THE HISTO RY OF
Essays on the History of American and British Masculinities
M I C H A E L S. K I M M E L
THE HISTORY OF
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THE HISTORY OF
MEN Essays in the History of American and British Masculinities
Michael S. Kimmel
State University of New York Press
Published by State University of New York Press, Albany © 2005 Michael S. Kimmel All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission. No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of the publisher. For information, address State University of New York Press, 90 State Street, Suite 700, Albany, NY 12207 Production by Dana Foote Marketing by Anne M. Valentine Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Kimmel, Michael S. The history of men : essays in the history of American and British masculinities / Michael S. Kimmel p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0–7914–6339–7 (hc : alk. paper) — ISBN 0–7914–6340–0 (pb : alk. paper) 1. Men—United States. 2. Men—Great Britain. 3. Masculinity—United States. 4. Masculinity—Great Britain. 5. Sex role—United States. 6. Sex role—United States. I. Title. HQ1090.3.K552 2005 305.31'0973—dc22
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For Lillian and Hank, and the families we create
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American Masculinities 2
Born to Run: Fantasies of Male Escape from Rip Van Winkle to Robert Bly
Consuming Manhood: The Feminization of American Culture and the Recreation of the Male Body, 1832–1920
Baseball and the Reconstitution of American Masculinity, 1880–1920
Men’s Responses to Feminism at the Turn of the Century
The Cult of Masculinity: American Social Character and the Legacy of the Cowboy
From “Conscience and Common Sense” to “Feminism for Men”: Pro-Feminist Men’s Rhetoric of Support for Women’s Equality
British Masculinities 8
From Lord and Master to Cuckold and Fop: Masculinity in 17th-Century England vii
MUNDUS FOPPENSIS AND THE LEVELLERS
“Greedy Kisses” and “Melting Extasy”: Notes on the Homosexual World of Early 18th-Century England as Found in Love Letters Between a certain late Nobleman and the famous Mr. Wilson
LOVE LETTERS BETWEEN A CERTAIN LATE NOBLEMAN AND THE FAMOUS MR. WILSON . . .
Preface The title of this collection, The History of Men, is intended to be somewhat ironic. The essays contained here hardly constitute a full-scale history of American and British men. Indeed, much of my historical work has been to join with others in beginning such a project, to begin to see historical developments involving men through a gender lens—much the way feminist women had been viewing women’s historical and contemporary experiences for the past three decades. The title is also intended to be somewhat provocative. In no way is a historical interrogation of American and British masculinities the same thing as a history of actual, corporeal men. These essays investigate the various ways that the ideology of masculinity—the cultural meanings of manhood—have been shaped by the course of historical events, and in turn, how ideas about masculinity have also served to shape those historical events. (I emphasize this only because the single negative review of my book, Manhood in America, confused the two, as a graduate student in creative writing seemed incapable of understanding the distinction between men and manhood, and thus accused me of writing a one-dimensional history of men.) Even though it is about masculinities and not about men, this work cannot even begin to encompass the history of the idea of masculinity in Britain and the United States. In part, I think, it’s because the field of Gender Studies has expanded so dramatically over the two decades in which these essays were written. It’s an exciting time in intellectual history, as the voices of those who have been so long silenced and marginalized are finally being heard. Women, working-class people, people of color, gay men, and lesbians are all demanding to be included in the historical pageant; indeed their silencing and marginalization constitute some of the most important stories in that great historical narrative. These groups are at last becoming historically and culturally visible. This struggle has opened a space for those who have historically been superordinate to begin to retheorize their invisibility. While white people, men, heterosexuals, and middle-class people have been hypervisible—indeed, the traditional narrative contains nothing but those groups—these superordinate groups have also been invisible as specifically constituted groups. To be white, or male, or heterosexual was to be “American,” to occupy the only raced, gendered, or sexual space available in the great story. In a sense, what happens to superordinates is the obverse of what happens to subordinates. For years, minorities and women would try and explain ix
the peculiar ways in which they felt both hypervisible and invisible when they were virtually the only one of their “category” in a group. Being a token links two experiences: On the one hand, one is extremely visible as a member of the minority group. On the other hand, one is utterly invisible as an individual. So, for example, historically underrepresented groups, like women and blacks, would constantly hear a question put to them by a well-meaning colleague or coworker, “So, just how do black people (or women, or Jews, or gay men, or lesbians) feel about this issue?” That’s the moment of hypervisibility (as a member of the group) and invisibility (as an individual). Typically, one would respond by saying, wearily, “I don’t know how all of that group feels. You’d have to ask them. I can only tell you how I feel.” (Such a process attempts to reclaim a position as a distinct individual separate from group membership.) By contrast, the superordinate is usually hypervisible as an individual; indeed, to be a straight white man is to embody exactly what an “individual” is. As a result, one is invisible as a member of a group; one rarely considers race, gender, or sexuality if you are a member of the dominant group. In a telling experiment several years ago, groups of college students were asked to write down the 10 most important words that describe their identities, who they are. Invariably, women all listed “woman” in the top three, gay people listed their sexuality, and African Americans almost always placed “black” as their number one descriptor. Yet not one heterosexual put that word in their top 10, not one man listed “male,” and only one white person put “white” as a descriptor—and that was followed by “Aryan,” perhaps indicating that the person identified as a racist. To see only the subordinate as “having” a race, a gender, or a sexuality is exactly the process that reminds the superordinate that he has none, that he is universal, the invisible norm against which others are measured. I regard my work as an attempt to make masculinity visible, to begin to explore how the particular historical and social definitions of masculinity have developed, from whence they have come and where they might be going. This is more than a project of a historical sociologist: it is a political process. Just as the dynamics that have marginalized “others” is a political process, so too is the process of decentering others as the unexamined norm. As my work has evolved over the past two decades, I’ve sought to contribute to that political project. The lead essay in this collection, “Invisible Masculinity,” describes the process by which I became aware of class, race, and gender in my own life, and the political dynamics that keep those categories invisible to those who are privileged by them. I then extend it outward to explore the ways in which many of the classic texts in Western social and political theory—the canonical works by Marx, Weber, Freud, and Tocqueville—relied on that invisibility as they spoke about the degendered, the ungendered bourgeoisie, the modern rationalist, the ego, the “American” respectively.
My effort in this field has been to contribute to a historical investigation into the construction of American—and to a lesser extent, British—masculinities. Many of these questions were taken up in my book, Manhood in America, published by the Free Press in 1996. But many of the central questions I raise there were developed at greater length in other venues, for other purposes, and for other audiences. These were published as essays and articles in scholarly and popular journals and magazines. This book gathers many of those articles, including revisions of essays published in books now out of print, to enable readers to find, in one volume, a collection of the writings upon which the books were based. Since the essays in this book are based on historical topics, I have also reprinted three of the documents on which the research was built, both to suggest to readers the kinds of evidence I was working with, but also to invite readers to examine the documents for themselves and to use them as a resource to develop their own readings of these texts. Most of the essays in the first part of the book explore the ways in which the models of masculinity developed in the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries were, in large part, efforts to set American masculinity against the identities of various “others”—immigrants, men of color, working-class men, upper-class men, and, of course, women. Women’s struggles to enter the public arena have prompted dramatic reconsiderations of the meaning of masculinity among American men. Women demand entry because they believe that their biological sex should not disqualify them from voting, or going to school, or getting a job, or serving on a jury, or joining a union. But if these positions were only open to men, as all have been, and women’s sex doesn’t disqualify them, then what does that mean about those who have historically monopolized those positions? Who are they? Women’s demands for equality provoked a kind of “crisis” among American men. If masculinity no longer meant unchallenged monopoly to positions of power, what did it mean? In Manhood in America, I discerned three patterns of men’s response to this perceived crisis. To some men, masculinity became a relentless test, demanding that it be proved in increasingly physical demonstration. From 19th-century health reformers to contemporary bodybuilders, some men have pumped up to regain lost confidence. Others have actively resisted women’s equality; from 19th-century antisuffragists to VMI cadets and promoters of “men’s rights,” some men have staked their manhood on the continued exclusion of women from the public sphere, and their relegation to the home. Often this has also meant the continued exclusion of other minorities from claiming their manhood; often anti-immigrant nativism, racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia have disparaged their opponents’ masculinity. And finally, others have simply run away, escaping to some pristine homosocial world, whether mythic or real, as an all-male solace against encroaching dissolution. When the going’s been tough, the tough have run away.
The essays here about American masculinity explore these reactions in a variety of historical settings. And I also document a fourth response, one far less historically celebrated—support for women’s equality as a way to resolve the crisis of masculinity. Since the founding of this nation, and in every arena and every struggle identified by women as important for their equality, there have been pro-feminist men, men who have stood up for gender equality. Some did so because it was right and the cause was just; others did so because they believed that women would help purify the mess that men had made of things. And still others supported women’s equality because they saw that gender equality was the only way that they, too, could live the lives they said they wanted to live—as men. I have included the introduction I wrote for my (coedited) documentary history of such men, and included a few of the more than 2,000 documents I found in archives and libraries. To a lesser extent, I’ve sought to examine a similar process among British men—but at a much earlier period in British history. While researching the dismantling of the democratic movements of the mid-17th century and the institutionalization of the limited monarchy after the Glorious Revolution, I became aware that a significant renegotiation of gender relations was also underway. Women were demanding a form of political and social equality never before seen in Europe, based on the new principles of liberal individualism then being articulated by writers such as John Locke and David Hume. And some men got somewhat confused. The two essays in this section explore the construction of masculinity and male homosexuality at the turn of the 18th century, and I include archival documents that help to illustrate the themes I have raised. Of course, these events in late 17th- and early 18th-century Britain had enormous consequences for the types of masculinities under construction in the American colonies. After all, the reigning metaphor of the American Revolution was that of the sons overthrowing the tyrannical father, as in the Sons of Liberty in their protests against King George, and their resolve, in the Declaration of Independence, to resist tyranny “with manly firmness.” In a sense, then, the essays about British masculinity introduce the issues that the colonists would later take up. It was against the screen of the two major British masculine figures—the aristocratic “Genteel Patriarch” and the independent “Heroic Artisan”—that American men began to carve out a distinctively American identity, one grounded more in what one did than in who one was at birth. The “SelfMade Man” of the first decades of the 19th century was America’s signal contribution to the world’s stock of masculine archetypes. This book will enable students, scholars, and general readers to have easy and ready access to the historical essays and articles from the past decade of my writing and research. I look forward to continuing the conversation. Michael Kimmel Brooklyn, New York
Acknowledgments That this book is being published by the State University of New York Press, the press at my “home” institution for the last 15 years, makes me very happy. I am grateful to all my colleagues and students at Stony Brook, as well as my various editors at the State University of New York Press, including Ron Helfrich and Jane Bunker. In the past 15 years, as I’ve defined and explored this area of research, I’ve been guided by many colleagues and friends whose work has been inspiring, irritating, and so constantly important to me. I am so grateful that so many of these scholars have become my friends, intellectual collaborators in defining a new field of Gender Studies, the Critical Studies on Men and Masculinities: Harry Brod, Bob Connell, Martin Duberman, Krin Gabbard, Jeff Hearn, Michael Kaufman, Terry Kupers, Mike Messner, Joe Pleck, Tony Rotundo, and Don Sabo. I am glad to acknowledge them, as much for their companionship as for their fine work. My family and friends have been constant. I am especially grateful to Mary Morris and Larry O’Connor, Lillian and Hank Rubin, Mitchell Tunick and Pam Hatchfield for friendships that span the decades. Amy Aronson is my North Star, the axis around which my world revolves, its constant center. And Zachary’s laughter lights up the skies.
The author acknowledges the following journals and edited volumes, in which the chapters in this volume originally appeared: Chapter 1, Society, September/October, 1993; chapter 2, masculinities, 1(3), 1993; chapter 3, Michigan Quarterly Review, Fall, 1993; chapter 4, Sport, Men, and the Gender Order (Human Kinetics, 1990); chapter 5, Gender & Society, 1(3), 1987; chapter 6, Beyond Patriarchy (Oxford University Press, 1987); chapter 7, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 17(1), 1997; chapter 8, University of Dayton Review, 18(2), 1987; and chapter 9, Love Letters Between a certain late Nobleman and the famous Mr. Wilson . . . (Harrington Park Press, 1990).
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1 Invisible Masculinity
merican men have no history. Sure, we have stacks of biographies of the heroic and famous, and historical accounts of events in which men took part, like wars, strikes, or political campaigns. And we have group portraits of athletes, soldiers, and the men who run unions and political parties. There are probably thousands of histories of institutions that were organized, staffed, and run by men. So how is it that men have no history? Until the intervention of women’s studies, it was women who had no history, who were invisible, the “other.” Still today, virtually every history book is a history of men. If a book does not have the word “women” in its title, it is a good bet that the book is about men. But these books feel strangely empty at their centers, where the discussion of men should be. Books about men are not about men as men. These books do not explore how the experience of being a man structured the men’s lives, or the organizations and institutions they created, the events in which they participated. American men have no history as gendered selves; no work describes historical events in terms of what these events meant to the men who participated in them as men. What does it mean, then, to write of men as men? We must examine the ways in which the experience of manhood has structured the course and the meanings of the activities of American men—great or small. We must chart the ways in which meanings of manhood have changed over the course of American history. And we must explore the ways in which the pursuit of that elusive ideal of manhood, and our relentless efforts to prove it, have animated many of the central events in American history. This is not to say that simply looking at the idea of manhood, or injecting gender into the standard historical approach, will suddenly, magically, illuminate the American historical pageant. We cannot understand manhood without understanding American history—that is without locating the changing definitions of manhood within the larger context of the economic, political, and social events that characterize American history. By the same token, 3
American history cannot be fully understood without an understanding of American men’s ceaseless quest for manhood in the evolution of those economic, political, social, and cultural experiences and events. Such a perspective should shed new light on the events that dot our history and the lives of the men who made them. Composer Charles Ives insisted that Impressionistic music was “sissy” and that he wanted to use traditional tough guy sounds to build a more popular and virile music. Architect Louis Sullivan, the inventor of the skyscraper, described his ambition to create “masculine forms”—strong, solid, tall, commanding respect. Political figures, like the endless parade of presidential hopefuls, have found it necessary both to proclaim their own manhood and to raise questions about their opponents’ manhood. Think about the 1840 presidential campaign, when William Henry Harrison’s supporters chastised Martin Van Buren as “Little Vanny,” and a “used up man.” Andrew Jackson vented his manly rage at “effete” bankers and “infantilized” Indians. Theodore Roosevelt thundered about the strenuous life while he prepared invasions of Panama and the Philippines. Then there was Lyndon Johnson’s vainglorious claim during the Tet offensive of the Vietnam War that he did not just “screw” Ho Chi Minh, but “cut his pecker off!” After the vice-presidential debate with Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, George Bush boasted that he had “kicked a little ass.” Then he squared off with television commentator Dan Rather in 1988 to dispel his wimp image. From the founding of the Republic, presidents have demonstrated their manhood in the political arena and have sent millions of America’s young men to die to prove it. If the pursuit of manhood has been a dominant theme in American history, at least rhetorically and metaphorically, why do American men still have no history? In part because they do not even know what questions to ask. In the past 25 years, the pioneering work of feminist scholars, both in traditional disciplines and in women’s studies, has made us increasingly aware of the centrality of gender in shaping social life. In the past, social scientists would have only listed class and race as the master statuses that defined and proscribed social life. But today, gender has joined race and class as one of the axes around which social life is organized, and through which we can gain an understanding of our own experiences. Feminist scholars rightfully focused their attention on women—on what Catharine Stimpson calls the “omissions, distortions, and trivializations” of women’s experiences—and the spheres to which women have historically been consigned, like private life and the family. Women’s history has sought to rescue from obscurity the lives of significant women who had been ignored or whose work had been minimized by traditional androcentric scholarship. It also has examined the lives of ordinary women of the past, the struggles of laundresses, factory workers, pioneer homesteaders, or housewives in carving out lives of meaning and dignity in a world controlled by men. Whether the focus is on the exemplary or the ordinary, feminist scholarship has made clear that gender is central to women’s lives.
Now, we need to go further. We need to include men. Historian Natalie Zemon Davis urges us to be “interested in the history of both women and men.” She says, “We should not be working on the subjected sex any more than a historian of class can focus exclusively on peasants. Our goal is to understand the significance of the sexes, of gender groups in the historical past.” The problem with such advice is that, to men at least, gender often remains invisible. Strange as it may sound, men are the “invisible” gender. Ubiquitous in positions of power everywhere, men are invisible to themselves. Courses on gender in the universities are populated largely by women, as if the term only applied to them. “Woman alone seems to have ‘gender’ since the category itself is defined as that aspect of social relations based on difference between the sexes in which the standard has always been man,” writes historian Thomas Lacquer. As the Chinese proverb has it, the fish are the last to discover the ocean. This fact was made clear to me in a seminar on feminism I attended in the late 1970s. There, in a discussion between two women, I first confronted this invisibility of gender to men. The two women, one white, the other black, were discussing whether all women were, by definition, “sisters,” because they all had essentially the same experiences and because all women faced oppression by men. The white woman asserted that the fact that they were both women bonded them, in spite of racial differences. The black woman disagreed. “When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, what do you see?” she asked. “I see a woman,” replied the white woman. “That’s precisely the problem,” responded the black woman. “I see a black woman. To me, race is visible every day, because race is how I am not privileged in our culture. Race is invisible to you, because it’s how you are privileged. It’s why there will always be differences in our experience.” This startling exchange made me groan—more audibly, perhaps, than I intended. Being the only man in the room, someone asked what my response had meant. “Well,” I said, “when I look in the mirror, I see a human being. I’m universally generalizable. As a middle-class white man, I have no class, no race, no gender. I’m the generic person!” Sometimes, I like to think that it was on that day that I became a middle-class white man. Sure, I had been all this before, but it had not meant much to me. Since then, I have begun to understand that race, class, and gender do not refer only to people marginalized by race, class, or gender. Those terms also describe me. I enjoy the privilege of invisibility. The very processes that confer privilege to one group and not to another group are often invisible to those upon whom that privilege is conferred. What makes us marginal or powerless are the processes we see, partly because others keep reminding us of them.
American men have come to think of themselves as genderless, in part because they can afford the luxury of ignoring the centrality of gender. So military, political, scientific, or literary figures are treated as if their gender, their masculinity, had nothing to do with their military exploits, policy decisions, scientific experiments, or writing styles and subjects. And the disenfranchised and oppressed are those whose manhood is not considered to be equal. It is impossible to speak of historical reconstruction of gender without speaking about power. By contrast, the quest for manhood—the effort to achieve, to demonstrate, to prove their masculinity—is one of the animating experiences in the lives of American men. That men remain unaware of the centrality of gender in their lives perpetuates the inequalities based on gender in our society, and keeps in place the power of men over women, and the power some men hold over other men, which are among the central mechanisms of power in society. Invisibility reproduces inequality. And the invisibility of gender to those privileged by it reproduces the inequalities that are circumscribed by gender. The centrality of gender and the process by which it has come to be seen as central are political processes that involve both power and resistance to power. It was feminism and gay liberation, and feminism’s academic sister, women’s studies, that brought gender into public discourse, making femininity and masculinity problematic, and demanding a transformation of existing gender relations. It was feminist-inspired research that made social and cultural analysts aware of the ubiquitous yet subtle way in which the gender factor permeates the social fabric. To speak and write about gender is to enter a political discourse, to become engaged with power and resistance. It is about the resources that maintain power, the symbolic props that extend power, and the ideological apparatuses that develop to sustain and legitimate power. The historical construction of gender is a process through which various forms of power are reproduced and power becomes indelibly inscribed onto everyday life. It is impossible to speak of the historical construction of gender without speaking about power. In fact, power is so central to the historical construction of masculinities that it has been invisible to most social scientists who have studied it. Thus social theory and social science have done exactly what cannot be done: analyze masculinity without discussing power. The historical construction of masculinities, the reproduction of gendered power relations, involves two separate dimensions, each of which was rendered invisible—first by classical social theory, and more recently by the academic discourse that made “sex roles” appear as historically invariant, fixed, static, and normal. Masculinities are constructed in a field of power: 1) the power of men over women; 2) the power of some men over other men. Men’s power over women is relatively straightforward. It is the aggregate power of men as a group to determine the distribution of rewards in soci-
ety. Men’s power over other men concerns the distribution of those rewards among men by differential access to class, race, ethnic privileges, or privileges based on sexual orientation—that is, the power of upper- and middle-class men over working-class men; the power of white and native born men over nonwhite and/or non-native born men; and the power of straight men over gay men. The constituent elements of “hegemonic” masculinity, the stuff of the construction, are sexism, racism, and homophobia. Masculinities are constructed by racism, sexism, and homophobia, and social science has been ever complicit. These dimensions of power were embedded within academic discourses by a sleight of hand. A version of white, middle-class, heterosexual masculinity emerged as normative, the standard against which both men and women were measured, and through which success and failure were evaluated. This normative version—enforced, coercive, laden with power—academic social science declared to be the “normal” version. Making the normative into the normal has been the discursive mechanism by which hegemonic masculinity was constituted. As anthropologist Maurice Bloch writes, “It is precisely through the process of making a power situation appear as a fact in the nature of things that traditional authority works.” It has been the task of academic social science to make this power situation appear as “a fact in the nature of things.” This process has not been a single, linear process, but a series of empirical specifications of the traits, attitudes, and behaviors that define vague social science concepts like “identity,” “self,” or “deviance.” These, in turn rest on a series of theoretical inversions and appropriations whose origins lie at the center of what we commonly call classical social theory. From Thomas Hobbes and John Locke through Karl Marx, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, and Sigmund Freud several currents run consistently. All proclaim “man” as his own maker; the phrase “homo faber” is more than a metaphor, it is about men’s reproductive capacity, men’s ability to give birth to themselves. This man exists originally outside society—hence the axiomatic centrality of the problematic relationship between the individual and society—and he has to be brought into society through socialization. This passage—from the state of nature into civil society—is a gendered creation myth. It is about men’s power to give birth to society. The myth goes something like this: Originally, there was chaos, but men created society to get out of this chaos. As political theorist Carole Pateman writes, “The conventional understanding of the ‘political’ is built upon the rejection of physical birth in favor of the masculine creation of (giving birth to) social and political order.” Just as John Locke made a distinction in his Second Treatise on Government between “the labor of our body and the work of our hands,” so too did social theorists claim a difference between labor that produces no lasting product because its possessor is
dependent, and labor that transforms nature into something of value, the work, which is independent of the producer’s survival needs and may outlast him. Labor, as in women’s work, as in “going into labor” does not count; what counts is work. This process of self-creation is fraught with anxiety and tension. If we are a nation, as Henry Clay coined the term in 1832, of “self-made men,” then the process of self-making, of identity formation, is a public enactment, performed before the valuative eyes of other men. Nineteenth-century masculinity was a masculinity defined, tried, and tested in the marketplace. This was potentially terrifying, since the market is unstable, and it is potentially a “site of humiliation” as Henry David Thoreau called it just before he tried to escape to Walden Pond. A definition of manhood based on self-creation in the marketplace is a masculinity specific to an industrial capitalist marketplace. The generic man turns out to be a very specific construction: he is a white middle-class entrepreneur. It is this man’s chronic anxiety that forms the backbone of the canon of classical sociological theory. Consider this passage from Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835): An American will build a house in which to pass his old age and sell it before the roof is on; he will plant a garden and rent it just as the trees are coming into bearing; he will clear a field and leave others to reap the harvest; he will take up a profession and leave it, settle in one place and soon go off elsewhere with his changing desires . . . At first sight there is something astonishing in this spectacle of so many lucky men restless in the midst of abundance. What a lucky man, indeed—chronically restless, temperamentally anxious, a man in constant motion to prove what ultimately cannot be proved: that he is a real man and that this identity is unthreatened by the actions of other men. Now consider three more passages from the same canon. Marx and Engels writing in The Communist Manifesto (1848): The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones.
And Max Weber in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905): Where the fulfillment of the calling cannot directly be related to the highest spiritual and cultural values, or when, on the other hand, it need not be felt simply as economic compulsion, the individual generally abandons the attempt to justify it at all. In the field of its highest development, in the United States, the pursuit of wealth, stripped of its religious and ethical meaning, tends to become associated with purely mundane passions, which often actually give it the character of sport. And finally, Freud in his essay “The Dissection of the Psychical Personality” (1933): We are warned by a proverb against serving two masters at the same time. The poor ego has things even worse: it serves three severe masters and does what it can to bring their claims and demands into harmony with one another. These claims are always divergent and often seem incompatible. No wonder that the ego so often fails in its task. Its three tyrannical masters are the external world, the super ego and the id . . . Thus the ego, driven by the id, confined by the super ego, repulsed by reality, struggles to master its economic task of bringing about harmony among the forces and influences working in and upon it; and we can understand how it is that so often we cannot suppress a cry: ‘Life is not easy!’ These descriptions of the bourgeoisie under capitalism, of the fate of the Protestant work ethic under the ever rationalizing spirit of capitalism, or of the arduous task of the autonomous ego in psychological development are a common part of social science training. Does anyone ever mention that in all four cases the theorists were describing men? And not just generic mankind, but a particular type of masculinity, a definition of manhood that derives its identity from participation in the marketplace, from interaction with other men in that marketplace—a model of masculinity whose identity is based on homosocial competition? How could men feel secure in their manhood? How could men determine that they had made the grade and were successful as real men? If the marketplace, the very arena which they had established to demonstrate manhood was now so fraught with peril and danger, where could they go? Enter academic social science at the turn of the 20th century. Academic social science was, in part, an effort at historical restoration that would rescue a model of masculinity that structural change had rendered anachronistic and reapply it to reestablish traditional power relations between women and men and between some men and other men. Academic social science provided the
empirical measures for masculinity. If it could not be achieved in the marketplace, it could be demonstrated by the display of various gender-appropriate traits, attitudes, and behaviors that have become associated with masculinity. It was social science’s task to enumerate those traits and attitudes, and then generalize them as the normal traits associated with adulthood, thus problematizing women and “other” men—men of color, gay men, non-native born immigrant men. This did not take place in a vacuum. The turn of the century was a time of dramatic change, in which the traditional foundations of gender identity— control over one’s labor, ownership of the products of that labor, geographic and social mobility, domestic dominion over women and children—were eroding. Rapid industrialization, which brought changes in the scale and process of production; the closing of the frontier; challenges by women to the separation of spheres; new waves of swarthy immigrants and black migrants to the cities; and the emergence of a visible gay male subculture in the northern cities—all threatened hegemonic masculinity’s sense of empowerment. Many efforts to resist proletarianization in the late 19th century—from the Knights of Labor to the Populist movement—used images of the Heroic Artisan to animate their defensive gender resistance. Everywhere, cultural critics observed masculinity to be in crisis. This was as true in private life as it was in public discourse. No sooner were the structural foundations of traditional masculinity eroding than it became clear that women had taken over the “making of men.” The “feminization” of culture included women’s control of the chief institutions of childhood socialization—church, school, home. Women were teaching boys to be men. Not only did classical social theory posit the primacy of production over reproduction, it set about reappropriating reproduction as well. Like the fraternal orders of the 19th century, in which men imitated women’s reproductive powers and gave symbolic birth to one another through initiation rituals, 20th-century American and European social theory marginalized women’s sphere and then colonized it. How did academic social science go about this process of propping up a threatened gender identity for American men? Most often, it meant pushing those potential threats to the margins, to reestablish the public arena as a safe space for men to be men with other men. This meant marginalizing women, and reasserting the dominance of middle-class white men over men who were nonwhite, nonheterosexual, non-native born. Immigrant men, homosexual men, and black men were all tainted with the same problem: they were not properly manly. Some were unable to exercise manly self-control over primitive impulses, others were overly refined and effeminate; both effeminacy and primitivism were indications of insufficient manhood. The more explicitly racist political agenda was left to the anthropologists. Just as sociology was taking on the central problem of measuring man-
hood, as a way to assure its biological possessors that they were, in fact, its social heirs, anthropology was busy measuring facial angles, brain bumps, brain weights, and other pseudoracial characteristics to demonstrate the natural superiority of whites over blacks, and making sure that those heirs were exclusively white. Not to be outdone, sociologists employed their newfound love of statistics to demonstrate that if present rates of fertility continued, white women would be committing “race suicide” if they failed in their patriotic duty to reproduce. Much turn-of-the-century anthropological and sociological discourse sought to reimpose biological inevitability in the inequalities between women and men, and among men. Men and women were the way they were because they were biologically programmed to be that way. Prescriptive literature on child rearing and marriage manuals urged a return to traditional arrangements, often using the veneer of science or religion to make their point. Physical differences in size, weight, muscular strength, and brain weight were all used to shore up traditional hierarchical arrangements and to resist women’s entry into the public sphere. “I think the great danger of our day is forcing the intellect of woman beyond what her physical organization will possibly bear,” wrote the Reverend John Todd. Let us instead, he counseled, “[g]ive woman all the advantages and all the education which her organization, so tender and delicate, will bear, but don’t try to make the anemone into an oak, nor to turn the dove out to wrestle with storms and winds, under the idea that she might just as well be an eagle as a dove.” The consequences of antifeminist diatribes in the construction of masculinities were significant. Keeping women back corresponded to maintaining some men’s power over other men. Harvard professor Edward Clarke’s celebrated work Sex in Education (1873) spelled it all out clearly. If women continue to enter schools and universities and push for entry into the professions, “it requires no prophet to foretell that the wives who are to be mothers in our republic must be drawn from transatlantic homes.” Feminism implied “race suicide,” which contravenes the inevitability of patriarchy. Biological models asserted that variations from the hegemonic model were themselves biological anomalies, problems inherent in the organism itself, and not subject to cultural mediation. This was extremely reassuring to parents. The emergence of Freudian psychoanalytic theory and its popularization undermined such misplaced complacency and, together with the rise of feminism and the “invention” of homosexuality in the late 19th century, propelled parental anxiety about the acquisition of appropriate gender identity in their sons to new heights. Freud, after all, linked gender identity with sexual organization, both spatially and temporally. The moment of the resolution of the Oedipus complex allowed the boy to identify with father (gender identity) and
become symbolically capable of possessing mother (heterosexual). The boy becomes a gendered man and a heterosexual simultaneously. More central still: Gender identity and sexual organization are achieved through struggle between the individual boy and his parents. Thus it was the parents who bore the responsibility for ensuring this passage, and the burden of blame if the child failed. And failure to acquire appropriate gender identity had serious and suddenly observable consequences: Girls could identify with father and renounce mother’s passivity (feminism) and boys could fail to identify with father and thus seek sexual gratification from father-substitutes (homosexuality). Keeping women back corresponded to maintaining some men’s power over other men. Popular magazine articles, prescriptive literature, the emerging advertising industry and, of course, academic social science combined to present a solution to increasingly anxious parents. Gender identity could be measured by the acquisition of specific attitudes, behaviors, and values. If the child acquired these traits, he or she would certainly develop appropriate gender identity and hence avoid the problems of “inversion.” Parents sought signs of appropriate gender identity everywhere—in foods, play activities, fantasies, and clothing. And what was defined as “appropriate” gender identity was of course the traditional, hegemonic, white middle-class heterosexual masculinity. What history had begun to usher out, academic social science revived with a vengeance. This project lies at the core of social science; it was how social science began its quest for acceptance as a legitimate science. Social science operationalized sexism, racism, and homophobia and called it masculinity. We made power relations measurable, and hence, invisible as power relations. This reached its apotheosis in academic psychology in 1936 with the publication of Lewis Terman and Catherine Cox Miles’s masterpiece Sex and Personality. Just a few years after he developed the Stanford-Binet IQ test, Terman and his assistant Miles developed the M-F scale, an inventory of gendered behaviors, attitudes, and information by which parents could plot their child’s successful acquisition of gendered identity. The books a child reads, his or her dreams of the future, level and types of knowledge, and interpretation of inkblots were all used to assess appropriate gender identity. Science thus proved that “a spirit of adventure or independence in the subject are predominantly male; admissions of fear and of humanitarian tendencies, of care for personal appearance, or of liking for social gatherings are predominantly female.” The consequences were significant. Here are Terman and Miles on the etiology of homosexuality: [Too] demonstrative affection from an excessively emotional mother, especially in the case of a first, last, or only child; a father who is unsym-
pathetic, autocratic, brutal, much away from home, or deceased; treatment of the child as a girl, coupled with lack of encouragement or opportunity to associate with boys and to take part in the rougher masculine activities; overemphasis of neatness, niceness, and spirituality; lack of vigilance against the danger of seduction by older homosexual males. It became firmly established that gender identity was a fundamental component of identity since it determined sexual organization, and that gender identity was learned through the successful mastery of a variety of props. Freudian assumptions grounded what Joseph Pleck called the “male sex role identity” model of masculinity, that static, ahistorical container of attitudes, behaviors, and values that are appropriate to men and define masculine behavior. The acquisition of gender appropriate behavior, the mastery of the male sex role, was a central theme in academic social science, especially with the emergence of structural functionalism immediately after the Second World War. Parsons took Freudian assumptions about the necessity of identification with father and generated an entire theory of male aggression. In his essay “Certain Primary Sources and Patterns of Aggression in the Social Structure of the Western World” (1947), Parsons argues that the need for the boy to repudiate maternal nurture to achieve a healthy masculine identity means that “when he revolts against identification with his mother in the name of masculinity,” he unconsciously associates “goodness” with femininity, so that becoming a “bad boy” becomes a positive goal. The social consequences of masculinity as a reaction formation are critical among Western men who are peculiarly susceptible to the appeal of adolescent assertiveness as masculine behavior. Parsons conceptualized a social phenomenon—male aggression—as the aggregate of individual psychologies. His academic anxiety over its consequences informed a generation of social psychologists who explained everything from juvenile delinquency, teenage gang behavior, and playground bullies, to southern racism and political authoritarianism. In his classic study of juvenile delinquency, Delinquent Boys: The Culture of the Gang (1955), Albert K. Cohen applies a Parsonian model, arguing that the sources of delinquency are to be found in “sex role anxieties and the masculine protest.” Goodness represents the mother against which the young boy is rebelling and “engaging in bad behavior acquires the function of denying his femininity and therefore asserting his masculinity.” This, Cohen writes, is the motivation to juvenile delinquency. What Cohen observed for delinquents, Theodor Adorno and his collaborators observed for racists, Nazis, and others with an “authoritarian personality.” Hypermasculinity was actually a compensatory mechanism to mask insecure gender identity. The authors of The Authoritarian Personality (1950) thus speculate:
One might expect [authoritarian] men to think of themselves as very masculine, and that this claim would be the more insistent the greater the underlying feelings of weakness . . . There seems to be, in the high scoring men, more of what may be called pseudo-masculinity—as defined by boastfulness about such traits as determination, energy, industry, independence, decisiveness, and will power—and less admission of passivity. “In the end,” Adorno wrote later, “the tough guys are the truly effeminate ones, who need the weaklings as their victims in order not to admit that they are like them . . . the opposites of the strong man and compliant youth merge in an order which asserts unalloyed the male principle of domination.” These brief citations are moments in the social scientific construction of masculinity. Like vacation snapshots, they are pale proof that the events took place, that we were really there, but they cannot convey the visceral sensations of the traveler’s immersion in another culture. Legitimating white middle-class heterosexual masculinity, that is, maintaining men’s power over women and some men’s power over other men, was a central project of early 20th-century social science. Classical theorists noticed that identity had become destabilized, but without a gender perspective, they were unable to understand the dynamics of that destabilization and attributed it to capitalism, rationality, democracy, or the quest for autonomy. Empirical social science was equally blind to gender, but social scientists knew the crisis of masculinity demanded resolution. And they believed they could help. Many social scientists still till the same barren empirical or theoretical earth. Social scientists often appear to enjoy humiliating themselves by declaring the biological bases for human action, thus, in effect, putting themselves out of work. Similarly, many psychological models of moral development, identity construction, or developmental stages have used hegemonic masculinity as the template against which both women and potentially competing masculinities would be judged. And forms of masculinity that vary from the hegemonic norm are declared problematic and deviant by social scientists who have studied working-class men, black men, or gay men. Old patterns die hard, especially when they reinforce existing power relations. What, after all, are we to make of the theme of the 1992 American Sociological Association convention, which asked participants to give serious consideration to the question of whether all action is the result of rational choice—this after two decades of feminism, of recognizing motivational, ethical, cognitive, affective difference between women and men? In another era, the genderedness of rational choice theory might have slipped quietly, uncontested, into the canon. Happily, however, efforts to sustain hegemonic power encounter resistance. Even at its inception, academic
social science met with resistance from those who saw its political and politicizing project. Jane Addams and her mentors at Chicago, for example, saw through the separation of spheres as natural or inherent. Social scientists like George Herbert Mead and W. I. Thomas were strong supporters of women’s equality. Lester Ward’s theory of gynocracy, which Charlotte Perkins Gilman called the “greatest contribution to human learning since Darwin,” and Thorstein Veblen’s essays about the economic function of women’s appearance also saw through the “masculinizing” project. In anthropology, the cross-cultural claims of Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead challenged the biological determinist notion that men’s power is inevitable. Of course, it was the women’s movement that launched the most sustained critique of academic social science and challenged it to make gender visible and thus to decenter hegemonic masculinity from its place of privilege within academic discourse, that is, to render it problematic. It has been, by definition, a political project, because it seeks to transform the hegemonic into a pluralistic set of variations, to challenge the mechanisms by which hegemony has been constituted. It is a project that seeks to deconstruct masculinity as a singular, monolithic category capable of being used against marginal groups, and to reconstruct masculinities as a set of possible gendered identities, each different, and all equal.
