Eld of secure gender identity of any that we deem

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eld of secure gender identity of any that we deem less than manly—women, gay men, nonnative-born men, men of color—middle-class, straight, white men can reground their sense of themselves without those haunting fears and that deep shame that they are unmanly and will be exposed by other men. This is the manhood of racism, of sexism, of homophobia. It is the manhood that is so chronically insecure that it trembles at the idea of lifting the ban on gays in the military, that is so threatened by women in the workplace that women become the targets of sexual harassment, that is so deeply frightened of equality that it must ensure that the playing fi eld of male competition remains stacked against all newcomers to the game. Exclusion and escape have been the dominant methods American men have used to keep their fears of humiliation at bay. The fear of emasculation by other men, of being humiliated, of being seen as a sissy, is the leitmotif in my reading of the history of American man- hood. Masculinity has become a relentless test by which we prove to other men, to women, and ultimately to ourselves, that we have suc- cessfully mastered the part. The restlessness that men feel today is nothing new in American history; we have been anxious and rest- less for almost two centuries. Neither exclusion nor escape has ever brought us the relief we’ve sought, and there is no reason to think that either will solve our problems now. Peace of mind, relief from gender struggle, will come only from a politics of inclusion, not exclusion, from standing up for equality and justice, and not by running away. Notes 1. This chapter represents a preliminary working out of a theoretical chapter in [ the book that became Manhood in America: A Cultural History]. I am grateful to Tim Beneke, Harry Brod, Michael Kaufman, Iona Mara-Drita, and Lillian Rubin for comments on earlier versions of the chapter. michael s. kimmel 196
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2. Of course, the phrase ‘American manhood’ contains several simultaneous fi c- tions. There is no single manhood that de fi nes all American men: ‘America’ is meant to refer to the United States proper, and there are signi fi cant ways in which this ‘American manhood’ is the outcome of forces that transcend both gender and nation, that is, the global economic development of industrial capitalism. I use it, therefore, to describe the speci fi c hegemonic version of masculinity in the United States, that normative constellation of attitudes, traits, and behaviors that became the standard against which all other mascu- linities are measured and against which individual men measure the success of their gender accomplishments. 3. Although I am here discussing only American masculinity, I am aware that others have located this chronic instability and e ff orts to prove manhood in the particular cultural and economic arrangements of Western society. Calvin, after all, inveighed against the disgrace ‘for men to become e ff eminate,’ and count- less other theorists have described the mechanics of manly proof. (See, for
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