of ideas that 'defeat any attempt at testing' due to the assumption that all the evidence countering the conspiracy must be part of the conspiracy, and therefore rejected.

To be fair, Barkun is highly critical of conspiracy belief, and when you look at the examples he provides such as the Illuminati and extraterrestrial reptilian masters, it is tempting to agree with him. But because conspiracy theories can often be a bit flaky, it doesn't mean that they are always flaky, or that at the very least there aren't some reasonable things that resemble conspiracies, inasmuch as there being a widespread assumption that needs to be exposed as false.

And this is what I'm getting at with the Masculinity Conspiracy. Gender theorists have been claiming for some time that there is no such thing as a singular 'masculinity'. Instead, there is a vast spectrum of different masculinities, some of which look familiar, some of which do not. The problem, in this worldview, is that those different masculinities (and women) are oppressed and denied by that chief masculinity. Further still, this type of masculinity is responsible for a lot of the problems the world faces today: this type of masculinity needs to be exposed as ‘false', inasmuch as it is not the natural and only option available to men.

Instead of thinking about this chief masculinity solely in terms of power and identity, let's try conspiracy. Let's assume there are certain people who are being oppressed (men and women alike, for various reasons). It appears that the way we define masculinity has not happened by accident. It appears that nothing about masculinity is as it commonly seems. It appears that a number of key themes in society are connected to form a legitimising framework for the Masculinity Conspiracy. I'm not, however, suggesting that the Masculinity Conspiracy is 'controlled by massive, demonic forces'. I use the term 'conspiracy' fully aware of its limitations, and somewhat tongue-in-cheek. It is about acknowledging that there is something going on with masculinity beyond the awareness of most people.

Can those who find the language of patriarchy and power too problematic adopt the language of conspiracy? I think it's worth finding out. Perhaps the language of conspiracy is more familiar and less judgmental? Perhaps it is simply more compelling (heroic, even) to expose a conspiracy than overturn patriarchy? This isn't a cynical attempt to lure innocent men's rights advocates into a feminist trap, rather a genuine attempt to consider the problems of masculinity in a different way. Perhaps in doing so we all might discover different insights.

In the Masculinity Conspiracy there is a clear challenge on the table when statements about masculinity are made which appear counter-intuitive: is that your intuition talking, or is it the conspiracy? Following conspiracy logic, the fact that you don't believe me is proof itself that the Masculinity Conspiracy has you successfully conditioned. I say it only half-jokingly.

In the end, once the conspiracy and its method of misinformation have been revealed, it is the choice of the individual whether or not to be misinformed. Either be spoon-fed the lies, or not. It has become a cliché of conspiracy culture, but the ‘red pill, blue pill' scenario of The Matrix movie holds true here: ‘You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes'.

So, what's it going to be: red pill, or blue?

PART 1: CONSPIRACY, PROBLEM, SOLUTION

The Conspiracy

I want to start with an exercise, one that is going to put a slightly different spin on reality. It's a very small investment of effort and time. There's no need here to meditate in an Indian ashram, or guzzle some psychedelic brew in the Amazonian rainforest. It takes five minutes, and you can do it at home for free. We're going to look through the looking glass, quite literally.

Go and find a mirror. Look at yourself in the mirror closely for a full five minutes. Look first into your eyes, notice their color and pattern. See the imperfections in your skin, the asymmetry to some parts of your face. Twitch your nose, and have a think about how that thought signal reaches your nose, and that your intention to twitch seems almost unrelated to the act itself. Contemplate the idea that it is the person in the mirror who moves through the world and that everyone sees and interacts with, not you. Notice that there is an increasingly large disconnect between who you feel you are and the person in the mirror, a distance between the two yous that is difficult to articulate in words. Now imagine that gap between the mirror and every man in the world alive right now. That's a lot of gaps, right? Now imagine that gap for every man who has ever lived. That's a lot of disconnect, a vast space between men and the men in the mirror. This is the space we're going to navigate in this book. It's in this space of disconnect that we can locate The Masculinity Conspiracy. But what exactly is The Masculinity Conspiracy? A brief definition of terms is in order.