Suggested Readings Brod, Harry. (1987) A case for men’s studies.” In Michael S. Kimmel (Ed.), Changing men: New directions in research on men and masculinity, pp. 263–278. Newbury Park: Sage Publications, 1987. Connell, R. W. (1987). Gender and power. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Heam, J. (1988). The gender of oppression. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Kaufman, M. (1993). Cracking the armour: Power and pain in the lives of men. Toronto: Viking Canada. Leverenz, David. (1989). Manhood and the American renaissance. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press. Pleck, J. (1981). The myth of masculinity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
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2 Born to Run Fantasies of Male Escape from Rip Van Winkle to Robert Bly
The man began to run: now he had not run far from his own door, when his wife and children, perceiving it, began to cry after him to return; but the man put his fingers in his ears, and ran on, crying Life, Life, eternal Life! So he looked not behind him, but fled towards the middle of the plain. —John Bunyon, Pilgrim’s Progress (1678)
Feminization and Its Discontents
n the last lines of the novel that bears his name, Huckleberry Finn anxiously plans his escape. “I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and civilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.” Since the early 19th century, the quest for manhood has revolved around a flight from women, a relentless effort to avoid all behaviors that might remotely hint of the feminine. Women signified constraints on manhood—temperance, Christian piety, sober responsibility, sexual fidelity. Women set the tone of those institutions that restrained masculine excess—schoolroom, parlor, church. Women meant, first, mother, with her incessant efforts to curtail boyish rambunctiousness; and later, wife, with her incessant efforts to keep men in harness as responsible and respectable workers, fathers, and husbands. Thus women represented responsibility—marriage, fatherhood, workplace stability. It is from the perceived clutches of “woman,” this collection of constraints and responsibilities, as much as real live women, that American men have been escaping for the past 200 years. And American men have devised a rich and varied collection of escape hatches. Contemporary mythopoetic men may believe they have created these retreats from examining other cultures; a bit of historical perspective on their own culture 19
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might prove far more revealing. In both real life and in the dreams that populate American fiction, men have run away to join the army, been kidnapped or abandoned on desert islands, gone west, or, as today, run off to the woods for an all-male retreat. In this essay, I want to discuss a few moments of masculinist retreat from feminization in 19th-century America. By feminization I refer both to real women, whose feminizing clutches as teachers, mothers, and Sunday School teachers were seen as threatening to turn robust boyhood into emasculated little pipsqueaks, and also to an increasingly urban and industrial culture, a culture which increasingly denied men the opportunities for manly adventure and a sense of connectedness with their work. At the end of the 19th century, this latter tendency was best expressed by Henry James, in The Bostonians, as the dashing Basil Ransome, displaced southern beau, rails against modern society (and suggests his position on women in the process): The whole generation is womanized; the masculine tone is passing out of the world; it’s a feminine, nervous, hysterical, chattering, canting age, an age of hollow phrases and false delicacy and exaggerated solicitudes and coddled sensibilities, which, if we don’t soon look out, will usher in the reign of mediocrity, of the feeblest and flattest and most pretentious that has ever been. The masculine character, the ability to dare and endure, to know and yet not fear reality, to look the world in the face and take it for what it is . . . that is what I want to preserve, or rather . . . recover; and I must tell you that I don’t in the least care what becomes of you ladies while I make the attempt. (p. 293) Here was the critique of the feminization of American culture in condensed form. Something had happened to American society that had led to a loss of cultural vitality, of national virility. And ever since the first few decades of the 19th century, men have been running away—off to the frontier, the mountains, the forests, the high seas, the battlegrounds, outer space—to retrieve what they feel like they’ve lost: some deep, essential part of themselves, their identity, their manhood. Part of the struggle was simply to get out of the house. The separation of spheres had transformed the 19th-century middle-class home into a virtual feminine theme park—where well-mannered and well-dressed children played quietly in heavily draped and carpeted parlors, and adults chatted amiably over tea served from porcelain services. This delightful contrast with the frantic and aggressive business world made men feel uneasy in their own homes, even as they felt themselves exiled from it. A man’s house “is a prison, in which he finds himself oppressed and confined, not sheltered and protected,” wrote Thoreau. “His muscles are never relaxed. It is rare that he overcomes the house, and learns to sit at home in it” ( 1960).
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Not only had the home itself become a feminine preserve, but domestic activities were a woman’s province, especially the children’s moral and religious instruction. Women were not only domestic; they were domesticators, expected to turn their sons into virtuous Christian gentlemen—dutiful, wellmannered, and feminized. Orestes Brownson growled about “female religion” as well as male ministers who were the domesticated pets of widows and spinsters, “fit only to balance teacups and mouth platitudes” (cited in Welter, 1974, p. 103). The increased roles of mothers and decreased role of absentee fathers in the early 19th century meant that it fell increasingly to women to teach their sons how to be men.1 Thus did the definition of manhood become the repudiation of the feminine, the resistance to the mother’s, and later the wife’s efforts to domesticate men. This resistance to feminization, whether in the form of real women (mothers and wives) or against those cultural qualities of modern life that spell enervation and feminization (religion, education, workplace responsibilities, doing “brain work”)—is what I call masculinism. Masculinism involves an effort to restore manly vigor and revirilize American men by promoting separate homosocial preserves where men can be men without female interference. Some masculinist efforts involve the symbolic appropriation of women’s reproductive power by developing distinctively masculine forms of ritual initiation and nurture—initiations that displaced maternal care with manly validation. Masculinism is, at its center, resistance to femininity, to the forces that turn hard men into soft, enervated nerds; it is by escape from women and resistance to femininity that masculinists hope to retrieve their manhood. In their view, men had to wriggle free of these feminine, feminizing clutches— ironically, the very clutches that male insecurity had created to free the workplace of female competition and to make the home into a man’s castle and thus preserve patriarchal authority. It was in the public sphere that men faced the greatest challenges to their manhood, where their sense of manhood was won or lost, and yet these anxieties were projected, instead, onto women as the bearers of enervating lassitude. Men were suddenly terrified of feminization in the very homes they had created, and now yearned to escape or at least more clearly demarcate themselves from women. The fears of feminization reached a crescendo in the late 1840s through the 1850s. Beards and moustaches proliferated as masculine fashion, while critics lampooned feminized styles among urban men. Walt Whitman chastised the painted urban male who “looks like a doll” and a writer in Harper’s Monthly described the human “poodles” who paraded in the cities with their “velvet tunics” and “long glossy locks” (cited in Leach, 1980, p. 217). And Oliver Wendell Holmes foresaw the end of our race in 1858, convinced that a “set of black-coated, stiff-jointed, soft-muscled, paste-complexioned youth as we can boast from our Atlantic cities never before sprang from loins of AngloSaxon lineage” (p. 881).
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What was a real man to do? Get out of town. When Horace Greeley advised, in 1837, to “Go West, young man, and grow up with the country,” men perked up their ears and followed in droves!2 The West—both reality and idea—was the epitome of masculinist resistance. The West was a safety valve, siphoning off excess population and providing an outlet for both the ambitious and the unsuccessful. As Frederick Jackson Turner, the historian who made the West the centerpiece of American history, put it: To the peasant and artisan of the Old World, bound by the chains of social class, as old as custom and as inevitable as fate, the West offered an exit into a free life and greater well-being among the bounties of nature, into the midst of resources that demanded manly exertion and that gave in return the chance for indefinite ascent in the scale of social advance.3 (1896, p. 92) A more decidedly gendered tone is seen by literary critic David Leverenz, who writes that “[to] be aggressive, rebellious, enraged, uncivilized; this is what the frontier could do for the European clones on the East Coast, still in thrall to a foreign tyranny of manners” (1991, p. 763). Timothy Flint suggested, in 1831, that these “shrinking and effeminate spirits, the men of soft hands and fashionable life” ought to follow the pioneers, for “there is a kind of moral sublimity in the contemplation of the adventures and daring of such men” with their “manly hardihood” (cited in Adams, p. 25). When young men read in Yale’s president Timothy Dwight’s four-volume Travels in New England and New York (1821–22), the author’s regret that as the pioneer pushed further and further into the wilderness, he became “less and less a civilized man” (p. 441), or J. Hector St. John Crèvecoeur’s lament that on the frontier, men “degenerated altogether into the hunting state” and became, ultimately, “no better than carnivorous animals of a superior rank” (cited in Nash, 1967, p. 30), they probably couldn’t wait to get started. Reports from the field of this westward rush all celebrated the return to manly virtues. Francis Parkman’s The Oregon Trail: Sketches of Prairie and Rocky Mountain Life (1849) was an immediate best-seller, as was his later Discovery of the Great West (1869). A scrawny, feeble-bodied, rich boy, Parkman saw his masculine salvation in the repudiation of all things civilized (much as did another ruling-class weakling Richard Henry Dana, who penned another masculinist escape memoir, Two Years Before the Mast, in 1840). Charles Webber’s Old Hicks, The Guide; or, Adventures in the Comanche Country in Search of a Gold Mine (1848) also celebrated the “philosophy of the savage life.”4 The rush westward reached its apotheosis with the California Gold Rush of 1849. Never before, or since, have men created such a homosocial preserve on such a scale. Between 1849 and 1850, 85,000 men came to California,
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composing 93% of the state’s population—71% of whom were younger men, aged 20 to 40. Lured by the exciting possibilities of sudden and exorbitant wealth, money alone did not keep them there. It was the homosocial life, the life outside the conventional boundaries of civilization, the life away from wives. “There was no female society,” wrote Rev. John Todd, “no homes to soften and restrain” (1871, pp. 44–45). “The condition of the mining population, especially their carelessness in regard to appearances, mode of life, and habits in general,” observed C. W. Haskins, “showed conclusively that man, when alone, and deprived of that influence which the presence of woman only can produce, would in a short time degenerate into a savage and barbarous state” (1890, p. 73). One doctor explained that in California, “all the restrictive influence of fair women is lost, and the ungoverned tempers of men run wild” (cited in Margo, 1855, p. 8). Forty-niners cast off of the cultural baggage they brought from the East, relinquishing evidence of their former civilized lives. They took new names, manly and rough—like Texas Jack, Whiskey Tom, French Flat Pete, Buckeye, and Sawbones (a doctor)—neither bathed nor changed their clothes, gambled, drank incessantly, swore, attended bare-knuckled prize fights more often than they attended church services. A deck of cards was called the “California prayer book.” Thus did the forty-niners find what they were really looking for in those gold mines; they retrieved their lost manhood, even if they didn’t find any gold (Stott, 1991, pp. 6, 8, 11). Of course, one needn’t go to all the trouble of traveling across the country to retrieve manhood by a confrontation with nature. One could find it in one’s own backyard, the way Henry David Thoreau did. Thoreau, too, rejected the enervated version of Marketplace Men, who lead, in his famous phrase “lives of quiet desperation”—a man who is “in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises” that his life is “frittered away by detail” ( 1960, p. 10). Urban businessmen were literally suffocating on the enervating tendencies of modern life, but working men lacked the leisure to develop their manly integrity; both Thoreau believed, needed liberation.5 “We should come home from far, from adventures, and perils, and discoveries every day, with new experience and character” (p. 142). In short, we need the “tonic of the wildness” as an antidote to the lockstep insanity of the new marketplace (p. 211). So Thoreau set out to live at Walden Pond in 1845, shunning the company of women in order to create himself, to become a self-made man in the wilderness. In a sense, Thoreau conducted his own initiation into a new version of manhood. First, he rejected as a model the old, aristocratic father, England. “I look on England today as an old gentleman who is travelling with a great deal of baggage, trumpery which has accumulated from long housekeeping, which he has not the courage to burn” (p. 65). Then, he baptized himself. “I got up early and bathed in the pond; that was a religious exercise, and one
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of the best things which I did” (p. 86). And finally, he took communion, in a rather brutal fashion. “I caught a glimpse of a woodchuck stealing across my path, and felt a strange thrill of savage delight, and was strongly tempted to seize and devour him raw; not that I was hungry then, except for that wildness which he represented” (pp. 142–43). Ingesting the wildness, Thoreau suggests, allows middle-class men to free themselves.6 If middle-class men were unable to venture to the West, or even to a local pond, the tonic virtues of the wilderness could be brought to their homes; they could escape through fantasy. In the first half of the century, two forms of fantasy were available—popular biographies of pioneers and backwoodsmen, elevated to the level of national myths, and popular fiction, both of which allowed men to escape through fantasies of identification. For example, although Kit Carson and Daniel Boone were each active in the first two decades of the century, and Davy Crockett active in the 1830s, all became mythic heroes in the 1840s and especially in the 1850s, when their biographies were rewritten as primitivist narratives of innate, instinctual manhood. All three were in constant retreat from advancing civilization. Boone was the “natural man,” disinterested in accumulation of wealth, always on the move, never weighted down. “Boone used to say to me,” declared one backwoodsman who claimed to be Boone’s hunting buddy, “that when he could not fell the top of a tree near enough to his door for fire wood, it was time to move to a new place.” Another legend held that when Boone heard that someone was clearing a farm 12 miles west of him, he declared the area “too thickly settled”—his version of “there goes the neighborhood”—and prepared his next move. Lionizing such misanthropic grumpiness seems to be a peculiarly American trait.7 Equally distinctive was the creation of the American myth of mobility, and especially the link between geographic mobility, social mobility, and selfrecreation as men. The Heroic Artisan returns in the guise of the pioneer, the masculine primitive, but he is still humble and beholden to his origins. As Richard Slotkin, who has traced what he called the “frontier fable” as a dominant theme in American culture writes: The protagonist is usually represented as having marginal connections to the Metropolis and its culture. He is a poor and uneducated borderer or an orphan lacking the parental tie to anchor him to the Metropolis and is generally disinclined to learn from book culture when the book of nature is free to read before him. His going to the wilderness breaks or attenuates the Metropolitan tie, but it gives him access to something far more important than anything the Metropolis contains—the wisdom, morality, power, and freedom of Nature in its pure wild form. (1977, p. 374)
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Though the myth contains an irony invisible to its protagonists—that their very activity in moving west to escape civilization transforms them into its advance guard, as they tame the west for future settlement—it remains a most potent myth today. When one historian dared to debunk aspects of the myth about how and when Crockett died at the Alamo, he was berated by irate writers as a “wimp,” fit for nothing better than the lowly profession of college teaching. In the 1992 presidential campaign, Republican challenger Pat Buchanan donned a coonskin cap as he campaigned in Crockett’s native Tennessee (Lofaro, 1989, p. 26).
Flights of Fantasy, 1820–1880 These real-life historical figures were transformed into mythic heroes within a decade or two of their deaths; the fictional creations of early 19th-century American novelists made them up as they went along. In their insightful books, Love and Death in the American Novel (1966) and Manhood and the American Renaissance (1988), literary critics Leslie Fiedler and David Leverenz, respectively, describe the two dominant, and related, themes in American literature: male bonding in the escape from women (Fiedler) and discomfort and resistance to the marketplace (Leverenz). Fiedler explains best those writers who embraced and articulated this vision most completely— Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Mark Twain; Leverenz focuses instead on those who were more ambivalent, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Walt Whitman. To Fiedler, the classic American novel is entirely different from the classical European novel, in which—as in, for example, Madame Bovary, Tom Jones, or Jane Eyre—the plot revolves around a heterosexual couple, struggling with issues of sexual fidelity, workplace responsibility, family and domestic concerns. American novels are marked by the absence of sexuality, the absence of marriage and families—the virtual absence of women entirely. The American novel is about “adventure and isolation plus an escape at one point or another, or a flight from society to an island, a woods, the underworld, a mountain fastness—some place, at least, where mothers do not come” (Fiedler, 1966, p. 26). Take Washington Irving’s story “Rip Van Winkle” (1820). Here in the surface treatment of progress—Van Winkle sleeps for 20 years and comes back to find everything changed—there is also the escape from his shrewish wife. “Morning, noon, and night her tongue was incessantly going, and everything he did or said was sure to produce a torrent of household eloquence.” Usually, Rip simply “shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, and cast up his eyes” in response. But finally, he had to get away. “Poor Rip was at last reduced almost to despair; and his only alternative, to escape from the labor of the farm and clamor of his wife, was to take gun in hand and stroll away into the woods.”
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Rip’s musket-laden stroll culminates in a 20-year alcoholic reverie and confrontation with the homosocial world of the mountain trolls (Irving,  1963, pp. 43–57). Upon his return, Rip is most struck by the changes in the gender order that his absence, and his wife’s death, has elicited: Rip, in fact, was no politician; the changes of states and empires made but little impression on him; but there was one species of despotism under which he had long groaned, and that was—petticoat government. Happily that was at an end; he had got his neck out of the yoke of matrimony, and could in and out whenever he pleased, without dreading the tyranny of Dame Van Winkle. Whenever her name was mentioned, however, he shook his head, shrugged his shoulders, and cast up his eyes; which might pass either for an expression of resignation to his fate, or joy at his deliverance. (p. 57) The story’s last line extends Irving’s fable to the “common wish of all hen-pecked husbands in the neighborhood, when life hangs heavy on their hands, that they might have a quieting draught of Rip Van Winkle’s flagon.” Rip is the first of this fictional American archetype, the man in flight to avoid persecution—the fugitive, born to run.8 And Washington Irving is the nation’s first Robert Bly. By the mid-19th century, until today, this new American male hero also encounters another man, preferably a man of another race, as a sort of spirit guide to this world without women. From Natty Bumppo and Chingachgook, Huck and Jim, Ishmael and Queequeg—all the way to the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Captain Kirk and the Vulcan Mr. Spock, and Lt. John Dunbar and Kicking Bird in Dances with Wolves, and Riggs and Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon, American fiction has celebrated male bonding, “a love between males, more enduring and purer than any heterosexual passion,” which culminates in an asexual counter-marriage “in which the white refugee from society and the dark skinned primitive are joined till death do them part” (Fiedler, 1966, p. 214). At first glance, that a society so defined by racism and homophobia should place homoerotic union between two men of different races as its central theme is somewhat astonishing. Fiedler attributes this to a search for redemption in fantasy for white heterosexual guilt, but I believe it is also a way to present screens against which manhood is projected, played out, and defined. Women and children, in their absence, offer such a screen; they do not even enter the arena of masculinity. The nonwhite male, then, stands in for them—as dependent child (Nigger Jim), male mother (Chingachgook, Tonto), spiritual guide and moral instructor (Queequeg, Chingachgook). Their homoerotic passion is never the passion of equals; the nonwhite is either the guide and exemplar or the Rousseauian “noble savage” who, in his childlike innocence, is susceptible to the wiles of civilization.9
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Sexuality—succumbing to the lustful temptations of the body—would ruin everything, just as carnal desires ruin men’s ability to wriggle free of their connection with women. With women, sexuality leads to marriage and family; with men, transforming homoerotic bonding into homosexual union would likewise destroy the charged but chaste basis for the bond.10 Nowhere is this more clear than in the five-novel saga of the Leatherstocking Tales by James Fenimore Cooper, the most popular novelist of antebellum America. Cooper had earlier groped for a way to develop his critique of emerging marketplace manhood, and his idealization of the natural man. In his 1821 novel, The Spy, for example, his critique of one character, Harvey Birch, as a shrewd, acquisitive Yankee peddler whose “love of money is a stronger passion than love of his kin” is less effective without another masculine archetype to play off against. In 1823, Cooper found him in Natty Bumppo, the hero of The Pioneers (1823), The Last of the Mohicans (1826), The Prairie (1827), The Pathfinder (1840), and The Deerslayer (1841). In Bumppo, Cooper created the prototype of masculinist flight into the wilderness and “showed how the solitary hunter, unencumbered by social responsibilities, utterly self-sufficient, uncultivated but endowed with a spontaneous appreciation of natural beauty could become the central figure in the great American romance of the West” (Lasch, 1991, p. 94). “And Natty, what sort of man is he?” asked D. H. Lawrence. “Why, he is a man with a gun. He is a killer, a slayer. Patient and gentle, as he is, he is a slayer. Selfeffecting . . . still he is a killer” (1967, p. 59). No Marketplace Man, Bumppo is a traditional gentleman, naturally virtuous, in “flight from civilized unmanliness to Native American traditions of patriarchal comradeship” (Leverenz, 1992, p. 754). Natty Bumppo is the first “last real man in America.”11 When we first meet, he and his Indian companion, Chingachgook, are engaged in a debate about whether whites have any rights to take the Indians’ land. At first, Natty says that whites are only doing to the Indians what the Indians used to do to each other, although he acknowledges that it does seem a bit unfair to be using bullets. But then, Natty launches into a critique of feminization that seems to come out of nowhere. Modern white men no longer publicly shame the “cowardly” and applaud bravery; nowadays, they “write in books” instead of telling their deed in the villages, “where the lie can be given to the face of a cowardly boaster, and the brave soldier can call on his comrades to witness for the truth of his words.” As a result, “a man who is too conscientious to misspend his days among the women, in learning the names of black marks, may never hear of the deeds of his fathers, nor feel a pride in striving to outdo them” (p. 26).12 If books are agents of feminization, women are but helpless and frail creatures. Throughout the novel, men spend a lot of time in the forests, risking all manner of danger, to rescue women whom they believe cannot survive without male protection. Enemies are also feminized: “The Delawares are women!” exclaims Hawkeye. “The Yengeese, my foolish countrymen, have
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told them to take up the tomahawk, and strike their fathers in the Canada, and they have forgotten their sex. Does my brother wish to hear Le Cerf Agile ask for his petticoats, and see him weep before the Hurons, at the stake?” (p. 318).13 Though Hawkeye delivers the masculinist attacks on effeminate Mama’s boys and disdains women, it falls to Chingachgook, the Indian, to deliver the most stinging critique of Marketplace Manhood—in the guise of a critique of the white man: Some [The Great Spirit] made with faces paler than the ermine of the forests: and these he ordered to be traders; dogs to their women and wolves to their slaves. He gave this people the nature of the pigeon; wings that never tire: young, more plentiful than the leaves on the trees, and appetites to devour the earth. He gave them tongues like the false call of the wildcat; hearts like rabbits; the cunning of the hog . . . and arms to fight his battles; his cunning tells him how to get together the goods of the earth; and his arms inclose the land from the shore of the salt water to the islands of the great lake. His gluttony makes him sick. God gave him enough, and yet he wants all. Such are the palefaces. (p. 356) Such was the masculinity expressed by the urban entrepreneur, against which Cooper was rebelling, celebrating instead the return of the virtuous hunter, the Heroic Artisan in the wilderness. More than any other work, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick provides the most compelling analysis of the mid-century crisis of masculinity. Captain Ahab’s “desperate narcissistic rage” and “mesmerizing coerciveness” are the marks of “a man obsessed with avenging his shattered manhood” (Leverenz, 1992, pp. 279, 281).14 In Ahab, Melville provides a portrait of gendered madness, a blind rage fueled by sexualized obsession, the self-destruction of the self-made Marketplace Man. Here is a man driven to dominate, compulsively competitive, obsessively insecure—in short, the archetypal capitalist man, a 19th-century Type A powerbroker. His monomania, that obsession with domination that is the disease of the driven, is the 19th-century male version of hysteria.15 The great whale is both the more powerful man against which masculinity is measured, and the archetypal woman—carnal, sexually insatiable, Other.16 What are we to make, after all, of the fact that Ahab, who had lost his “leg” trying to plunge his “six inch blade” into the whale, is now engaged in a “crazed flight to prove his manhood”? Moby Dick is “the most extravagant projection of male penis envy” in American literature (Leverenz, 1992, pp. 290, 294). Ahab’s inevitable failure is both economic and sexual; Marketplace Manhood is no match for the forces of nature, and so the relations are inverted, revealing the terror of being dominated that lies beneath the drive to dominate. Ahab is the male Dora, seducing and seduced, rapist and
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raped, willing to partake of the savage butchery of his entire crew to avoid humiliation at the hands of his rival. Ahab is finally hysterically mute, incapable of speech. He dies strangled in the harpoon’s ropes, choking, voiceless, and terrified. These violent passions provide a startling contrast to the tender artisanal homoeroticism between Ishmael and the harpoonist, Queequeg, who discover, as they lie asleep in bed, wrapped in each others’ arms, that chaste, yet eroticized, homosociality that characterizes the purified male bond. To Melville, those bonds were impossible if one adopted the competitive drive of Marketplace Man; they were possible only in the homosocial fraternalism of the Heroic Artisan, all but one of whom is destroyed by Ahab’s monomaniacal pursuit of the Leviathan.
Turn of the Century Fantasies of Escape By the turn of the century, the frontier was closed. What was a man to do? Well, for one thing, he could join the hundreds of organizations that sprung up to answer his manly needs—institutions like local sports teams, Muscular Christian revival meetings, or fraternal orders, which boasted over 5.5 million members in 1897 out of an adult male population of slightly less than 19 million! And through the YMCA, Boy Scouts, single-sex schools, he could insure that his sons received proper training in hardy manhood.17 Or he could retrieve his deep manhood by fantasy. After all, it is a psychoanalytic axiom that what we lose in reality we recreate in fantasy. Why not gender identity? For example, the exploits of Frank Merriwell at Yale found avid young male readers. Here was the embodiment of the strenuous ideal, excelling in every sport, always winning the big game for Yale when the chips were down— he could even throw a curve ball that curved twice!—without any compromise of his manly and moral virtues. Like Gilbert Patten (who wrote the Merriwell stories under the name Burt Standish), turn-of-the-century writers pursued male readers with fantasy tales of heroic adventure on the edges of civilization, scathing critiques of sedentary life, and offered their readers the possibility of escape. In fantasy, we re-enter the world of the independent virtuous artisan, our recurring fantasy role model, even up to the present day. In his most famous incarnation, he is the cowboy. The cowboy occupies an important place in American cultural history—he is America’s contribution to the world’s stock of mythic heroes. What is most interesting is that the cowboy was not always a hero; he was invented—after he had disappeared. In the 1860s and 1870s, the cowboy was called a “herder,” and he appeared in public prints and writing as rough, uncouth, shaggy, and dirty, whose behavior was violent, barbarous, and rowdy. He was the brutal outlaw, not the good guy. Writing in 1875, Laura
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Winthrop Johnson saw no glamour in these “rough men with shaggy hair and wild staring eyes, in butternut trousers stuffed into great rough boots” (cited in Smith, 1950, p. 122). But around 1882, a cowboy named Buck Taylor at the First Wild West Show first captured the attention of a writer, Prentiss Ingraham. The Wild West Show was a conscious recreation of the West, now tamed for mass consumption into a traveling circus. Organized by Buffalo Bill Cody, the preeminent trader in mythic archetypes, the show depicted the conquest of the Wild West, transforming it into an American allegory of expansion and marketplace success. In 1887, Ingraham wrote a fictional biography of Taylor, later expanded in a series of dime novels, and the new cowboy was invented. By 1887, the great cattle drives that were his home had ended, and the “Big Die-Up” of the winter of 1886–87 had bankrupted many cattle outfits, and so altered ranch life that the cowboy was “less a knight errant and more a hired man on horseback” (Wallace Stegner, cited in Vorpahl, 1972, p. ix). The cowboy thus emerged in literature at the exact moment of his disappearance as independent artisan and his transformation into a wage worker in a new industry of cattle ranching. Though the cowboy was a worker, “a skilled technician hired to do the boring, and often dangerous business of ‘working’ cows,” his iconic representation shows the possibility of the employee as hero (Robertson, 1979, p. 253). If the workaday world of the cowboy had been somewhat proletarianized in real life, in its fictional representation, it was all guts and glory. The end of the century also witnessed the creation of the rodeo, a “celebration of the unique and daring sports indulged in and enjoyed by all the virile characters of the western frontier,” as a promotional handbill for Cheyenne’s Frontier Days put it. The first rodeo was held in 1883 in Pecos, Texas; five years later, folks in Prescott, Arizona, paid admission to see cowboys strut their cowpunching stuff in contained arenas. By the 1890s, rodeos had defined formats and rules that governed the major competitions—steer wrestling, bareback riding, and bronco busting. Cheyenne’s Frontier Days were inaugurated in 1897 as a self-conscious “annual resurrection of the west as it was, for the edification of the west as it is.” One writer explained the significance of Frontier Days in 1909: Civilization is pushing everything before it: thriving cities and well kept farms are taking the place of the cattle upon a thousand hills. But the pioneer still clings with a pathetic tenacity to the old customs . . . a pathetic but vigorous desire . . . to prove that strong arms and courageous hearts still existed on the range. (Bond, 1909, p. 173) Organizers had no doubts that it was rugged western manliness that was also being resurrected. Individual acts were extolled for their “peril to life and limb”; commentators were awed by the “sheer nerve” of the bareback rider, and
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one waxed poetic about broncos—“murderers that plunge with homicidal fury beneath the cinches of leather of a bucking saddle.” For the participants, the rodeo gave the “feeling of being part of the frontier that still lives in the professional rodeo arena. A cowboy on a bronco symbolizes the rugged individuality of the Western man and beast.” For the spectators, the rodeo was a “true taste of the wild and wooly.”18 The rodeo pen preserved the frontier as gladiatorial arena; its competitors, participants in a blood sport (Bond, 1909, p. 176; Walker, 1958, p. 78). As a mythic creation, the cowboy was fierce and brave, willing to venture into unknown territory, a “negligent, irrepressible wilderness,” and tame it for its less-than-masculine inhabitants. As soon as the environment is subdued, he must move on, unconstrained by the demands of civilized life, unhampered by clinging women and whining children and uncaring bosses and managers.19 His is a freedom that can not be “bounded by the fences of a too weak and timid conventionalism,” as Harold Wright put it in his western novel, When a Man’s a Man (1916) (cited in Gerzon, 1983, p. 77). He is a man of impeccable ethics, whose faith in natural law and natural right is eclipsed only by the astonishing fury with which he demands rigid adherence to them. He is a man of action— “grim [and] lean, . . . of few topics, and not many words concerning these.” He moves in a world of men, in which daring, bravery, and skill are his constant companions. He lives by physical strength and rational calculation; his compassion is social and generalized, but he forms no lasting emotional bonds with any single person. He lives alone, a “hermited horseman” out on the range.20 And, of course, he doesn’t really exist, except in the pages of the western, the literary genre heralded by the publication of Owen Wister’s novel, The Virginian, in 1902. Wister is not only the creator of the genre, but one of its biggest boosters and celebrators. Born into an aristocratic Philadelphia family, Wister’s first love was music, and he went to Harvard to study composition. When it became clear that he would never become a truly great composer, his father insisted that he return home to a position at Boston’s largest brokerage house. Within a few months, Wister had a nervous breakdown, and developed Bell’s palsy (a paralysis of the face). He consulted S. Weir Mitchell, who diagnosed Wister’s problem as neurasthenia, and prescribed a trip to a Wyoming dude ranch for a cure. At the ranch, Wister slept outdoors in a tent, bathed in an icy creek each morning, spent hours in the saddle, hunted, fished, and worked in the roundup, and helped to brand calves, castrate bulls, and deliver foals. “I am beginning to be able to feel I’m something of an animal and not a stinking brain alone” he wrote from the ranch in 1885 (cited in White, 1968, p. 124). In three weeks, Wister believed himself to be completely cured. And completely converted to western life, which he was now devoted to celebrating. The western was his creation, a vehicle for “an upper class composer short-story-writer with doubts about his independence to claim a robust masculinity,” according to literary critic Jane Tompkins (1992, p. 136).
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The western represented the apotheosis of masculinist fantasy, a revolt not against women but against feminization. The vast prairie is the domain of male liberation from workplace humiliation, cultural feminization, and domestic emasculation. The western provides men with alternative institutions and experiences—the saloon replaces the church, the men sitting around the campfire is the equivalent of the Victorian parlor, the range replaces the factory floor. The western is a purified, pristine male domain, the world that contemporary middle-class men believed was once populated by independent artisans of the West.21 What are the traits of such a mythic figure? Of course, he is manly.22 He was a natural aristocrat—a “natural nobleman, formed not by civilization and its institutions but the spontaneous influence of the land working on an innate goodness.” Like Natty Bumppo or Davy Crockett before him, the Virginian is a “handsome, ungrammatical son of the soil”; “here in flesh and blood was a truth which I had long believed in words, but never met before. The creature we call a gentleman lies deep in the hearts of thousands that are born without a chance to master the outward graces of the type.”23 Having served his apprenticeship he is now a master of his craft of riding, roping, and killing. His virtues are artisanal virtues: “self-discipline, unswerving purpose; the exercise of knowledge, skill, ingenuity, and excellent judgement; and a capacity to continue in the face of total exhaustion and overwhelming odds.” He is free, in a free country, embodying republican virtue and autonomy (Worster, 1992, p. 80; Wright, 1975, p. 152).24 And he is white. To Wister, the west was “manly, egalitarian, self-reliant, and Aryan”—it was the “true” America, far from the feminizing, immigrant infested cities, where voracious blacks and masculine women devoured white men’s chances to demonstrate manhood. A 1902 review of The Virginian in The World’s Work saw this deeper theme in the western at the moment of its origins: To catch the deeper meaning of our life, one’s path must be toward that Western verge of the continent where all white men are American born, because they only are the culture and conservatism of the East, the chivalrism and the fire-eating spirit of the South, and the broad, unhampered gambler’s view of life native to raw Western soil, all transmuted into a democracy of no distinctions.25 Perhaps most important, the cowboy hero of the western was an anachronism, obsolete at the moment of his creation. As Wister wrote in an editorial preface to the book: What has become of the horseman, the cow-puncher, the last romantic figure upon our soil? For he was romantic. Whatever he did, he did with his might. The bread that he earned was earned hard, the wages that he
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squandered were squandered hard . . . [H]e will be among us always, invisible, waiting his chance to live and play as he would like. His wild kind has been among us always, since the beginning, a young man with his temptations, a hero without wings. (Wister,  1979, p. 121) No writer of the era covered these themes as powerfully as Wister, but several writers plied a similar trade. Like Wister, Zane Grey came from a wealthy Philadelphia family, but abandoned his career as a dentist to write westerns. In his first, and most famous, work, Riders of the Purple Sage (1912), the hero, Bern Venters represents the 19th-century men who “have been enfeebled by the doctrines of a feminized Christianity,” embodied by Jane Witherspoon, who has symbolically emasculated him in the opening pages by taking his guns away from him. Through his transformation, “American men are taking their manhood back from the Christian women who have been holding it in thrall.” “Harness the cave man—yes!” wrote Grey in 1924, “but do not kill him. Something of the wild and primitive should remain instinctive in the human race” (cited in Tompkins, 1992, pp. 167, 33). Just as some masculinists celebrate the warrior’s quest for regenerative manhood, so, too, did fin-de-siècle novelists celebrate the battlefield as masculine testing ground. Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage (1896) is perhaps the most famous.26 When Henry Fleming first sees the enemy, he is “not a man, but a member” of the army, because he “felt the subtle battle-brotherhood more potent even than the cause for which they were fighting.” His experience is less about virtue than about the fear of shame, humiliation, and disgrace. His trial, his initiation, is really the substitution of one form of fear— the fear of social humiliation in front of other men—for an earlier, childlike fear, the fear of death.27 Crane’s novel has a similar trajectory to the “Iron John” myth. Fleming tries to “measure himself by his comrades,” and falls short. Following his shameful inability to prove his manhood in battle, he was “amid wounds,” feeling that his shame “could be viewed.” He “wished that he, too, had a wound.” But eventually, he rediscovers his inner warrior, and his shame and humiliation lead him to fight like a “barbarian, a beast,” a “pagan who defends his religion,” so that, ultimately, he was a “hero,” like other “proved men.” As we leave Henry Fleming we see him now in the possession of a quiet manhood, nonassertive, but a sturdy and strong blood. He knew that he would no more quail before his guides wherever they should point. He had been to touch the great death, and found that, after all, it was but the great death. He was a man. (p. 211) Finally, one could go back, way back to our earliest natures, to reunite with our Darwinian ancestors, and retrieve our pure masculinity by shedding all the trappings of modernity. Wrenched from effete, civilized life, or born
Born to Run
into the life of the primitive, Buck and Tarzan hear the call of their primitive instincts and return to become wolves and apes. When we first meet Buck, in Jack London’s Call of the Wild (1903), he is a relatively tame house pet in California, dognapped by an impoverished gardener and sold to a Klondike expedition. There, in the wild, he learns quickly the “law of club and fang” and becomes the strongest and most successful and ferocious sled dog. He has a multitude of adventures, including a deep love for the man who saves him from a savage beating and then treats him kindly—a deep, manly love, not the love of a tame animal. But even that love could not “civilize” the “strain of the primitive”: Deep in the forest a call was sounding, and as often as he heard this call, mysteriously thrilling and luring, he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire and the beaten earth around it, and to plunge into the forest. (p. 75) To which he eventually succumbs, in a masterful regression that is at once evolutionary and developmental.28 London revels in Buck’s muscular power and brute ferocity, and provides a potent antidote to overcivilization. Here’s London at his most eloquent: There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad on a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight. He was sounding the deeps of his nature, and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he, going back into the womb of Time. He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew and that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars and over the face of dead matter that did not move. (p. 88)29 This contrast of civilization and animality is the bedrock of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes (1912) and the subsequent series of Tarzan books that saw him have every manly adventure known to Burroughs, including returning to the Old West, and rocketing off to outer space! Tarzan is the personification, Burroughs writes, “of the primitive man, the hunter, the warrior” the Rousseauian innocent, the “naked savage” who is also, it turns out a blueblooded English nobleman. In his dramatic and steamy encounters with Jane,
Born to Run
we fully understand the power of the primitive.30 Tarzan embodies the mythic heroism of the “avenging hero, half animal and half human, fusing beast and patrician, descend into an evil underclass to save a helpless bourgeois civilization.” Thus portrayed, Tarzan reasserts white supremacy also, the dominance of nature over nurture; after all, Tarzan “has a man’s figure and a man’s brain, but he was an ape by training and environment.” At the climax of this Darwinian nightmare, in which descending the evolutionary ladder is the only mechanism to retrieve manhood, Tarzan tells Jane that he has “come across the ages out of the dim and distant past from the lair of the primeval man to claim you—for your sake I have become a civilized man—for your sake I have crossed oceans and continents—for your sake I will be whatever you will me to be” (p. 243). Tarzan’s triumph is that he will be civilized by a woman.31 From Tarzan’s aristocratic birth, to the natural aristocracy of the cowboy avenger, and the primitive nobility of the reborn animal in Buck, the myth expresses a paradox of a middle class that is collectively empowered, but in which individual men feel personally powerless and unmanly, in the workplace, and at home.
Conclusion Fantasies of western adventure, testing and proving manhood on the battlefield, celebrating the manly in literature, even going native in a Darwinian devolution to pure animality—these were the dominant themes of masculinist literature through the 19th century. But escape from wives, partners, children, work—from adult responsibilities in general—has never provided the stable grounding for gender identity its promoters have promised. From Rip Van Winkle and Natty Bumppo to Iron John and today’s “weekend warriors,” men have sought the homosocial solace of the wilderness, the frontier, the West. Here, they’ve found a temporary respite from the feminizing clutches of women, and from enervating workplace lives. But the respite has only been temporary, and either must be constantly renewed in ever more bizarre ritual appropriations, or they lapse into the same politics of resentment and exclusion of antifeminism and racism. Men will be free, D. H. Lawrence wrote, “when they are in a living homeland, not when they are escaping to some wild west” (1923, p. 9). We pro-feminist men are still waiting for the weekend warriors to come home, and to fight alongside women, alongside gay men and lesbians, alongside people of color in what will be the most challenging battle of our lives: to create a democratic manhood, a manhood based on equality, a manhood that is as at home with itself inside the house as it is out in the woods.
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3 Consuming Manhood The Feminization of American Culture and the Recreation of the Male Body, 1832–1920
You can’t have a firm will without firm muscles. —G. Stanley Hall
t’s a psychoanalytic commonplace that what we lose in reality we recreate in fantasy. Those objects, relationships, and experiences that give life meaning, that make us feel full, satisfied, secure, are snatched from us, leaving us insecure, frightened, and desperate. Part of our normal, garden-variety neurosis is the creation of a stockpile of symbols that remind us of those lost qualities, a secret symbolic treasure chest we can occasionally raid to recreate earlier moments of fulfillment. American men have been searching for their lost manhood since the middle of the 19th century. Plagued by chronic anxiety that our masculinity is constantly being tested, American men have raided that cultural treasure chest for symbolic objects that might restore this lost manhood. At times such raids exhibit neurotic tendencies of psychic retreat to earlier mythic times of gender identity security; at other times, though, men have been subject to more serious breaks with reality and the effort to live in that symbolic fantasy world. This essay will examine some of those efforts to rescue and retrieve masculinity during a pivotal moment of historical transition during which masculinity was widely perceived as in crisis and in radical need of such restoration. First, I will describe the ways that a secure sense of masculinity was gradually destabilized in the first few decades of the 19th century, and describe some of the mechanisms that men employed to reground their eroding sense of manhood. These included increasing restrictions on the male body through proscriptions of sexuality; the exclusion of all “others” such as women, nonnative born whites, men of color, and, later in the century, homosexuals from the increasingly problematic public area; and fantasies of escape. I’ll also explore the rediscovery of the male body at the turn of the century as a gen37
dered testing ground, a site of demonstration of masculinity, especially in consumerist fantasies of physical prowess.
