Which is identi fi ed as a feminine interest or

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which is identi fi ed as a feminine interest or pursuit becomes deeply suspect for men’ (p. 129). Even if we do not subscribe to Freudian psychoanalytic ideas, we can still observe how, in less sexualized terms, the father is the fi rst man who evaluates the boy’s masculine performance, the fi rst pair of male eyes before whom he tries to prove himself. Those eyes will follow him for the rest of his life. Other men’s eyes will join them—the eyes of role models such as teachers, coaches, bosses, or media heroes; the eyes of his peers, his friends, his workmates; and the eyes of mil- lions of other men, living and dead, from whose constant scrutiny of his performance he will never be free. ‘The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living,’ was how Karl Marx put it over a century ago (1848/1964, p. 11). ‘The birthright of every American male is a chronic sense of personal inadequacy,’ is how two psychologists describe it today (Woolfolk & Richardson, 1978, p. 57). That nightmare from which we never seem to awaken is that those other men will see that sense of inadequacy, they will see that in our own eyes we are not who we are pretending to be. What we call masculinity is often a hedge against being revealed as a fraud, an exaggerated set of activities that keep others from seeing through us, and a frenzied e ff ort to keep at bay those fears within ourselves. Our real fear ‘is not fear of women but of being ashamed or humiliated in front of other men, or being dominated by stronger men’ (Leverenz, 1986, p. 451). This, then, is the great secret of American manhood: We are afraid of other men . Homophobia is a central organizing principle of our cul- tural de fi nition of manhood. Homophobia is more than the irrational fear of gay men, more than the fear that we might be perceived as gay. ‘The word “faggot” has nothing to do with homosexual experience or michael s. kimmel 188
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even with fears of homosexuals,’ writes David Leverenz (1986). ‘It comes out of the depths of manhood: a label of ultimate contempt for anyone who seems sissy, untough, uncool’ (p. 455). Homophobia is the fear that other men will unmask us, emasculate us, reveal to us and the world that we do not measure up, that we are not real men. We are afraid to let other men see that fear. Fear makes us ashamed, because the recognition of fear in ourselves is proof to ourselves that we are not as manly as we pretend, that we are, like the young man in a poem by Yeats, ‘one that ru ffl es in a manly pose for all his timid heart.’ Our fear is the fear of humiliation. We are ashamed to be afraid. Shame leads to silence—the silences that keep other people believing that we actually approve of the things that are done to women, to minorities, to gays and lesbians in our culture. The frightened silence as we scurry past a woman being hassled by men on the street. That furtive silence when men make sexist or racist jokes in a bar. That clammy- handed silence when guys in the o ce make gay-bashing jokes. Our
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