For starters, what is masculinity? Getting into this is rather premature, as the manipulation of its meaning is at the very heart of the conspiracy. Nevertheless, some immediate definition is required to progress. To begin with, masculinity is not what "men do": this is a very common misconception that causes all sorts of trouble. To get to the meaning of this, it's useful first to explore the sex/gender distinction. Sex and gender are routinely used interchangeably. For example, I often see a section on administrative forms called "gender" in which I am asked to tick the "male" or "female" box. Here's the difference between the two, largely accepted by researchers of sex and gender: sex is biological, gender is socially constructed.

The concept that sex is biological is easy enough to grasp. We are generally born either male or female (even if the percentage of people born with ambiguous sexual organs—hermaphrodites, now more accurately referred to as intersex—is surprisingly high). Again, biological sex is "male" and "female." When those administrative forms ask us to tick male or female, that section should more accurately be called "sex," not "gender." But, gender is socially constructed? This requires some more careful thinking.

Gender is a spectrum of codes that can be applied to and describe men's and women's behaviors. Gender is "masculine" and "feminine." There are two important things to remember about gender. First, that which is recognized as gender (in our case, masculinity) changes in space and time. For example, in Detroit it is not the done thing for two men to hold hands in the street unless they want to be considered gay. The gender code of the space of Detroit says masculinity is not about holding hands. However, if you hopped on a plane to Delhi, you would see men holding hands all over the place without any assumption of them being gay. The gender code of the space of Delhi says masculinity is about holding hands. That's space, but what about time? Think about fashion. Today, back on the streets of Detroit (sorry, Detroit: you don't deserve to be singled out like this), it is not the done thing for men to wear frilly shirts unless they want to be considered effeminate thespians. The gender code of today's time in Detroit says masculinity is not about frilly shirts. However, if you hopped in a time machine to Tudor England, you would see very manly men wearing frilly shirts all over the place. The gender code of the time of Tudor England says masculinity is about frilly shirts. So, what we mean by "masculinity" shifts constantly depending on where and when we are.

The second thing to remember about gender is that it is not as obviously connected to sex as you might imagine. The feminist philosopher Judith Butler makes an excellent case for this in her book Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. The common assumption is that masculinity (even its differing forms in space and time) is something done by men, whereas femininity is something done by women. Often this is true, but it doesn't have to be. Men can be feminine, and women masculine. The obvious (and rather blunt) example is feminine gay men and masculine gay women. However, it applies in all situations, to all people: all men have feminine aspects, all women have masculine aspects. Sometimes these are very subtle; sometimes they are so extreme you might have a hard time telling if someone is a man or a woman. And all of this is perfectly normal.

In short, masculinity is a vast spectrum of differing gender performances. Indeed, to use the term "masculinity" in the singular is rather misleading: it should really be "masculinities," in the plural. And masculinity can apply just as easily to women as it does to men. Now that we see how much more complex gender is compared to sex, it becomes easier to imagine that there is plenty going on that might be feeding into The Masculinity Conspiracy. So let's look now at what "conspiracy" means.

The popular definition of conspiracy can be found in the idea of a cover-up, and to a large degree this is certainly the case. However, there are various aspects to conspiracy that are worth unpacking. In his book, A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America, political scientist Michael Barkun claims conspiracy is a method through which people explain the presence of evil in the world. They do this by viewing "history as controlled by massive, demonic forces." Conspiracies can therefore be seen as simultaneously frightening and reassuring: the demonic forces are at work, but at least they can be identified as the source of everything around us that is bad, as opposed to the true terror of random evil.

Barkun identifies three key aspects to conspiracy theories, which are worth spelling out. First, nothing happens by accident: there is always intent behind actions; the willed nature of reality is paramount. Second, nothing is as it seems: the source of a conspiracy tends to conceal its activities through the appearance of innocence or misinformation. Third, everything is connected: patterns abound in conspiracy; exposing conspiracy is about unveiling these hidden connections. Barkun sees this type of thinking (which has escalated since 9/11) as ultimately resulting in paranoia: a closed system of ideas that "defeat any attempt at testing" due to the assumption that all the evidence countering the conspiracy must be part of the conspiracy, and therefore rejected.