The Terrors of the Self-Made Man At the turn of the 19th century, the term “manhood” was synonymous with the term “adulthood,” the opposite of childhood. Virility was counterposed to puerility, not femininity. To be manly was to accept adult responsibilities as a provider, producer, and protector of a family. Manhood was grounded in property ownership whether of landed estates or of the workingman’s physical body, which was his to deploy as he saw fit. Two models of manhood prevailed. The term “Genteel Patriarch” describes the manhood of the landed gentry: refined, elegant, and given to casual sensuousness, he was a devoted father who spent his time on his estate with his family. Urban craftsmen and shopkeepers subscribed to a model of “Heroic Artisan,” who embodied the physical strength and republican virtue of the Jeffersonian yeoman farmer and independent artisan. Also a devoted father, the Heroic Artisan taught his sons his craft, supporting them through ritual apprenticeship to master status, as his father had earlier initiated him. An economic liberal who cherished his workplace autonomy, he was also a democrat, delighting in the participatory democracy of the town meeting. By the 1830s, a new version of masculinity emerged in the eastern cities. “Marketplace Manhood” describes this “new man” who derived his identity entirely from success in the capitalist marketplace, from his accumulated wealth, power, and capital. The manhood of the urban entrepreneur, the businessman, was restless, agitated, devoted to his work in the homosocial public arena. He was thus an absentee landlord at home and an absent father to his children. When Henry Clay called America “a nation of self-made men,” it was of Marketplace Man that he was speaking. The frenzy for self-making spelled the historic doom of both Heroic Artisans and Genteel Patriarchs. Even today, once-heroic artisans fight against being transformed into faceless proletarians, which means the loss of workplace autonomy, small-town communal political power, and domestic patriarchy, while the gentility of the old gentry is now ridiculed as the effeminacy of the urban dandy and fop. The triumph of marketplace masculinity pushed these two remnants of the old regime into the realms of the non-men. For Marketplace Man himself, the psychological consequences of selfmaking were striking, and immediately evident to the sensitive eye. As manhood became dislodged from traditional moorings, it was thrown into constant question in the unstable world of economic competition. Masculinity became a homosocial enactment, to be proved in the marketplace, a “site of humiliation” according to Henry David Thoreau. No wonder that perceptive French
aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville noticed this irony at the core of the American temperament: An American will build a house in which to pass his old age and sell it before the roof is on; he will plant a garden and rent it just as the trees are coming into bearing; he will clear a field and leave others to reap the harvest; he will take up a profession and leave it, settle in one place and soon go off elsewhere with his changing desires . . . At first sight there is something astonishing in this spectacle of so many lucky men restless in the midst of abundance. (1969, p. 536) What a lucky man, indeed—chronically restless, temperamentally anxious, a man in constant motion to prove what ultimately cannot be proved: that he is a real man and that his identity is unthreatened by the actions of other men. How could American middle-class men, these new self-made men, ever find relief from their relentless efforts to prove their manhood? Participants in the marketplace, which promises orderly rational accounting, ultimately became preoccupied with a world increasingly out of control. To a young man seeking his fortune in such a free and mobile society, identity was no longer fixed, and there were no firm familial foundations to ground a secure sense of himself as a man. Achieving manhood became a concern for men; for the first time in American history, young men experienced “identity crises.” “Sons had to compete for elusive manhood in the market rather than grow into secure manhood by replicating fathers. Where many could never attain the self-made manhood of success, middle-class masculinity pushed egotism to extremes of aggression, calculation, self-control and unremitting effort” (Sellers, 1992, p. 246). These young men solved this first “crisis of masculinity” in American history in a variety of ways: they went to work, making sure to keep women out of the workplace and ensure it as a homosocial preserve. They went to war, pitting the manhood of the industrial workers and heroic artisans of the north against the chivalric yeoman farmers of the south. They also went to war against their selves, pitting their manly will and resolve against the raging desires and animal lusts that their bodies experienced. And they went west, to start over, to make their fortunes, to escape the civilizing constraints of domestic life represented by the Victorian woman. To succeed in the market, the American middle-class man had to first gain control over his self. And by this he increasingly meant his body—its desires, its sensations. In the 1830s and 1840s, a spate of advice manuals counseled these young men on how to do just that.1 The concern was so widespread, the advice books so popular, and the link between economic and sexual behavior so explicit, in fact, that one modern writer coined the phrase “spermatic economy” to describe the fusion of sexual and marketplace activities. Simply
put, the self-control required of marketplace success required the sexual control of a disciplined body, a body controlled by the will. Conservation of sperm signified conservation of energy for its deployment in the market. “Sturdy manhood,” one writer claimed, “loses its energy and bends under too frequent expenditure of this important secretion” (Barker-Benfield, 1976, p. 179).2 Conforming to the spermatic economy meant, first of all, gaining control over the body, often imagined in these advice books as a well of carnal desires and diffuse energy. Like premature Freudians, advice manual writers sought to control these desires and harness the energy toward productive activity. Young men were counseled to avoid certain behaviors and activities likely to elicit carnal appetites over their more productive competition. Above all, these manuals were frantically concerned about masturbation, which would sap men’s vital energies and enervate them for the tasks ahead. The American edition of S. A. Tissot’s classic French work A Treatise on the Diseases Produced by Onanism in 1832 captured the public imagination and allowed fears to congeal on the secret vice. Self-control, so necessary for success in the world of men, meant sexual control—control over what the body did—and control over the appetite for vice. By the 1850s, several advice books—among them William Alcott’s The Young Man’s Guide (1846), George Burnap’s Lectures to Young Men (1848), George Peck’s The Formation of a Manly Character (1853), and Timothy Arthur’s Advice to Young Men (1855)— addressed men’s need for self-control over passion and temptation directly, and masturbation indirectly, occasionally in a coded language that readers no doubt understood. Among the most successful of these advice books were Sylvester Graham’s A Lecture to Young Men (1834), and his later Lectures on Science and Human Life (1839) and John Todd’s The Student’s Manual (1835). Todd, a New England minister who became one of the nation’s foremost campaigners against women’s rights, and Graham, a health reformer and the inventor of the cracker that bears his name, were the preeminent experts who addressed themselves to the problems of becoming and remaining a successful man in the mid19th century. In his autobiographical work, John Todd, The Story of His Life, Told Mainly By Himself (1876), Todd claimed to have been “an orphan, shelterless, penniless” as a boy; he was, therefore, a prime example of the self-made man. (With one small exception—it was all a lie. Todd had been raised by his mother and two aunts after his father died.) The Student’s Manual struck a nerve among American youth; by 1854 it had gone through 24 editions. Graham laid out an elaborate plan for dietary and behavioral reforms that would allow men to live secure, happy, and successful lives. Concerned that the inner “vital economy” of the body was becoming enervated and insecure because of sexual excess, vice, and masturbation, Graham offered a set of bodily do’s and don’ts, a prescription of dietary and sexual temperance. All desire, Graham wrote, “disturbs and disorders all the functions of the system.”
To combat desire, Graham advocated a diet of farinaceous foods, properly prepared, like “good bread, made of coarsely ground, unbolted wheat, or rye-meal, and hominy, made of cracked wheat, or rye, or Indian corn.” Young men should avoid full and large suppers, and should eat no animal meat whatever, since he was convinced that one is more susceptible to sins of the flesh if one eats another’s flesh, advice for which Graham was twice attacked by Boston butchers. He advocated strenuous exercise, the avoidance of “every kind of stimulating and heating substances” and sleeping on a hard wood bed, since feather beds would wrap the sleeper in indolent luxury and thereby enervate him. Graham warned that socializing boys to bad habits of “luxury, indolence, voluptuousness and sensuality” (many of the qualities once praised among Genteel Patriarchs), would lead them to surrender their “nobleness, dignity, honor, and manhood” and become the wretched transgressor [who] sinks into a miserable fatuity, and finally becomes a confirmed and degraded idiot, whose deeply sunken and vacant, glossy eye, and livid shrivelled countenance, and ulcerous, toothless gums, and fetid breath, and feeble, broken voice, and emaciated and dwarfish and crooked body, and almost hairless head—covered perhaps with suppurating blisters and running sores—denote a premature old age! a blighted body—and a ruined soul! (Graham, 1834, pp. 25, 39, 73, 33–34, 58) Such dire warnings indicate that, for Graham, the real demon that haunted young men was the specter of male sexual desire. Male sexuality was, by definition, predatory, lustful, and amoral, the chief obstacle to public order. Sexuality in all its forms must be suppressed and controlled. Sexual relations between husbands and wives needed to be regulated and their frequency curtailed—Graham suggested no more than once a month—lest a variety of illnesses befall the husband.3 Even sexual fantasies—“those lascivious day-dreams and amorous reveries” that are so common among “the idle, and the voluptuous, and the sedentary, and the nervous”—must be suppressed, Graham argued, lest the daydreamer succumb to “debility, effeminacy, disordered functions, and permanent disease, and even premature death, without the actual exercise of the genital organs!” Seemingly harmless sexual fantasies lead to desire and motivation, a blood-boiling lust, that must find an outlet, either with a woman or by oneself. There were many other members of this antebellum vice squad eager to assist self-made men in their efforts at self-control. Dr. Augustus Kinsley Gardner advised parents that even if their children attempt to hide their practice of the solitary vice, sooner or later the “hysterias, epilepsies, spinal irritations, and a train of symptoms” would give them away to a watchful eye. Another writer counseled parents to employ several innovative treatments for sexual
intemperance and especially masturbation, including a straight-jacket, to help boys keep their hands to themselves, and tying the feet so that the thighs would remain separate. If these didn’t work, he contrived “cork cushions” which could be placed inside the thighs to pry them apart, and a “genital cage,” a metal truss of silver or tin in which the boy’s penis and scrotum were placed and held by springs (cited in Barker-Benfield, pp. 272–73).4 (Several patents for these devices, including one that sounded an electrical alarm in the event of an erection, were issued at the turn of the century, as competition in the war against venery heated up.) R. J. Culverwell invented a chair that served as a kind of douche-bidet for the sexually tempted. An armchair was fitted with an open seat, beneath which a pan of cold water, or “medicated refrigerant fluid” would be placed. By means of a pump, a young man could direct this cold water to his genitals, thus “cooling” his sexual urges, and making himself more capable of self-control (1846, p. 5). This obsessive repression of all things sexual indicates more than sexual prudishness or puritanical repression. It reveals an increasing preoccupation with the body and a correspondingly decreasing interest in the soul. That body was a sexual body, a body of desires, of dangerous fluids, of blind passions. This preoccupation with carnality, fueled by fears of loss of control, led to extraordinary measures to reassert control. If the young man wanted to become a successful Marketplace Man, he would have to control his body, to turn it into a tempered instrument that he could, by his will, deploy in an uncertain sea of fortune, confident that it was able to withstand fitful storms and still remain afloat. This sexual panic had serious consequences, not only for the young men involved, but also for women, and for nonwhite, or immigrant men—those screens against which white, native-born American men constructed their identities. These “repressed middle class sexual energies were then channeled into a xenophobic hostility toward the immigrant and the black, then projected into fantasies incorporating the enviable and fully expressed sexuality of these alien groups” as well as projected onto women, who were cast simultaneously as seductive temptresses, brimming with carnal desires they were unable to control, or pious, asexual angels, for whom the merest mention of the body and its desires would cause them to faint straightaway (Rosenberg & Smith-Rosenberg, 1973, p. 353). Sexual anxieties projected onto blacks, women, and immigrants prompted men to devise social, economic, political, and ideological controls to keep others out of the way, clearing the field for white, native-born men.
The Crisis of Masculinity at the Turn of the Century By the last few decades of the century, the realm of production had been so transformed that men could no longer anchor their identity in their position
in the market. Now, new symbols were created, the consumption of which reminded men of that secure past, before identity crises, before crises of masculinity. Manhood had earlier meant economic autonomy—control over one’s own labor, cooperative control over the labor process, ownership of the products of one’s labor. It had meant political patriarchy—the control of domestic and political life by native-born white men whose community spirit and republican virtue was respected in small-town life. And it had meant the freedom symbolized by the West—vast, uncivilized, primitive—where men could test and prove their manhood away from the civilizing influence of women. When these avenues of demonstrating manhood were suddenly closed, it touched off a widespread cultural identity crisis. As historian Elliot J. Gorn writes: Where would a sense of maleness come from for the worker who sat at a desk all day? How could one be manly without independence? Where was virility to be found in increasingly faceless bureaucracies? How might clerks or salesmen feel masculine doing “women’s work”? What became of rugged individualism inside intensively rationalized corporations? How could a man be a patriarch when his job kept him away from home for most of his waking hours. (1986, p. 192) And so men began to search for ways to reconstitute gender identity, to recreate ways to feel secure and confident as men. Some sought to return to those earlier years, by proclaiming the Heroic Artisan as working-class hero, by excluding women, blacks, and immigrants, or by globalizing the frontier through imperial expansion. But the most striking efforts had to do with the body—both in renewed efforts to control the disorderly body, and the fantasy efforts to clothe the body in the accoutrements of a wild and rugged, primitive masculinity. “As men felt their own sense of masculinity eroding, they turned to fantasies that embodied heroic physical action, reading novels of the Wild West and cheering the exploits of baseball and football players” (Rotundo, 1983, p. 32; see also Rotundo, 1993). If manhood could no longer be produced, then it could be consumed, by the appropriation of symbols and props that signified earlier forms of stability. Historians have long noted the turn of the century as an era of transition from a “culture of production” to a “culture of consumption.” Identity was based less on what one did and more upon how one lived. In his classic study The Lonely Crowd, sociologist David Riesman discerned the shift in identities and ethics, between the “inner directed” 19th-century man, a man of strong character animated by an inner sense of morality, and the 20th-century “other directed” man, a sensitive personality animated by a need to fit in, to be liked. Inner directed men went their own way, could stand alone, tuned to the hum of an internal gyroscope; other directed men scan a mental radar screen for
fluctuations in public opinion. For the other directed man, having a good personality was the way to win friends and influence people. The new man was perfectly suited for the emerging culture of consumption. These new values were reinforced in new institutions such as the department store, vaudeville stage, baseball diamond, and the advertising industry. They also underscored the search for a new foundation upon which to ground manhood for the coming century. Such a search involved a sweeping critique of the “feminization” of American culture. As the traditional bases for manhood were eroding, Americans had lost the hardy virtues of rugged manliness and were becoming soft, effete, enervated. To some, this was a symptom of a widespread cultural degeneration, of race mixing, the dilution of native blood stock. To others, rapid industrialization and urbanization had created a class of robotic workers and a new class of “brain workers,” men who sit at desks all day and never physically exert themselves. Others were preoccupied with the feminization of young boys: Since the separation of spheres required that men be away from home all day, the socialization of young boys had been completely taken over by women—as mothers, teachers, and Sunday School instructors. To reconstitute American manhood meant literally to rescue boys from the feminizing clutches of adult women. Efforts to reconstitute male identity in the realm of consumption required several psychological and cultural inversions of earlier ways to demonstrate manhood. Early 19th-century capitalism required adventurous producers, men willing to take risks in the marketplace. Late 19th-century industrial capitalism, by contrast, requires adventurous consumers and cautious, timid, and obedient workers. As historian Stephanie Coontz poses the problem: As an impersonal work and political order ignored men’s individual values, skills, and reputation, masculinity lost its organic connection with work and politics, its material base. The loss of opportunities for middleclass men to succeed to self-employment and the growing subordination of skilled workers to management contradicted traditional definitions of manliness. The qualities men now needed to work in industrial America were almost feminine ones: tact, teamwork, the ability to accept direction. New definitions of masculinity had to be constructed that did not derive directly from the workplace. (1988, p. 339) New definitions, for example, that indicated a historic shift in language— from manhood, the inner directed autonomous American producer, to masculinity, the set of qualities that denoted the acquisition of gender identity. While “manhood” had historically been contrasted with “childhood,” to suggest that manhood meant being fully adult, responsible, and autonomous, the new opposite of “masculinity” was “femininity,” traits and attitudes associated with women, not children. Manhood was an expression
of inner character; masculinity was constantly in need of validation, of demonstration, of proof. It was in patterns of consumption, leisure, and recreation that American men found the danger, adventure, and risk-taking that used to be their experience in their working lives. Now they found the excitement at the baseball park, at the gymnasium, or sitting down to read Tarzan or a good western novel. Suddenly, books appeared about the urban “jungle” or “wilderness” so that men could experience manly risk and excitement without ever leaving the city—books like Upton Sinclair’s classic muckraking exposé of the Chicago meat-packing industry, The Jungle (1902), or Robert Woods’s work on settlement houses, The City Wilderness (1898). Or they could flip through the pages of National Geographic to experience the primitive “other.” One could replace the inner experience of manhood—a sense of security that radiated outward from the virtuous self into a sturdy and muscular frame that had taken shape from years of hard physical labor—and transform it into a set of physical characteristics obtained by hard work in the gymnasium. The ideal of the self-made man gradually assumed increasingly physical connotations, so that by the 1870s, the idea of “inner strength” was replaced by a doctrine of physicality and the body. By the turn of the century, a massive, nationwide health and athletics craze was in full swing, as men compulsively attempted to develop manly physiques as a way of demonstrating that they possessed the virtues of manhood. The self-made man of the 1840s “shaped himself by acting upon the material world and [testing] himself in the crucible of competition”; by century’s end, he was making over his physique to appear powerful physically, perhaps to replace the lost real power he once felt. If the body revealed the virtues of the man, then working on the body could demonstrate the possession of virtues that one was no longer certain one possessed. (Park, 1992, p. 141).
The Feminization of American Culture In his popular novel The Bostonians (1886), Henry James confronted the feminization of American culture. After pursuing the young feminist visionary Verena Tarrant for what seems like an eternity, Basil Ransom explodes in a rhetorical torrent: The whole generation is womanized; the masculine tone is passing out of the world; it’s a feminine, nervous, hysterical, chattering, canting age, an age of hollow phrases and false delicacy and exaggerated solicitudes and coddled sensibilities, which, if we don’t soon look out, will usher in the reign of mediocrity, of the feeblest and flattest and most pretentious that has ever been. The masculine character, the ability to dare and
endure, to know and yet not fear reality, to look the world in the face and take it for what it is . . , that is what I want to preserve, or rather . . . recover; and I must tell you that I don’t in the least care what becomes of you ladies while I make the attempt! (p. 293) Here was the critique of the feminization of American culture in condensed form. Something had happened to American society that had led to a loss of cultural vitality, of national virility. Some writers believed that cultural feminization was the natural consequence of the invasion of cultural outsiders, the “others,” whose manhood was suspect to begin with. Fears of cultural degeneration were fueled by the entry of supposedly weaker and less virile races and ethnicities into the growing northern industrial city. To others, it was the city itself that bred feminization, with its conformist masses scurrying to work in large bureaucratic offices, sapping innate masculine vitality in the service of the corporation.5 “Our cities are populated by weaklings,” wrote health reformer Bernarr MacFadden in a letter to President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907 (p. 75). A few years earlier, Frank Lloyd Wright had hurled a series of expletives at the city as evidence of his disdain for its enervating qualities: . . . a place fit for banking and prostitution and not much else . . . a crime of crimes . . . a vast prison . . . triumph of the herd instinct . . . outgrown and overgrown . . . the greatest mouth in the world . . . humanity preying upon humanity . . . carcass . . . parasite . . . fibrous tumor . . . pig pile . . . incongruous mantrap of monstrous dimensions . . . Enormity devouring manhood, confusing personality by frustration of individuality. Is this not Anti-Christ? The Moloch that knows no God but more? (cited in Muschamp, 1983, p. 13) Many believed that feminization of American culture was synonymous with the feminization of American boyhood, the result of the predominance of women in the lives of young boys—as mothers left alone at home with their young sons, and as teachers in both elementary and Sunday schools. The turn of the century witnessed a gradual feminization of public school teaching. In 1870, about two-thirds of all teachers in public and private school were women; by 1900, nearly three-fourths were women, and almost 80% by 1910. The “preponderance of women’s influence in our public schools,” warned Rabbi Solomon Schindler in 1892 (p. 60), was feminizing our boys; a “vast horde of female teachers” were teaching boys how to become men, added psychologist J. McKeen Cattell (cited in O’Neill, 1967, p. 221). A 1904 report of a British group sent to the United States to observe American education and head off a similar problem in Britain concluded that the preponderance of women teachers meant that “the boy in America is not being brought up to
punch another boy’s head; or to stand having his own punched in an healthy and proper manner” (cited in Gulik, 1905, p. 214) (although the report did not specify the proper manner for having one’s head punched). Observers were alarmed about the effect of pedagogical feminization on young boys. One writer posed two unpleasant outcomes, the “effeminate babyish boy” and “the bad boy,” and suggested that masculine influence “is necessary for the proper development” of young boys (Cleveland, 1905, pp. 301, 303). Another writer in The Educational Review in 1914 complained that women teachers had created “a feminized manhood, emotional, illogical, noncombative against public evils.” This psychic violence to “masculine nature,” he argued, was beginning to “warp the psyches of our boys and young men into femininity” (Chadwick, 1914, pp. 115–16, 118). To others, the problem wasn’t women but the demands of the culture itself that made men “weak, effeminate, decaying and almost ready to expire from sheer exhaustion and decrepitude” as an editorial in the North Carolina Presbyterian put it in 1867. The demands of the workplace, the rapid pace of urban life, the changing, roaring, churning energy of a society driven by marketplace masculinity—relentlessly on-the-go, anxious and eager to succeed— had simply worn men out by the end of the century. Overcivilization had made men “over-sophisticated and effete”; their energies had been spent, not saved—their manhood dissipated into countless economic and social directions. Suddenly new words such as “pussyfoot” and “stuffed shirt” were in common parlance, as men sought to demarcate themselves from those who had fallen victim to moral and gendered lassitude (Higham, 1970, pp. 78–79). Women “pity weakly men,” O. S. Fowler warned, but they love and admire those “who are red faced, not white livered; right hearty feeders, not dainty; sprightly, not tottering; more muscular than exquisite, and powerful than effeminate, in mind and body” (1883, p. 5).6 Most terrifying to men, and most indicative of this fear of cultural feminization, was the specter of the sissy. The term sissy was also coined in the last decade of the century, and came to encapsulate all the qualities that men were not. Above all, the sissy was outwardly feminine in demeanor, comportment, and affect. If manhood is defined by justice, courage, generosity, modesty, dignity, wrote Rafford Pyke in his 1902 diatribe against sissies in Cosmopolitan magazine, then the sissy was “flabby, feeble, mawkish,” “chicken-hearted, cold and fearful.” He was “a slender youthful figure, smooth faced, a little vacuous in the expression of the countenance, with light hair and rather pale eyes a little wide apart; a voice not necessarily weak, but lacking timbre, resonance, carrying power” (pp. 405–06). Dr. Alfred Stillé, president of the American Medical Association, weighed in with a claim that “a man with feminine traits of character, or with the frame and carriage of a female, is despised by both the sex he ostensibly belongs to, and that of which he is at once a caricature and a libel” (cited in Fishbein, 1947, pp. 82–83).
The emergence of a visible gay male subculture in many large American cities at the turn of the century gave an even greater moral urgency to men’s hysterical flight from the perception of being a sissy. Here were real-live gender inverts, men acting like women—and therefore any manner of behavior or action that was reminiscent of these inverts might be a man’s undoing. To be seen as a sissy was the worst thing imaginable—it meant being everything that a man wasn’t. And everything that a woman (and therefore gay man) was. Thus did masculinity become a set of attitudes, traits, and characteristics that were defined by their opposition to femininity, to the realm of women. Men were fanatical in their resolute avoidance of all emotions or behaviors seen as even remotely feminine. This concern with the classification of American manhood was so pronounced by the turn of the century that men sought to demarcate themselves from women by any means at their disposal. Beards and moustaches experienced a cultural revival, as men sought to sharpen the distinctions in manner, appearance, and style between the sexes as a way of muting the increasing similarities of everyday life, and thus mask men’s increasing gender anxiety. To those concerned with feminization, American manhood was seen as listless, lifeless, lethargic. It needed a quick pick-me-up, a jolt of energy, a vitality booster. American manhood needed to pump up.
Men’s Bodies, Men’s Selves And pump up men did—in droves. The turn of the century witnessed a nationwide health craze, as thousands of American men sought to acquire manly physiques, shore up flagging energy, or develop masculine hardiness as ways of countering the perceived feminization of culture. The health craze was vital to the perpetuation of a virile nation; claimed one contemporary observer: Gymnasiums, athletic clubs, outdoor sports, and methods of exercise and other artificial means of contributing to and continuing the physical vigor and virility of the race take the place of the hard physical labor of the earlier periods, or the love of luxury and ease, when physical development is no longer a necessity, overcomes the promptings of intelligence and experience, and the moral illness of the civilization has begun its work of devastation and destruction. (Phoebus, 1900, pp. 21–22) This preoccupation with the physical body facilitated the transition from inner directed men, who expressed their inner selves in the workplace and at home—that is, in their “real” lives—to outter directed men, concerned with acquiring the culturally defined trappings that denoted manhood. The increasing importance of the body, of physicality, meant that men’s bodies
carried a different sort of weight than expressing the man within. The body did not contain the man; it was the man. Turn-of-the-century men flocked to healers who prescribed tonics and elixirs guaranteed to put hair on their chests and life in their step. Men like Russell Trall, founder of the New York Hydropathic and Physiological School, who proclaimed the virtues of hydropathy—the famed “water cure” that involved steam-induced sweats or plunges in ice water. Or Robert Edis, who saw impurities hiding everywhere in the feminized household and railed against wallpaper, draperies, carpets, and Europeanized furniture. Or Horace Fletcher, whose proposal that we masticate each bit of food 1,000 times before swallowing was proclaimed as a way to recover health and challenge the “gobble, gulp, and go” table manners of marketplace masculinity. Or Bernarr MacFadden, the celebrated founder of Physical Culture, who promoted a new muscular manhood to be built from purified blood, deep breathing exercises, vigorous workouts with barbells, and large doses of his breakfast cereal, Strengthro. (MacFadden was also the proud inventor of a “peniscope,” a cylindrical glass tube with a rubber hose at one end attached to a vacuum pump, designed to enlarge the male organ.) And men consumed vast quantities of these manly concoctions. Like Sylvester Graham’s crackers earlier in the century, or C. W. Post’s new Grape Nuts (1901), promoted as brain food for the burgeoning white-collar class because “brain workers must have different food than day laborers.” Or J. H. Kellogg’s rolled flakes of whole corn, which were but a part of his total health regimen. In 1900 one firm published a list of 63 imported and 42 domestic bottled waters for sale, complete with the geographic source of each water, and a brief note alerting potential purchasers to their specific medicinal properties. And men bought enormous numbers of the advice manuals and guide books to find out how to become and remain manly in the face of constant threats— books such as William Haikie’s How to Get Strong and How to Stay So (1879) and MacFadden’s own Superb Manhood were turned into best-sellers, the first self-help books of the new century.7 As earlier in the century, when the world is experienced as out of control, one remedy is to gain control over the body. Many turn-of-the-century health reformers continued their predecessors’ morbid fascination with controlling male sexuality, especially the body’s fluids, as a way to gain control of the forces that were sapping men’s energies. A recurring economic metaphor marks many post-bellum advice books, as men were encouraged to save, conserve, and invest their seed, the fruits of their productive bodies, and to avoid unnecessary expenditure or profligate waste.8 Crusaders against masturbation were divided about the immediate effects of the solitary vice. To some, it resulted in the immediate onset of sexual depravity—consorting with prostitutes, unbridled lusts that the young man could no longer contain, and ultimately, insanity and early death. Masturba-
tion was a crime that “blanches the cheek, that shakes the nervous system into ruin, that clouds the intellect, that breaks down the integrity of the will, that launches emasculated ruin into asylums of hopeless insanity, collapsing in premature death,” wrote G. Douglas in 1900 (p. 254). To others, masturbation would so drain its practitioner that he would have no ardor left over for sexual activity. Winfield Hall’s advice book, From Youth to Manhood, published by the YMCA in 1900, claimed that since masturbation is unnatural, it is “more depleting than is normal sexual intercourse.” Thus, as if in compensation, nature would exact its revenge, “removing, step by step, his manhood” (p. 54).9 One could counteract these tendencies through physical and dietary regimens. Eating Corn Flakes for breakfast, for example, designed by J. H. Kellogg as a massive anaphrodisiac, to temper and eventually reduce sexual ardor in American men. Kellogg was perhaps the most creative and hysterical turn-ofthe-century health reformer. Kellogg’s books, like Man the Masterpiece (1886) and Plain Facts for Young and Old (1888), were best-sellers of popular selfimprovement, providing a guide for young men and their parents about clean and healthful living. Kellogg was fanatical in his pursuit of masculine purity. His general health regime included: 1. Kneading and pounding on the abdomen each day to promote evacuation before sleep and thus avoiding ‘irritating’ congestions. 2. Drinking hot water, six to eight glasses a day (same end in view). 3. Urinating several times each night (same end in view). 4. Avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and tea because they stimulated lecherous thoughts. 5. Taking cold enemas and hot sitz baths each day. 6. Wearing a wet girdle to bed each night. (1886, pp. 445–53; see also Kellogg, 1888; Kett, 1977, p. 165; Money, 1985; and Lears, 1981, p. 14) But his chief concern was masturbation. In Plain Facts for Old and Young (1888), Kellogg provided anxious parents with a frighteningly systematic list of 39 signs of masturbation, including physical and behavioral changes. Such a list could provoke anxiety in virtually every parent. What could they do about this plague? In a chapter called “Treatment for Self-Abuse and Its Effects,” Kellogg listed a set of chilling home remedies. In addition to bandaging the genitals, and covering the organs with cages, and tying the hands, Kellogg also recommends circumcision, “without administering an anaesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment.” Parents of older boys may be forced to have silver sutures placed over the foreskin of their sons’ penises to prevent erection. “The prepuce, or foreskin, is drawn forward over the glands, and the needle to which the wire is attached is passed through
from one side to the other. After drawing the wire through, the ends are twisted together, and cut off close. It is now impossible for an erection to occur, and the slight irritation thus produced acts as a most powerful means of overcoming the disposition to resort to the practice” (cited in Mumford, 1993, p. 96). (Although the extent to which Kellogg’s sadistic suggestions were followed by terrified parents is impossible to know, one can only cringe at the possibility that any did.) By the 1900s, much of this sexual panic began to subside, in part because of the popularization of Freudian psychoanalysis. If nothing else, Freud was a fierce opponent of sexual puritanism, and the ideology of the spermatic economy. To Freud the sexual instinct was just that, an instinct, inherited and normal. In “Sexual Morality and Modern Nervousness” (1908), Freud argued that the notion of physical depletion had it backward—it was continence not expenditure of semen that was injurious to men. The only harm from masturbation was the guilt that traditionally attended it. “Masturbation as a rule does not do much harm beyond that which we believe it to be wrong,” was how one physician put it—as close as one can come to an iatrogenic, or, more accurately, a cultural etiology of disease. Yet no sooner was the fear of depletion through masturbation ushered out as a problem for men than problems with male sexuality found another new, or, rather, a very old, cause. Dr. William Robinson’s Sexual Impotence (1912) was an enormously popular treatment of male sexual problems, going through thirteen editions. Robinson argued that “older doctors” had exaggerated the ills associated with masturbation; it certainly was not the cause of impotence. In fact, men were not to be blamed for impotence; women were, since it was women’s lack of responsiveness to male sexual ardor that exacerbated and sometimes even caused impotence. The problem was, as he coined the term, “frigidity” in women, which “will not call out his virility.” Once again, male sexuality was women’s concern. By the end of the century, psychiatrists and psychologists were blaming modern society for many of men’s psychological problems. Some reformers suggested that it was the pace of society that caused men’s problems—the rush of the modern, the clanking barrage of stimuli, the productive frenzy. Men simply wore themselves out mentally as well as physically. Dr. Edward Jarvis, speaking before the American Institutions for the Insane in 1851, pointed his finger at mobility and industrialization: No son is necessarily confined to the work . . . of his father . . . all fields are open . . . all are invited to join the strife . . . They are struggling . . . at that which they cannot reach . . . their mental powers are strained to their utmost tension . . . Their minds stagger . . . they are perplexed with the variety of insurmountable obstacles; and they are exhausted with the ineffectual labor. (cited in Barker-Benfield, 1976, p. 29)
And Dr. Peter Bryce, head of the Alabama Insane Hospital, found in 1872 that mental illness was most common among men “at the most active time of life,” ages 35 to 40. “Habitual intemperance, sexual excesses, overstrain in business, in fact, all those habits which tend to keep up too rapid cerebral action, are supposed to induce this form of disease. It is especially a disease of fast life, and fast business in large cities” (cited in Hughes, 1991, p. 60). No one understood the psychological and somatic effects of modern civilization better than George Beard and Dr. S. Weir Mitchell. Beard’s American Nervousness (1881) and Sexual Neurasthenia (1884; revised 1902) introduced a new psychological malady into American life: neurasthenia, or, as it quickly became known in the popular press, “brain sprain.” Neurasthenia, Beard claimed, was the result of “overcivilization”—changes such as steam power, the periodical press, the telegraph, the sciences. The outcome was a host of symptoms, including insomnia, dyspepsia, hysteria, hypochondria, asthma, headache, skin rashes, hay fever, baldness, inebriety, hot flashes, cold flashes, nervous exhaustion, brain collapse. “Modern nervousness is the cry of the system struggling with its environment” (1881, p. 138; see also Lutz, 1991, and Wakefield, 1894). Mitchell agreed. In his best-selling Wear and Tear: Hints for the Overworked (1891), Mitchell observed that the “growth of nerve maladies has been inordinate” because the “nervous system of certain classes of Americans is being sorely overtaxed.” The cause was modern life itself: the cruel competition for the dollar, the new and exacting habits of business, the racing speed which the telegraph and railway have introduced into commercial life, the new value which great fortunes have come to possess as means towards social advancement, and the overeducation and overstraining of our young people. As a result of this “wear and tear,” the “incessant cares of overwork, of business anxiety,” Americans were suffering from “dyspepsia, consumption, and maladies of the heart.” Never before had a cultural diagnosis resulted in a more gendered prescription and cure. Neurasthenia tended to invert gendered health, masculinizing women and feminizing men. So neurasthenic women were therefore to be confined to their beds, to remain completely idle and unstimulated; they had to reinvent their femininity. For example, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was diagnosed as having neurasthenia in 1885, when she was 25, by none other than Dr. Mitchell. “Live as domestic a life as possible,” he advised her. “Have your child with you all the time. Lie down an hour after each meal. Have but two hours intellectual life a day. And never touch a pen, brush, or pencil as long as you live.” Gilman was obedient; she “went home, followed those directions rigidly for months, and came perilously close to losing my mind,” she
wrote in her diary. (Her short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” offers a chilling description of her experience, and what might have happened had she not had the strength to get out of bed.) Men, by contrast, were pushed out to western dude ranches to take in the masculinizing freshness of the out-of-doors. Men, after all, had to reinvent their masculinity. Riding the range, breathing the fresh country air, and exerting the body and resting the mind were curative for men, and in the last two decades of the century large numbers of weak and puny eastern city men—like Theodore Roosevelt, Owen Wister, Frederic Remington, and Thomas Eakins—all went west to find a cure for their insufficient manhood. That each returned a dedicated convert, trumpeting the curative value of the strenuous life, is part of the story of how we were won over to the West.
