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Masculine vs. Feminine coding

Interesting comment:

After thinking a bit longer, I agree that there's an even deeper problem with McEwan's framing. I don't mean to be overly critical of her -- her core thesis about how squishy stereotypes are used by the partiarchy to feminize==demean certain activities/groups is just about right. And I think I agree with her that in some sense patriarchy is prior to class difference generally. But she doesn't seem to see how Power can redefine activities and groups as masculine/feminine, thereby modulating their social status, depending on whether they serve or oppose the interests of Power.

E.g.: if the Pentagon were to determine that US military supremacy could only be assured by deploying legions of pregnant women dressed in pink leotards quoting Andrea Dworkin and blowing soap bubbles, 1) the Pentagon would deploy such forces, and 2) our culture would immediately redefine pregnant women in pink leotards quoting Andrea Dworkin and blowing soap bubbles as supremely masculine and kick-ass.

For a concrete demonstration of how this works, watch the movies "300" and "Top Gun" and tell me how, since "gay codes as feminine" according to McEwan, a bunch of oiled-up naked gay dudes slapping each other's asses came to be regarded as the ultimate symbol of American masculinity. Or for that matter, if "fat" and "gay" and "weepy" and "nurturing" all code as feminine, how an organization like "The Family" full of obese Christian men all weeping on each other's shoulders and expressing their deep love for Jesus becomes the nerve center of the politics of misogyny in America.

Obviously, I'm indulging in the same deliberate feminization-as-aggression that McEwan calls out. But the fact that it is even possible to do this deliberately should clue her in to the idea that it can be done deliberately, and selectively, by those who control the media discourse regardless of any inherent "masculine" or "feminine" traits of the target. This completely inverts the process McEwan complains about. It's not that Group A is demeaned because they are feminine; they are demeaned because they are a threat to power, and power demeans them by deliberately classifying them as feminine.


Submitted by wlarip on

My granddaughter was attacked by a 'girl gang' wielding weapons in high school who succeeded in intimidating her into homeschooling.

How should we code that?

If it were an isolated example... blah blah. But it isn't.

Coding of any kind is about group dynamics--to control the behavior of those in the group and to direct the energies of the group against(or for) the not-group.

The fear that many straight men feel about being viewed as gay by the straight group is not as palpable among the youth as it was to their parents. But to the generation that came before them, characterization as a 'girly man' required an immediate defense lest one be ostracized from the group. It usually took two forms:affectation of 'girly' mannerisms or anger. The first is to deflect and demean. The second is to establish your place and, if the opportunity presents itself, move up the pecking order. No one ever stopped to consider that they were being paid a compliment.

The group sets the value scheme. There is nothing more powerful than peer pressure. It appeals to an instinct that most of us feel: to belong--perhaps that is to say, just not to be alone. Solitary confinement does work.

Whoever is demeaned is method, not substance. It's you this week. Next week, who can tell? The answer is whomever serves the needs of the group and it does change from time to time. In the past, women were a convenient target because 'it was a man's world'. If women take power, the insults will change but the dynamics won't.

There is an easy solution. Put everybody in the group. Believe it or not, we(humanity) are moving that way. It's a matter of time.

But, then, we'll have the aliens. There will an expansion of terms like 'goo face' and 'rock boy' and so on. It's a never-ending battle.