To be fair, Barkun is highly critical of conspiracy belief, and when you look at the examples he provides such as the Illuminati and extraterrestrial reptilian masters, it is tempting to agree with him. But because conspiracy theories can often be a bit flaky (who can resist the description "Barkun mad"?), it doesn't mean that they are always flaky, or that at the very least there aren't some reasonable things that resemble conspiracies, inasmuch as there being a widespread assumption that needs to be exposed as false. And this is what I'm getting at with The Masculinity Conspiracy. In this book I will argue that the way masculinity has been sold to us has the appearance of a conspiracy. Looking at the proceeding evidence, it appears that the way we define masculinity has not happened by accident. It appears that nothing about masculinity is as it commonly seems. It appears that a number of key themes in society are connected to form a legitimizing framework for The Masculinity Conspiracy. What I'm not suggesting is that the masculinity conspiracy is "controlled by massive, demonic forces." I use the term "conspiracy" fully aware of its limitations, and somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Besides, if I had called this book The Masculinity Phenomenon that Shares Some Loose Commonality with Barkun's Presentation of Conspiracy Belief, you just wouldn't have read it, would you?

So, now that we have some definition of terms on the table, we can get down to introducing the business at hand. The masculinity conspiracy plays out in diverse ways. In fact, there are not many aspects of our experience that escape its influence. In this book I'm only going to scratch the surface by addressing some broad themes where the masculinity conspiracy is at its most potent. But remember, this is just a jumping off point: the chapters are grouped around high-level themes, but the conspiracy runs deep. Specifically, the book is grouped around chapters addressing History, Sexuality, Relationships, Fatherhood, Archetypes, and Spirituality. The following paragraphs give a snapshot of these themes: these are the primary elements of the masculinity conspiracy that will be exposed as confining rather than defining masculinity.

History. The Masculinity Conspiracy appeals to history in two fundamental ways. The first argument focuses on biological determinism, which means that men are physically programmed in a certain way, which both explains and justifies certain male behaviors. The second argument focuses on the social construction of history, which means that because men have historically done things in a certain way that has been largely accepted by society, they should continue to do so today.

Sexuality. The Masculinity Conspiracy frames sexuality in two fundamental ways. First, following biological determinism, it is suggested that men are subject to certain sexual impulses, which both explain and justify male behaviors. Second, a particular form of heterosexuality is presented which suggests a natural order to the way men engage with women and with other men.

Relationships. The Masculinity Conspiracy uses its understanding of biological determinism and sexuality to frame relationships in two fundamental ways. First, relations between men and women echo the age-old roles of hunter, nurturer and so on, which largely allocate men and women to the public and private domains respectively. Second, relations between all people are ordered in a way for men to achieve success in the eyes of both men and women.

Fatherhood. The Masculinity Conspiracy distills the lessons learned from history, sexuality and relationships in the role of fatherhood in two fundamental ways. First, more than any other, fatherhood provides a forum through which men can understand their role in the perpetuation of the species. Second, more than any other, fatherhood provides a way of communicating the values of The Masculinity Conspiracy to the next generation.

Archetypes. The Masculinity Conspiracy interprets and uses archetypes in two fundamental ways. First, following a similar argument to biological determinism, it is suggested that archetypes are unavoidable aspects of humanity, whether hardwired in the reptilian part of our brains, or somewhere deep and undefined in our psyches. Second, following Carl Jung, it is suggested that archetypes are not just part of our psyches, but our collective unconscious which binds humanity in both space and time.

Spirituality. The Masculinity Conspiracy adopts spirituality in two fundamental ways. First, it develops the theme of archetypes, suggesting there is a spiritual realm that contains archetypal models of being a man. Second, via both the holy books of major religions and the more diverse teachings of newer faith traditions, spirituality argues that there are certain codes attributable either to enlightened human beings or some creative entity that define masculinity: these must be adhered to or we risk being out of line with the divine plan for men.

In the concluding chapter, I will draw together the lines of argument presented in the above themes. However, these themes are simply the way the masculinity conspiracy plays out: they do not explain why it plays it. In the conclusion we'll revisit that space between men and the men in the mirror, as it is in this space of disconnect that the bottom-line answers are to be found about the source of the conspiracy and all our roles within it. In short, it's about looking into those big existential issues (remember those?): freedom, isolation, meaninglessness and, ultimately, death (eek!).