Recreating Manhood in the Out-of-Doors The effort to recreate American manhood went outside the home or the bedroom, outside the factory or the corporation, into leisure and recreation, to include the rediscovery of the tonic freshness of the wilderness. Teenagers, college students, and young male clerks filled diaries with an endless list of their outdoor activities—everything from boxing to hiking, from ice skating to football and baseball. One physician proposed that a certain cure for hay fever was a “season of farm work,” not because contact with the allergen would cure the malady, but because outdoor work would cure virtually anything. “Get your children into the country,” one real estate advertisement for Wilmington, Delaware, urged potential buyers in 1905. “The cities murder children. The hot pavements, the dust, the noise, are fatal in many cases and harmful always. The history of successful men is nearly always the history of country boys” (cited in Jackson, 1985, p. 138). And if not to purchase, at least to rent or visit. “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity,” wrote John Muir (cited in Shi, 1985, p. 197). And George Evans advised: Whenever the light of civilization falls upon you with a blighting power, and work and pleasure become stale and flat, go to the wilderness. The wilderness will take hold on you. It will give you good red blood; it will turn you from a weakling into a man. (1904, p. 33) Perhaps, but for many wilderness explorers or visitors to newly minted “dude ranches”—which were often nothing more than failed cattle ranches reopened as consumer health spas—the West had been transformed into a gigantic theme park, safely unthreatening, whose natural beauty was protected as in an art museum. The three men who so graphically memorialized the premodern
West—novelist Owen Wister, painter Frederic Remington, and naturalist President Theodore Roosevelt—were all effete eastern intellectuals who spent time on these civilized western ranches and rediscovered their manhood—and spent the rest of their adult lives sharing news of their conversion. Hunting experienced a renaissance at the turn of the century. Just as modern methods of slaughtering beef had been developed, and the hunt was no longer a material necessity for survival, it returned as recreation and fantasy in the proving of manhood. Theodore Roosevelt organized the Boone and Crockett Club to encourage big game hunting. “Hunting big game in the wilderness,” he and cofounder George Bird Grinnell wrote in 1893, “is a sport for a vigorous and masterful people” (1893, pp. 14–15). William Kent, a California congressman concerned about the degeneration of the race since the disappearance of the cave man, rejoiced in the savagery of the hunt. After a kill, Hunt declared, “you are a barbarian, and you’re glad of it. It’s good to be a barbarian . . . and you know that if you are a barbarian, you are at any rate a man” (cited in Nash, 1967, p. 153). Some commentators didn’t care how the meat was obtained, as long as it was consumed. Many health reformers, including Graham, had shunned meat eating, believing that it excited the system and stimulated animal passions. To the masculinist health reformers, meat eating was a potent answer to feminized manhood; some claimed that a diet devoid of red meat would prevent the building of full manly power. George Beard described his encounter with a vegetarian in gendered terms; the hiker’s “pale and feminine features, tinged with an unnatural flush” repelled Beard. Following a popular medical belief, Woods Hutchinson claimed that one needs blood to make blood, muscle to make muscle, and that the way to health was through consumption of large quantities of barely cooked beef. Hutchinson taunted vegetarians for being repelled by “Meat! R-r-red meat, dr-r-ripping with b-l-lood, r-r-reeking of the shambles” (1909, p. 204). By eating red meat, men were literally consuming manhood.10
Sports Crazy In the late 19th century, America went “sports crazy,” as the nation witnessed a bicycle craze, a dramatic increase in tennis, golf, bicycling, weightlifting, and boxing, new excitement over football and racing, keen interest in basketball, and the spectacular rise of baseball. Sports were heralded as character-building; health reformers promised that athletic activity would make young men healthier and instill moral virtues. Sports were a central element in the fight against feminization; sports made boys into men. Sports were necessary, according to D. A. Sargent, to “counteract the enervating tendency of the times and to improve the health, strength, and vigor of our youth” since they provided the best kind of “general exercise for the body, and develop courage,
manliness, and self control” (cited in Dubbert, 1979, p. 169). Sports aided youth in “the struggle for manliness,” wrote G. Walter Fiske in Boy Life and Self-Government (cited in Mrozek, 1983, p. 207). Manhood required proof; sports were its central testing ground, where men proved they were men, and not women or homosexuals. One English newspaper championed athletics for substituting the “feats of man for the ‘freak of the fop,’ hardiness for effeminacy, and dexterity for luxurious indolence” (cited in Adelman, 1986, p. 284). More than physical manhood, sports were celebrated for instilling moral virtue as well. Here, especially, the masculinist response to the crisis of masculinity resonated with the anti-urban sentiments of those who feared modern industrial society. Sports developed “courage, steadiness of nerve,” “resourcefulness, self-knowledge, self-reliance,” “the ability to work with others,” and “readiness to subordinate selfish impulses, personal desires, and individual credit to a common end,” claimed Frances Walker, president of M.I.T., in an address to the Phi Beta Kappa at Harvard in 1893 (cited in Knight, 1972). The Wesleyan University Bulletin observed in 1895 that the end of the century “is an era of rampant athleticism. But these contests play their part in making sturdy citizens, and training men in the invaluable qualities of loyalty, self-sacrifice, obedience, and temperance” (cited in Knight, 1972).11 Sports could rescue American boys from the “haunts of dissipation’’ that seduced them in the cities—the taverns, gambling parlors, and brothels, according to the Brooklyn Eagle. Youth needs recreation, the New York Herald claimed, and “if they can’t get it healthily and morally, they will seek it unhealthily and immorally at night, in drink saloons or at the gambling tables, and from these dissipations to those of a lower depth, the gradation is easy” (cited in Adelman, 1986, p. 277; see also Lydston, 1904, p. 582). So America went off to the sporting green. The first tennis court was built in Boston in 1876, the first basketball court in 1891. The American Bowling Congress was founded in 1895, and the Amateur Athletic Union in 1890. Sports offered a counter to the “prosy mediocrity of the latter-day industrial scheme of life,” as Thorstein Veblen put it in The Theory of the Leisure Class, revitalizing American manhood while it replaced the frontier as “the outlet through which the pressure of urban populations was eased” (1964, p. 208). Nowhere was this better expressed than in boxing and in the rapid rise of baseball, both as participatory and spectator sports. These were among the central mechanisms by which masculinity was reconstituted at the turn of the century, as well as vehicles by which the various classes, races, and ethnicities that were thrown together into the urban melting pot accommodated themselves to class society and developed the temperaments that facilitated the transition to a consumer culture. Here’s what one boxing fan wrote in 1888: “This vaunted age needs a saving touch of honest, old fashioned barbarism, so that when we come to die, we shall die leaving men behind us, and not a race of eminently respectable
female saints” (cited in Adams, 1990, p. 41). He certainly got his wish; boxing was increasingly popular at the turn of the century. As with other sports, boxing was defended as a counter to the “mere womanishness” of modern, overcivilized society. But boxing was more than mere manhood; it heralded the triumphant return of the Heroic Artisan as mythic hero. No sooner had the Heroic Artisan virtually disappeared into enormous, impersonal factories lined with rows and rows of unskilled workers, than he staged his triumphant return in the boxing ring. If the workaday world undermined working-class manhood—requiring obedience to rules and docility toward managers—then boxing celebrated his traditional virtues—toughness, prowess, ferocity. If men could not make things with the skill of their hands, they could, at least, destroy things, or others, with them. In his fascinating study of bare-knuckle prize fighting in America, The Manly Art, Elliot Gorn describes the way that working-class bachelor subcultures in the late 19th-century city resurrected the language of skilled artisans in their descriptions of boxing matches. Just as industrialization had destroyed traditional skills and crushed artisanal autonomy, boxing revived it in a frenzied fantasy of violence. Boxing was a “profession,” and boxers were “trained” in various “schools” of fighting. Newspapers reported that the combatants “went to work,” or one “made good work” of his opponent. Admirers spoke of the way that particular fighters “plied their trades” or understood the “arts and mysteries” of the pugilistic métier. Words like “art,” “science” and “craft” were tossed about as often as in universities. Boxers resisted proletarianization; they controlled their own labor and were free of work discipline and authority relations. Here was a “manly art,” which instilled and expressed violent masculine power, and required craftsmanlike skill and artistic deftness. Boxers symbolized autonomous artisanal manhood at the very moment of its disappearance (Gorn, 1986, p. 138). No one symbolized this cult of “elemental virility” better than John L. Sullivan, a walking embodiment of the remasculinization of America, perhaps the “greatest American hero of the late 19th century.” With his manly swagger and well-waxed moustache, this Irish fighter recalled a lost era of artisanal heroism, “the growing desire to smash through the fluff of bourgeois gentility and the tangle of corporate ensnarements to the throbbing heart of life.” And no one could symbolize the demise of this triumphant return of artisanal manhood than the emergence of Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion. Flamboyant and powerful, Johnson was the black specter that haunted white workingmen’s sense of manhood since antebellum days—the specter that unskilled free blacks would triumph over skilled white workers in the workplace, the bedroom, and now, in the sporting world they held dearest in their artisanal hearts: the boxing ring (Gorn, 1986, p. 247). Baseball, too, encapsulates how sports were used to recreate a threatened manhood at the turn of the century. Theodore Roosevelt listed baseball in his
list of “the true sports for a manly race.” Just as horse racing had resulted in better horse breeding, Edward Marshall claimed in 1910, so baseball resulted in improvement in man breeding” (cited in Spalding, 1911, p. 534). “No boy can grow to a perfectly normal manhood today without the benefits of at least a small amount of baseball experience and practice,” wrote William McKeever in his popular advice manual, Training the Boy (1913, p. 91). Perhaps novelist Zane Grey (1909) said it best. “All boys love baseball,” he wrote. “If they don’t they’re not real boys.” And they’re not real Americans, for baseball was heralded as promoting civic, as well as gendered, virtue. A. J. Spalding enumerated, alliteratively, in his America’s National Game (1911): American Courage, Confidence, Combativeness; American Dash, Discipline, Determination; American Energy, Eagerness, Enthusiasm; American Pluck, Persistence, Performance; American Spirit, Sagacity, Success; American Vim, Vigor, Virility. (p. 4) Such American values as Christian values, replacing the desiccated immorality of a dissolute life with the healthy vitality of American manhood, a “remedy for the many evils resulting from the immoral associations boys and young men of our cities are apt to become connected with” and therefore deserving “the endorsement of every clergyman in the country.” Baseball was good for men’s bodies and souls, imperative for the health and moral fiber of the body social. From pulpits and advice manuals, the virtues of baseball were sounded. Those virtues stressed, on the surface, autonomy and aggressive independence—but they simultaneously reinforced obedience, self-sacrifice, discipline, and a rigid hierarchy. While sport “gives a product of exotic ferocity and cunning,” a “rehabilitation of the early barbarian temperament,” as Thorstein Veblen (1964, p. 204) put it, its training regimen also “conduces to economic serviceability.” Sports reproduced those character traits required by industrial capitalism, and participation by working-class youths was hailed as a mechanism of insuring obedience to authority and acceptance of hierarchy. Baseball’s version of masculinity thus cut with a contradictory edge: If the masculinity expressed on the baseball field was exuberant, fiercely competitive, wildly aggressive, it was so only in a controlled and orderly arena, closely supervised by powerful adults. As such, the masculinity reconstituted on the baseball field also facilitated a docility and obedience to authority that would serve the maintenance of the emerging industrial capitalist order.12 Baseball was fantasy, and it was diversion, a safety valve, allowing the release of potential aggression in a healthy, socially acceptable way. “One thing in common aborbs us,” wrote the Rev. Roland D. Sawyer in 1908, “we rub shoulders, high and low; we speak without waiting for an introduction; we forget everything clannish, all the petty conventionalities being laid
aside.” Novelist and former minor league ballplayer Zane Grey echoed these sentiments: Here is one place where caste is lost. Ragamuffins and velvet-breeched, white collared boys stand in that equality which augurs well for the future of the stars and stripes. Dainty clothes are no bar to the game if their owner is not afraid to soil them. (Grey, 1909, p. 12) It was not just “masculinity” that was reconstituted through sports, but a particular kind of masculinity—white and middle class. Baseball perpetuated hierarchy even as it seemed to challenge it. By the end of the second decade of the century, some of the innocence of this illusory solution was lost. In 1919, this world was shaken during the World Series scandal that involved the infamous Chicago “Black Sox,” who had apparently “fixed” the series. The scandal captivated American men. Commercialism had “come to dominate the sporting quality of sports”; heroes were venal and the pristine pastoral was exposed as corrupt, part of the emergent corporate order, and not the alternative to it that people had imagined (Filene, 1986, p. 139). But by then it was too late: The corporate order would face less and less organized opposition from a mobilized and unified working class. The reconstituted masculinity that was encouraged by baseball had replaced traditional definitions of masculinity, and was fully accommodated to the new capitalist order. The geographic frontier was replaced by the outfield fence, workplace autonomy by watching a solitary pitcher and batter square off against one another. From the bedroom to the baseball diamond, from health bars to barbells, from the cleansing sanitarium to the neighborhood gymnasium, American men went searching for a sense of manhood that had somehow been lost. The turn of the century found men looking, as we have always looked, for increasing control over our bodies, an indication that we had mastered an unruly self, and were able to turn ourselves into productive machines. How ironic that our efforts to resist being turned into machines in the arena of production had us turn ourselves into machines of consumption; the secular body was less a temple than a template of the healthy, self-controlled, and therefore self-possessed man. Alongside these increasingly desperate efforts to control the body and its desires and appetites, American men retreated to masculinist fantasy camps, the untamed outdoor baseball diamond, or dude ranch to experience vicariously the rugged manhood that we imagined of our mythic ancestors. Today, of course, the body remains no less a site of masculine proof, the ultimate testing ground for identity in a world in which collective solutions to the problem of identity seem all but discredited. If manhood-as-character does not emanate from inside to be expressed through the body, perhaps masculinity-as-personality can be applied to the body, as evidence of that inner experience, even in its absence. If we do not experience that manhood in the
workplace, we metaphorically recreate the workplace in the realm of consumption, as we “work out,” or as we experience “performance anxiety” that our “tools” will not perform adequately to “get the job done”—this in an activity that was once considered pleasure. Or we head off to the corporate “jungle” replete with signifiers of earlier rugged manhood—driving Jeep Cherokees, wearing power ties, Timberland shoes, Stetson or Chaps cologne, before we head off to bond with other men for the weekend at a Robert Bly retreat. Now, as then, what we lose in reality we recreate in fantasy.
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4 Baseball and the Reconstitution of American Masculinity, 1880–1920
All boys love baseball. If they don’t they’re not real boys. —Zane Grey
aseball is sport as American pastoral: More, perhaps, than any other sport, baseball evokes that nostalgic longing, those warm recollections of boyhood innocence, the balmy warmth of country air, the continuity of generations. More than this, baseball is a metaphor for America, “the very symbol, the outward and visible expression of the drive and push and rush and struggle of the raging, tearing, booming 19th century,” as Mark Twain wrote in 1889 (cited in Barth, 1980, p. 182). Baseball expresses the contradictions that lie at the heart of American culture. The ball park itself is a bucolic patch of green nestled in a burgeoning urban landscape. The relaxation of an afternoon spent languidly in the bleacher sun is a sharp counterpoint to the excruciating tension that hangs on every pitch. Carefully calculated strategies (like hit and run or the double steal) executed with drill-like precision contrast with the spontaneous enthusiasm of the great catch. The players’ cold professionalism at the bargaining table is antithetical to their boyish exuberance on the field. And baseball is about remaining a boy and becoming a man. Like other sports, baseball fuses work and play, transforming play into work and work into play, thus smoothing the transition from boyhood to manhood. Play as work generates adult responsibility and discipline; work as play allows one to enjoy the economic necessity of working. Some studies suggest that men who are
I am grateful to several people for their criticism, support, and inspiration as I explored the relationship of baseball and masculinity: Norman Kent, Sandy Koufax, Mike Messner, George Robinson, Jackie Robinson, Don Sabo, and my father, for endless summer afternoons in the backyard.
Baseball and the Reconstitution of American Masculinity
successful as boyhood athletes become more successful in business than those who were not successful child athletes. Contemporary high-tech corporations have introduced team sports among managers on the premise that such teamwork will increase productivity. But unlike other sports, baseball inspires a literary eloquence that is unmatched, perhaps because baseball is so delicately poised between boyhood and manhood. No other sport has produced a Roger Angell or a Donald Hall; interestingly, each explores the link between baseball and family memory. Angell (1982) writes that, for him, “going through baseball record books and picture books is like opening a family album stuffed with old letters, wedding invitations, tattered newspaper clippings, graduation programs, and curled up darkening snapshots” (p. 10), so that for writer and fan, baseball players “seem like members of our family, or like trusted friends” (p. 199). And Hall (1985) underscores how baseball “connects American males with each other, not only through bleacher friendships and neighbor loyalties, not only through barroom fights, but, most importantly, through generations” (p. 49). He continues: Baseball is fathers and sons. Football is brothers beating each other up in the backyard, violent and superficial. Baseball is the generations, looping backward forever with a million apparitions of sticks and balls, cricket and rounders, and the game the Iroquois played in Connecticut before the English came. Baseball is fathers and sons playing catch, lazy and murderous, wild and controlled, the profound archaic song of birth, growth, age, and death. This diamond encloses what we are. (Hall, 1985, pp. 49, 30) In this essay, I will examine one of the ways in which this diamond encloses what we are by looking at the historical links between baseball and masculinity in the United States. By focusing on the rise of baseball at the turn of the century, I will develop two themes. First, I will look at the ways in which the rise of organized participatory sports was offered as a corrective to a perceived erosion of traditional masculinity in the late 19th century. Second, I shall explore the rise of mass-level spectator sports as part of the shift in America from a culture of production to a culture of consumption. I will argue that baseball—as participatory and spectator sport—was one of the chief institutional vehicles by which masculinity was reconstituted and by which Americans accommodated themselves to shifting structural relations. By specifying the terms on which sports reconstituted American masculinity, I shall link participation and spectatorship and explore how baseball provided an institutional nexus by which turn-of-the-century men recreated a manhood that could be experienced as personally powerful while it simultaneously facilitated the emergence of a docile and disciplined labor force. The lyrical eloquence that baseball above other sports inspires derives, in part, from the sport’s centrality in the effort to reconstitute American masculinity at the turn of the century.
Baseball and the Reconstitution of American Masculinity
Forces1 The early 19th century provided a fertile environment for an expansive American manhood. Geographic expansion combined with rapid industrial and urban growth to fuel a virile optimism about social possibilities. The Jacksonian assault against “effete” European bankers and the frighteningly “primitive” Native American population grounded identity in a “securely achieved manhood” (Rogin, 1975, p. 162). But by midcentury, the male establishment began to waver as social and economic changes began to erode the foundations of traditional American masculinity. Westward expansion came to an abrupt end at the Pacific coast, and rapid industrialization radically altered men’s relationships to their work. The independent artisan, the autonomous small farmer, and the small shopkeeper were everywhere disappearing. Before the Civil War, almost 9 of every 10 American men were farmers or self-employed businessmen; by 1870, that figure had dropped to 2 out of 3, and by 1910, less than 1 out of 3 American men were as economically autonomous. Increased mechanization and the routinization of labor accompanied rapid industrialization; individual workers were increasingly divorced from control over the labor process as well as disposed of ownership. Simultaneously, social changes further eroded American men’s identities. In the burgeoning cities, white men felt increasingly threatened by waves of immigrants. In 1870, for example, of the nearly 1 million people who lived in New York City, 4 out of every 9 were foreign-born (Adelman, 1986). And the rise of the women’s movement in the late 19th century spelled the beginning of the end for men’s monopoly over the ballot box, the college classroom, and the professional school. The appearance of the “new woman”—single, upwardly mobile, sexually active, professionally ambitious, and feminist—also seemed to exacerbate men’s insecurity and malaise. The Crisis of Masculinity The crisis of masculinity in the late 19th century emerged from these structural and social changes, as “the familiar routes to manhood were either washed out or roadblocked” (Hartman, 1984, p. 12); men were jolted by changes in the economic and social order which made them perceive that their superior position in the gender order and their supposedly “natural” male roles and prerogatives were not somehow rooted in the human condition, that they were instead the result of a complex set of relationships subject to change and decay. (Hartman, 1984, p. 13) The perceived crisis of masculinity was not a generic crisis, experienced by all men in similar ways. It was essentially a crisis of middle-class white
Baseball and the Reconstitution of American Masculinity
masculinity, a crisis in the dominant paradigm of masculinity that was perceived as threatened by the simultaneous erosion of traditional structural foundations (e.g., economic autonomy and the frontier), new gains for women, and the tremendous infusion of nonwhite immigrants into the major industrial capitals. It was a crisis of economic control, a struggle against larger units of capital that eroded workplace autonomy and new workers (immigrants and women), who were seen as displacing traditional American men. And it was also a political crisis, pitting the traditional small town and rural white middleclass masculinity against new contenders for political incorporation. It was a crisis, in this sense, of gender hegemony, of whether or not the traditional white middle-class version of masculinity would continue to prevail over both women and nonwhite men. And therefore, to understand how baseball articulated with these various dimensions of crisis in hegemonic masculinity, we will need to draw on analyses of the relations among various social classes, the relations between whites and nonwhites, and the relations between women and men. Responses to the Crisis of Masculinity Men’s responses to the turn-of-the-century crisis of masculinity varied tremendously, especially given the simultaneity of the forces that seemed to be affecting middle-class white men. Some (comprising the antifeminist response) gave vent to an angry backlash against the forces that were perceived as threatening men, whereas others (comprising the pro-feminist response) embraced feminist principles as the grounds for a reconstitution of a new masculinity. A third response sought to revitalize masculinity, to return the vitality and strength that had been slowly draining from American men. This masculinist response was not as antifemale as it was pro-male, attacking the enervation of American manhood and developing those interpersonal and institutional mechanisms by which masculinity could be retrieved.2 Often the masculinist response was articulated with an antimodernist rejection of the city as an evil den of corruption, where healthy country men were thought to be transformed into effete dandies and where hordes of unwashed immigrants threatened the racial purity of the nation. “Get your children into the country,” one real estate advertisement for Wilmington, Delaware, urged potential buyers in 1905. “The cities murder children. The hot pavements, the dust, the noise, are fatal in many cases and harmful always. The history of successful men is nearly always the history of country boys” (cited in Jackson, 1985, p. 138). Surely the anti-urban sentiments that composed part of the masculinist response were also fueled by a nativist racism that saw the cities as the breeders of an immigrant threat. The masculinist effort to stem the tide of feminization of American manhood included the development of the YMCA and the Boy Scouts, in which young boys could experience the remedial effects of the wilderness away from the feminizing clutches of mothers and teachers. If consumer society had “turned
Baseball and the Reconstitution of American Masculinity
robust manly, self-reliant boyhood into a lot of flat chested cigarette smokers with shaky nerves and doubtful vitality,” as Chief Scout Ernest Thompson Seton had it (MacLeod, 1983, p. 49) then the Boy Scouts could “counter the forces of feminization and maintain traditional manhood” (Hantover, 1980, p. 293). The masculinist effort also included the Muscular Christianity Movement, in which, through texts like Thomas Hughes’s The Manliness of Christ (1880) and Carl Case’s The Masculine in Religion (1906), the image of Jesus was transformed from a beatific, delicate, soft-spoken champion of the poor into a muscle-bound he-man whose message encouraged the strong to dominate the weak. Jesus was no “dough-faced lick-spittle proposition,” proclaimed itinerant evangelist Billy Sunday, but “the greatest scrapper who ever lived” (cited in McLoughlin, 1955, p. 179). A former professional baseball player turned country preacher, Sunday drew enormous crowds to his fiery sermons, in which he preached against institutionalized Protestantism. “Lord save us from offhanded, flabby cheeked, brittle boned, weak-kneed, thin-skinned, pliable, plastic, spineless, effeminate, ossified three-karat Christianity,” Sunday preached (McLoughlin, 1955, p. 175). Masculinism also promoted a revived martial idealism and found a new hero in Theodore Roosevelt, because “the greatest danger that a long period of profound peace offers to a nation is that of [creating] effeminate tendencies in young men” (Thompson, 1898, p. 610). And masculinism also found institutional expression in the sports craze that swept the nation in the last decade of the century. The first tennis court in the United States was built in Boston in 1876, and the first basketball court was built in 1891. The American Bowling Congress was founded in 1895 and the Amateur Athletic Union established in 1890. Sports offered a counter to the “prosy mediocrity of the latter-day industrial scheme of life,” as economist/sociologist Thorstein Veblen (1899/1953, p. 208) wrote. Sports revitalized American manhood while they simultaneously “had taken the place of the frontier . . . as the outlet through which the pressure of urban populations was eased” (Green, 1986, p. 215). Nowhere was this more evident than in the rapid rise of baseball, both as a participatory sport and as a spectator sport. Baseball became one of the central mechanisms by which masculinity was reconstituted at the turn of the century, as well as one of the vehicles by which the various classes, races, and ethnic groups that were thrown together into the urban melting pot accommodated themselves to industrial class society and developed the temperaments that facilitated the transition to a consumer culture.
Playing In the late 19th century, America went “sports crazy” (Dubbert, 1979, p. 175). The nation had never been as preoccupied with physical health and exercise,
Baseball and the Reconstitution of American Masculinity
and across the country Americans flocked to health spas, consumed enormous quantities of potions and elixirs (like the 63 imported and 42 domestic bottled waters advertised by one firm in 1900), lifted weights, listened to health reformers extol the tonic virtues of country air and bland high-fiber diets, raced through urban parks on bicycles, and tried their hands at tennis, golf, boxing, cricket, and baseball (Green, 1986). The search for individual physical perfection indicated a hopelessness about the possibilities of social transformation and pointed to the intimately linked fears of the enervation of the culture and individual lethargy and failure of nerve. Development of Body and Character through Sport Sports were heralded as character building, and health reformers promised that athletic activity would not only make young men physically healthier but would instill moral virtues as well. Sports were cast as a central element in the fight against feminization; sports made boys into men. In countless advice books that counseled concerned parents about proper methods of child rearing, sports were invariably linked with the acquisition of appropriate gender-role behavior for males. Sports were necessary, according to physician D. A. Sargent, to “counteract the enervating tendency of the times and to improve the health, strength, and vigor of our youth,” because sports provided the best kind of “general exercise for the body, and develop courage, manliness, and self-control” (cited in Dubbert, 1979, p. 169). Sports aided youth in “the struggle for manliness,” wrote G. Walter Fiske in Boy Life and Self-Government (cited in Mrozek, 1983, p. 207). Manhood required proof, and sports provided a “place where manhood was earned” (Adelman, 1986, p. 286), not as “part of any ceremonial rite de passage but through the visible demonstration of achievement” (p. 286). Such demonstration was particularly important, because lurking beneath the fear of feminization was the fear of the effeminate—the fear of homosexuality— which had emerged in visible subcultures in urban centers. In England, for example, one newspaper championed athletics for substituting the “feats of man for the ‘freak of the fop,’ hardiness for effeminacy, and dexterity for luxurious indolence” (Adelman, 1986, p. 284). Some were less sanguine about sports’ curative values. Thorstein Veblen’s blistering critique of the nascent consumer culture suggested that organized sports are an illusory panacea. For the individual man, athletics are no sign of virtue, because “the temperament which inclines men to [sports] is essentially a boyish temperament. The addiction to sports therefore in a peculiar degree marks an arrested development of the man’s moral nature” (Veblen, 1899/1953, p. 200). And culturally, Veblen continued, sports may be an evolutionary throwback, as they ‘‘afford an exercise for dexterity and for the emulative ferocity and astuteness characteristic of predatory life” (p. 203).
Baseball and the Reconstitution of American Masculinity
Most commentators saw sports as the arena in which men could achieve physical manhood but also believed that organized sports would instill important moral values.3 Here, especially, the masculinist response to the crisis of masculinity resonated with the anti-urban sentiments of those who feared modern industrial society. Sports could rescue American boys from the “haunts of dissipation” that seduced them in the cities—the taverns, gambling parlors, and brothels, according to the Brooklyn Eagle (cited in Adelman, 1986, p. 277). Youth needs recreation, the New York Herald claimed, and “if they can’t get it healthily and morally, they will seek it unhealthily and immorally at night, in drink saloons or at the gambling tables, and from these dissipations to those of a lower depth, the gradation is easy” (cited in Adelman, 1986, p. 277). The Link to Baseball And what was true of sports in general was particularly true of baseball. Theodore Roosevelt listed baseball in his list of “the true sports for a manly race” (along with running, rowing, football, boxing, wrestling, shooting, riding, and mountain climbing). Just as horse racing had resulted in better horse breeding, health advocate Edward Marshall claimed in 1910, so baseball “resulted in improvement in man breeding” (cited in Spalding, 1911, p. 534). “No boy can grow to a perfectly normal manhood today without the benefits of at least a small amount of baseball experience and practice,” wrote William McKeever in his popular advice manual, Training the Boy (McKeever, 1913, p. 91). The values that baseball called into play were important to the man and central to the nation. The baseball player was “no thug trained to brutality like the prize fighter,” noted baseball pioneer Albert J. Spalding, nor was he a “halfdeveloped little creature like a jockey”; rather, he was an exemplar of distinctly “native” American virtues, which Spalding (1911, p. 4) alliteratively enumerated in America’s National Game; “American Courage, Confidence, Combativeness; American Dash, Discipline, Determination; American Energy, Eagerness, Enthusiasm; American Pluck, Persistence, Performance; American Spirit, Sagacity, Success; American Vim, Vigor, Virility” (p. 4). Such values were not only American but Christian, replacing the desiccated values of a dissolute life with the healthy vitality of American manhood. Moral reformer Henry Chadwick saw baseball as a “remedy for the many evils resulting from the immoral associations boys and young men of our cities are apt to become connected with” and therefore deserving “the endorsement of every clergyman in the country” (cited in Adelman, 1986, p. 173). McKeever (1913) added that “baseball may be conducted as a clean and uplifting game such as people of true moral refinement may patronize without doing any violence to conscience” (p. 101). Baseball was good for the bodies and the souls of men; it was imperative for the health and moral fiber of the body social.
Baseball and the Reconstitution of American Masculinity
From pulpits and advice manuals, the virtues of baseball were sounded. As M. L. Adelman (1986) notes, baseball took manliness beyond a mere demonstration of physical prowess and linked it to virtues such as courage, fortitude, discipline, and so on. The argument concluded that if ball games called these virtues into play—as in fact they were critical to doing well at such sports—then ball playing was obviously one way of demonstrating manhood. (p. 106) One central feature of the values that were instilled by playing baseball was that they appeared on the surface to stress autonomy and aggressive independence, but they simultaneously reinforced obedience, self-sacrifice, discipline, and a rigid hierarchy. This was equally true with other boys’ liberation movements designed to counter the feminization of the culture. The Boy Scouts instilled a “quest for disciplined vitality” (Green, 1986, p. 261), in which scouts were taught, according to founder Lord Baden-Powell, to work hard, sacrifice, and be obedient to their fellow countrymen and the king. The results of this and other efforts were noted with glee by Octavia Hill, the celebrated English social reformer, in the 1880s: There is no organization which I have found influences so powerfully for good the boys in such a neighborhood. The cadets learn the duty and dignity of obedience; they get a sense of corporate life and of civic duty; they learn to honour the power of endurance and effort; and they come into contact with manly and devoted officers . . . These ideals are in marked contrast with the listless self-indulgence, the pert self-assertion, the selfishness and want of reverence which are so characteristic of the life in the low district. (cited in Hargreaves, 1986, p. 61) For the boys learning to play baseball, these values were also underscored. Surely the team came first, and one always obeyed one’s coaches and manager. What Veblen claimed about football is equally true about baseball: The culture . . . gives a product of exotic ferocity and cunning. It is a rehabilitation of the early barbarian temperament, together with a suppression of those details of temperament which, as seen from the standpoint of the social and economic exigencies, are the redeeming features of the savage character. The physical vigour acquired in the training for athletic games—so far as the training may be said to have this effect—is of advantage both to the individual and to the collectivity, in that, other things being equal, it conduces to economic serviceability. (Veblen, 1899/1953, p. 204)
Baseball and the Reconstitution of American Masculinity
Sports reproduced those character traits required by industrial capitalism, and participation in sports by working-class youths was hailed as a mechanism of insuring obedience to authority and acceptance of hierarchy. If the masculinity on the baseball field was exuberant, fiercely competitive, and wildly aggressive, it was so only in a controlled and orderly arena, closely supervised by powerful adults. As such the masculinity reconstituted on the baseball field also facilitated a docility and obedience to authority that would serve the maintenance of the emerging industrial capitalist order.
Watching Just as on the field, so in the stands: Baseball as a spectator sport facilitated an accommodation to industrial capitalism as a leisure-time diversion for the urban lower-middle and working classes. Ballparks were located in the city and admission fees were low, so that ‘‘attendance at baseball games was more broadly based than at other spectator sports” (Adelman, 1986, p. 149). The Crafting of a National Pastime Baseball did not spring to such popularity overnight, as restorer of both individual virility and national vitality; its emergence as the “national pastime” was deliberately crafted. In fact, in the early half of the 19th century, cricket was hailed for its capacity to instill manly virtues in its players. “Whoever started these boys to practice the game deserves great credit—it is manly, healthy, invigorating exercise and ought to be attended more or less at all schools,” waxed the New York Herald (cited in Adelman, 1986, pp. 105–06). In 1868, the Brooklyn Eagle informed potential spectators of a cricket match that they were about to see a “manly game” (cited in Adelman, 1986, pp. 105–06). Baseball was regarded, in fact, as less than fully manly; one letter to the editor a newspaper contended that You know very well that a man who makes a business of playing ball is not a man to be relied upon in a match where great interests are centered, or on which large amounts of money is pending. (cited in Adelman, 1986, p. 167) By the late 19th century, the relationship between baseball and cricket had been reversed. The man who played cricket, Albert Spalding warned, regarded his match as a chance “to drink afternoon tea, flirt, gossip, smoke [and] take a whiskey and soda at the customary hour” (Spalding, 1911, p. 7). How can we explain such a change? In part, the shift from cricket to baseball can be understood by the changing class and regional composition of
Baseball and the Reconstitution of American Masculinity
baseball’s players and observers. Whereas earlier in the century baseball had been the domain of upper-middle-class men, by the end of the century it was played almost exclusively by lower-middle-class men. Similarly, the rise of mass spectator sports—the erection of the urban stadium, the professionalization of teams and leagues, and the salaries of players—dramatically changed the class composition of the baseball fan. The values that were thought to be instilled by playing baseball were now thought to be instilled by watching baseball. And values of discipline, self-control, and sacrifice for the team and an acceptance of hierarchy were central to the accommodation of a rapidly developing working class to the new industrial order. It was during this period of dramatic economic expansion in the late 19th century that baseball “conquered” America. In the first few decades following the Civil War, the baseball diamond was standardized, teams and leagues organized, rules refined, game schedules instituted, and grand tours undertaken by professional baseball teams (Barth, 1980). And though the earliest baseball teams, like the New York Knickerbockers, were made up of wealthy men, baseball was soon played by small-town lower-middle-class men and watched by their urban counterparts (Mrozek, 1983). The urban baseball park was one of the new important locations for social life in the burgeoning late-19th-century city. Like the vaudeville theater, the department store, and the urban park, the stadium provided a world of abundance and fantasy, of excitement and diversion, all carefully circumscribed by the logic of urban capitalism. Here the pain and alienation of the urban industrial working life was soothed; the routine dull grayness of the urban landscape was broken up by these manicured patches of green. As Barth (1980) writes, the baseball park was a constructed imitation of a pastoral setting in the city, in which identification with one’s professional team provided a feeling of community with anonymous neighbors; the ball park was a rural haven of shared sentiments in the midst of the alienating city.4 Baseball as Fantasy and Democracy If masculinity had earlier been based on economic autonomy, geographic mobility, and success in a competitive hierarchy, baseball—among the other new social institutions of the turn of the century—allowed the reconstitution of those elements in a controlled and contained location. On the field, baseball promoted values essential to traditional masculinity: courage, initiative, self-control, competitive drive, physical fitness. In the stands, the geographic frontier of the midcentury was replaced by the outfield fences and by the mental frontiers between rival cities. (What we lose in reality we recreate in fantasy, as a Freudian axiom might have it.) Baseball was fantasy and diversion. “Men anxious to be distracted from their arduous daily routines provided a natural market for the product of the
Baseball and the Reconstitution of American Masculinity
new industry” (Barth, 1980, p. 151). And baseball was viewed by boosters as a potential safety valve, allowing the release of potential aggression in a healthy, socially acceptable way; it was a “method of gaining momentary relief from the strain of an intolerable burden, and at the same time finding a harmless outlet for pent up emotions” which otherwise “might discharge themselves in a dangerous way” (Bruce, 1913, p. 106). For the fan, baseball was, Bruce noted, catharsis. Like the frontier, the baseball park was also celebrated as democratic. The experience of spectatorship, baseball’s boosters claimed, was a great social leveler: The spectator at a ball game is no longer a statesman, lawyer, broker, doctor, merchant, or artisan, but just plain every-day man, with a heart full of fraternity and good will to all his fellow men—except perhaps the umpire. The oftener he sits in grand stand or “bleachers,” the broader, kindlier, better man and citizen he must tend to become. (Bruce, 1913, p. 107) “The genius of our institutions is democratic,” Albert Spalding gushed. “Baseball is a democratic game” (Spalding, 1911, p. 6). Such mythic egalitarianism, however, ignored the power relationships that made American democracy possible. For the experience of incorporation into community was based on exclusion: the exclusion of nonwhite men and the exclusion of women. The ball park was a “haven in a heartless world” for white lower-middle-class men, and the community and solidarity they found there, however based on exclusion, facilitated their accommodation to their positions in class society. Professional spectator sports maintained the “rigid gender division and chauvinist masculine identity” (Hargreaves, 1986, p. 43) as well as the strict separation between whites and nonwhites that provided some of the main cultural supports of class domination. While providing the illusion of equality and offering organized leisure-time distraction, as well as by shaping working-class masculinity as constituted by its superiority over women, baseball helped white working-class men accommodate themselves to the emergent order.
Reproducing Baseball, as participatory sport and as spectator sport, served to reconstitute a masculinity whose social foundations had been steadily eroding; in so doing, baseball served to facilitate the reproduction of a society based upon gender, racial, and class hierarchies. For it was not just masculinity that was reconstituted through sports but a particular kind of masculinity—white and
Baseball and the Reconstitution of American Masculinity
middle-class—that was elaborated. And part of the mechanisms of that elaboration was the use of white middle-class masculinity to maintain the social hierarchies between whites and nonwhites (including all ethnic immigrants to the cities), between upper classes and working classes, and between men and women. These mechanisms were developed in the last two decades of the 20th century and the first two decades of the 20th century. In 1919, this world was shaken during the world series scandal that involved the infamous Chicago “Black Sox,” who had apparently “fixed” the series. The scandal captivated American men, and a certain innocence was lost. Commercialism had “come to dominate the sporting quality of sports” (Filene, 1986, p. 139); heroes were venal and the pristine pastoral was exposed as corrupt, part of the emergent corporate order and not the alternative to it that people had imagined. But by then it was too late: The corporate order had triumphed and would face little organized opposition from a mobilized and unified working class. The reconstituted masculinity that was encouraged by baseball had replaced traditional definitions of masculinity and was fully accommodated to a new capitalist order. The geographic frontier where masculinity was demonstrated was replaced by the outfield fence; men’s work-place autonomy and control were replaced, in part, by watching a solitary batter squaring off against an opposing pitcher. What had been lost in real experience could be reconstituted through fantasy. The baseball diamond, as I have argued in this essay, became more than a verdant patch of pastoral nostalgia; it was a contested terrain. The contestants were invisible to both participant and spectator and quite separate from the game being played or watched. Baseball was a contest between class cultures, in which the hegemony of middle-class culture was reinforced and the emerging industrial urban working class was tamed by consumerism and disciplined by the American values promoted in the game. It was a contest between races, in which the exclusion of nonwhites and non-European immigrants from participation was reflected in the bleachers, as racial discrimination further assuaged the white working class. And it was a contest between women and men, in which newly mobile women were excluded from equal participation (and most often from spectatorship); the gender hierarchy was maintained by assuming that those traits that made for athletic excellence were also those traits that made for exemplary citizenship. The masculinity reconstituted on the ball field or in the bleachers was a masculinity that reinforced the unequal distribution of power based on class, race, and gender. In that sense, also, baseball was truly an American game. And if we continue, as I do, to love both playing and watching baseball, we will deepen an ambivalent love, which, like the love of family or country to which baseball is so intimately linked, binds us to a place of both comfort and cruelty.
5 Men’s Responses to Feminism at the Turn of the Century
Doubt is in the air. There is an upheaval of traditions and conventionalities . . . With no firm ground to stand upon, the self-confidence of the past has vanished. Disbelief in everything involves disbelief in one’s self. —A. W. Warner, 1909
he rise of feminism in the late 19th- and early 20th-century United States provoked a variety of responses among American men and prompted what we might call a crisis of masculinity, because the meanings that had constituted traditional gender definitions were challenged. Men’s responses included a frightened retreat to traditional configurations, the demarcation of new institutional spheres for the vigorous assertion of a renewed masculinity, and men’s support for feminist claims. In this chapter, I argue that the renegotiation of gender relations was set in motion by structural changes in social organization, especially the organization of work, the relationship of individuals to social and geographic space, and political changes. These large-scale structural shifts affected microstructural relations, especially in the relationship between women and men in marriage and the family. It was the articulation of the new claims by women derived from these macro- and microstructural changes that prompted reevaluation of traditional gender relations by men and constituted the structural origins of the crisis of masculinity. Men’s responses to feminism can be organized into three ideological categories, which suggest three alternative strategies for the reconstitution of gender. These three types of discourse about gender relations, masculinity and femininity, proper childbearing, and sexuality appear in the texts that I shall discuss. One set of texts presents what I call an antifeminist response. These relied on natural law and religious theories to demand women’s return to the 73
Men’s Responses to Feminism at the Turn of the Century
private sphere of hearth and home; the authors yearned nostalgically for the mythical separation of spheres that has served to keep women from explicitly challenging men in the public realm. Another set of texts was less concerned with women’s participation in the public sphere, but sought to dislodge women’s control over the private realm. This masculinist response opposed the perceived feminization of American culture (Douglas, 1977) and sought to create islands of untainted masculinity and purified pockets of virility in separate institutions that could socialize young men to the hardiness appropriate to their gender. Finally, a small set of texts was by a vocal group of men who believed that the solution to the gender crisis rested on embracing the feminist model of social reconstruction. This pro-feminist response provided support for women’s public participation in general, especially suffrage, and supported demands for sexual autonomy for women and men.
