If to prove the unprovable to others because we feel

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if to prove the unprovable to others, because we feel so unsure of it ourselves. Women don’t often feel compelled to ‘prove their woman- hood’—the phrase itself sounds ridiculous. Women have di ff erent kinds of gender identity crises; their anger and frustration, and their own symptoms of depression, come more from being excluded than from questioning whether they are feminine enough. 4 The drive to repudiate the mother as the indication of the acquisition of masculine gender identity has three consequences for the young masculinity as homophobia 185
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boy. First, he pushes away his real mother, and with her the traits of nurturance, compassion, and tenderness she may have embodied. Second, he suppresses those traits in himself, because they will reveal his incomplete separation from mother. His life becomes a lifelong project to demonstrate that he possesses none of his mother’s traits. Masculine identity is born in the renunciation of the feminine not in the direct a rmation of the masculine, which leaves masculine gender identity tenuous and fragile. Third, [. . .] the boy also learns to devalue all women in his society, as the living embodiments of those traits in himself he has learned to despise. Whether or not he was aware of it, Freud also described the origins of sexism—the systematic devaluation of women—in the des- perate e ff orts of the boy to separate from mother. We may want ‘a girl just like the girl that married dear old Dad,’ as the popular song had it, but we certainly don’t want to be like her. [. . .] When does it end? Never. To admit weakness, to admit frailty or fragility, is to be seen as a wimp, a sissy, not a real man. But seen by whom? ......................................................................................................................... MASCULINITY AS A HOMOSOCIAL ENACTMENT ......................................................................................................................... Other men: We are under the constant careful scrutiny of other men. Other men watch us, rank us, grant our acceptance into the realm of manhood. Manhood is demonstrated for other men’s approval. It is other men who evaluate the performance. Literary critic David Leverenz (1991) argues that ‘ideologies of manhood have functioned primarily in relation to the gaze of male peers and male authority’ (p. 769). Think of how men boast to one another of their accom- plishments—from their latest sexual conquest to the size of the fi sh they caught—and how we constantly parade the markers of man- hood—wealth, power, status, sexy women—in front of other men, desperate for their approval. That men prove their manhood in the eyes of other men is both a consequence of sexism and one of its chief props. ‘Women have, in men’s minds, such a low place on the social ladder of this country that it’s useless to de fi ne yourself in terms of a woman,’ noted playwright David Mamet. ‘What men need is men’s approval.’ Women become a kind of currency that men use to improve their ranking on the mascu- line social scale. (Even those moments of heroic conquest of women michael s. kimmel 186
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carry, I believe, a current of homosocial evaluation.) Masculinity is a homosocial enactment. We test ourselves, perform heroic feats,
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