The Problem

Now, you might look at those themes I've outlined above—from history through to nature—and think, hang on a minute... Rest assured, I will be unpacking these themes with suitable granularity. Each chapter will start just like this one started, with a section called "The Conspiracy." These sections will outline the popular understanding of the theme at hand via one or two books that perpetuate the masculinity conspiracy. These books are not chosen because they play some special role in the conspiracy, rather because they provide useful examples: any number of other examples could have been selected.

These sections are about presenting the conspiracy on its own terms: a fair go, as we say in Australia, before I start identifying problems. This critiquing process will happen in the second section of each chapter—just like this one—called "The Problem." The goal of these sections is twofold: first, to identify problems in the conspiracy specifically to do with masculinity; second, to promote the kind of critical thinking required to identify and mitigate these problems.

We'll get into specific examples of this in the following chapters, but the fundamental thing to be mindful of when reading is that when popular presentations of masculinity are offered in "The Conspiracy" sections a suggestion is made (to put it mildly) about the appropriateness of these issues for men. This is often achieved by putting a qualifying word in front of "masculinity." For example, various forms of Christian men's movement might speak in terms of "biblical masculinity." The use of "biblical" here is intended to communicate that this is not some new-fangled masculinity—the like of which has resulted in today's "crisis of masculinity"—rather, "proper" masculinity. Now let's say, for argument's sake, that you're no great fan of Christianity, much less using Old Testament patriarchs as a role model for contemporary men. You might, with some justification, ask, "Why should I accept biblical masculinity as a model for men? What possible relevance can this have for me?" I hope you would ask these questions, particularly if you were a Christian.

But there's something else going on here. The use of the term "biblical" not only suggests a "proper" masculinity, but also some kind of bottom line that cannot be further reduced or questioned. In short, it is a statement of authority. Again, if you're no great fan of Christianity, this will come as no surprise to you, and may confirm your assumptions about Christianity and authority. However (and it's a BIG however), there are various other words that perform the same function here as "biblical" that may be slipping under your radar. If you have concerns about "biblical masculinity," you should also have concerns about "real masculinity," "genuine masculinity," "authentic masculinity," "archetypal masculinity," and so on. These types of words are very common in discussions about masculinity in conservative and progressive contexts alike. But make no mistake: whenever you read such words, two things are happening. First, you are being told what masculinity should be about. Second, you are being told not to question why this is the case. Sometimes the people communicating these two messages are perfectly aware of what they are doing, other times they are not. In both cases we are witnessing the masculinity conspiracy at work. If you stop reading this book right now, here's the takeaway:

  • Never accept being told what masculinity should be about.
  • Always question why you are being told what masculinity should be about.

This point is a useful bridge to that second goal of "The Problem" sections: critical thinking. You may remember that towards the end of the movie The Wizard of Oz, when the "Wizard" is exposed from behind the curtain as a mere man he shouts, "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!" Well, I'm suggesting you pull back the curtain and pay attention to the man behind it. Expose the machinations of everything around you.

Note, for example, the familiarity you'll start to feel with the structure of this book's chapters (The Conspiracy, The Problem, The Solution), with the rhythm of the sentences. Everything is there for a reason: a gentle repetition that suggests a subtle feeling of order and plausibility. Now think about why I'm telling you this, exposing my authorial intention to lull you into a receptive mood. Is it for the sake of transparency, or does it serve some deeper cause? Perhaps it's the old magician's trick of misdirection? By chipping away at the different levels of meaning behind everything around us, we can slowly expose the conspiracy for what it is. In fancy terms, it's called a "hermeneutic of suspicion." A hermeneutic is a way-of-understanding-lens through which to view stuff when figuring it out. In short, assume you're being bullshitted in some way. Ask how. More importantly, ask why. Nine times out of ten you'll realize you are being bullshitted. On the tenth time, you might find a gem, just like this book :)

There's another thing we need to get out of the way before we start. Because I am very critical of a lot of things to do with masculinity, some people jump to the conclusion that I am anti-masculinity, or even anti-men. I have been called a man-hater, mangina, pussy-whipped, femi-Nazi, queer and all manner of other things by folks who believe I'm out to diss regular men. However, if you remember the sex/gender distinction, even if I were anti-masculinity, this is not the same thing as being anti-men, as masculinity is a gender performance that shifts in space and time, whereas men are biological realities.