Structural Changes and the Erosion of Traditional Gender Arrangements in the Late 19th Century The early 19th century provided a fertile environment for an expansive American manhood. The taming of the American West and the attempts at pacification of its native population, combined with rapid industrial and urban growth, fueled men’s optimism about social possibilities. The Jacksonian assault on both the supposedly effete European bankers and frighteningly primitive Native American population grounded men’s identity in a “securely achieved manhood” (Rogin, 1975, p. 162). By midcentury, though, “the walls of the male establishment began to crack,” as social and economic changes transformed gender relations in marriage, the family, and sexuality (Dubbert, 1980, p. 307). Westward expansion came to an abrupt end as the frontier closed; the unspoiled virgin land that “gave America its identity” (Rogin, 1975, p. 79) was gone. “For nearly three centuries,” wrote Frederick Jackson Turner in 1896, “the dominant fact in American life has been expansion. And now the frontier is gone, and with its going has closed the first period of American history” (cited in Dubbert, 1980, p. 307). Rapid industrialization in the late 19th century radically transformed men’s relationship to their work. The independent artisan, the autonomous small farmer, and the small shopkeeper were everywhere disappearing. Before the Civil War, almost 9 of every 10 American men were farmers or selfemployed businessmen; by 1870 that figure had dropped to two-thirds, and by 1910, less than one-third of all American men were self-employed. Mechanization and the routinization of labor accompanied rapid industrialization; individual workers were increasingly divorced from control over the labor process as well as dispossessed of ownership (Braverman, 1974). Henry George wrote in
Men’s Responses to Feminism at the Turn of the Century
1883 in Social Problems that labor-saving devices were “absolutely injurious” and resulted in “positive evils” for the working man, “degrading men into the position of mere feeders of machines” and rendering the working man more dependent; depriving him of skill and the opportunities to acquire it; lessening his control over his own condition and his hope of improving it; cramping his mind, and in many cases distorting and enervating his body. (cited in Trachtenberg, 1982, p. 43) In such an atmosphere, the international economic collapse of 1873 was especially powerful. A series of bankruptcies, bank failures, and foreclosures sharpened political conflict. In 1874 alone, over 6,000 businesses closed, and 900 closed every month during one quarter in 1878. In the South, Southwest, and Midwest, dispossessed farmers fought back against big capital through the Farmers’ Alliance and the Populist movement. In the burgeoning cities, a widening class rift and waves of immigrants fueled hostilities that erupted in a wave of strikes and revolts in 1877 that brought the nation to the brink of armed insurrection. “Sudden as a thunderburst from a clear sky the crisis came upon the country,” wrote journalist J. Dacus in 1877. “It seemed as if the whole social and political structure was on the very brink of ruin” (cited in Trachtenberg, 1982, pp. 70–71). During the last decade of the century, American men were increasingly besieged by a seemingly endless string of structural problems: “the failures and corruption of reconstruction, the longest depression in American history, insatiable trusts, swarms of what were held to be sexually potent and racially inferior immigrants, and a government discredited at all levels” (Barker-Benfield, 1976, p. 84). One set of responses to this cultural crisis was the antimodernist critique of American culture. For some, antimodernism glorified individual achievement; for others, it revealed a desperate longing for community. Resurgent medievalism, a fascination with oriental culture, and religious revivalism all celebrated the annihilation of the ego and immersion into a transcendent community. Against this background of dramatic structural and ideological change, the family and the relations between women and men were undergoing upheaval and conflict (Rosenberg, 1980, p. 235). Rapid capitalist industrialization “increasingly subverted the older sexual division of labor . . . [and] created conditions favorable to the emergence of women into the public realm with men” (Leach, 1980, p. 123). Women were increasingly involved in arenas that directly touched the lives of men: in temperance, social science, and moral education; in the reforms . . . of the marriage laws . . . that legally permitted women to transact their own
Men’s Responses to Feminism at the Turn of the Century
business, keep their own separate earnings, and retain ownership of their separate estates; in the reform of many state laws . . . that sanctioned the rights of women, whether married or single, to employment in the professions; and in the growing employment of large numbers of women in the industrial sector of the economy and . . . in the professions, especially medicine, journalism, and education. (Leach, 1980, p. 123) Within the home, women’s increased power was buttressed by the nuclearization of family structure and a clear demarcation between workplace and household (Chafetz & Dworkin 1987, p. 4). Motherhood was professionalized, cast as a calling, and there was a decline in the number of household servants. The greater absence of busy fathers from the home “made the mother-son relationship appear threatening to proper masculine socialization” (Hantover, 1980, p. 290). Everywhere, “motherhood was advancing, fatherhood was in retreat,” (Rotundo, 1983, p. 30). Outside of the family as well as within it, childhood socialization was increasingly the work of women school teachers and Sunday school teachers (Douglas, 1977). By the late 19th century, “women were teaching boys to be men” (Rotundo, 1983, p. 32). In the public sphere, the rise of women’s colleges, women’s increased literacy, delayed age of marriage, an ideology of upward mobility, and capitalist development gave rise to the New Woman. Single, highly educated, and economically autonomous, she “challenged existing gender relations and the distribution of power” (Smith-Rosenberg, 1985, p. 245). Since, as Sarah Norton observed in 1870, the “inequality of women finds its origins in marriage,” and to make political equality possible, “social equality of the sexes must precede it” (cited in Leach, 1980, p. 190), the New Woman eschewed marriage, and “fought for professional visibility, espoused innovative, often radical economic and social reforms, and wielded real political power” (Smith-Rosenberg, 1985, p. 245). These New Women were avowed feminists, who campaigned for suffrage and autonomy. “My aim,” said one, “is to make myself a true woman, one worthy of the name, and not to be one of the delicate little dolls or the silly fools who make up the bulk of American women, slaves to society and fashion” (cited in Lasch, 1965, p. 67). Some women took men’s names, dressed as men, and behaved as men; “the determination to be a ‘true woman’ forced one in effect to lead a man’s life” (Lasch, 1965, p. 68). As structural changes transformed gender relations, men and women struggled to redefine the meanings of masculinity and femininity (Lasch, 1965, p. 57).The rise of the women’s movement is a direct outcome of the structural changes, arising “during times of, and in response to, general socioeconomic and cultural change, changes that include, but are not restricted to alterations in the family and the roles of women” (Chafetz & Dworkin, 1987, p. 38). But the burden of structural change may have fallen even more heavily on men,
Men’s Responses to Feminism at the Turn of the Century
since “men view even small losses of deference, advantages, or opportunities as large threats” (Goode, 1982, p. 207). One historian argues that the “real gender drama in this period involve[d] the changes in men’s lives and their reactions to them” (Hartman, 1984, p. 13). Writers acknowledged that “their readership was hungry to be told of what true manhood and true womanhood consisted,” and though they often “flew to the simplest, most extreme kind of definitions” (Barker-Benfield, 1976, p. 210), a serious reexamination was also under way. Men felt themselves besieged by social breakdown and crisis as “the familiar routes to manhood [became] either washed out or roadblocked” (Hartman, 1984, p. 13). Men’s anxieties were intensified by democracy and industrialization. Men . . . were jolted by changes in the economic and social order which made them perceive that their superior position in the gender order and their supposedly “natural” male roles and prerogatives were not somehow rooted in the human condition, that they were instead the result of a complex set of relationships subject to change and decay. (Hartman, 1984, p. 13) I shall now turn to the responses to this late 19th-century crisis of masculinity, as it appeared in works of fiction, sermons, scientific tracts, and public policy and voluntary associations.
The Antifeminist Backlash Some texts argued that if masculinity was in crisis, it was women’s fault, and the solution to the crisis was the revival of the subordination of women. A strongly misogynist current runs through a number of religious tracts, medical treatises, and political pamphlets of the late 19th century. Opponents of economic, political, and social equality between men and women almost always resorted to arguments about the supposed natural order of things as counters to these social trends. Pamphlets about women and sexuality written by clergymen, and the responses by women, often “played with stereotypic sex distinctions” providing “a testament of sexual tension, of covertly stated hatred of women by men and the reverse” (Douglas, 1977, p. 228). A new Muscular Christianity hailed a remasculinized Jesus; he was “no dough-faced, lick-spittle proposition,” proclaimed Billy Sunday, but “the greatest scrapper who ever lived” (cited in Douglas, 1977, p. 327). Texts such as Thomas Hughes’s The Manliness of Christ, written in 1880, and Carl Case’s The Masculine in Religion, written in 1906, echoed this theme. The Right Reverend John L. Spalding, Catholic bishop of Peoria, fused political repression and sexual repression of women when he wrote:
Men’s Responses to Feminism at the Turn of the Century
Sensuality and love, though mysteriously related, are contrary as religion and superstition. The baser passion grows upon the grave of the finer virtue. Woman, like religion, appeals to what is highest in man. Her power over him is that of sentiment, and to seek to place her in rivalry with him in the rude business of life is an aim worthy of an atheistic and material age. (cited in Gardella, 1985, p. 116) Men’s antisuffrage organizations were another form of antifeminist backlash whose promotion of purportedly natural differences over social reform led to an apparent biologicizing of political enfranchisement. Horace Bushnell, for example, claimed that women would be physiologically damaged if they got the vote, growing larger, developing heavier brains, and losing their unique feminine mannerisms and features; he claimed women should not be deprived of the vote as much as exempted from it (Frothingham, 1890, p. 177). Some organizations, such as the Man Suffrage Association, were composed of men representing the industries that had been active in the antisuffrage cause (Chafetz & Dworkin, 1987, p. 31; Flexner, 1975, p. 311). Opposition to women’s suffrage reasserted a natural division between women and men, and often rested on a distinction between natural right and civil right. “It would seem best,” wrote John Todd (1867, p. 25), “for those who, at any hazard or labor, earn the property, to select the rules, and have this responsibility.” And opposition to suffrage was hailed as a patriotic act. “The American Republic stands before the world as the supreme expression of masculine force,” claimed the Illinois Association Opposed to Women’s Suffrage in 1910 (cited in Dubbert, 1979, p. 174). Those who supported women’s advance, or progressive reformism generally, were considered unpatriotic and thus their masculinity itself was suspect. Reformers and genteel intellectuals who stood above party battles invited the scorn of the regulars, a scorn couched frequently in images fusing anger at feminizing culture with sexual innuendo, and manly braggadocio of the stalwarts: “political hermaphrodite,” “miss-Nancys,” “man-milliners.” Nonpartisans were a “third sex,” “the neuter gender not popular in nature or society.” (Trachtenberg, 1982, p. 163) Men also used the argument of the natural division between the sexes in their opposition to women’s education. “I think the great danger of our day is forcing the intellect of woman beyond what her physical organization will possibly bear,” wrote John Todd (1867, p. 23); he counseled giving women “all the advantages and all the education which her organization so tender and delicate, will bear; but don’t try to make the anemone into an oak, nor to turn the
Men’s Responses to Feminism at the Turn of the Century
dove out to wrestle with storms and winds, under the idea that she may just as well be an eagle as a dove” (Todd, 1867, p. 25). Medical texts abounded with details of the problems of women’s civic equality and the terror of women’s sexual autonomy, using scientific discourse as the basis for their arguments. Many manuals conflated the effects of political equality and sexual autonomy, casting women as both lustful temptresses and pious guardians of home and hearth. Greater gender equality, they claimed, would strengthen the temptress and weaken the household angel. The medical profession also attacked the New Woman for her rejection of femininity in general. “Certain women seek to rival men in manly sports,” observed Dr. Alfred Stillé in his presidential address to the American Medical Association in 1871, “and the strongminded ape them in all things, even in dress. In doing so, they may command a sort of admiration such as all monstrous productions inspire, especially when they tend towards a higher type than their own” (cited in Ehrenreich & English, 1979, p. 65). By linking social protest to biological confusion, antifeminist medical men could claim that the feminist struggle against socially constructed definitions of gender was really a war against nature. Their texts “clothed gender distinctions specific to late 19th century industrial countries in the unchangeability of human biology,” and made the social status quo appear natural, immutable, and moral (Smith-Rosenberg, 1985, p. 289). These sentiments fueled men’s opposition to birth control, as well, as when Theodore Roosevelt declared in 1905 that the desire for smaller families among women was a decadent moral disease. Women who avoided having children were, the president said, criminals against the race, “the object of contemptuous abhorrence by healthy people” (cited in Bruns, 1987, p. 165). Nowhere is the male antifeminist backlash better expressed than in Henry James’s novel, The Bostonians, published in 1886, whose hero, the dashing Basil Ransom, is afraid that the natural masculinity of political leaders would be rendered impotent by meddling, aggressive women: The whole generation is womanized; the masculine tone is passing out of the world; it’s a feminine, nervous, hysterical, chattering canting age, an age of hollow phrases and false delicacy and exaggerated solicitudes and coddled sensibilities, which, if we don’t soon look out, will usher in the reign of mediocrity, of the feeblest and flattest and most pretentious that has ever been. The masculine character, the ability to dare and endure, to know and yet not fear reality, to look the world in the face and take it for what it is . . . that is what I want to preserve, or rather . . . recover; and I must tell you that I don’t in the least care what becomes of you ladies while I make the attempt! (James,  1965, p. 343).
Men’s Responses to Feminism at the Turn of the Century
The Masculinist Response Another set of texts revealed an equivalent anxiety and distress about the crisis of masculinity, but did not suggest that women were the enemy; rather, they argued that women’s increased power was symptomatic of cultural changes that had reduced the importance and visibility of masculinity. Masculinist sentiments countered feminization as a cultural process, rather than opposing the advancement of women as a group or as individuals. Whereas antifeminist tracts sought to press women back into the private sphere, this masculinist discourse was concerned about woman’s dominance of the private sphere, and sought to dislodge her in the home by creating distinctly male agencies of socialization. There was something “mentally enervating in feminine companionship” (Dubbert, 1979, p. 97), and the separation of boys and girls became a “kind of mania” (Hartman, 1984, p. 11). Hartman notes that in some libraries it was the practice to segregate the volumes authored by men from those authored by women (1984, p. 11). William James prescribed a stiffening of American ideals with the tonic of the common laborer’s “sterner stuff of manly virtue.” Such an infusion of masculinity into the predominantly feminine precincts of refinement would allow the entire society to “pass toward some newer and better equilibrium” (cited in Trachtenberg, 1982, pp. 141–42). Several child rearing manuals cautioned against dancing, book learning, and social gatherings, since they would corrupt the young, and prescribed a variety of preventive methods to ensure healthy male development (McKeever, 1913). Senator Albert Beveridge of Indiana counseled, in his 1906 Young Man and the World, that boys should “avoid books, in fact avoid all artificial learning for the forefathers put America on the right path by learning from completely natural experience” (cited in Dubbert, 1980, p. 310). Physicians also warned against feminizing boys and advised anxious parents of the proper socialization to manhood. In the same presidential address cited above, Dr. Alfred Stillé warned that “a man with feminine traits of character or with the frame and carriage of a female is despised by both the sex he ostensibly belongs to and that of which it is at once a caricature and a libel” (cited in Barker-Benfield, 1976, p. 86). Dr. Augustus Kinsley Gardner’s extensive consideration of male masturbation in Our Children, published in 1872, led him to argue against feather beds for boys, because “the very softness is not desirable, while the very excess of heat conduces to a frame of mind not desirable, engenders and ferments lascivious thoughts in the adolescent, and is otherwise very objectionable” (cited in Barker-Benfield, 1976, p. 232). Children, especially young boys, were seen as impressionable and vulnerable to feminine wiles, and women were depicted as dangerous and tempting threats to masculinity. The male antifeminists were also wary of the feminizing clutches of mothers and teachers, because their refined civility would lead to the undoing of American masculinity. But whereas antifeminists sought to push
Men’s Responses to Feminism at the Turn of the Century
women out of the public domain and return them to the home as passive, idealized figurines, so that their influence could no longer sap the vitality of the nation, the masculinist response sought to dislodge women from their monopoly over socialization and urged a greater participation by men in the rearing of young boys. Curiously, these masculinist texts claimed that separation of boys and girls would also serve as an antidote to increasing homosexuality. If they mingled, boys would become feminized and hence, homosexual. Separation of the sexes—or homosociality—was a necessary precondition of heterosexuality. As G. Stanley Hall argued in his 1904 textbook, Adolescence, familiarity and camaraderie produced a disenchantment and diluted the “mystic attraction of the other sex” (p. 641). The reassertion of traditional masculinity resonated with antiurbanism and the reactivated martial ideal that characterized a strain of antimodernist sensibility at the turn of the century. The city represented “civilization, confinement, and female efforts to domesticate the world” (Pugh, 1983, p. 150); its effect, according to Ernest Thompson Seton, the founder of the Boy Scouts of America, was to turn “robust manly, self-reliant boyhood into a lot of flat chested cigarette smokers with shaky nerves and doubtful vitality” (cited in MacLeod, 1983, p. 49). “Get your children into the country,” one real estate advertisement for Wilmington, Delaware, urged potential buyers in 1905. “The cities murder children. The hot pavements, the dust, the noise, are fatal in many cases, and harmful always. The history of successful men is nearly always the history of country boys” (cited in Jackson, 1985, p. 138). The Boys Scouts of America, founded in 1910, celebrated a masculinity tested and proven against nature and other men, removing boys from the cultural restraints of home, hearth, school, and church. Scouting could “counter the forces of feminization and maintain traditional manhood,” Hantover (1980, p. 293) writes; here was “a boy’s liberation movement, to free young males from women, especially from mothers” (Dubbert, 1979, p. 152). “Manliness can only be taught by men,” observed Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the organization in England, “and not by those who are half men, half old women” (cited in Rosenthal, 1986, p. 226). If boys could be provided with a place away from the city, from women, and from culture, a place of “disciplined vitality” to redirect male anxieties and channel and sublimate adolescent sexual yearnings, “the curse and bane of boyhood” as health reformer Horace Fletcher (cited in Green, 1986, p. 261) put it, then these boys would surely become the “real men” required by early 20th-century industrial capitalism. War and imperialistic adventurism were increasingly valorized as well. If, as Maurice Thompson wrote in 1898, “the greatest danger that a long period of profound peace offers to a nation is that of [creating] effeminate tendencies in young men” (p. 610), then war could be a sensible policy for the nation. “The slouching, dissipated, impudent lout who seemed to typify young America has disap-
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peared,” editorialized the Washington Post in 1918 at the end of the First World War (cited in Filene, 1981, p. 325). Theodore Roosevelt elevated compulsive masculinity and military adventurism to the level of national myth. Roosevelt’s triumph over his own youthful frailty and his transformation into a robust vigorous man served as a template for a revitalized American social character; he “symbolized a restoration of masculine identity at a time . . . when it appeared to be jeopardized” and “typified the male oriented conquest of the wilderness that seemed to be the new ‘safety valve’ or ‘frontier’” (Dubbert, 1980, p. 313; Green, 1986, p. 237). William Allen White, a Kansas newspaper editor, praised Roosevelt’s “hard muscled frame” and his “crackling voice”; here was a “masculine sort of person with extremely masculine virtues and palpably masculine faults” (cited in Dubbert, 1980, p. 131).
The Pro-Feminist Response Although less visible and less influential, a third set of texts was produced by groups of American men who openly embraced feminist principles as a potential solution to the crisis of masculinity. Inspired by women’s increasingly visible public presence in reformist movements, such as abolition, populism, and labor, and socially redemptive groups such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement and the social purity movement, pro-feminist men believed that women’s political participation, symbolized by the extension of suffrage to women, would be a significant gain for all Americans. Several texts were supportive of feminist goals to revolutionize the relations between men and women in the family and in sexuality. Other texts adhered to a firm belief in the division of the sexes, but argued that increased feminization might prove a palliative to the dangers of compulsive masculinity. Earlier in the century, pro-feminist men supported women’s suffrage, and early suffrage associations counted several prominent abolitionists, such as William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Theodore Tilton, Parker Pillsbury, Samuel Gridley Howe, James Birney, Wendell Phillips, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, among their supporters. Many of the midcentury utopian communal experiments were organized by men, including Bronson Alcott, Robert Dale Owen, John Humphrey Noyes, and Moses Harmon, who saw the communes as retreats from female sexual slavery and places to develop new relations between women and men and new forms of family organization. Consistently, men’s support came from a belief in science and progress. Just as the antifeminist backlash articulated a nostalgic yearning for the preurban, preindustrial traditional village, so the pro-feminist position was articulated with a belief in modernity’s liberatory potential. Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Broad Axe” (n.d. , p. 128) envisioned the new world:
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Where women walk in public processions in the streets, the same as the men, Where they enter the public assembly and take places the same as the men; Where the city of the faithfulest friends stands; Where the city of the cleanliness of the sexes stands; Where the city of the healthiest fathers stands; Where the city of the best-bodied mothers stands, There the great city stands. Pro-feminist texts argued that men were impoverished by women’s oppression, and that support for women’s causes would ultimately benefit men, who could then relate to strong, whole people capable of complementary relations. “Neither sex, without some fertilization by the complementary characters of the other, is capable of the highest reaches of human endeavor,” wrote H. L. Mencken in his treatise In Defense of Women (1918, p. 8). Men’s support for women’s education, for suffrage, and for birth control echoes this theme. The early leaders of the newly opened women’s colleges, such as Matthew Vassar, William Allan Neilson and Joseph Taylor of Smith, and Henry Durant of Wellesley were articulate champions of women’s citizenship. Durant wrote that “the real meaning of the Higher Education for women” was revolt: We revolt against the slavery in which women are held by the customs of society—the broken health, the aimless lives, the subordinate position, the helpless dependence, the dishonesties and shams of so-called education. The Higher Education of Women . . . is the cry of the oppressed slave. It is the assertion of absolute equality . . . it is the war of Christ . . . against spiritual wickedness in high places. (cited in Horowitz, 1984, p. 44) Pro-feminist men also supported coeducation as a scientific advance. John Vleck, for example, who presided over Wesleyan’s experiment with coeducation, believed that “egalitarian coeducation represented the true index of the scientific advancement of the race” (cited in Leach, 1980, p. 73). Burt Green Wilder, a scientist at Cornell, condemned the barbaric cruelty and repression that had crushed women’s spirit and transmuted sexual equivalence into sexual disequilibrium. “The real creed of the future,” he wrote in Atlantic Monthly, “is equal but not identical; diverse yet complementary; the man for the woman, and the woman for the man” (cited in Leach, 1980, p. 49). The men who supported women’s suffrage, some of whom did not have a high opinion of women, still believed that political equality might relieve the world of oppressively masculine politics. The Men’s League for
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Women’s Suffrage had both English and American branches; in the United States, it was headed by Oswald Garrison Villard, publisher of the New York Evening Post, and Rabbi Stephen Wise, and administered by the young Greenwich Village radical, Max Eastman. The league’s purpose was to “give status to the cause . . . showing that equal suffrage was advocated by others besides the silly women who were thought to be behind it” (O’Neill, 1978, p. 19). Eastman supported suffrage because “women needed it to become fully developed persons,” and because men would benefit since “when women enjoyed the same right as men to be happy, both sexes would have more fun” (O’Neill, 1978, p. 50). His belief in complementarity stemmed from an embrace of scientific principles and “social intelligence,” the belief in “that intelligence which results from a free, sympathetic, intercommunication of all kinds of people” (cited in O’Neill, 1978, p. 20). His pamphlet Is Woman Suffrage Important? linked a socialistic economic critique of the leisured class with an analysis of the social construction of gender differences; these combined to turn women’s “enforced feebleness into a holy thing” (cited in Strauss, 1983, p. 229). Eastman chastised socialists who did not recognize that the woman question was equal in importance to any other; these men, he wrote, were behaving “like every other group of sexually selfish men” (cited in O’Neill, 1978, p. 50). Eastman tried to put his principles into practice, at least in the early years of his career, and when he married Ida Rauh in 1911, she retained her own name (O’Neill, 1978, p. 25). Pro-feminist men participated regularly in suffrage demonstrations. An editorial from La Follete’s in May, 1911, praised the 85 “courageous and convinced men” who marched in a demonstration, among them John Dewey, Hamilton Holt, Oswald Garrison Villard, and Edward Markham. Although “hooted and jeered,” and “guyed in the streets,” one considered being “booed and hissed down the Avenue . . . a very thrilling and inspiring experience.” He continued, “I am determined that if I can help to that end, there shall be a thousand men in line next year.” An editorial in the New York Times the next year predicted 800 men would march in a suffrage demonstration the next day, and suggested that these courageous men would face an unsympathetic multitude as they stood publicly for what they believed (New York Times, 1912). For pro-feminist men, suffrage was but a public expression of the feminist challenge to the social order that bound both women and men to repressive social conditions. “Woman’s suffrage is not primarily apolitical but a social question,” wrote Jesse Jones, a Boston Unitarian minister, in The Woman’s Journal, “and means a profounder revolution in the whole structure of society than many advocates seem ever to have dreamed of” (cited in Leach, 1980, p. 15). Within the growing labor movement, women’s rights also found support, especially from Eugene V. Debs. In his undated pamphlet, “Woman—
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Comrade and Equal,” published by the Socialist Party, Debs proclaimed himself “glad to align myself with a party that declares for absolute equality between the sexes. Anything less than this is too narrow for twentieth-century civilization, and too small for a man who has a right conception of manhood” (Debs, 1948, p. 454). His conclusion linked the social emancipation of women to the end of men’s violence against women and transformation of masculinity: Under our brutal forms of existence, beating womenhood to dust, we have raged in passion for the individual woman, for use only. Some day we shall develop the social passion for womanhood, and then the gross will disappear in service and justice and companionship. Then we shall lift women from the mire where our fists have struck her, and set her by our side as our comrade and equal, and that will be love indeed. Man’s superiority will be shown, not in the fact that he has enslaved his wife, but in that he has made her free. (Debs, 1948, p. 455) Within the personal sphere, pro-feminist men sought to resolve the crisis of masculinity by supporting women’s claims for autonomy in marriage and in their demands for sexual freedom. For them personal love was the determinant factor in marrying. The problem for them was how to transform sexual love into an egalitarian relation while at the same time preserving social order and community. (Leach, 1980, p. 126) Floyd Dell argued that since modern society had eliminated the need for the family, the institution could be reestablished on the basis of romantic love (1930, p. 7). The Reverend Jesse Jones championed the notion of divorce, “so far as women take the initiative in it” as “one phase of the revolt of women against the harem idea.” Although it seemed corrupting, he wrote in The Woman’s Journal, it was “a movement for good, for it is a movement to escape out of tyranny into freedom” (cited in Leach, 1980, p. 145). Henry Blackwell had earlier admonished that women’s maintaining careers after marriage was essential to the survival of their equal union (Leach, 1980, p. 196). The profeminist man wanted to marry neither “drudge nor ornament”; he would not try to transform his wife into a woman chained to “sexual servitude or bodily toil” or to conditions in which “her mind rises no further than the roof that shelters it” (cited in Leach, 1980, p. 30). Dell linked work and marriage explicitly. The recognition of women’s work outside the home, and of educational preparation for such work as being part of the marriage system, and not some-
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thing alien and hostile to it, would modernize our social and economic system at this point. (Dell, 1930, p. 357, emphasis in original) Pro-feminist men supported the feminist campaign for birth control as well. Max Eastman claimed that “the bearing and rearing of children should always be a deliberate, and therefore responsible act” (1915, p. 21), and Ben Reitman, the anarchist physician and lover of Emma Goldman, claimed that “by birth control the human race will be better, that we will have better and happier babies” (cited in Bruns, 1987, p. 175). William Sanger, Margaret’s husband, was arrested in September, 1915, for distributing a pamphlet called Family Limitation. Sanger also supported his wife’s work at home. “You go ahead and finish your writing,” she quotes him as saying “and I’ll get the dinner and wash the dishes” (cited in Forster, 1985, p. 252). The “sex radicals” who clustered around Greenwich Village in the first two decades of the 20th century supported women’s sexual equality and wrestled with these issues of gender equality and autonomy in their own lives. Here was one arena where men argued that their support for feminism would directly benefit them as men, as well as undermining capitalism. They believed that sexual repression was an essential underpinning of capitalism and based their critiques on socialist politics and scientific advances, both of which posited an equality of sexual desire between women and men. Denlow Lewis wrote in 1900 that “the sexual act must be performed with satisfaction to both participants in the conjugal embrace” (cited in Degler, 1980, p. 274). Floyd Dell believed that feminism was the only antidote to ruling class pretense and the materialistic “value culture” and claimed that men were “tired of the subservient woman—the pretty slave with all the slave’s subtlety and cleverness” (cited in Strauss, 1983, p. 249). The liberation of women—“world builders”—from the oppressive bonds of traditional femininity implied the liberation of men from the restrictive moorings of traditional masculinity. Such a pro-feminist sensibility required women’s access to birth control. “Modern contraceptive methods are not yet all that might ideally be desired,” he wrote, “but they do enable people to live sexual lives which they need not be ashamed to think about” (Dell, 1930, p. 196, emphasis in original). In a 1914 essay, entitled “Feminism for Men,” Dell made this connection explicit: The home is a little dull. When you have got a woman in a box, and you pay rent on the box, her relationship to you insensibly changes character . . . It is in the great world that a man finds his sweetheart, and in that narrow little box outside of the world that he loses her. When she has left that box and gone back into the great world, a citizen and a worker, then with surprise and delight he will discover her again and never let her go. (cited in Trimberger, 1984, p. 136)
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Contemporary Parallels These three responses to late 19th- and early 20th-century feminist claims for reconstruction of gender relations—antifeminist, masculinist, and pro-feminist—presented different strategies for the reconstitution of masculinity, which was in crisis because of profound structural transformations. Today, in the wake of transformations of work, the closing of the imperial frontier, and new gains for women, masculinity is again seen as an “endless trial” (Emerson, 1985, p. 188). In the books, films, and even presidential addresses that counsel us on gender-appropriate behavior, we again find these three responses. The contemporary male antifeminist response returns to the putative biological foundation of traditional gender differences as the basis for a recharged effort to return women to the private sphere. “Women have a natural function in life, which is to produce children,” remarked a gynecologist to an interviewer (Astrachan, 1986, p. 175). George Gilder’s thorough revision of his 1973 antifeminist tract, Sexual Suicide, was retitled Men and Marriage (1986). In it, Gilder condemns the sexual revolution for luring women away from marriage and children and toward careers, and he uses the rhetorical strategy of elevating women while at the same time delimiting their scope. Gilder appropriates Carol Gilligan’s (1984) work for his cause, celebrating the difference in women’s moral perspective and declaring that “woman’s morality is the ultimate basis for all morality” (Gilder, 1986, p. 169). Gilder would exempt women from public political participation, as well as participation in the labor force, because women are the sole bearers of a morality that can constrain men’s impulses; a “women may even do more good without a job than with one” (Gilder, 1986, p. 40). As one man told journalist Anthony Astrachan (1986, p. 96), “I’d just as soon keep her at home dependent on me rather than be dependent on her bringing in so much a week,” while another expressed some fears at the consequences of women’s labor force participation, noting that “if women work and they’re married, they get too independent. Before long there’s trouble at home.” Other texts present the case for the “inevitability of patriarchy” and the resulting wisdom of returning to traditional separation of male and female spheres (Amneus, 1979; Freedman, 1986; Goldberg, 1975). A second set of texts presents varieties of the contemporary masculinist response. Like its earlier incarnation, contemporary masculinist response is split between efforts to dislodge women’s supremacy in the private sphere and support for men who are “wounded” in the struggle to exude an aura of masculinity in the public sphere. Men’s challenges to women’s perceived parental monopoly come from men’s rights groups such as the Coalition for Free Men, Men’s Rights International, and Men Achieving Liberation and Equality (MALE), as well as numerous fathers’ support groups. These groups often deny that men have
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power in society, arguing that male supremacy is an illusion, along the lines of the illusion of the chauffeur: “he’s dressed in the uniform and he looks like he’s in the driver’s seat,” noted Warren Farrell, “but from his perspective someone else is giving the orders” (cited in Woldenberg, 1986, p. 10). Masculinist texts claim that women and men are “equally oppressed” (Baumli, 1986) and rail against perceived institutionalized female privileges, such as exemptions from the draft and advantages in alimony, child custody, and child support (Goldberg, 1976; Haddad, 1979). One critical review of these texts summarized their claims as follows: Men, they say, are emotionally and sexually manipulated by women, forced into provider roles where they work themselves to death for their gold-digger wives, kept from equal participation and power in family life, and finally dumped by wives only to have courts and lawyers give all the property, money, and child custody to the women. (Messner, 1986, p. 32) Some masculinist writers have advised men who feel powerless in the face of divorce court proceedings how to “fight dirty and win” by exploiting their wives’ vulnerabilities (Robinson, 1986, p. 175). Not all masculinist texts are so viciously antiwoman. Some provide healing support for men and give advice on coparenting and enlarging men’s role options (Osherson, 1986). Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War echoed earlier themes of male-male intimacy during wartime that is threatened by full integration of women into all public arenas. The communication between men is as profound as any between lovers. Actually, it is more so. It does not demand for its sustenance the reciprocity, the pledges of affection, the endless reassurances required by the love of men and women. It is, unlike marriage, a bond that cannot be broken by a word, by boredom or divorce, or by anything other than death. Sometimes that is not strong enough. (cited in Astrachan, 1986, p. 52) Lest anyone confuse the imperatives of homosociality for homosexuality, the contemporary masculinist echoes his late 19th-century counterparts; Caputo remarked in an interview: The emotion of camaraderie . . . is of its nature chaste. It may be more intense than what happened between male and female lovers, but it has to be nonsexual. It’s not just women. Warriors can’t be homosexual lovers either. (cited in Astrachan, 1986, p. 52). Other masculinist texts celebrate the segregation of men and women as a hedge against androgynous blurring of what they perceive as natural divi-
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sions, which indicates feminization. In a defense of all male clubs in the New York Times, Lewis Lapham opined that men’s clubs were an example of the way in which nature divides the whole of its creation into opposing forces (proton and electron, positive and negative, matter and antimatter, masculine and feminine) in order that their dynamic symmetries might decode and organize the unlocked chaos. Let the lines of balanced tension go slack and the structure dissolves into the ooze of androgyny and narcissism. (Lapham, 1983) Finally, some texts support the search for integration of traditional and contemporary masculinists, supporting men’s expression of a full range of emotions and family roles (Thompson, 1982). In some of these texts, proclaiming a “mythopoetic” masculinity, women’s issues (and women themselves) virtually disappear from consideration, apparently irrelevant to the search for the complete man (Chapple, 1987). A growing set of texts and organizations link men’s ability to enlarge their role options and to resolve the crisis of masculinity directly to the feminist project. Analysis of male sex roles, of the history of masculinity, and the contemporary relations between women and men are directly informed by profeminist sympathies (Brannon, 1976; Filene, 1976; Kimmel & Mosmiller, 1992; Filene, 1981; Pleck, 1981, 1986; Pleck & Pleck, 1980); while journals such as Changing Men are also explicit in their support of feminist issues. A recent special issue, “Men Confronting Pornography,” reproduced the range of feminist women’s responses to pornography by pro-feminist male writers. The National Organization for Changing Men includes in its statement of principles, its belief that feminism benefits both women and men, and “strongly support[s] the continuing struggle of women for full equality.” The organization applauds and supports “the insights and positive social changes that feminism has stimulated for both women and men” and opposes continued economic and legal discrimination, rape, domestic violence, and sexual harassment (1986, p. 1). “Men ought to be involved in the women’s movement because it’s the right thing to do,” one man told a interviewer, but further, “men are going to be involved in the struggle for women’s rights because it’s in men’s best interests (Astrachan, 1986, p. 326). Pro-feminist men believe that their ability to transform masculinity is inspired by and made possible by the women’s movement and that the social changes precipitated by the modern feminist movement contain, in both theory and practice, significant and desirable changes for men as well, including a vehicle for the resolution of the contemporary crisis of masculinity.
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6 The Cult of Masculinity American Social Character and the Legacy of the Cowboy
Doctor, I can’t stand anymore being frightened like this over nothing. Bless me with manhood! Make me brave! Make me strong! —Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint
s there a distinctive “American social character,”1 a unique combination of attitudes, aspirations, and activities that sets the American apart from other nationalities? Is the American a type that can be instantly recognized and categorized? Traditionally, analysts of the American personality have given three sorts of answers in their attempts to define the American social character. One sort of assessment often reads like horoscopes, so vague and blandly noncommittal that anyone could believe them to be true. The adjectives that define this distinctively American character type would also be instantly recognized, I’m afraid, as the “essential” defining features of the Afghani, the Burmese, the Senegalese, the Australian, or even the German personality. For example, one respected social scientist lists fifteen “value orientations” of the American personality, among them: achievement and success, humanitarianism, efficiency and practicality, belief in progress, valuing of material comfort, and a belief in freedom, equality, scientific rationality, nationalism, individualism, and conformity (Williams, 1951). Political scientist Harold Laski listed an orientation to the future, dynamism, worship of bigness, sense of destiny, fluidity of classes, pioneer spirit, individualism, antistatism, versatility, empiricism, hard work, and a sense of property among his components of the American “spirit” (1948). Max Lerner’s sprawling classic, America
An earlier version of this essay was published as “Der Männlichkeitskult: Amerikanischer Sozialcharakter und das Vermächtnis des Cowboys” in Andreas Guha and Sven Papke, eds., Amerika: Der Riskante Partner (Bonn: Athenaum, 1984). I am grateful to Bob and Joanne Kaufman, Marty Oppenheimer, and Joseph Pleck for critical comments and support through various drafts.
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as a Civilization (1957), reads like a catalog of contradictory adjectives intended to capture the extremes of American life. Americans, he claims, are mobile and restless, resilient, and temperamental, “overorganized in some areas and underorganized in others,” composed of “vendible” and “authoritarian” personalities. Not only are they “extremely moral” but also habitually “moral breaking”; what’s more, they also subscribe to an ethic in which the “reigning moral deity . . . is fun” (1957, pp. 62, 550, 655, 675). If this analytic imprecision is confusing, it is no less so than a second mode of understanding the American social character. In this version of American exceptionalism, the American personality is cast as an indescribably and existentially unique formation. In this depiction, bland platitudes are replaced by soaring superlatives, frequently referring to a mythic, historical, even sacred destiny awaiting fulfillment. “We Americans are the peculiar, chosen people,” wrote Herman Melville in 1850, “the Israel of our time.” Over a century later, the English observer D. W. Brogan caricatured American exceptionalism when he remarked in The American Character that Americans assume that “all modern historical events are either American or unimportant” (1954, p. 176). A third school of thought is more ambivalent. Some authors are not sure exactly what an American is; they are sure only that he or she is not a European. What makes the American unique is his or her difference from the European. The seemingly unlimited frontier and the absence of a feudal heritage allowed the full flowering of what had only been a tendency in Europe. “America is Europe with all the walls down,” noted one astute observer. To Richard Hofstadter (1965), one of the United States’ most celebrated historians, U.S. anti-intellectualism is a sharp contrast to the European kind. Europeans theorize and plan, he argued, while Americans act on the basis of their primitive instincts and imagination to advance a new world order based on individual abilities and accomplishments. As Alexis de Tocqueville, that perceptive French aristocrat, observed in the 1830s, the “spirit of the Americans is averse to general ideas; it does not seek theoretical discoveries” (1974, vol. 1, p. 326). If the European thinks, the American acts; the European is careful, precise, elegant, while the American counterpart is reckless, rough, and daring. (Think, for example, of the contrast between James Bond and Dirty Harry.) Geographic limits bind the European to civil law, but the peculiar American relationship to nature—the twin myths of the limitless frontier and of inexhaustible resources—allows us to continue to see the New World as the state of nature, ruled by natural law, unrestrained by the historical obligation to civilization. (This relationship to nature has been said to justify both intervention in world affairs and U.S. isolation [Lerner, 1957, p. 920].) Different as these three types of analysis may be, they all use several similar adjectives, which may describe some essential elements of an American social character, a cultural personality that explains present-day U.S. foreign policy.
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Interestingly enough, these common characteristics—violence, aggression, extreme competitiveness, a gnawing insecurity—are also the defining features of compulsive masculinity, a masculinity that must always prove itself and that is always in doubt. And American violence and aggression, these observers tell us, are distinctly American. For example, the American acts aggressively, not like a bully, seeking a confrontation, but rather in response to provocation. American school children are invariably taught that the United States has “never lost a war and never been the aggressor,” which is a remarkable achievement, since the United States has only been invaded twice (in 1812 and 1941) since 1800 but has invaded scores of countries itself. American aggression is peculiar, wrote anthropologist Margaret Mead, because it is “seen as a response rather than as primary behavior” (1965, p. 151). In And Keep Your Powder Dry (1944, revised in 1965), Mead explained that ours is an “aggressiveness which can never be shown except when the other fellow starts it . . . which is so unsure of itself that it had to be proved” (p. 157). Americans, Mead continued, “fight best when other people start pushing us around.” As an editorial in the Chicago Tribune put it in 1883, “Having been kicked, it is time to kick back, and kick back hard, and keep on kicking back until they are kicked into something like reciprocity” (cited in Mead, p. 157). American aggression is usually, in this mythic representation, retaliatory, a response to an apparent injury. And the retaliation is swift, effective, and inevitably disproportionately severe. Once provoked, the United States tends to get carried away by a boundless fury. Not one, but two atomic bombs were thought necessary and suitable retaliation against an already weakened enemy. At the individual behavioral level, is it any wonder that the United States leads all modern industrial democracies in rapes, aggravated assaults, homicides, and robberies, and ranks among the highest in group violence and assassination? The National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence suggested that “proving masculinity may require frequent rehearsals of toughness, the exploitation of women, and quick, aggressive responses” (1969, Washington, D.C.: U. S. Government Printing Office). Such an analysis raises a most important issue, specifically that American aggression and violence conform to this compulsive masculinity, a socially constructed gender identity that is manifest both in individual behavior and in foreign and domestic policies. It is the central argument of this essay that the aggregate compulsive masculinity in the United States makes it a dangerous country in the modern world. In the rest of this essay I will trace the development of the cult of masculinity among U.S. political leaders through the course of U.S. history, indicating several of the forces that gave rise to it. Then I shall discuss the cult of masculinity in recent years and suggest a few reasons why this construct, both as a model for individual leaders and as a national posture, is beginning to
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break down, even at the moment it appears to be so vigorously reasserted. But first, let’s look briefly at the constituent elements of masculinity, and observe how it so easily becomes a cult of excessive masculinity.
U.S. History as a Test of Manhood The psychologist Robert Brannon has identified four components of the dominant traditional male sex role in the rules that define how a man is supposed to behave (David & Brannon, 1976, p. 12). The first rule, “no sissy stuff,” suggests that a stigma is attached to any behavior that appears even vaguely feminine. The second rule, “be a big wheel,” says that success and status are vital elements of masculinity, and that men crave admiration. A man must also “be a sturdy oak,” exuding a manly air of toughness, confidence, and self-reliance, so that others may come to rely on him. A final rule admonishes men to “give ’em hell,” to evince an aura of aggression, violence, and daring. While this version of masculinity was originally intended to delineate the pressures on individual men to adopt a traditional kind of behavior, even a cursory glance at U.S. history, and the administrations of its political leaders, reveals a marked national preoccupation with masculinity. For the United States has been the archetypal male society, both because traditional masculinity permeates every facet of its political life, and because American men are never certain of our masculinity, never secure in our identity, always restless, eternally anxious, unrelentingly competitive. It’s as if only Americans can be “real men.” Nowhere is the dynamic of American masculinity more manifest than in our singular contribution to the world’s storehouse of cultural heroes: the cowboy. It was the United States that gave the world the cowboy legend, and Americans continue to see him as the embodiment of the American spirit. Even if the rest of the world finds him somewhat poignantly anachronistic, the United States has been trying to live up to the cowboy ideal ever since he appeared on the mythical historical stage. Ideally, the cowboy is fierce and brave, willing to venture into unknown territory and tame it for its less-than-masculine inhabitants. As soon as the environment is subdued though, he must move on, unconstrained by the demands of civilized life, clinging women, and whining children. The cowboy is a man of impeccable ethics, whose faith in natural law and natural right is eclipsed only by the astonishing fury with which he demands adherence to them. He moves in a world of men, in which daring, bravery, and skill are constantly tested. He lives by his physical strength and rational calculation; his compassion is social and generalized, but he forms no lasting emotional bonds with any single person. The cowboy therefore lives alone—on the range, in the woods, settling the West. Like the United States’ view of itself as the lone voice of reason in a hostile sea, the cowboy’s mission was to reassert natural law
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against those forces that would destroy it (monarchy and aristocracy in the 19th century and communism in the 20th, each of which is considered a foreign ideology, imported from Europe). The American-as-cowboy theme resonates through the history of the United States. The pioneers and explorers of the early 19th century—Daniel Boone, Davey Crockett, Kit Carson—remain some of the nation’s most potent cultural heroes, blazing the trail westward. The virgin land of the American West “gave America its identity,” writes one commentator; the frontier was the place where manhood was tested, where, locked in a life or death struggle against the natural elements and against other men, a man discovered if he truly was a real man.2 If we see the cowboy as the embodiment of the American identity, Americans expect no less from their contemporary leaders, from the men they elect as the personification of American aspirations. Almost every presidential administration has been marked by a concern for masculinity; at times this is muted by a relative security, while at other times a convulsively bellicose masculinity becomes the defining feature of the administration. No American president has better expressed this compulsive masculine style than Andrew Jackson—a “man of violent character and middling capacities” according to Tocqueville—who carved out a distinctly American identity against both the effete “European” banks of the eastern establishment and the frighteningly “primitive” native American population. Jackson’s Indian policies illustrate well the tragic consequences of compulsive masculinity as a political style, particularly in combination with the needs of an expanding capitalist economy. By dispossessing the Indians of their land through a strategy of “internal colonialism” and genocide, Americans began to fulfill their destiny as possessors, a destiny that resounded through the 19th and 20th centuries in countless imperialist adventures and reverberates today in Central America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. In Fathers and Children (1975), a brilliant psychoanalytically informed cultural history of Jacksonian America, political scientist Michael Rogin suggests that while the black man represented a “sexual Oedipal threat to the white man,” the Indian represented a “pre-oedipal aggressive threat to the mother-child relationship” (p. 70). Such aggression (whether real or imagined) was sufficient provocation for Jackson and his newborn country, whose response was to reassert the authority of the Great White Father against his “red children.” Thus Jackson said to three Florida Indian chiefs that they had listened to bad counsel, which compelled your Father the President to send his white children to chastise and subdue you, and thereby give peace to his children both red and white . . . I give to you a plain, straight talk, and do not speak with a forked tongue. It is necessary that you be brought together, either within the bounds of your old Nation, or at some point, where your Father the
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President may be enabled to extend to you his fatherly care and assistance. (p. 199) The Indians were to be “resettled,” forcibly removed from their traditional homelands, and placed on reservations (not unlike the relocation camps for Japanese Americans during the Second World War and the “strategic hamlets” of the Vietnam War), where they would be protected from the excesses of less enlightened whites. “Like a kind father,” explained Jackson’s military aide, “the President says to you, there are lands enough for both his white and his red children. His white children are strong, and might exterminate his red, but he will not permit them. He will preserve his red children” (p. 199). The consequences of this forced resettlement onto reservations, a profound infantilization of the subject population, had far-reaching consequences for Native American identity. For the white Americans, the consequences were different. “By killing Indians whites grounded their growing up in a securely achieved manhood, and securely possessed their land” (p. 125). Masculinity became linked to the subjugation of other people and the secure appropriation of their land.
Post-Bellum Flexing Masculinity in the United States is certain only in its uncertainty; its stability and sense of well-being depend on a frantic drive to control its environment. And no sooner did this identity establish itself in the mid-19th century than the walls of the male establishment began to crack. The bloody Civil War, an orgy of fratricide, left a significant legacy to the American self-image. For one thing, wartime industrialization contributed to a dramatic reshaping of the nature of work in American society. The independent artisan, the autonomous small farmer, the small shopkeeper were everywhere disappearing before the Civil War, 88 percent of American men were farmers or selfemployed businessmen—replaced by an industrial working class that was tuned to the demands of the assembly line, and that held less and less control over its labors or its fruits. The organization of the Knights of Labor and the Populist movement tried to stop this massive proletarianization, but in the end, like their European counterparts, American workers lost their struggle to retain the integrity of their work. Rapid industrialization also exacerbated the separation of work and home and extended the period of childhood socialization, contributing to what many observers labeled a “feminization” of American life (Douglas, 1977). Women, as mothers, public school teachers, and Sunday school teachers were thought to be softening the American character and replacing heroic male virtues of valor and honor with a generous compassion and emotional expressiveness. As William James put it,
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“There is no more contemptible type of human character than that of the nervous sentimentalist and dreamer, who spends his life in a weltering sea of sensibility and emotion, who never does a concrete manly deed” (cited in Bellah et al., 1985, p. 120). Finally, the frontier itself began to close, forcing America back onto itself. “For nearly three centuries,” wrote Frederick Jackson Turner in 1896, “the dominant fact in American life has been expansion. And now the frontier is gone, and with its going has closed the first period of American history.” To counteract the effects of the closing of the frontier and the loss of patriarchal control over home and workplace, the twenty years preceding the entry of the United States into the First World War witnessed a striking resurgence of concern about masculinity. Writers extolled martial virtues and the heroic individual squaring off against faceless bureaucrats, and celebrated the charisma of the warrior, the willingness to die for what is natural and real. “The greatest danger that a long period of profound peace offers to a nation is that of creating effeminate tendencies in young men,” noted one author in 1898. Psychologist Theodore Roszak observes that the years leading up to 1914 read “like one long drunken stag party where boys from every walk of life and ideological persuasion goad one another on to ever more bizarre professions of toughness, daring, and counterphobic mania—until at last the boasting turns suicidal and these would-be supermen plunge the whole Western society into the blood bath of world war” (1969, p. 92). Imperialist adventures took on qualities of national purification; military madness offered moral regeneration through the creation of an overseas empire. “Every argument that can be made for the Filipinos could be made for the Apaches,” argued Theodore Roosevelt against those who cautioned restraint in the Philippines. Here, then, was the new frontier. To sabotage the feminization of American culture meant, of course, a recharged opposition to women’s suffrage, a certain subterfuge of American male values. “The American Republic stands before the world as the supreme expression of masculine force,” proclaimed the Illinois Association Opposed to Women’s Suffrage in 1910. The nation had grown soft and lazy, and America would soon lose its dominance in world affairs if its young boys did not metamorphose into vigorous, virile men. A spate of books of advice appeared for young men to guide their development, sabotage women’s influence, and urge the adoption of traditional masculinity. Indiana Senator Albert Beveridge’s Young Man and the World (1906) counseled boys to “avoid books, in fact avoid all artificial learning, for the forefathers put America on the right path by learning from completely natural experience.” It is interesting that, to counter these arguments about feminization, many early feminists and suffragists argued that the cult of masculinity was the true threat to the American way of life. Alice Duer Miller’s amusing but effective rejoinder to those who would exclude women from public affairs has a
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contemporary ring, but was written in 1915. In “Why We Oppose Votes for Men” she writes 1. Because Man’s place is in the army. 2. Because no really manly man wants to settle any question otherwise than by fighting about it. 3. Because if men should adopt peaceable methods women will no longer look up to them. 4. Because men will lose their charm if they step out of their natural sphere and interest themselves in other matters than feats of arms, uniforms and drums. 5. Because men are too emotional to vote. Their conduct at baseball games and political conventions shows this, while their innate tendency to appeal to force renders them particularly unfit for the task of government. (cited in David & Brannon, 1976, p. 215) Perhaps the most revealing event in the drive to counter the forces of feminization and maintain traditional manhood was the founding of the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. The Boy Scouts celebrated a masculinity tested against, and proved, in the world of nature and other men, far from the restraints of home, hearth, school, and church. The Boy Scouts stressed chivalry, courage, honor, activity, and thoughtfulness; Theodore Roosevelt claimed that “all daring and courage, all iron endurance of misfortune make for a finer and nobler type of manhood.” “Spectatoritis,” wrote E. T. Seton in The Boy Scouts of America (1910), had turned “robust, manly, self-reliant boyhood into a lot of flat chested cigarette smokers with shaky nerves and doubtful vitality” (cited in Hantover, 1980, p. 294). The Boy Scouts provided an institutional sphere for the validation of masculinity that had been previously generated by the flow of daily social life and affirmed in one’s work. As one official Boy Scout manual put it in 1914, The Wilderness is gone, the Buckskin Man is gone, the painted Indian has hit the trail over the Great Divide, the hardships and privations of pioneer life which did so much to develop sterling manhood are now but a legend in history, and we must depend upon the Boy Scout movement to produce the MEN of the future. (D. C. Beard, Boys Scouts of America (1914), cited in Hantover, 1980, p. 293) As no one else before him, President Theodore Roosevelt epitomized these masculine virtues, and he was heralded as the most manly of American presidents. His triumph over his frail body (he was dangerously asthmatic as a child) and his transformation into a robust, vigorous physical presence served as a template for the revitalized American social character in the 20th century.
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Roosevelt’s foreign policy was militaristic and expansionist; the Roosevelt corollary to the Monroe Doctrine extended the frontier once again, in the guise of “manifest destiny” to include the entire western hemisphere. “The nation that has trained itself to a cancer of unwarlike and isolated ease is bound, in the end, to go down before other nations who have not lost the manly and adventurous virtues,” he argued. Or again: “There is no place in the world for nations who have become enervated by soft and easy life, or who have lost their fiber of vigorous hardiness and masculinity.” A newspaper editor from Kansas praised Roosevelt’s masculinity—his “hard muscled frame” and his “crackling voice”—as a model for Americans (cited in Dubbert, 1980, p. 313).
Rough Riding Off to World War Teddy Roosevelt and his band of Rough Riders may have symbolized a hypermasculine style in America, but he was surely not alone. All across Europe, turn-of-the-century leaders symbolically flexed their muscles and prepared themselves for the ultimate test of their virility. Insecure masculinity is not uniquely American, but rather emerges in the 19th century as the bourgeoisie ascends to national political dominance. According to the French historian and critic Michel Foucault, it is the bourgeois preoccupation with order and control and with an interminable ordering and disciplining of the natural and social environment that defines the era of bourgeois hegemony. In this regard, the United States is not unique, but presents perhaps the least adulterated case of the pathological insecurity of the bourgeois man about his own masculinity. The reassertion of manhood was the dominant theme of the political rhetoric of the entire era. U.S. General Homer Lea put it that “manhood marks the height of physical vigor among mankind, so the militant successes of a nation mark the zenith of its physical greatness” (cited in Roszak, 1969, p. 92). Patrick Pearse, the Irish revolutionary poet, believed that bloodshed “is a cleansing and sanctifying thing and the nation which regards it as a final horror has lost its manhood” (cited in Roszak, 1969, p. 92). Or, perhaps most strikingly, Spanish political philosopher Juan Donoso Cortés, who claimed that “when a nation shows a civilized horror of war, it receives directly the punishment of its mistake. God changes its sex, despoils it of its common mark of virility, changes it into a feminine nation, and sends conquerers to ravish it of its honor” (cited in Roszak, 1969, p. 92). Every American generation since 1840 had fought in a war, and the generation of 1914 carried the additional burden of a masculinity-in-question, challenged by cultural softness, leisure, feminization, and a decade of peace. There was a lot on the line for America as a virile nation and enormous pressures on individual soldiers to prove themselves in battle, to emerge as a man among men. When poet Joyce Kilmer was killed in battle, one magazine offered this
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eulogy: “Kilmer was young, only thirty-two, and the scholarly type of man. One did not think of him as a warrior. And yet from the time we entered the war he could think of but one thing—that he must, with his own hands, strike a blow at the Hun. He was a man” (cited in Filene, 1980, p. 324). And such tests of manliness were not limited to the U.S. infantry; businessmen and entrepreneurs also embraced the cowboy myth and yearned to outwit the competition and emerge as men among men. Recent biographies of robber barons such as John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Andrew Mellon, Henry Ford, and Leland Stanford reveal a startlingly common preoccupation with masculinity, in which their supremacy was proved daily on the corporate battlefield (see Slater, 1980). If Teddy Roosevelt had been America’s idealized version of a “real man” when the nation entered the First World War, by the war’s end the country had discovered a new style of man and a new masculinity. Woodrow Wilson was, in many ways, Roosevelt’s antithesis. Roosevelt harked back to Andrew Jackson, but Wilson was reminiscent of idealistic visionaries like Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. Whereas Roosevelt was a man of action, vigorous and impulsive, Wilson was thoughtful and contemplative, rational, paternal, and intellectual. Roosevelt was the heroic patriarch, always “Old Rough and Ready”; Wilson was the meditative fatherly executive, who always listened to others’ problems. Yet both conformed to the four elements of the male role: they were “sturdy oaks” and “big wheels,” they were not “sissies” and they “gave ’em hell.” Each combined those elements in a somewhat different way, and both were vigorous reformers and among the most important supporters of American progressivism in the years after the war. Both believed that their domestic and foreign policies were expressions of their masculinity and that reformism at home and militarism abroad were the most consistent strategies for the continued assertion of American masculinity. One author recently argued that many of the most prominent progressives were impelled to political reform as a compensation for feelings of inadequate masculinity. Even if the “cowboy-president” now shared center stage in the American psyche with the “professor-president,’’ compulsive masculinity was never written out of America’s cultural drama. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 again inspired a new generation of American men to test their masculinity on the fields of battle. As always, Americans went into war armed with a moral imperative, believing that they alone carried the moral burden of the fate of the earth. This mythic legacy is so powerful that almost 50 years after Pearl Harbor youngsters in the United States continue to play American GI against German and Japanese.
Post-War Cowboys Since the end of the Second World War, the cult of masculinity in American politics has remained a dominant theme. The Cold War and the “race for
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space” introduced an intractable national competitiveness, so that a contest over whether the Soviet Union or the United States is the “better” society is indelibly etched into the national consciousness. Interestingly enough, space exploration, diplomatic negotiations, and even international hockey games have taken their place alongside the battlefield as the testing ground of an insecure and compulsive masculinity. And lucky for us that they have, too, for the nuclear stakes are too high for men who need to prove their manhood at every turn. Nonetheless, the exaggerated competitiveness, the terror of appearing soft and weak, has marked the administration of each post-war president. John F. Kennedy, who proclaimed his administration as “The New Frontier,” was possessed, according to biographer Joe McCarthy, by a “keyed up, almost compulsive competitiveness” (cited in Fasteau, 1980, p. 385). And Richard Nixon was chronically terrified of appearing to be “soft” on communism or on anything else. Bruce Mazlish, author of the psychoanalytic study In Search of Nixon, wrote that Nixon was “afraid of being acted upon, of being inactive, of being soft, of being thought impotent, of being dependent on anyone else” (1972, p. 116). Frequently, a president’s machismo is expressed in opposition to Congress, whose incapacity for resolute action stems, the presidents suggest, from their immediate dependence on their constituents and their ultimate lessthan-total manhood. Thus Barry Goldwater promised that Nixon’s impressive resolve would overcome the “weak-kneed, jelly-backed attitude” of some members of the Congress on the Vietnam War, and in 1972 Gerald Ford argued that the Congressional vote on the Supersonic Transport, a questionably efficient and unquestionably overpriced airplane, would determine whether each Congressman was “a man or a mouse.” In many ways, the post-war era, and especially the 1980s, resembles the turn of the century, in which similar economic and social changes have structured individual men’s struggles and America’s national struggle to appear heroic and masculine. The closing of the frontier is today evidenced by the rising tide of struggles for national liberation and the promise of decolonization in the Third World. The dramatic transformation of the nature of work in the past two decades finds even the assembly line worker threatened by Third World workers on the one hand and by computers and robots in an increasingly service economy on the other. And it is widely believed that American culture has entered a new era of feminization, opposition to military adventures in Central America, a deepening concern for the devastation of the environment, the impressive gains registered by the women’s movement and the gay movement in challenging traditional sexual scripts, and a growing trend toward a surface androgyny. (This movement toward androgyny was more marked in the 1960s when long hair, love beads, sandals, and bell-bottoms adorned a counter-culture of men dedicated to abandoning traditional masculinity: Today it is more evident in the growing trend of cross-dressing.) And,
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as at the turn of the century, there is a flood of advice about behavior for both men and women. Among America’s political leaders, the cult of masculinity has found no better expression in recent years than in Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan. (As a liberal Democrat and conservative Republican respectively, Johnson and Reagan demonstrate that compulsive masculinity knows no one political party.) Johnson was so deeply insecure about it that his political rhetoric resonated with metaphors of aggressive masculinity; affairs of state appeared to be conducted as much with his genitals as with political genius. There was a lot at stake for Johnson, as David Halberstam noted in his monumental study, The Best and the Brightest: He has always been haunted by the idea that he would be judged as being insufficiently manly for the job, that he would lack courage at a crucial moment. More than a little insecure himself, he wanted very much to be seen as a man; it was a conscious thing. . . . [H]e wanted the respect of men who were tough, real men, and they would turn out to be the hawks. He had unconsciously divided people around him between men and boys. Men were activists, doers, who conquered business empires, who acted instead of talked, who made it in the world of other men and had the respect of other men. Boys were the talkers and the writers and the intellectuals, who sat around thinking and criticizing and doubting instead of doing. (cited in Fasteau, 1980, p. 385) Johnson’s terror of an insufficient masculinity, especially that he would be seen as less of a man than John Kennedy, impelled him to escalate the war in Vietnam. When opposed, by enemies real or imagined, Johnson attacked their manhood. When informed that one member of his administration was becoming a dove on Vietnam, Johnson retorted, “Hell, he has to squat to piss.” And as he celebrated the bombings of North Vietnam, Johnson declared proudly, “I didn’t just screw Ho Chi Minh. I cut his pecker off” (cited in Fasteau, 1980, p. 396). And just as Teddy Roosevelt rode the rising tide of recharged vitality from San Juan Hill to the White House, so did Ronald Reagan, riding in from his western ranch, hitch his political fortunes to the cult of compulsive masculinity. Reagan capitalized on Carter’s “failure of will” in the botched invasion of Iran, and his alleged softness on domestic issues such as civil rights and environmental issues. Reagan sits tall in the saddle, riding roughly over the environment, Central America, Grenada, toward the gunfight at the nuclear arsenal, the ultimate test of the modern cowboy’s mettle. The quickest gun in the west is now the fastest finger to the button of nuclear annihilation. President Reagan is the country’s most obvious cowboy-president.3 And he may also be one of our last. The limitations of the cult of masculinity in American politics are slowly being revealed. A growing “gender
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gap,â€? a difference in the political attitudes and preferences between men and women, threatens the unfettered continuation of macho politics. During the invasion of Grenada, the New York Times reported, the gap between male and female support for Reagan reached 20 percent, the most significant difference on record in U.S. political history. The conservative political agenda, long linked to the expression of manhood through mercilessly tough foreign policies and equally compassionless domestic strategies, has also shown signs of shifting away from cowboy euphoria. The cowboy swagger of the former Secretary of the Interior James Watt as he attempted to sell or lease some of the countryâ€™s most valuable land was too much even for the laissez-faire, freedrilling right wing. Even conservatives have counseled against the invasion of Central America, and Reagan was urged to withdraw from Lebanon. Across Europe, demonstrations against Americaâ€™s apocalyptic posturing with nuclear weapons have cast further doubts on the suitability of the cowboy as a policy maker for the 1980s. The disappearance of the cowboy as the model of American masculinity will be a gain, not a loss. His disappearance as an individual hero, a template for individual role-modeling, may help free U.S. men from the constraints of a compulsively competitive masculinity and create new options for men as nurturing fathers, expressive husbands and lovers, and generous, sympathetic friends. Similarly, decline of the cowboy ethic in American political life may finally permit the United States to cease proving its masculinity through policy and every act of state. By giving up the insecure quest for macho heroism, the United States might become at last a democracy, concerned with human dignity and justice, which would allow it to become finally a truly heroic nation.
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7 From “Conscience and Common Sense” to “Feminism for Men” Pro-Feminist Men’s Rhetoric of Support for Women’s Equality
The true degradation and disgrace rests not with the victim but with the oppressors. —Henry Brown Blackwell to Lucy Stone, 22 December 1854
Feminism is going to make it possible for the first time for men to be free. —Floyd Dell, “Feminism for Men” (1914)
ince the late 18th century, American men have supported women’s equality (see Kimmel & Mosmiller, 1992).1 Even before the first Woman’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, New York, heralded the birth of the organized women’s movement in 1848, American men had begun to argue in favor of women’s rights. That celebrated radical, Thomas Paine, for example, mused in 1775 that any formal declaration of independence from England should include women, since women have, as he put it, “an equal right to virtue”(Paine,  1992, pp. 63–66). Other reformers, like Benjamin Rush and John Neal, articulated claims for women’s entry into schools and public life. Charles Brockden Brown, America’s first professional novelist, penned a passionate plea for women’s equality in Alcuin (1798). By the middle of the 19th century, pro-feminist men were active in every arena that women had identified as significant. The founders of the first women’s colleges, and the pioneers of coeducational education were champions of a gender equality that grew from equal educational opportunities. By the century, many noted abolitionists had made a connection between the 105
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juridical enslavement of blacks and the subjection of women. Several mid19th century communal experiments were organized by men who challenged traditional marriage as a form of slavery. And by the turn of the century, there were new ways for American men to support feminism. In the first few decades of the new century, men organized voluntary associations to press their case and begin to integrate feminist ideas into their personal lives. Many men began to support feminism not only because women had “an equal right to virtue,” but because they, as men, would be transformed by women’s equality. The evolution of pro-feminist men’s rhetorical strategies through the last century and into the present one emerged from a historical process that roughly paralleled the history of feminism at the same time. Although this was not a fully sequential pattern in which one form superseded the other, three distinct patterns of pro-feminist male rhetoric emerged during this period, with each one defining the pro-feminist male discourse of its time. While they conform to any discrete historical periods, I intend to show how they illustrate shifting emphases in the prevailing arguments of the time. The first rhetorical strategy urged women’s incorporation into the body politic as a moral act, based upon abstract conceptions of justice and fairness: If the franchise was to be extended to slaves, or, later, to ex-slaves, it ought to be extended to women on the same grounds. Women were equal individuals, possessed of equal mind, equal soul, and equal rights to virtue. The second strategy was inspired by women’s participation in the social reform movements of the end of the century; it cast women’s participation less as moral and more as moralizing. Women’s entry into the public arena was presumed to soothe men’s battered egos, purify and cleanse a system that had grown impure from the indulgences of male vice, and serve as a balm on a painful national existence. This argument extended women’s role as the guardians of the home to include the national home and hearth. If woman could tame the wild beast at home, perhaps she could also team up with her sisters to clean up the national household. The third strategy stressed the positive influences that feminism would bring to men. Women’s demands for sexual freedom and reproductive rights (birth control) had the potential of freeing men from restrictive gender roles, and opened the possibilities of sexual relations among equals. Feminism might mean more than incorporation into a pre-existing system; rather it might signal an opportunity to develop new forms of masculinity. That men developed these three rhetorical strategies of argument does not mean, as one recent author argued, that “men are essential, often the leading figures, in the history of feminism to date” (Meyer, 1987, p. 38). In my view, during this period men neither made nor led feminism, nor was their participation integral to its successes. Pro-feminist men’s rhetorical strategies were, in themselves, reactive to the shifting ideological strategies of feminist
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women, who often used an alloy of moral principles, social reformism, and political expediency as the basis for their discursive claims. Yet men were present. Men supported feminist demands, organized other men around those demands, and attempted to integrate feminist principles into their lives. In this essay, I will explore the various ways in which men were involved in feminist struggles during the 19th and through the beginning of the 20th century. I will argue that each rhetorical strategy corresponds not only with a different stage of feminist activism, but also with a different perception of the possibilities for men. Prior to the 1880s men held an expansionist ideal of masculine potential, and believed that women’s incorporation would simply expand those possibilities. After the 1880s, pro-feminist male discourse articulated with an effort to reconstitute American masculinity, which was of growing cultural concern as being in “crisis.” Men continued to refer to abstract conceptions of justice and morality, to be sure, but now they also sought to use feminism as a vehicle for reforming men. By the first few decades of the new century, that social vision of feminism’s transformative potential was extended to include more than national morality; it now included men’s individual, personal lives. Feminism could provide the antidote to the crisis of masculinity. Feminism promised men’s liberation.
Pro-Feminist Men Before 1880: “Good” Men and “Good” Works For most of the 19th century, men’s support of feminism revolved around three poles: the extension of the franchise, equal education, and personal autonomy for women in communal experiments. Much of the discourse by pro-feminist men claims a natural equality for women, based on a presumed equality at birth. Such a discourse drew upon Christian theology, medical discourse, and liberal political theory that stressed the inherent rights of each individual. Each individual was a sacred entity, not subject to involuntary dependency or unwanted claims from society. Such arguments depended less on the qualities of women as women, and more on the qualities of women as human beings. Transcendentalist thinkers, like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, supported woman suffrage because the boundaries of the individual could not be compromised by political dependency and exclusion. In “Woman,” a lecture at the Woman’s Rights Convention in 1855, Emerson explained that human society is “made up of partialities. Each citizen has an interest and a view of his own, which, if followed out to the extreme, would leave no room for any other citizen.” Thus, to bring all these biases together ensures that “something is done in favor of them all” (Emerson,  1883, vol. 10, p. 352). Equality before the law, Emerson reasoned, will allow women to participate as individuals, and therefore to determine “whether they wish a voice in making the laws that are to govern them” (p. 354).
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These sentiments were echoed by many abolitionists, who extended their moral arguments about ending slavery to the position of women as disenfranchised individuals. A number of prominent men, among them William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Theodore Weld, Wendell Phillips, James Mott, Parker Pillsbury, Theodore Tilton, James Birney, and Samuel Gridley Howe all actively supported woman suffrage. Mott chaired (with his wife) the convention at Seneca Falls in 1848, and the resolution calling for woman suffrage, the only resolution not passed unanimously, was approved only after an impassioned speech by Douglass. “We hold women to be equally entitled to all we claim for man. We go farther, and express our conviction that all political rights which it is expedient for man to exercise, it is equally so for women,” he argued from the convention floor (HWS, I, p. 442). What grounded his convictions was, as Douglass put it, “conscience and common sense.” Political equality derived from natural equality between women and men. He explained to the readers of the North Star, the newspaper he edited, his conviction “that all political rights which it is expedient for man to exercise, it is equally so for woman” (The North Star, 28 July 1848, 1). At a woman’s rights convention in Rochester, New York, in 1848, it was reported that Douglass said that “the only true basis of rights was the capacity of individuals, and as for himself, he dared not claim a right which he would not concede to women” (editorial in The North Star, 11 August 1848, 1). Douglass argued that the failure to incorporate women and blacks into the political community had graver consequences than “the perpetuation of a great injustice”; it implied “the maiming and repudiation of one-half of the moral and intellectual power of the government of the world.” Seeing, he continued, “that the male governments of the world have failed, it can do no harm to try the experiment of a government by man and woman united” (Douglass, 1881, p. 480). Who was to blame for women’s subservience? Of course, some men argued that women themselves were to blame, while other men defensively suggested that though women’s condition be subordinate, men had not made her so intentionally. It was, they said, not their fault. Douglass was not convinced, nor was he reluctant about blaming men for the condition of women, insisting that to do otherwise would have been to blame the victim for her diminished condition. As he wrote in the North Star By nature she is fitted to occupy a position as elevated and dignified as her self-created master. And though she is often treated by him as his drudge, or a convenient piece of household furniture, ’tis but a striking evidence of his mental imbecility and moral depravity. (The North Star, 26 May 1848) In this sentiment, Douglass was joined by Garrison, who explicitly rejected arguments that suggested that women’s inferior condition was either
From “Conscience and Common Sense” to “Feminism for Men”
their own fault or at least the shared responsibility of women and men. At the Fourth Woman’s Rights Convention in Cleveland in 1853, Garrison made a strong appeal for male responsibility for women’s oppression. Believing in “sin, therefore in a sinner; in theft, therefore in a thief; in slavery, therefore in a slaveholder; in wrong, therefore in a wrong-doer,” he argued that “unless the men of this nation are made by women to see that they have been guilty of usurpation, and cruel usurpation, I believe very little progress will be made.” Nor did Garrison believe that men’s oppression of women was accidental nor the result of ignorance. To say all this has been done without thinking, without calculation, without design, by mere accident, by a want of light; can anybody believe this who is familiar with all the facts in this case? . . . There is such a thing as intelligent wickedness, a design on the part of those who have the light to quench it, and to do the wrong to gratify their own propensities, and to further their own interests. So then I believe that as man has monopolized for generations all the rights which belong to women, it has not been accidental, not through ignorance on his part; but I believe that man has done this through calculation, actuated by a spirit of pride, a desire for domination which has made him degrade woman in her own eyes, and thereby tend to make her a mere vassal. It seems to me, therefore that we are to deal with the consciences of men . . . The men of this nation, and the men of all nations, have no just respect for woman. They have tyrannized over her deliberately, they have not sinned through ignorance, but theirs is not the knowledge that saves. Women, Garrison concluded, “are the victims in this land, as the women of all lands are, to the tyrannical power and godless ambition of man” (Garrison, , in Kimmel & Mosmiller, 1992, pp. 212–14). Other abolitionists were equally articulate in making the claim the women’s natural equality with men entitled them to political equality, “Woman is a human being; and it is a self-evident truth that whatever right belongs to man by virtue of his membership in the human family, belongs to her by the same tenure,” wrote Henry C. Wright in a letter of support to the Woman’s Rights Convention in Akron in 1851 (The Woman’s Rights Convention, 1851, p. 44; SL, WRC).2 A decade later, Wendell Phillips fused Lockean notions of property in the person with Protestant theology to repudiate putative biological differences as the basis for the denial of suffrage; at the Tenth Woman’s Rights Convention in New York, he proclaimed that: I believe . . . in woman having the right to her brain, to her hands, to her toil, to her ballot. “The tools to him that can use them” and let God
From “Conscience and Common Sense” to “Feminism for Men”
settle the rest. If He made it just that we should have democratic institutions, then He made it just that everybody who is to suffer under the law should have a voice in making it; and if it is indelicate for women to vote, then let Him stop making women, because republicanism and such women are inconsistent. (Phillips [1851, 1891], p. 127). Such theological arguments for woman suffrage were echoed from pulpits around the country. Many of the abolitionists were, themselves, ministers, and many pro-feminist statements originated as sermons. For example, Samuel J. May’s sermon on “The Rights and Condition of Women,” delivered in Syracuse in 1846, was an articulate pre-Seneca Falls statement of individualist Protestantism’s search for the spiritual grounding of feminism. May begins his argument from a presumed moral equality: Men and women are “equal in rank, alike rational and moral beings.” Thus, the disenfranchisement of women “is as unjust as the disenfranchisement of the males would be; for there is nothing in their moral, mental, or physical nature that disqualifies them to understand correctly the true interests of the community, or to act wisely on reference to them” (May, 1846, pp. 5, 4; SL, WRC). Since men and women are equals before God, May argued that we may “with no more propriety assume to govern women than they might assume to govern us.” And, he continued, “never will the nations of the earth be well governed until both sexes, as well as all parties, are fairly represented, and have an influence, a voice, and, if they wish, a hand in the enactment and administration of the laws” (1846, p. 6). Many of this first wave of pro-feminist men also campaigned for women’s equality in education. Many of the men who were the founders and early presidents of women’s colleges saw their efforts as facilitating women’s equality by providing equal quality education, Women’s education was promoted by men who found the idea of exclusion anachronistic or offensive to individualist sensibilities. A poem in Littell’s Living Age in 1869 (vol. C, p. 578) posed the question: Ye fusty old fogies, Professors by name, A deed you’ve been doing, of sorrow and shame; Though placed in your chairs to spread knowledge abroad, Against half of mankind you would shut up the road. The fair sex from science you seek to withdraw By enforcing against them a strict Salic law: Is it fear? is it envy? or, what can it be? And why should a woman not get a degree?3 Why, indeed? There was no reason at all, according to Matthew Vassar and Milo Jewett at Vassar, William Allan Nielson and Joseph Taylor at Smith, and
From “Conscience and Common Sense” to “Feminism for Men”
Henry Durant at Wellesley, each of whom expressed articulate claims for women’s right to education. Durant claimed that the real meaning of higher education for women was “revolt.” “We revolt against the slavery in which women are held by the customs of society—the broken health, the aimless lives, the subordinate position, the helpless dependence, the dishonesties and shams of so-called education,” he wrote. “The Higher Education of Women . . . is the cry of the oppressed slave. It is the assertion of absolute equality” (Durant  reprinted in Kimmel & Mosmiller, 1992, p. 132). Perhaps no one better synthesized the positions of this first wave of profeminist men than Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Long a fierce abolitionist, Higginson was also a strong advocate of woman suffrage and women’s education. His series of essays, “Woman and the Alphabet,” was published in Atlantic Monthly, even though its editor, James Russell Lowell, had earlier considered them “too radical” for the magazine (Higginson, 1914, p. 156). In these articles, Higginson developed an articulate rationale for suffrage and equal education, and pierced the veneer of woman’s presumed moral superiority as the basis for her oppression. (In this, he also evidenced a striking empathy for women’s anger): I do not see how any woman can avoid a thrill of indignation when she first opens her eyes to the fact that it is really contempt, not reverence, that has so long kept her sex from an equal share of legal, political and educational rights. In spite of the duty paid to individual women as mothers, in spite of the reverence paid by the Greeks and the Germanic races to certain women as priestesses and sibyls, the fact remains that this sex has been generally recognized, in past ages of the human race, as stamped by hopeless inferiority, not by angelic superiority. (Higginson, 1859, p. 304, reprinted in Kimmel & Mossmiller, 1992, pp. 111–14) Higginson was careful not to advocate feminist ideas because of women’s supposed moral superiority, a claim advanced by antifeminists who suggested that women’s superior morality ought to “exempt” them from the tawdry worlds of commerce and politics. “It is a plausible and tempting argument, to claim suffrage for woman on the ground that she is an angel,” he wrote, “but I think it prove wiser, in the end, to claim it for her as being human” (p. 285). Higginson countered both anti- and pro-feminist arguments of woman’s moral superiority with arguments about complementarity and coeducation; women need equal rights, he reasoned not because she is man’s better half, but because she is his other half. She needs them, not as an angel, but as a fraction of humanity. Her political education will not merely help man, but it will help herself. She will sometimes be right in her opinions, and sometimes be altogether wrong; but she will learn, as man learns, by her own blunders. The demand in
From “Conscience and Common Sense” to “Feminism for Men”
her behalf is that she shall have the opportunity to make mistakes, since it is by this means she must become wise (p. 84). Fallibility, to Higginson, led him to argue that “in politics, as in every other sphere, the joint action of the sexes will be better and wiser than that of either singly” (p. 285).4 For these first wave pro-feminist men, women’s participation in the public sphere simply extended individual rights—whether experienced in the state of nature, or through Divine Plan, or simply by human existence in civil society in analogy to the ways that they also urged it for black slaves. Suffrage was, as Wendell Phillips put it (1866, p. 129), “not alone woman’s right, but woman’s duty,” and men’s support of women’s rights was a matter, in the words of Frederick Douglass, of “[c]onscience and common sense” (1853, p. 1).