But the thing is, I like men. Some of my best friends are men. I'm a male myself, as are my two sons: I like us. There's a reasonable probability that my daughter will one day marry a male: I hope to like him too. This book is not anti-men, it is anti-a certain way of defining masculinity. It is anti-a certain way of being a man that has been playing out since the dawn of humanity. Let's say it again from the other direction: this book is pro-man because it is pro-people, but in order to be pro-people we have to stop problematic ways of doing masculinity. (Of course, there are problematic ways of being feminine too, but masculinity happens to have a bigger footprint on the world. But you're most welcome to write The Femininity Conspiracy when you have a free moment.)

The Solution

In the past I thought that exposing and deconstructing what was wrong with something was a significant part of constructing an alternative to the subject of my critique. In particular, in my first book, Numen, Old Men: Contemporary Masculinities and the Problem of Patriarchy, I devoted a lot of words to critiquing various forms of masculine spirituality. I released the book into the world with the assumption that these (in my mind) watertight arguments would make people cast the subjects of my critique to one side. Quelle surprise, I was wrong.

I received lots of feedback suggesting that while pointing out what is wrong with something piques folks' interest, it also leaves them rather cold. People don't just want to be shown what's wrong, they want to be shown what's right. Largely, I feel this has something to do with the strange relationship lots of folks seem to have with the idea of "criticism." We often hear the phrase "everyone's a critic," and this has negative connotations. In some circles, being critical is perceived as an attitude problem, or even some kind of psychological disorder that explains everything bad in one's life from a lack of satisfaction, through to illness and not being sufficiently wealthy. In this way, everyone has to be a "positive thinker" if they want to succeed in life. Barbara Ehrenreich's book Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America makes a good case for how this type of thinking has become problematically engrained in society.

I certainly believe in the power of positive thinking: there is indeed a long way we can go in life on our attitude alone. However, the downside is that by shying away from criticism, our bullshit detectors are rendered silent and we remain exposed to nonsense. However, somewhat ironically, unless it is used as a way of putting people down, criticism is actually a positive thing: a continual process of unpacking, refinement and improvement on ideas (akin to the "scientific method"). How could it be anything other than positive? In a sense, by resisting criticism, the positive thinking crowd negates its own worldview, which ultimately leaves it in a meaningless void, or alternatively exposes its worldview as something other than positive thinking (such as a strategy to secure capital and power). But that's getting a bit critical, and is more appropriate for "The Problem" sections...

The point here is that "The Solution" sections do exactly what it says on the tin: in other words, they provide solutions. This moves beyond the mere exposing of the masculinity conspiracy, which is an important task, but not an end in itself. Sometimes this is going to involve looking at the same issues outlined in "The Problem" sections, but from the other—positive—direction. Sometimes this is going to involve something new about the chapter theme in question, akin to a manifesto (or if, like me, you have a weakness for puns, a MANifesto). "The Problem" offers the critical thinking, "The Solution" offers the visionary thinking: between the two we get the best of all worlds.

Of course, implicit in "The Solution" sections is the necessity for solutions. This might need some spelling out. I believe that the masculinity conspiracy has been blinding us to the reality of what it is to be men and women. It's like being burdened by a cumbersome weight that prevents us from being as agile as we might otherwise be, but without even knowing the weight is present. When the masculinity conspiracy is exposed and inevitably cast aside, it leaves a gap, a lack of "something." If that gap is not filled, the conspiracy will come rushing back in as the only option on the table. That gap must be filled with solutions, as this is the only way we can reach our human potential that to date has been thwarted under the conspiratorial regime.