The Crisis of Masculinity at the Turn of the Century and Pro-Feminist Men’s New Rhetorical Strategies In the last two decades of the 19th century, pro-feminist men continued their reference to abstract conceptions of justice and morality, but also developed new rhetorical strategies to justify their support of women’s struggles. Now, profeminist male discourse became embedded within a larger context of American men’s responses to feminism, which were, themselves, the product of structural transformations that had undermined the traditional definitions of masculinity. Thus feminism and masculinity became intertwined in the late 19th century in a way that they had not been entangled before. Masculinity was widely perceived as in “crisis,” as men were confused about the meanings of masculinity in a rapidly industrializing, post-bellum economy. The traditional moorings upon which a stable and secure antebellum masculinity had been anchored by independent control over one’s work, expansive geographic boundaries at whose edges masculinity could be tested and proved were fast disappearing in the consolidation of the post-bellum industrial order, and men struggled to redefine masculinity. The closing of the frontier, rapid industrialization, the decline of the individual farmer and small shopkeeper, and the concomitant rapid rise of mass-production and the factory system, each of these served to unhinge masculinity. Prior to the Civil War, 9 of every 10 American men were farmers or self-employed businessmen; by 1870, that figure had dropped to twothirds, and by 1910, less than one-third of all American men were so independently employed. The transformation of the household and gender relations, in part augured by women’s entry into the public spheres of work and education, and the contemporaneous articulation of feminist demands, provided an additional context to press men ever harder to resolve the crisis.5 Structural changes provided the backdrop against which the dramatic renegotiations of gender relations were taking place. Women’s entry into the
From “Conscience and Common Sense” to “Feminism for Men”
public sphere was buttressed by changes in the organization of the family— shrinking family size, increasing nuclearization of the family structure, and a clearer demarcation between workplace and households as separate zones of production and consumption respectively. The articulation of claims by women for increased participation in the public sphere (education, professional training, suffrage, labor force participation) seemed to threaten the entire structure of gender relations. American men evidenced several different reactions to the claims articulated by women at the turn of the century. For some, feminism was an illadvised movement that would cause serious social and physiological harms. To these antifeminists, women were biologically ill-suited for public life and should return to the private sphere where, it was argued, they belonged. Health reformer Horace Bushnell and Harvard education professor Edward C. Clarke argued that women would grow larger and heavier brains and lose their uniquely feminine mannerisms were they to vote or attend college (Bushnell, 1870; Clarke, 1873). “I think the great danger of our day is forcing the intellect of woman beyond what her physical organization will possibly bear,” wrote Rev. John Todd in 1867 (Todd, 1867, p. 23). For others, feminism was a symptom of a general feminization of American culture, through which American manhood had been enervated. For these masculinists, women’s participation in the public sphere was not problematic, as long as separate institutions remained all-male preserves and men could dislodge women from their monopoly over child rearing. Masculinists advocated separate educations and recreational outlets for males and females; keeping the sexes separate would retain manhood and maintain “the mystic attraction of the other sex,” that is, serve as a hedge against homosexuality (see Beveridge, 1905; McKeever, 1913; MacFadden, 1900). Finally, pro-feminist men suggested that feminist claims represented deep democratic impulses, and equal rights ought to be extended to women. Some men followed the lead of social reformers and argued that feminism would redeem a society bathed in male vice; at the least it should allow women and men to wallow equally in the mire.6 This represented a shift in the rhetorical strategies used by pro-feminist men in their efforts to support equal rights for women.
Woman as Moralizer: Pro-Feminist Rhetorics of Redemption By the last few decades of the 19th century, a new discourse entered the debate about women’s equality, a discourse that took discussions about male responsibility for women’s oppression and the moral imperative of political incorporation in new directions. As women became involved in social reform movements, such as temperance and Social Purity, they were cast as the moral
From “Conscience and Common Sense” to “Feminism for Men”
reformers of male vice, the cure for contemporary social ills. Women’s political participation was justified on the grounds that it would provide greater degrees of morality, purity, and beauty in the world. Supporters of women’s education, for example, argued that equal education was necessary to combat the degeneracy and vice that had seeped into American culture. Joseph Sayers argued that “a liberal, literary, moral and virtuous female education [was] the only detergent remedy for vice, crime, and immorality” (Sayers, 1856, p. iv). Coeducation was to be supported because through it, men would be refined and women empowered and “inspired with a higher, nobler ambition” (Buchanan, 1851, p. 49). Advocates of woman suffrage began to resort to arguments that stressed women as a moralizing force, instead of the more simple and abstract morality of individual rights that had marked earlier discourse. Clifford Howard, for example, argued that “woman should have the ballot, not only for her own benefit, but for the benefit of you and me and every other man who stands for good government and public cleanliness and purity” (Howard, n.d. ca. 1890, p. 3). Howard and other pamphleteers co-opted the antifeminist argument about separate spheres and yoked it to a contention that women’s participation was imperative precisely because women’s sphere was the home. “The woman’s place is the home,” Howard wrote. “But today would she serve the home she must go beyond the house. No longer is the home compassed by four walls. Many of its most important duties lie now involved in the bigger family of the city and state” (p. 7). And Edward Ward facetiously asserted the separate sphere argument when he wrote that “[w]omen should mind their own business. That is, they would vote in the modern government, for this is their proper sphere, except in its destructive, anti-social, military expression” (Ward, n.d. ca. 1900, p. 7). If women were to exercise their natural role as the guardian of the home, “she must of necessity interest herself in public affairs and take a part in their management” (Howard, p. 8). Frederic C. Howe argued that social reforms were only possible by women’s extension of her proper sphere into the public realm. In “What the Ballot will do for Women and for Men,” he cast suffrage as the redemption from “the muddle we have made of politics,” alone capable of ending poverty, hunger, diseases, and suffering. In a lyrical romanticization of women’s civic participation, he wrote: I want to live in a world that thinks of its people rather than of business; of consumers rather than producers; of users rather than makers; of tenants rather than owners; in a world where life is more important than property, and human labor more valuable than privilege. As women are consumers, users, and tenants rather than producers, makers, and owners, I have hope for a society in which women have and use the ballot.
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I want woman suffrage because I believe women will correct many of these law-made wrongs that man has made. For women will vote in terms of human life rather than in terms of special privilege. (Howe, 1905, pp. 7–8) Finally, men who participated in the Social Purity Movement, and supporters of temperance also promoted women’s public participation as the social extension of her natural sphere as guardian of the home. It was women’s role to save men from the cruelties and excesses that accompanied masculinity in crisis.
Feminism as Men’s Liberation Finally, a small group of pro-feminist men embraced feminist ideas as much for their potential to liberate men as in their importance to the liberation of women. In the first two decades of the century, among the Bohemian subculture in New York’s Greenwich Village, a group of men were actively linked to feminist causes because the liberation of women implied the demolition, not the beautification, of industrial capitalism. As inspired by Freud as much as by Marx, many of these pro-feminist men were as actively concerned with social questions of women’s sexual autonomy as they were with political enfranchisement. They sought to organize other men around feminist issues and attempted to lead lives that were consistent with their beliefs. In this, they embraced a new kind of feminism that emerged in the 1910s and 1920s, a feminism that was, in a sense, “a reaction against an emphasis in the woman movement itself, the stress in nurturant service and moral uplift” (Cott, 1987, p. 37). The woman’s movement had promoted social reform as women’s duties; these new feminists promoted women’s rights and sexual autonomy as their entitlement. To the writer Floyd Dell, feminism was more than “a revolt of women against conditions which hamper their activities; it is also a revolt of women and men against the type of woman created by those conditions” (Dell, 1921, p. 349). The Bohemian radicals who clustered in Greenwich Village attempted to create new relationships while they promoted feminist causes. In this “moral health resort,” as Dell called it (cited in O’Neill, 1978, p. 29), they confronted issues of monogamy and sexual fidelity, women’s sexual autonomy, and women’s rights to birth control and abortion. Feminism had created a new type of woman; as writer Randolph Bourne put it: They are all social workers, or magazine writers in a small way. They are decidedly emancipated and advanced, and so thoroughly healthy and zestful, or at least it seems so to my unsophisticated masculine sense.
From “Conscience and Common Sense” to “Feminism for Men”
They shock you constantly . . . They have an amazing combination of wisdom and youthfulness, humor and ability, and innocence and selfreliance, which absolutely belies everything you will read in the story books or any other description of womankind. They are of course all selfsupporting and independent, and they enjoy the adventure of life; the full, reliant, audacious way in which they go about makes you wonder if the New Woman isn’t to be a very splendid sort of person . . . They talk much about the “Human Sex,” which they claim to have invented, and which is simply a generic name for those whose masculine brutalities and egotisms and feminine pettiness and stupidities have been purged away so that there is left stuff for a genuine comradeship and healthy frank regard and understanding. (cited in Cott, 1987, p. 345; see also Abrahams, 1981) Such New Women needed “new men,” men who could thrill to women’s sexual autonomy, who were outraged at economic and political discrimination, and who worked in both public and private arenas to bring about a system of sexual equality and gender justice. Men like the young Max Eastman, Floyd Dell, Hutchins Hapgood, William Sanger, and Randolph Bourne. Eastman, the editor of The Masses and secretary and organizer of the Men’s League for Woman Suffrage, was (in his early years) an exemplary character, organizing other men around feminist issues and struggling toward equality in his personal life. Eastman and his wife, Ida Rauh, caused a scandal when they posted Rauh’s full name on their mailbox in 1911. Their mailman refused to deliver their mail, and they were forced to go to court to change the law, starting a Village tradition of both names on mailboxes. Eastman wrote that he wanted his wife to be “entirely independent of men in every way—to be as free as she was before we were married” (cited in Stricker, 1974, p. 88). Eastman linked his support for feminism with his understanding of masculinity. “There was nothing harder for a man with my mama’s boy complex to do than stand up and be counted as a ‘male suffragette,’” he wrote in the first volume of his autobiography. “It meant not only that I had asserted my manhood, but that I had passed beyond the need of asserting it” (Eastman, 1936, p. 316). To be sure, men continued to support feminism because it “is just and right and . . . men want to deal fairly and justly by women,” as one pamphlet from upstate New York concluded (“Why New York Men Should Give Women the Vote,” 1915, p. 4). A pamphlet from San Francisco that same year drew a similar conclusion, that there was “no good reason why our women should be treated with less justice” (“The San Francisco Man: A Fable,” 1915, p. 4). Prominent members of the Men’s League for Woman Suffrage, the nation’s first explicitly pro-feminist men’s organization, relied on such abstract conceptions of morality and justice. An editorial in La Follette’s from May 1911
From “Conscience and Common Sense” to “Feminism for Men”
(p. 1) praised the 85 “courageous and convinced men” who marched in one recent demonstration; one marcher counted being “booed and hissed down the Avenue a very thrilling experience” and indicated his determination that “if I can help to that end, there shall be a thousand men in line next year.” And he wasn’t far off target. An editorial in the New York Times predicted that 800 men would march the next day in a suffrage demonstration, although Eastman counted far more marchers. “Even when the Men’s League occupied five blocks, four abreast,” he wrote, “the press could see only a grudging thousand of them” (Eastman, 1936, p. 351). For this generation of pro-feminist men, as Eastman put it, it was neither “justice as a theoretic ideal, nor feminine virtue as a cure for politics” that animated their support of feminism. They did “not look to women’s votes for the purification and moral elevation of the body politic.” It was, instead, “democratic government as the practical method of human happiness” that motivated them (Eastman, 1912, pp. 8, 2). Many of this generation of profeminist men saw the social revolution offered by feminist demands for personal autonomy as the complement to the socialist revolution that they also hoped to accomplish. Women’s assertion of her freedom was a necessary fulfillment of social change, and he believed that women would be the leaders in the revolution. Such personal autonomy required sexual freedom, and pro-feminist men supported women’s struggles for birth control. William Sanger was arrested in 1915 for distributing his wife Margaret’s pamphlet, Family Limitation. At home he was equally supportive. “You go ahead and finish your writing,” she quotes him as saying, “and I’ll get the dinner and wash the dishes.” (Margaret did draw the curtains to their first-floor kitchen when he did so, lest passersby notice this emasculating gender reversal. [Forster, 1985, p. 252; Reed, 1977, p. 136].) Women’s sexual autonomy was vital, perhaps even more central than the vote, as Floyd Dell explained in his volume Women as World Builders, Her development, her freedom, her independence, must come from and through herself. First, by asserting herself as a personality, and not as a sex commodity. Second by refusing the right to anyone over her body; by refusing to bear children unless she wants them; by refusing to be a servant to God, the State, society, the husband, the family, etc.; by making her life simpler, but deeper and richer. That is, by trying to learn the meaning and substance of life in all its complexities, by freeing herself from the fear of public opinion and public condemnation. Only that, and not the ballot, will set woman free, will make her a force hitherto unknown in the world, a force for real love, for peace, for harmony; a force of divine fire, of life giving; a creator of free men and women. (Dell, 1913, pp. 61–62)
From “Conscience and Common Sense” to “Feminism for Men”
Both Dell and Eastman sought to join Marx and Freud, to link their socialist political economy with feminist critiques of sexual repression. Thus did Dell argue, in “Feminism for Men,” that capitalists opposed feminism because “it wants men with wives and children who are dependent on them for support.” But feminism and only feminism will allow men to rediscover women as equals, which means to discover women all over again. That could only happen in the public sphere; the home was “a little dull.” When you have got a woman in a box, and you pay rent on the box, her relationship to you insensibly changes character. It loses the fine excitement of democracy. It ceases to be companionship, for companionship is only possible in a democracy. It is no longer a sharing of life together, it is a breaking of life apart. Half a life—cooking, clothes, and children; half a life—business, politics, and baseball . . . It is in the great world that a man finds his sweetheart, and in that narrow little box outside of the world that he loses her. When she has left that box and gone back into the great world, a citizen and a worker, then with surprise and delight he will discover her again and never let her go. (Dell, 1914, p. 20) Eastman claimed a similar motive for supporting feminism, an “unqualified liking for women with brains, character, and independence” (Eastman, 1936, p. 315), and was equally certain that feminism held important messages for men as well as women. In a vignette from The Masses in 1914, Eastman recounts a (possibly apocryphal) conversation with the magazine’s new stenographer: “Are you a feminist?” we asked the stenographer. She said she was. “What do you mean by feminism?” “Being like men,” she answered. “Now you are joking!” “No, I’m not. I mean real independence. And emotional independence too—living in relation to the universe rather than in relation to some other person.” “All men are not like that,” we said sadly. “Then they should join the feminist movement!” (Eastman, 1914, p. 7) Feminism was the culmination of the revolutionary impulse of the first few decades of the century, worth supporting precisely because of the extent of that revolution. Women, Dell wrote: will not exchange one place for another, nor give up one right to pay for another, but they will achieve all rights to which their bodies and
From “Conscience and Common Sense” to “Feminism for Men”
brains give them an implicit title. They will have a larger political life, a larger motherhood, a larger social service, a larger love, and they will reconstruct or destroy institutions to that end as it becomes necessary. They will not be content with any concession or any triumph until they have conquered all experience. (Dell, 1913, p. 51) Men now understood that feminism would “make it possible for the first time for men to be free” (Dell, 1914, p. 19). Such were the vicissitudes of pro-feminist men’s discourses from the mid-19th century to the first decades of the 20th. And each strain of pro-feminist male rhetoric remains visible today. Of course, the ethical imperative based on individual rights remains the single largest rhetorical foundation of support for women’s equality. In campaigns for the ERA, women’s right to choose, opposition to workplace sexual harassment, and the admission of women to all-male military colleges, men’s support of feminism is framed in rhetoric of women’s individual rights. Much of this support is based on assumptions of similarity between women and men, asserting that observable differences between the genders are less significant and more highly variable than antifeminists might suggest. Women are more like men than they are different, this logical line of reasoning goes; therefore, women should not be prevented from achieving their full individual potential. Some contemporary pro-feminist male rhetoric, however, embraces the moralizing rhetoric of the previous century, especially in the debates about sexuality. Male support for feminist-inspired campaigns against prostitution and pornography is particularly illustrative of such rhetorical support. Such campaigns often characterize men as impulsive, uncontrolled predators, whose every behavior is saturated with signifiers of male domination. Against this, women’s “natural” virtue, if it can remain uncorrupted by male supremacist ideology, is the only possible salve. Animated, they argue, by a different ethical code of conduct (an ethic of care) or a different framework for language and its deployment (“genderlects”), contemporary moralizing rhetoric exaggerates the differences between women and men as a political strategy to gain power for women and to protect them from men. Neither the rhetoric of individual rights nor the moralizing rhetoric of difference requires that men change as a result of supporting feminism. If women receive individual rights, they will claim the rights already enjoyed by men. Moralizing women will protect the victims of male excess, and constrain men from acting on their violent rapacious impulses—but the men will remain, in essence, unchanged. To a small number of contemporary pro-feminist men, however, feminism offers men both the ethical imperative to change, as well as the political opportunity to be changed. In this model, earlier rhetorical strategies ultimately converge: To the extent that women and men are the same, there can be no logical justification for political discrimination; to the
From “Conscience and Common Sense” to “Feminism for Men”
extent that women and men are different, one could not possibly expect men to represent women adequately, and thus, women must have their equal rights. To this last group, the women-as-moralizer model of feminist sexual reform and antipornography campaigns freezes men in a position of self-denial. Men simply are the rapacious beasts, sexual predators, and woman-hating monsters that the reformers depict. Incapable of change, their best hope is to renounce masculinity, to refuse to be men at all.7 Not only is this a rather dubious strategy for political organizing—social movement participation based on self-renunciation and self-hatred—but it fails logically to address men’s capacity for transformation in the first place. Such a position is often overly dismissive of men’s ability to change, and unforgiving of men’s clumsy and inconsistent efforts to do so. By contrast, the rhetoric of individual rights presents what we might call the “Field of Dreams Fallacy,” after the recent movie, whose recurring theme was the line “If you build it, he will come.” Individualists seem to suggest that if equal opportunities can be provided, “they,” meaning women, will come and be equal. In so doing, they will act precisely as other “individuals,” namely men, have always acted. “They” will act just like “us,” so that “we” do not have to do anything but move over slightly. However, when women do actually enter the public arena, they enter both as women and as individuals; “they” will not necessarily become just like “us.” That fact, will, of course, require that men change a requirement that is currently provoking fierce resistance in workplaces and universities across the nation as new standards of harassment and new codes of sexual etiquette are being articulated. Feminism is about transformation, both for women and for men. Feminism offers to women a political agenda and philosophical position that addresses both women’s public sphere experience of discrimination and exclusion, and their private experience of powerlessness, pain, and thwarted personal vision. To men it offers the ethical imperative to change as well as the opportunity to change. Men can retheorize past behaviors so that, for example, our earlier models of “dating etiquette” or “office behavior’’ can be relabeled as date rape or sexual harassment, our earlier ideals about family life can be revisioned as the disempowerment and negation of the visions of our wives or partners. Feminism requires such public pronouncements of support for political participation—a process long, difficult, and potentially painful. And feminism requires a personal commitment to engage in that equally long, equally difficult, and equally painful process of personal transformation, to personalize the political even as we politicize the personal. For feminism promises the transformation of the relations between women and men: as it will set women free, it cannot help but liberate men.
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If today’s pro-feminist men inherit today all three rhetorical strategies of support for feminism, we inherit a mixed legacy of modest successes and inspired failures. It is a legacy both saddened by those persistent inequalities that make such struggles for public participation and personal freedom necessary, and hopeful that men can, and will, support women’s claims to a vision of sexual equality and gender justice.
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8 From Lord and Master to Cuckold and Fop Masculinity in 17th-Century England
hat many men are today “confused” about what it means to be a “real man”—that masculinity is in “crisis”—has become a cultural commonplace, staring out at us from every magazine rack and television talk show in the country. American men are increasingly cast as bumping up against the limits of traditional concepts of masculinity, attempting to push beyond the rigid role prescriptions that constrain male behavior and prevent men from more fully expressing intimacy and vulnerability, becoming more devoted and loving fathers, more sensitive lovers, and more compassionate friends to both women and other men. But to observe a crisis of masculinity begs three related questions. First, we must ask what we mean by the term “masculinity” at any particular moment. How is masculinity defined? What are its constituent elements? Second, how do we know this? What types of evidence can be examined to decipher normative prescriptions about appropriate behavior? And, finally, what types of events precipitate a “crisis” of masculinity, those moments of painful confusion and normless searching for new definitions of masculinity? Why do some historical eras evince such crises, while in other eras most men seem to possess a stable certainty in both attitudes and behaviors? In this essay, I will address these questions by examining one historical era in which masculinity was seen to be in crisis, an era in which radical challenges to inherited definitions of masculinity accompanied challenges to traditional gender relations. Through an empirical discussion of the renegotiation of gender relations in late 17th- and early 18th-century England, I will suggest the ways in which masculinity is defined as part of the larger social construction of gender relations, discuss the remarkable series of pamphlets that appeared in England that were devoted to renegotiating gender, and indicate those historical events that serve as the longer run precursors and the more immediate precipitants of a gender crisis.1
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The Social Construction of Masculinity For decades, social science research on masculinity and femininity was dependent upon a “sex-role socialization” model in which biological males and biological females were socialized to fit into static containers based upon the appropriate enactment of a sex role. However, recent research from feminist scholars has demonstrated the inadequacy of this model, and instead has suggested a model of “gender relations” in its place. The gender relations model is dynamic and responsive to historical and social changes and emphasizes the ways in which masculinity and femininity are relational constructs that reproduce existing power relations between women and men in the normative definitions for either gender.2 The gender relations model also allows the observer to specify not only the reconstitution of gender over time, but also the directionality of changes in gender relations. The historical evidence from Restoration England suggests that while both masculinity and femininity are socially constructed within a historical context of gender relations, definitions of masculinity are historically reactive to changing definitions of femininity. Such a claim runs counter to traditional formulations of gender, such as David Riesman’s comment in The Lonely Crowd that “characterological change in the west seems to occur first with men” (1950, p. 18). But since powerful men benefit from inherited definitions of masculinity and femininity, they would be unlikely to initiate change. In particular, dominant men as a group have also benefited from the sex-role socialization model that has governed social and behavioral science’s treatment of gender, since it uses the dominant class’s concept of masculinity as the normative standard of reference and maximizes the distance between the two genders, while it minimizes the extent to which these definitions reproduce existing power relations, are historically variable, and are therefore open to challenge. If masculinity is socially constructed within a larger frame of a historical dynamic of gender relations, questions of crisis and change remain. To the historical sociologist, crises in gender relations occur at specific historical junctures, when structural changes transform the institutions of personal life, such as marriage, sexuality, and the family, and hence the possibilities of gender identity. These larger structural changes—in the organization of both agricultural and industrial work, in political relations—alter dramatically the organization of personal life. This new terrain of personal life allows some women to press claims for reorganization of family life and relations between women and men, that is, to redefine femininity. At these moments, as Smith-Rosenberg writes, “when the social fabric is rent in fundamental ways, bodily and familiar imagery will assume ascendancy” (Smith-Rosenberg, 1985, p. 90). This pressing of claims by some women is what recasts masculinity as problematic. Crises of masculinity occur when structural forces transform the dynamics of
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family and personal life, leading some women to make claims for a reorganization of gender relations. Let us see how these larger structural changes set in motion the microsocial processes that lead to a crisis of masculinity in one historical era.
Social Change in 17th-Century England Not only was the 17th century an era of dramatic political conflict, religious challenge, and economic transformation, but an era of significant challenges to the inherited relations between women and men. In fact, this period of strained gender relations “lay at the heart of the ‘crisis of order’” that finally erupted in mid-century (Underdown, 1985, p. 136). Queen Elizabeth’s powerful mastery over domestic and foreign policies symbolized women’s emerging autonomy, and a traditionally rigid demarcation between separate spheres had given way, in practice, to a rather more loosely constituted set of relations. Of course, these traditional hierarchies did not loosen themselves; as Underdown notes, the crisis in gender was a “by-product of the social and economic transformation . . . of the decline in the habits of the good neighborhood and social harmony that accompanied the spread of capitalism” (Underdown, 1985, p. 126). The “practical equality between the sexes” that had evolved was based, in part, on some women’s independent ties to the market, which gave women a greater sense of independence (Oakley, 1972, p. 9; cf. Underdown, 1985, p. 136). As a result, the gender crisis of the first half of the century was characterized, in part, by a male assault on women’s gains. Women, Oakley argues were on the defensive; their battle more a “matter of maintaining these rights rather than obtaining them” (Oakley, 1972, p. 9). The male backlash was based upon biological differences and vague references to natural law and scripture as the means by which women would be replaced in their traditionally subordinate position. Joseph Swetnam praised women’s “natural” childbearing function in his pseudonymous pamphlet Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward and Unconstant Women (1615); John Taylor posed a question when he remarked in his Crabtree Lectures (1639) “I know not which live more unnatural lives/ Obedient husbands, or commanding wives” (cited in Underdown, 1985, p. 118). One pamphlet, A Woman’s Sharp Revenge (1640), responds by relying on sociological arguments against biological prescriptions: “If we be weak by nature,” the author asserts, “they strive to make us more weak by our nurture” (cited in Shepherd, 1985, p. 170). Retaliation for “flagrant defiance of accustomed patriarchal order” often took the form of public scoldings, community rituals in which offending women were publicly humiliated, and often physically threatened. Scoldings applied traditional sanctions against violators of traditional customs, and “provided cathartic release for community tensions, gave its participants a virtuous
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sense of enforcing moral standards, and was for all but the victims an enjoyable, festive occasion” (Underdown, 1985, p. 128). By the 1640s, gender controversy was such a popular topic that pamphlets taking either a position criticizing or defending patriarchal authority were sure sellers. In fact, one set of antagonistic pamphlets appear to have all been written by one male author, who alternated his positions in a “fabricated gender controversy” because both he and his publisher knew that such pamphlets would sell well (Shepherd, 1985, p. 160). The English Revolution (1640–1660) and the Glorious Revolution (1688) allowed the gender controversy to become part of a larger universe of oppositional discourse, as many women linked their demands to those of political radicals for political liberty and enfranchisement. For example, 10,000 women signed a Leveller petition to Parliament in May, 1649, that proposed a most eloquent argument: Since we are assured of our creation in the image of God, of an interest in Christ equal to men, as also of a proportionate share in the freedoms of the commonwealth, we cannot but wonder and grieve that we should appear so despicable in your eyes as to be thought unworthy to petition or represent our grievances to this honourable House. Have we not an equal interest with men of this nation in those liberties and securities contained in the Petition of Right, and other good laws of the land? Are any of our lives, limbs, liberties or goods to be taken from us, nor more than from men, but by due process of law and conviction of twelve women of the neighborhood? And can you imagine us to be so sottish or stupid as not to perceive or not to be sensible when daily those strong defenses of our peace and welfare are broken down and trod underfoot by force and arbitrary power? (cited in Shepherd, 1985, pp. 197–98) In the decades following the Glorious Revolution, enormous structural changes, set in motion during the century and culminating in the two revolutions, began to resonate in the English family and in relations between men and women. Several important large-scale changes converged on the late 17th-century household, prompting the renegotiation of gender relations, of sexuality and marriage, and a reexamination of the notion of masculinity. Although these changes did not originate in the late 17th century, one important result of the two revolutions was the sweeping away of the intellectual, political, and social obstacles to their transformation of English society. One crucial set of structural changes hinged on the transformation of the economy in general, and on the organization of work in particular. Individual handicraft production by independent artisans was declining in the cities, as artisans were “entering upon their long agony in competition with bigger economic units” (Hill, 1961, p. 308). In the countryside, larger units became
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increasingly common, as land ownership was consolidated by a new wave of enclosures toward the end of the century. The small independent farmer, the yeomanry, was “disappearing” (Hill, 1961, p. 308), and waves of rural migrants were forced off the land and streamed into London and other cities. “The country is poor, the nation is racked . . . and the humble gentleman is halfstarved,” observed Sir Charles Sedley in the House of Commons in November 1691 (cited in Plumb, 1967, p. 136). Concentration of land ownership and the decline of craft production combined with mercantilist economic doctrines in transforming London from a capital city to a “focal point,” a “centre of world trade” (Lockyer, 1964, p. 435; Hill, 1961, p. 266). The ballooning population of the capital was even further exacerbated by late-century changes in the treatment of the poor. Before the Civil War, the Royal Council had often intervened in the localities and provided poor relief and some small measure of security. After 1660, however, the “problem of poverty was left almost entirely to the Justices of the Peace and to private charity” (Lockyer, 1964, p. 445), which meant that poor men and women were left to fend for themselves. Countless numbers descended on London in hopes of finding work, charity, or both. These economic changes add up to a profound loss of occupational autonomy for a large number of men. Artisans, craftsmen, small shopkeepers, yeoman farmers, and other independent tradesmen and professionals suffered a severe erosion of autonomy in the organization of work. This loss of autonomy may have been ironically abetted by ideological changes that stressed the increasing importance of the individual and political changes that enlarged the franchise. The rise of liberal theory at the end of the century—especially in the work of Locke, and earlier Hobbes and Harrington—indicated a shift “from the collectivity, whether kin or nuclear family, to the individual” (Stone, 1984, p. 402) and provided an ideological grounding for capitalist accumulation, as well as the celebration of individual freedom. Simultaneously, in the late 17th century, the “electorate grew very rapidly,” so that despite the exclusion of women, children, and laboring poor males—the electorate included less than 1/30 of the population—Plumb claims that “for the first time in English history [an electorate] had come into being” (Plumb, 1967, pp. 45, 40). Even though these changes “brought no widening of the franchise” (Hill, 1961, p. 297), it is more important perhaps that contemporaries believed that they augured substantive change. Just when many Englishmen were losing their economic autonomy, ideological shifts indicated that they had gained increased individual independence. One psychological outcome of such contradictory information was a confused and amorphous self-blaming, in which Englishmen had neither relief nor justification for rebellion. There remained “no political outlet for the passions and resentments of those whom their betters expected to work harder for low wages in deplorable living conditions” (Hill, 1961, p. 297) and there was no one, it seemed, to blame but themselves.
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Family and Gender Relations in Late 17th-Century England These structural changes resonated with changes in social relations, and especially relations within the family. The rise of literacy and individualism, and the decline of infant mortality and the traditional patriarchal family, all sparked renegotiation of the relations between women and men. Inspired by individualism, men “now pleased themselves by marrying later; by marrying brides of their choice . . . by staying unmarried altogether if they were so inclined . . . and by limiting births in order to ease the strain on their wives and to improve the quality of care devoted to their children” (Stone, 1984, p. 402). Schofield and Wrigley calculate that in the second half of the 17th century, as much as 22.9% of the population of both sexes between 40 and 44 had never been married (1983, p. 176).3 Even though Protestant doctrine had, since the Reformation, assigned to the husband the role of leader of the family—a role which had formerly belonged to the parish priest—which tended to buttress patriarchal authority, Hill also notes (1961, p. 308) that “the close knit patriarchal community was being undermined in the same decades as the patriarchal theory of monarchy collapsed. The wives of the poor were becoming domestic drudges for their absent husbands rather than partners in a family workshop.” Women’s slow entry into the world of work was also seen as a threat to continued male domination; women’s wages “were regarded as a threat to male authority, a temptation to female luxury in indulgence and an incitement to female independence” (McKendrick, 1974, p. 167). Economically, politically, and socially, “women were chipping away at the edges of traditional expectations,” a process that made men increasingly anxious (Nussbaum, 1983, p. 9). Finally, the reign of Queen Anne (1702–1714) may have increased the male-female tension since Regency governments were often politically vulnerable and brought gender issues into the spotlight. One ought not be surprised, therefore, to discover a new gender crisis in late 17th- and early 18th-century England. A virtual pamphlet war erupted as some men and women attempted to renegotiate the structure of gender relations and to develop new definitions of masculinity and femininity. Much of this pamphlet war was carried out within a specific form of discourse, the traditional satiric “comforts,” “joys,” or “plagues” of a particular status, and pamphlets that provide answers to these satires. Satire was “a fertile field for reframing what is most frightening into something comic” (Nussbaum, 1983, p. 167), but readers would err in assuming all are viciously sarcastic since some, such as The Fifteen Comforts of Whoring, are serious celebrations of the practice.4 What were the objects of contention between these men and women, the themes of the pamphlet war? For one thing, some women were extremely ambivalent about marriage. Marriage provided the only legitimate status for
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adult women and the foundation of economic activity: “economic organization was domestic organization,” writes Laslett (1965, p. 3). The only question that mattered was that which was asked of women in the inns of court: “Are you a maid, a widow, or a wife?’ (cited in Fraser, 1984, p. 467). Marriage also increasingly appeared as a form of sexual slavery, reinforcing economic inequality and denying autonomy to women. “I fear you would debauch men into that dull slave call’d a Wife,” observes one character in Aphra Behn’s The Feign’d Courtezans (cited in Fraser, 1984, p. 271), while the analogy is made explicit in An Essay in Defense of the Female Sex (1696), whose author suggests that, “[w]omen, like our Negroes in our Western plantations, are born slaves, and live prisoners all their lives.” Women pamphleteers suggested several remedies to make marriage more palatable. Noting a “male shortage”—one observer estimated 13 women for every 10 men in London in 1694 (cf. Nussbaum, 1983, p. 9)—women insisted that men not delay in marrying them, and petitioned Parliament in 1693 for an annual tax on all men who remain single after they turn 21 years old. This disincentive to bachelorhood, women believed, would encourage men to legitimate women’s economic existence, to virtually call them into being in the body politic (The Petition of the Ladies, 1693). Another pamphlet in 1690 suggested that the neglect of marriage threatened the destruction of the nation, since nearly half the population were dying single, and a third of the others marrying far too late. Marriage Promoted also supported obligatory marriage for men by age 21. But the marriage contract these women sought was to be based upon new principles. One pamphlet, The Duty of a Husband (1706), written in response to Samuel Johnson’s The Duty of a Wife (1693), challenged the old analogy of house and kingdom: Therefore tis plain this mutual love Commanded is by heaven above And Man in Duty is Confined By sacred Laws to be more kind And not like Tyrant rule his Wife As if she was his Slave for Life. (The Duty of a Husband, 1706, p. 6; ital. in original) Defenders and critics of patriarchy made the analogy between family and state fundamental to their rhetorical challenges. To monarchists, like Robert Filmer, whose Patriarcha was first published in 1680, the state was the family writ large: monarchy was legitimate because it descended from the ancient patriarchal household. Critics like Mary Astell, though, argued the converse, using politics to attack family relations. The family was the state in microcosm: if the latter was now governed not by absolute monarchy but by contract, so too should the
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former be governed. “If Arbitrary Power is evil in itself, and an improper Method of Governing rational and Free Agents, it ought not to be Practis’d any where,” she wrote (cited in Nadlehaft, 1982, p. 574). Marriages ought to be equal, the author of The Duty of a Husband argued, “Woman has an equal share/ At least on what depends on Care/ Of household accidental things/ Which comfort and relief doth bring” (p. 6). These women were angered by their second-class status: “[a]s if we were for nothing else designed But made, like puppets, to divert mankind,” as Lady Chudleigh put it (cited in Fraser, 1984, p. 328). Some women saw their slavery in dramatically sexual terms: —But I forget—too soberly I Rave. They in their height of Pride— Think Woman only made to be their Slave The very Sex, a Brothel built by Jove To hold their superfluitities of Love: A decent ditch when the Tide runs too high By prudent nature made to drain it dry Good serviceable Beasts of Burden, when The Journey’s o’er, turn’d out to graze agen. (The Lost Maiden-Head, 1691, p. 6) The explicit imagery in this passage is not accidental, for women perceived marriage as the only legitimate source of sexual pleasure, which required greater equality. The author of An Answer for the Pleasure of the Single Life (1701) supports marriage precisely because it provides regular sex for women: Thus single Sots, who wedlock vainly fight Are slaves to Lust, both Morning, Noon, and Night Ruin their health, their Honour and estate And buy Repentance at a cursed rate While lawful wedded couples spend their times In happy charming Pleasures without crimes . . . (p. 4) And women actually enjoyed the sex: “While happy Man and Wife in Love agree/ And both unite in Mutual Harmonie” (p. 4). No surprise, then, that one female pamphleteer suggested that “a levelling of Marriages is the most Reasonable Thing in the World” (The Levellers, 1703, p. 13). Some men responded vigorously to women’s efforts to renegotiate marriage relationships. Their satires, Nussbaum writes (1983, p. 75), assume woman’s lust, inconstancy, and vanity; they curse her fecundity, her sexual appetite, and her ability to disrupt men’s expectations and illusions, while a simultaneous impulse describes her sexual autonomy
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and power. The satires deplore women’s attractiveness and their ability to feminize men even as they lament men’s self-hatred and emasculation. At the same time that the satirist narrator wallows in the satiric myth of impotence as a lover, however, the force of his words creates a potent weapon . . . The popular satires of the Restoration transfer the responsibility for love to woman, and more and more to the sex as a whole, as an abstraction that can be attacked without so much reference to the male’s own feelings of love. Some writers alternately accuse women of sexual insatiability and sexual disinterest, often in the same pamphlet. In their responses to the women’s petition to Parliament, A Humble Remonstrance of the Bachelors (1693?), the authors accuse women of inversion of the gender hierarchy, as they “not only dispute the Superiority with Men, but even pretend the right of Conquest over them; for their Grandmother Eve, they say, triumphed over the weakness of our great Grandfather Adam in Paradise . . .” (p. 11). These men claimed they were unwilling to marry because women have become so demanding as to render it economically unwise. One woman pamphleteer noted that “[a] good Estate and Virtue makes a Man Beautiful in any Garb” since “[m]atrimony is become a matter of Money” (The Leveller, pp. 25, 3). One male pamphleteer had a woman admit that “he that bids most shall speed soonest; and so he hath money, we care not a fart for his honesty” (cited in Macfarlane, 1986, p. 162). Some male writers also accused women, especially widows, of luring men to the altar with their wealth; a contemporary ballad (cited in Macfarlane, 1986, p. 162) had it that: Young maidens are bashful, but widows are bold, They tempt poor young men with their silver and gold, For love nowadays for money is sold, If she be worth a treasure no matter how old. To the women’s petition, the authors of the bachelors’ remonstrance noted: A Courtship, as the Ladies are pleased to order it, is now the greatest Pennance any Man in the World can undergo. We must swear as many Oaths as would serve one of His Majesties largest garrisons for a TwelveMonth, till we are believed. We must treat them like Goddesses, lie prostrate at their feet, make Presents so expensive and numerous that perhaps the Wife’s portion will scarce make amends for what the Mistress extorted from us. (1693, p. 4). Some women claimed that men were reluctant to marry when they could always visit prostitutes in the cities:
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I am ashamed and Blush to Speak it how many lewd Creatures there are of our Sex both in the Town and Country; were there not so many whores there would be more wives. The vicious sort of Men are by them kept from Marrying; for ’tis mere Virtue must confine a Man to a Married State, where he has an uninterrupted Converse with Womankind as Seldom and as often as he pleases, without confinement to any particular Person or Temper. (The Levellers, p. 5) But, some men countered, they visited prostitutes only because virtuous women resist their sexual advances: ’Tis a sad truth, we confess it, the number of these Interlopers is very grievous; and yet tis as sad a truth that the Petitioning Ladies have occasioned it. Let them but leave quarreling about Jointures and carry a little more Christian Compliance about them, and the other Fry would disappear in the way of trade, only used for the Convenience of Readier Change. But those obdurate females would have every Person of Quality who keeps it in his own defense, pay a good swinging fine to the government. (Remonstrance of the Bachelors, p. 3) As is evident in this brief skirmish, much of the war between the sexes in Restoration England was about sexuality. Male pamphleteers frequently wrote eloquent defenses of premarital sex. Since “[t]ravellers, before a Horse they buy/ His Speed, his Paces and his Temper try” (The Pleasures of a Single Life, 1701, p. 81), why can’t men and women sample each other before marriage? One female pamphleteer, at least, seems to be willing; in a rather steamy passage she pines: Ah tis my misfortune not to meet Any man that would my passion greet He with balmy kisses stop’d my Breath In which one could not die a better death Stroke my Breasts, those Mountains of Delight Whose very touch would fire an anchorite Or let your wanton palm a little stray And dip thy fingers in the milky way: On having raiz’d me, let me gently fall The trumpets sound, so Mortal have it all. Why wish I this bliss? I wish in vain Of my plaguy burthen do complain Sooner may I see whole nations dead I find one to get my Maidenhead. (Fifteen Plagues of a Maiden-Head, 1707, p. 3)
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Later, the author confesses that as soon as she lies down to sleep, “I dream I’m mingling with some Man my Thighs/ Till something more than ordinary does rise” (p. 3). And another maiden dreams of sexual gratification in The Maiden’s Dream (1705), but can only obtain it by being taken duplicitously: Once slumb’ring as I lay within my Bed, No Creature with me, but my Maidenhead, Methought a Gallant came, (as Gallants they can do Much with Young Ladies, and with old ones too) He woo’d, he Su’d, at length he sped, Marry’d methought we were, and went to Bed. He turn’d to me, got up, with that I squeak’d, Blush’d and cry’d oh? and so awak’d. It wou’d have vexed a Saint, my Flesh did burn, To be so near, and miss so good a Turn, Oh! cruel Dream, why did you thus deceive me, To shew me Heaven, and then, in Hell, to leave me?5 But no sooner did some women attempt to claim sexual agency, to actively seek sexual gratification, than they restrained themselves because of traditional morality: Our thoughts like tinder apt to fire Are often caught with loving kind desire But custom does such rigid laws impose, We must not for our lives the thing disclose. If one of us a lowly youth has seen, And straight some tender thoughts to feel begin . . . Custom and modesty, much more severe Strictly forbid our passion to declare. (Sylvia’s Complaint, 1688) They also heeded male accusations of women’s sexual insatiability. The author of The Bachelor’s Banquet (1709) suggested that women are both sexual and insatiable, that they “love to sport in Bed,” (p. 7), while the author of Fifteen Comforts of Matrimony (1706) insisted that their “insatiate fire” leads women to sleep with other men, get pregnant by them, and actively seek sexual gratification where they can find it (1706, p. 7). The author of The Fifteen Comforts of a Wanton Wife (1706–1707) accused women of draining men both economically and sexually: “Containing an Unequal Dividend/ His Business is to get and Hers to spend/ If he’s unable to supply her lust/ She’ll take such care of that, another must” (p. 3). In response, female pamphleteers claimed that women were frequently deceived by men who promised to marry them, and then abandoned them after receiving sexual favors. As the author of The Lost Maiden-Head laments:
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A favour’d Lover who one fatal day When she and all her Vertue slumbring lay Stole both her Heart and Maidenhead away She wak’t and found him gone, while shame, disgrace Vexation and Despair supply’d his place With Daggers fill’d her Breast, with Blushes fill’d her Face While he to every Tavern-Friend will boast How small a Price so great a Conquest cost How soon, how willingly the Town was lost. (1691, p. 2) Men are accused of seduction and then abandonment when the woman becomes pregnant. The author of The Whore’s and Bawd’s Answer to the Fifteen Comforts of Whoring (1706) writes, for example, that: No sooner does the Maid arrive to years And she the pleasures of Conjunction hears, But straight her Maidenhead a Tic-Toc runs To get her like, in Daughters or in Sons; Upon some Jolly Lad she casts her eye And with some am’rous gestures by the by; She gives him great encouragement to take His fill of Love, and swears that for his sake She soon shall die, which makes the Youth so hot To get about the Maiden’s Honey pot, That promising her Marriage and the like They both a bargain very quickly strike And Rubbers often take till she does prove With child, then, then [sic] he bids adieu to love And ere she’s brought to bed away does Creep For fear he should the Wenches Urchin keep. (1706, p. 3) Men’s responses often debated the coercive quality of women’s claims of rape; while Sylvia is furious after having been raped in The Lost Maiden-Head, one response in Restored Maidenhood (1691) argues that she really wanted it: “O Crime, abhorred! no sign of discontent/ No least effort the Robbery to prevent/ Surely he stole her with her own consent” (p. 9). When the women claim equality of desire, the men often invert it and turn desire against the women themselves. But even here, the women can salvage angry equality in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases; The Whore’s and Bawd’s Answer . . . asserts: “Was only tit for tat, so if the Men/ Do Clap the Whores, and Whores Clap them again/ Tis only tit for tat; tis very true/ What’s good for Goose is good for gander too” (1706, p. 5).