The thing about the proposed solutions is that you have to give them a fair go, even if they initially appear counter-intuitive. I'm a big fan of intuition: I employ it all the time. However, intuition has a near-fatal weakness, and that's when we are dealing with a subject in which we have little self-awareness. In our context of masculinity this means we have to be fully aware of how we are conditioned to think about masculinity. If we are not fully aware of that conditioning, our intuition tends not to draw on that elusive store of inner wisdom, but rather upon the conditioning. So if I suggest a solution about masculinity that leaves you with a gut feeling of "nah, that's just not right...," I want you to seriously consider the possibility that this is not actually a gut feeling, but a "conditioning feeling." You might—after that serious consideration—feel the same, but it remains a useful exercise in maintaining an open mind. I'll keep on telling it the way I see it, responding to the demands of one charming woman who engaged me on an internet forum with the statement "give us access to the fucking information and do it for free." I can't, however, force you to believe it. Following conspiracy logic (again, in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner), the fact that you don't believe me is proof itself that the masculinity conspiracy has you successfully conditioned. Equally (and you won't get this admission in many books: the absence of which is also part of the conspiracy), I might just be wrong. I have thought through these issues for a number of years, including in a well-received Ph.D. dissertation, but nevertheless continually entertain the possibility I might be barking up the wrong tree. But, you know, I have a gut feeling that says I'm right... :)

The other thing to remember about the solutions is that sometimes they can appear almost boringly obvious. However, while something may appear obvious, it does not mean anything is actually being done about it. Indeed, it is almost as if the more obvious the truth, the more it is ignored (we'll get into exactly why this is the case later). I woke up rather late in the game to this fact. You see, I used to believe that if everyone knew something was obviously nonsense, then clearly it wouldn't be allowed to eventuate. Anything else would be an incredulous manifestation of collective stupidity. Then we witnessed the second invasion of Iraq. I used to shy away from making obvious statements because they appeared to me rather vulgar. Not any more. The obvious-but-ignored is the point of greatest importance.

There's something else to remember about obvious solutions. People often throw their hands up in defeat because while the solution is obvious, the process required for making it happen appears to be out of the control of the individual. A clear example of this is the eradication of world poverty. Most people can get their heads around the fact that there are enough resources on our planet to solve world poverty. However, it appears beyond the ability of the individual to do something about it, as it requires the international cooperation of governments, NGOs, corporations, and so on. The big difference about the masculinity conspiracy is that while its effects are of a similar magnitude to world poverty, it is possible to do something about it on an individual level. Indeed, in our context, the individual level is the main site of activity which, in turn, goes on to influence governments, NGOs, corporations, and so on. So by dealing with the masculinity conspiracy we kick off a chain of events that have genuinely world-changing results. I'm aware here of the danger of over-promising and under-delivering, but hey, the delivery is as much up to you as me.

So the solutions will be a mix of the predictable and the unexpected. Sometimes you will be able to accommodate them with ease; sometimes they will be hard to accept. This will depend on where you're at in life, the degree to which you've been conditioned into the conspiracy, and your ability to keep an open mind. For most of you, I'm going to completely subvert the way you think about masculinity, leaving it shattered on the ground in a thousand pieces. And what's more, I'm going to do it in such a way that you have no inclination whatsoever to put it back together again. Are you ready? Ok, let's begin at the beginning.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Chapter 2 of The Masculinity Conspiracy will be reprinted in the November issue. The list of references (below) will be included with each chapter. If the reader wants to keep reading, click here. To visit the book's web site, click here.

REFERENCES

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Bly, Robert. (1990). Iron John: A book about men. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Butler, Judith. (1999). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.

Butler, Judith. (2004). Undoing gender. London: Routledge.

Castellini, J. D., Nelson, W. M., Barrett, J. J., Nagy, M. S., & Quatman, G. L. (2005). Male spirituality and the men's movement: A factorial examination of motivations. Psychology and Theology, 33(1), 41-55.

Chatwin, Bruce. (1988). The songlines. New York: Penguin Books.

Connell, Raewyn., & Messerschmidt, J. W. (2005). Hegemonic masculinity: Rethinking the concept. Gender & Society, 19(6), 829-859.

Coughlin, Paul. (2005). No more Christian nice guy: When being nice—instead of good—hurts men, women and children. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers.

Culbertson, Phillip. (1993). Men dreaming of men: Using Mitch Walker's "double animus" in pastoral care. The Harvard Theological Review, 86(2), 219-232.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joseph Gelfer is a masculinities researcher in the School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University, Australia. He is author of Numen, Old Men: Contemporary Masculine Spiritualities and the Problem of Patriarchy, and editor of the Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality. His anthology, 2012: Decoding the Countercultural Apocalypse, will be published later this year.

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