From Lord and Master to Cuckold and Fop
Masculinity in Crisis in England, 1688–1714 The changes in gender relations—efforts to renegotiate marriage, the family, and sexuality—provide the background, the context for a change in the definition of masculinity in Restoration England. As the structural bases for gender relations had shifted and were thrown into disarray, the meaning of masculinity itself was brought into question, debated, and in part redefined. Women’s assertion of sexual agency, of an equality of desire, and of equal rights within marriage, inspired men to abandon traditional roles within the family, just as changes in the organization of work and political changes eroded his economic autonomy and the traditional system of fixed political statuses in precapitalist society. Men’s abandonment of their traditional roles, eschewing marriage for example, was the subject of several satiric pamphlets, as we have noted. But more than simply marriage, women were concerned that men were abandoning masculinity itself, becoming soft, urbanized, and weak; in short, women were concerned that just as they challenged their traditional female roles, men were jumping to embrace precisely those female roles. One pamphlet complains that: The Men, they are grown full and effeminate as the Women; we are Rivall’d by ’em even in the Fooleries peculiar to our Sex; They Dress like Anticks and Stage-Players, and are as ridiculous as Monkeys; they sit in monstrous long Periwigs, like so many owles in Ivy Bushes, and esteem themselves more upon the Reputation of being a Beau, than on the Substantial Qualifications, of Honour, Courage, Learning, and Judgement . . . If you heard ’em talk you’d think yourself at a Gossiping at Dover, or that you heard the learned Confabulation of the Boys in the Piazzas of Christs Hospital. (The Levellers, 1703, pp. 5–6) One particularly interesting pamphlet, Mundus Foppensis: or, The Fop Displayed (1691), outlines several telling indications of the “feminization” of late 17th-century English men. While it is impossible to discern exact numbers of men displaying these behaviors, this and other pamphlets reveal an emergent public discourse on the nature of masculinity and a concern over men’s abandonment of traditionally male behaviors. For one thing, the pamphlet evidences a concern that men are cross-dressing—I could produce ye Emperours/ That sate in Women’s dress whole hours” (p. 9)—and wearing makeup: Hard case to blame the Ladies Washes When Men are come to mend their faces Yet some there are such Women grown They can’t be by their faces known. (p. 10)
From Lord and Master to Cuckold and Fop
These men are more concerned with hairstyle than substance: “How is the Barber held divine/ That can a Periwig Carine!” (p. 10). The adoption of these traditionally female preoccupations by men is part, the author tells us, of a more general embrace of vanity: “Far must more time Men trifling Wast/ E’er their soft bodies can be drest/ The Looking Glass hangs just before/ And each o’th Legs requires an hour” (p. 11). This portrait of the “feminized” man suggests a deep fear of male abandonment of traditional roles. Men were coming to resemble women on the surface, the pamphlet argues, because they were coming to resemble women’s sociosexual affective patterns. Men are not only abandoning their roles within the family, but abandoning women altogether. While this fear of male homosexuality simmers below the surface of the entire text, it emerges explicitly in one passage: Ladies this was ill luck, but you Have much the worser of the two; The world is chang’d I know not how, For men Kiss Men, not Women now: And your neglected lips in vain Of smuggling Jack and Tom complain: One Man to lick the other’s Cheek; And only what renews the shame Of J. the First and Buckingham6: He, true it is, his Wives Embraces fled to slabber his lov’d Ganimede; But to employ, those lips were made for Women in Gomorrha’s Trade Bespeaks the Reason ill design’d of railing thus ‘gainst Woman-kind: For those that Loves as Nature teaches, That had not rather kiss the Breeches Of Twenty Women, than to lick The bristles of one Male dear Dick? (pp. 12–13) The “new man” of Restoration England was transformed into a feminized, feminine “invert,” as vain, petty, and pretty as any woman. Interestingly, accusations of pettiness, vanity, and femininity then became rhetorical weapons of both male and female pamphleteers in the renegotiations of gender relations, just as accusations of “masculinization” also fueled this sexual discourse, as in women accusing men of being sexual brutes and men accusing women of insatiable lust. Contemporary commentators were conscious of how several of the structural changes in English society had produced the conditions for these changes,
From Lord and Master to Cuckold and Fop
although they did not have the historical distance, perhaps, to disaggregate these changes into several component parts that we might identify as causal. To the late 17th-century mind, however, the city represented, encapsulated, these structural transformations; urbanization was the consummate expression of structural transformation. For one thing, the city was the location of vice, uncontrolled and possibly uncontrollable: For let the Church be empty as it will You’ll see the Playhouse and the tavern fill Whole afternoons, whole nights they’ll squander there Yet can’t spare one poor minute on’t for Pray’r. This is the Sum of a Licentious town Where lewdness is into example grown. (Fifteen Comforts of Whoring, 1706, p. 8) It is in the city that women can seek their pleasures as well as men, and where, once tempted, they are unable to resist its magnetic lure. In The Fifteen Comforts of a Wanton Wife (1706–1707), the male writer quotes his wife who, caught cheating on him, faces the confrontation with a strong assertion of her commitment to continue her behavior: Of such foul deeds my Conscience now is clear But this I tell you for your further ease Where I have been, I’ll do when’ere I please Do you think I’ll be kepp in like a Drone While others reap the pleasures of the Town. (p. 8) Not only does the city liberate women, turning them into wanton, disrespectful and arrogant wenches, but the city feminizes men, removing them from the land (the source of productive labor, and hence diligence and masculine discipline) and exposing these rough-hewn rural men to the effete life of the fop. In part, the city represents other cultures, more feminized and more refined; travel to other countries, especially to France, is to be shunned. Of course, this idea provides the occasion for a bit of xenophobic anti-French sentiment to surface, linking feminization to treason and traditional masculinity to patriotism: So strangely does Parisian air Change English Youth, that half a year Makes em forget all Native Custome To bring French modes, and Gallic Lust home; Nothing will these Apostates please But Gallic health and French disease.
From Lord and Master to Cuckold and Fop
In French their Quarrels and their fears Their Joys they publish and their Cares In French they quarrel and in French Mon coeur, they cry, to paltry Wench. (p. 15) France is also blamed for gender confusion; A Satyr Against France (1691) accused the French of being noisy, talkative, gossipy, and passive, so: ’Tis to that Fopish Nation that we owe Those antick Dresses that Equip a Beau: So many sorts of Riggins dress the Elf Himself sometimes does hardly know himself. (p. 6) Such passages bring us full circle, returning to the structural changes that had begun to tear at traditional precapitalist English society, suggesting that geopolitical tensions increasingly threatened stability.7 We have observed how structural changes—changes in economic organization, and especially in the structure of work, urbanization, political enfranchisement, and other changes—provoked a crisis in gender relations, expressed as protofeminist claims by women to renegotiate marriage and sexuality along new lines, and by antifeminist men to retain and preserve traditional gender arrangements. Simultaneously, the reformulation of gender prompted women to challenge men’s abandonment of their traditional role, and to suggest that men were, in fact, abandoning masculinity in the wake of women’s claims. Abandoning masculinity implied sexual treason to these women pamphleteers, which is only a special case of political treason. If men were feminized, they might as well be French, for they had forsaken their English birthright and their obligations as freeborn English men. The Chinese character that denotes the word “crisis” is a combination of the characters for “danger” and “opportunity.” In this essay, I have explored a gender crisis in 17th-century England that was perceived as a serious danger, a threat to invert the entire social order. I have indicated how long-term structural transformation of the economic, political, and social organization of a society leads to shifts in the organization of personal life, especially the institutions of marriage and the family. When women seize this opportunity to make new claims against the inherited gender hierarchy, men’s conceptual universe is shaken, and many will scramble, both rhetorically and institutionally, to reassert the traditional gender hierarchy and reestablish patriarchal authority. For other males, however, such gender crisis provides an opportunity, the opportunity to forge new definitions of masculinity as women enlarge the possibilities for being feminine. For some men and women of Restoration England, this re-visioning could only mean imagining worlds of gender equality; for contemporaries, imaginary worlds may become real.
From Lord and Master to Cuckold and Fop
Pamphlets (place of publication is London unless otherwise noted) An Answer to the Pleasures of a Single Life: or the Comforts of Marriage Confirmed and Vindicated with the Misery of Lying Alone Proved and Asserted (1701). An Apology for Women (written by Christopher Newstead) (1620). The Batchelors and Maids Answer to the Fifteen Comforts of Matrimony (1706). The Batchelors Banquet, or The Maid’s Delight (1706). The Duty of a Husband, or The Lady’s Answer to the Duty of a Wife (1706). The Duty of a Wife, by Samuel Jackson (1693). An Essay in Defense of the Female Sex (1696). Ester Hath Hang’d Haman: or An Answer to a Lewd Pamphlet Entituled The Arraignment of Women, by Ester Sowerman (1617). The Female Advocate, or An Answer to a Late Satyr Against the Pride, Lust, and Inconstancy of Women, Really Written By a Lady in Vindication of Her Sex, signed as written by S. F. (Sarah Fige) (1686). The Fifteen Comforts of Cuckoldom (1706). The Fifteen Comforts of Matrimony (1706). The Fifteen Comforts of a Wanton Wife (1706–1707). The Fifteen Comforts of Whoring (1706). The Fifteen Plagues of a Maiden-Head (1707). The Great Birth of Man, or The Excellency of Man’s Creation and Endowment above the Original Woman (1699). Haec and Hic: or, The feminine Gender More Worthy than the Masculine (1683). A Humble Remonstrance of the Batchelors, in and about London, to the Honourable House, in answer to a Late Paper, Intituled a Petition of the Ladies for Husbands (1693). The Levellers: A Dialogue Between Two Young Ladies Concerning Matrimony, Proposing an Act for Enforcing Marriage for the Equality of Matches and Taxing Single Persons, with The Danger of Celibacy to a Nation (1703). The Lost Maiden-Head, or Sylvia’s Farewell to Love. A New Satyr Against Man (1691). Marriage Promoted in a Discourse of its Ancient and Modern Practice (1690). Mundus Foppensis: or, The Fop Displayed, being the Ladies Vindication, in Answer to a Late Pamphlet Entituled Mundus Muliebus (1691). A Mouzell for Meastomus, by Rachel Speght (1617). The Pleasures of a Single Life or The Miseries of Matrimony (1701). The Restor’d Maiden-Head. A New Satyr Against Woman: Occasioned By an Infant Who was the Cause of Death of My Friend (1691). A Satyr Against the French (1691). A Satyr Upon Old Maids (1713). Some Reflections on Marriage, by Mary Astell (1700). Sylvia’s Complaint of Her Sex’s Unhappiness (1688). Sylvia’s Revenge, written by Richard Ames (1988).
From Lord and Master to Cuckold and Fop
The Whore’s and Bawd’s Answer to the Fifteen Comforts of Whoring (l706). The Worming of a Mad Dogge: or A Soppe for the Cerberus of Hell, by Constantia Munda, (1617).
Mundus Foppensis (1691) is reproduced from the copy in the Clark Library (Shelf Mark: *PR1195/S353). Page 17 is misnumbered 24. A typical type page (7) measures 157 x 96 mm. The Levellers is reproduced from the copy of The Harleian Miscellany, volume 5 (1745), pages 416â€“33, in the Clark Library (Shelf Mark: *DA300/H28). The Clark Library holds a copy of the very rare 1703 first edition of The Levellers (Shelf Mark *PR11195/S353), but because of tight binding and close cropping of pages it is not in reproducible condition. We have collated this 1703 edition with The Harleian Miscellany edition of 1745 reproduced here. The 1745 edition corrects minor typographical errors and speech prefixes and conventionalizes spelling and punctuation, but there are few and insignificant substantive changes. A typical type page (421) measures 210 x 138 mm.
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9 “Greedy Kisses” and “Melting Extasy” Notes on the Homosexual World of Early 18th-Century England as Found in Love Letters Between a certain late Nobleman and the famous Mr. Wilson
he twenty letters and the appended commentary contained in Love Letters Between a certain late Nobleman and the famous Mr. Wilson . . . chronicle the course of a fictional homosexual relationship in early 18th-century England. Though the document is an epistolary novel, it can provide a rare glimpse into some fascinating clues about the organization and dynamics of the homosexual underworld of the European 18th century. In particular, we learn about specific practices among gay men, places of assignation, “camping,” various forms of “sex-talk,” an internal, coded language among gay men, and the intrigues undertaken to counter the fear of discovery. What’s more, we are able to better understand the relationship between male homosexuality and other larger-scale structural themes such as class relations and urbanization, as well as the cultural meanings associated with age, class, relationships between women and men and the relations among men. Class, homophobia, and sexism loom large in these letters. Of particular background interest to readers is the way that this homosexual relationship was enacted within English society in the first half of the 18th century. A period of consolidation of economic political changes, the late 17th and early 18th century was also a period of fundamental transformation in the relationship between women and men, and the definitions of masculinity. As women challenged the inherited “micropolitical” patriarchal order, drawing their analogy from the transformation of the state from absolute monarchy to a contract among ostensible equals, the meanings of masculinity were also thrown into question. The “crisis” of masculinity of the late 17th and early 18th century included a lively debate about the meaning of masculinity and heterosexual relationships (see Kimmel, 1987 and Kimmel, 1988 on this question). This debate was carried out in a virtual pamphlet war between women and men, in which the two sexes tried to redefine their relationship.1 Marriage and sexuality were two key areas of discourse in this pamphlet war. Some 191
“Greedy Kisses” and “Melting Extasy”
women pamphleteers wrote attacks on male infidelity and expressed their ambivalence about marriage and their interest in sexual pleasure, while some acerbic attacks on female frigidity and insatiability (often in the same pamphlet!), eloquently defended prostitution, and chastised women’s vanity. Women’s attacks on men merged with a more general disapproval and sanctioning of homosexuality in two distinct ways. First, both relied on notions of effeminacy as a vehicle to criticize contemporary masculinity. If men were rejecting their traditional roles, women reasoned, perhaps they were abandoning women and masculinity altogether. Women often complained that men were growing soft and weak; just as women rejected femininity, men seemed to be jumping to embrace it. One pamphlet from 1703 complains that The Men, they are grown full and Effeminate as the Women: we are rivall’d by ’em even in the Fooleries peculiar to our Sex: They Dress like Anticks and Stage Players, and are as ridiculous as Monkeys; they sit in monstrous long Periwigs, like so many owles in Ivy-Bushes, and esteem themselves upon the Reputation of being a Beau, than on the Substantial Qualifications, of Honour, Courage, Learning, and Judgement . . . If you heard ’em talk, you’d think yourself at a Gossiping at Dover, or that you heard the learned Confabulation of the Boys in the Piazzas of Christs Hospital. (The Levellers, 1703, pp. 5–6) Women’s anger at a perceived feminization of English men also emerges in other pamphlets of the era. In Mundus Foppensis: or, The Fop Displayed (1691) there are charges that men are cross-dressing: I could produce ye Emperours That sate in Women’s dress whole hours (p. 9) and wearing make-up: Hard case to blame the Ladies Washes When Men are come to mend their faces Yet some there are such Women grown They can’t be by their faces known. (p. 10) These men, the pamphlet claims, are more concerned with hairstyle than substance: How is the Barber held divine That can a Perriwig Carine! (p. 10) And the adoption of these traditionally feminine preoccupations by men is part of a more general embrace of vanity:
“Greedy Kisses” and “Melting Extasy”
Far must more time Men trifling Wast E’er their soft bodies can be drest The Looking Glass hangs just before And each o’th’ Legs requires an hour. (p. 11) The portrait of the “feminized” man suggests a fear of men’s abandonment of traditional roles. Men were coming to resemble women on the surface, the pamphlet argues, because they were coming to resemble women’s sociosexual affective patterns. Men were not only abandoning their roles, they were abandoning women. This equation of effeminacy and homosexuality simmers below the surface in many pamphlets of the period; in Mundus Foppensis it is explicitly discussed in a not-very-well veiled allusion to the sexual preferences of James I: Ladies this was ill luck, but you Have much the worser of the two; The world is chang’d I know not how, For men Kiss Men, not Women now; And your neglected lips in vain Of smuggling Tom and Jack complain: One Man to lick the other’s Cheek; And only what renews the shame Of J. the First and Buckingham: He, true it is, his Wives Embraces fled To slobber his lov’d Ganimede; But to employ, those lips were made For Women in Gomorrha’s Trade Bespeaks the Reason ill design’d of railing thus, ‘gainst Woman-kind: For those that Loves as nature teaches, That had not rather kiss the Breeches Of twenty women, than to lick The bristles of one Male dear Dick? (pp. 12–13) Another later pamphlet, Satan’s Harvest Home (1749), also makes the connection between effeminacy and homosexuality in a chapter called “‘The Effeminacy of our Men’s Dress and Manners”: tho many Gentleman of Worth, are oftentimes, out of pure good Manners, obliged to give into it [i.e., squeezing of the hand]: yet the Land [England] will never be purged of its Abominations til this Unmanly, Unnatural Usage be totally abolish’d: for it is the first Inlet to the detestable Sin of Sodomy. (cited in Rousseau, 1985, p. 150)
“Greedy Kisses” and “Melting Extasy”
Interestingly, the fear of homosexuality and its link to effeminacy in men is also articulated with several large-scale structural changes in early modern English society. For example, urbanization loomed large in the public mind as both an enervating and a sexually corrupting force; the city was the center of vice, uncontrolled and possibly uncontrollable. The city feminized men, removing them from the land and exposing these rough-hewn rural men to the effete life of the fop, as in A Hell Upon Earth, or, The Town in an Uproar . . . Occassion’d by the late Horrible Scenes of Sodomy, and Other Shocking Impieties (1729). Anti-urbanism also articulated with anti-French sentiments, as the French came to symbolize all that was effeminate and refined in the urban fop. In Mundus Foppensis, for example, feminization is linked to treason, and traditional masculinity to patriotism: So strangely does Parisian air Change English Youth, that half a year Makes em forget all Native Custome to bring French modes, and Gallic Lust home; Nothing will these Apostates please But Gallic health and French disease. In French their Quarrels and their fears Their Joys they publish and their cares In French their quarrel and in French Mon coeur, they cry, to paltry Wench. (p. 15) France is also blamed for gender confusion; A Satyr Against France (1691) accused the French of being noisy, talkative, gossipy, and passive, so that: ’Tis to that Fopish Nation that we owe Those antick Dresses that Equip a Beau: So many sorts of Riggins dress the Elf Himself sometimes does hardly know himself. (p. 6) If men were going to act in an effeminate way, these pamphlets seemed to say, they might as well be French, for they had forsaken their English birthright and their obligations as freeborn English men. Mundus Foppensis and other pamphlets suggest that the cause of men’s abandonment of masculinity lay in the enervating effect of urban life, the emasculating qualities of peacetime, and the influence of French culture on traditional English manliness; it thus expresses “a fear that a demilitarized, urban society will be an emasculated society” (Woodbridge, 1984, p. 291). The homosexual underworld of early 18th-century London can be understood by placing it in this context of gender conflict and a crisis of masculinity.
“Greedy Kisses” and “Melting Extasy”
The urban world offered anonymity and the possibility of life without marriage to women. But it also offered danger in recharged efforts to reconstitute traditional masculinity by repressing “deviants.” For example, Trumbach notes that England and the Netherlands in the early 18th century were both the most modern societies in Europe and “the two to experience the most intense waves of sodomy prosecution” (Trumbach, 1985, p. 113). These themes emerge clearly in Love Letters Between a certain late Nobleman and the famous Mr. Wilson. Perhaps most significant to our modern sensibilities, the early 18th century witnessed the transformation of homosexuality from a set of behaviors to a type of individual. Prior to the 18th century, men could engage in homosexual acts, to be sure, but the larger culture did not view those as indicating a different and deviant type of individual. The homosexual, one whose erotic desire was focused entirely on his or her own sex, was a relatively new phenomenon. The term “homosexual” was not used, of course, but the term seems to have changed its usage from an adjective, specific behaviors, to a noun, describing a type of individual. In part, the origins of the specific homosexual identity, the sodomite, lay in the rise of individualism in early 18th-century England. The English revolutions of 1640 and 1688 proclaimed the sanctity of the individual citizen, and reframed the state as a contract among individuals. Puritanism and other reforming religious doctrines posited a primary relationship between the individual and God, unmediated by church or priest. The fragmentation of urban life wrenched people from their historical roots on the land, and provided a sphere of autonomous action far greater than English men and women had ever experienced. The rise of the individual and the shifts in gender identity already had profound implications for the development of a homosexual identity, as well as for the scripting of sexual desire. In the earlier model, as Trumbach notes, “the debauchee or libertine who denied the relegation of sexuality to marriage had been able to find, especially in cities, women and boys with whom he might indifferently, if sometimes dangerously, enact his desires” (Trumbach, 1985, p. 118). However, by the early 18th century, sexual desire had become firmly linked to gender identity; now: most men conceived first of all that they were male, because they felt attraction to women and to women alone. Gender differences were presumed therefore to be founded on an ineradicable difference of experience: men did not know what it was like to desire men, and women did not desire women, though in the minds of men, and perhaps of women too, the latter was less so. (Trumbach, 1985, p. 118) In such a culture, the link between gender and sexuality became fixed, and “the sodomite became an individual interested exclusively in his own gender,
“Greedy Kisses” and “Melting Extasy”
and inveterately effeminate and passive” (Trumbach, 1985, p. 118; emphasis added). In this context, Love Letters . . . illuminates the underworld of male homosexuality in particularly interesting ways. Increased prosecution of sodomites underlies the tangled plots and veiled deceptions that these two men undertook to ensure their clandestine relationship went undetected. Even so, the danger of exposure hovers above each encounter, and results in a series of intrigues to avoid detection and incidences of both “baiting” and “bashing” when young Mr. Wilson is accosted on the streets wearing women’s clothing. The labyrinthian plot to deceive a suspicious Mrs. Villieres is worthy of Agatha Christie. Underlying the fear of detection is a parallel concern about homosexual identity. Both men are constantly demanding proof that they are indeed homosexual—not simply sexual partners, but truly committed to one another. These doubts and challenges emerge most clearly in a remarkable sequence of misogynist passages, in which each attempts to rhetorically demonstrate his contempt and disdain for women as a demonstration of his devotion to his male partner. Each admits a fear of losing the other to women, which also invites another round of vicious antiwomen exclamations. A historical connection between male homosexuality and misogyny is cemented in the emergence of the homosexual as an erotic identity.2 This misogynistic current gets even fuller play in the appended text, in which the nobleman deliberately works the ruin of Cloris. While such cavalier cruelty is partially fueled by an indifference structured by class rank, the narrator believes it to be propelled more strongly by a desire for revenge against a young woman because she is a woman. The deliberate calculation of her undoing is a reminder that women did not participate equally in the historical origins of individualism, and that male homosexuals, defined as effeminate and passive, could still conform to the norms of a misogynist masculinity in relation to women. Finally, Love Letters . . . reveals much about the early 18th-century world of the homosexual. Even though the document is contrived to titillate a scandal-hungry literate public, we can infer the existence of an empirical basis for the description of homosexual behaviors. The author could hardly have invented what was not at least believed by the reading public. And in the document, we find confirmations of various sexual practices—masturbation, places of assignation, “camping,” and cross-dressing. The lovers shared an intimate private language, with veiled sexual references. And they knew that their passion, constructed within a crisis of gender identity and the product of larger social shifts, and expressed within and distorted by a repressive culture, was also genuine and vital, and provided moments of “greedy Kisses” and “melting Extasy.”
LOVE LETTERS Between a certain late NOBLEMAN And the famous MR. WILSON DISCOVERING The True History of the Rise and surprising Grandeur of that celebrated BEAU Printed for A. Moore, near St. Paul London, 1745 (originally published, 1723)
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The Preface It is to be expected, that upon the reading the Title of these Letters, the Curious will not be a little alarm’d at a Piece of History which has lain so long in the Dark, and is now, more by Chance than another Means, coming so fair and open. The only Contest among the politer of Mankind will be, Whether the Facts are true, and the Letters genuine, or only a fictitious Scene of the worst Sort of Gallantry, and the Product of a mercenary Pen. To obviate the first Objection, we shall only say that we have not had Discovery how the party who is the Subject of these Memoires kept up that profuse Grandeur, in which he liv’d within the Memory of Multitudes still surviving. The Reader will find, in the Course of the Letters the same dark Guesses, and Conjectures concerning this Meteor of Mortality, as are publish’d from Mouth to Mouth, and born the least Foundation of Truth, and he has been the same Mystery since Dead, as he was when living. But the Discovery made in the following Papers, sets the Matter quite upon another Bottom, and gives it all the Probability that an Affair of the odious and criminal a Nature can possibly have. Had there been more said, it might have render’d the while suspected; and therefore the Editor has been obliged to connect the broken Parts of the Story by some additional Remarks which have come to his Knowledge from several Hands, with which the Parties were very familiar. As to the second Part of the Objection, it might be a Fancy or Imagine such as are every Day obtruded upon the World, under the Notion of true History as He takes the Liberty to assure the World that the Originals were found in the Cabinet of the Deceas’d, which had Pass’d thro’ some Hands, before the private Drawer, the Lodgement of this Scene of Guilt, was discover’d. How, or by what Means this was done and from what Hand they are made publick, is a Point too tender and consequential to relate. But we can appeal to a better Taste for these Letters being genuine, especially to such who have any Taste of Style or Delicacy of Writing. They are too polite and written with an Air too peculiar not to be distinguished from the Productions of afeigned Intrigue. The Thing Speaks itself, and any one, without Preface or Commentary, might easily see by the naked Letters, that they could not come from any Person, but one of Birth, and Figure, and many other Court like Accomplishments. There is still behind another Objection to the Publication, which we will not dissemble, and that is, the Scandal of the Vice here described thro the Course of these Papers. The dead Languages are full enough of luscious Pictures of this Kind, and we don’t find the Moderne Scruple to translate them, in order, as we may suppose, to raise a greater Abhorrence of a Sin which is not familiar to our Northern Climate. It is easy enough to take away all Offence of
Illustrations are from the 1745 edition, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, University of California, Los Angeles, and are placed as close as possible to their location in the text.
this Kind, by applying the Passion of these Letters to distinct Sexes, which we desire the Reader to do, and then heâ€™ll be a better Judge of the Spirit of the Writer. All the Weeds will then vanish, or be turnâ€™d into Flowers, and in that View let them be seen. We must beg Pardon for not publishing one Letter which relates to a Person now living, of too great an Interest and Figure, in this whole Concern, to be meddled with at present. All that can be said is, that no Reader of common Sense can mistake the Party, and we have no Reason to help his Conjectures, when the Case is so evident. Another Opportunity may make that Supplement both a necessary and useful Key to the whole Adventure, till when, farewell.
To Mr. Wilson. Say, was it a cold Insensibility that caused you to shun a Challenge, where to give and receive excess of Pleasure, was to have been the only Combat between us; or conscious of your own matchless Charms, are you resolv’d with peevish, coy Pride, to be won at the Expense of a thousand Inquietudes and restless fond Desires, you Force me to endure. If you are of a turn insensible to Pleasure, I know Gold has the greatest ascendant over you; for all covet it for what it purchases. This Bill may convince you, I have that in my Power: I can be Fortune to you, and with many Blessings, I’ll crown the chiefest Wishes of your Heart; only hasten to gratify the eager Impatience of mine, that longs to fold you in these Arms, where you may secure me, ever yours. Greenwich Park, be behind Flamtead’s House, and I shall see you, to Morrow Nine at Night, don’t fail to come.
To——— You might justly have reproach’d my backwardness in meeting a Challenge, had it been possible to have discern’d, that either Love or Rage had dictated those ambiguous Phrases, which lay liable to variety of Constructions: I was convinced it came from no mean Hand, and for me to fix it, might be Presumption; but you have done me the Honour to disclose the Misery by the forfeit and most agreeable way in Nature: For tho’ I’m not afraid to meet a brave Man’s Sword, the Indearments of a fine Lady are infinitely preferable. Then how great must be her Power, to inspire the Souls of others with that dear bewitching Passion, who can herself express it with so much Force and Delicacy: After all this, and the many delightful Ideas my fond Imagination has rais’d, how needless is the Charge of not failing to be at the Time and Place appointed.
To Mr. Wilson, I Had not above an hundred Pieces by me when I receiv’d yours, which made me send, swift as the Minutes, to the Bank to fetch this. I would have my Willy believe, I am never so delighted, as when I am doing that which may convince him, how very dear he is to his nown Love: Then come away, the Bath is ready, that I may Wrestle with it, and pit it, and pat it, and———it; and then for cooler Sport, devour it with greedy Kisses; for Venus, and all the Poet’s Wenches are but dirty Dowdies to thee. Put on the Brussels Head and Indian Atlass I lent yesterday.
To the Same.
My dearest Dear. Last Night I was in Company with some of thy Acquaintance; amongst other strange Wonders, it was started how you liv’d; drowzy N———k said, He thought it was so extraordinary, it would not be amiss, if the Parliament took it into Consideration: That, replied squeaking F———I believe Mrs. V———ll———s will prevent: Several Conjectures were made; as French Money, the Jew’s Jewels, Mistresses; or else, a Contract with the Devil, which occasion’d a learned Dispute, Whether there is such a Gentleman, or no? At last it was agreed, nemine Contradicente, to make you Drunk, and then try to sift you, they knowing you intend for Turnbridge on Tuesday. At Night the Plot is laid, which I would have you give into; pretend you are giddy before the Rest; I shall be the activist in this Farce, and, perhaps, rudely press for the Secret: Be wary, How hard will it be to treat you so different from the fond Sentiments my Heart has for you? who are all, all, the Delight for it. Don’t let us meet, nor be seen together, ‘till this Business is over.
To the Same.
They are all devilishly puzzled about you; it is pleasant to see how the Ideot’s Curiosities are raised by this Disappointment; do you retire to Town as resenting it; In two or three Days I will follow, not being able longer to stay from Thee, the softest, loveliest Joy, my doting Heart e’er possest: But begone then, and when the dull three Days are over, I’ll fly to my Dearest, in whole Arms, I shall be recompens’d for so tedious an Absence, and there laugh at all their ridiculous Conjectures. Wednesday nine a Clock.
To the Lord.
My Lord, After I had parted from your Lordship last Night, I was stop’d and accosted in a very extraordinary manner, and in spite of all the Resistance I was able to make, under the Disadvantage of my Female Dress, was carried off by a Crew of Ruffians, under the Pretence of Debt, by a sham Name and Action. A Fellow who had discover’d my Visits to you, endeavor’d, first with flattering Means, and then by bullying me with a Pistol at my Breast, to make me reveal what those private Meetings between us meant; but finding I despis’d all his Threats, in Consideration of what an Injury it might be to my dearest LORD: I, at last, found a Way to work on him, by fair Promise of Rewards, so as to get out of him, that a certain GREAT LADY who knows all her Actions are back’d by a superiour Power, had a Hand in it. When your Lordship permits me the Honour of relating the Particulars more at large, your discerning Judgment will not only discover the Motives that induc’d her to it, but direct me how to deceive her, as to the Knowledge she already has got, having made her Engine my Creature, who waits my Orders, as I do your Lordship’s, with great Impatience; that Indulgence, my dear Lord, has at all Times, been pleased to extend towards me, will, I hope, pardon my Dread of losing it, and condescend to give me your Commands how to avoid it.
To Mr. Wilson, It was one a Clock before I receiv’d Yours, being, till then, with the King, or I had flown to you as soon as I had heard the News of my dear Willy’s being ill; a thousand dreadful Apprehensions about your health made me as restless as I am afraid your Disorder did you: Should envious Death take Thee, my dearest Blessing from me, I am undone: I can’t be easy till I see you; therefore let every Body be out of the Way, that I may come with more Freedom, to my only Beloved, which will be in half an Hour.
To Mr. Wilson Did I not strictly charge my dearest Boy, at parting, not to omit one Opportunity of acquainting me with his returning Health, by which alone my Joys can be restored? six Posts have past, and yet no Notice taken of its forlorn expecting dying Lover: Tell me the Cause of this, if thou are able; but I’m afraid thou can’st not, or dur’st not do it; either thy Illness is relaps’d with a malicious Bent to make eternal Separation, and thou hast too much Tenderness to kill me with the Knowledge of it; or I have been remiss, or over fond, and cloy’d thee; that thou dost artfully withdraw thyself from these loathed Arms; or dost thou vilely descend to the low Subtilties of the inferiour Sex, who, to enhance their Price, play at fast and loose, insult and idly triumph over the Sot that does more idly suffer such a Drab to gain the ascendant. Forgive me, my dear Willy, if I wrong Thee; lay all the Blame on this unruly Passion: A Plague confound those lying Dogs of Poets, who to delude and torture all Mankind, would palm it on us as a Heaven of Pleasure———Damn’d Spite,———It’s Hell to love and doat to Madness, as I do on Thee. Answer me quickly if thou canst; say something to me; if it be a Lye, let it be a well invented one; and it will please. You see I’m mad by G——— I had forgot to bid you inclose to Her at Park Corner; direct mine for Mrs. Gray.
To the Lord ———
My Lord, After a long, long fruitless Expectation of your Command how to direct to you, which your Lordship may remember was not fix’d on, tho’ I often urged it, I have been so wretched to construct it as a Mark of your declining Favour: as the Tortures of my Soul are expressible under such bitter Affliction, so are my Joys as full to find them causeless: Those soft complaining passionate Expressions transported me beyond my Strength to bear, and then revived me with your kind Rebukes; what followed raised an Extasy too great: The past Conflicts of my Mind, under the imaginary Displeasure of my dearest Lord, made me regardless of the Disorders of my Body, which since your Lordship has enjoy’d shall be more my Care; my Fate is wholly in your Power, and you have vouchsafed to bless me above all Men. Command me to be well and live; but not (for Oh! I cannot) live without you: Recall me from this restless Banishment, or honour me with your loved Presence here; the Beauties of the Place have such Enticements, which, with other Reasons, I am inform’d, have long detained some Persons of Distinction on odd lntreagues, perhaps, not unworthy your Lordship’s Notice. I am, My Lord, Ex.
To the Lord——— My Lord, Eager to acquaint your Lordship with my Return to Town, I dispatched a Messenger that Moment with a Letter, who failing of the wish’d Opportunity, to deliver it as usual, I went immediately to the Play, in Hopes to gratify my Impatience by seeing you there; but contrary to that, had the Mortification to find one Misfortune attended by a still greater; when as sometime to disguise my secret Affection, I survey Beauty with as much seeming Delight as other Men; Curiosity led me to make Enquiry of a fine dress’d Lady, I had never before observ’d to adorn any publick Place; but how was I confounded, and what racking Thoughts possess me, when I understood she was a new favourite Mistress of your Lordship, obtain’d, with much Difficulty; so that, my Lord, my missing you last Night, which then only seemed Chance, may probably hereafter appear to me your Lordship’s Choice: I refer to your own Judgment, which never errs in Matters of far higher Importance than my Happiness, and who are so well acquainted with all the Passions that can affect human Nature, that it would be Presumption to send you my feeble Discription, of what I suffer on this hateful Discovery. I only flatter myself with one Hope, attended by a thousand Doubts, which two or three Lines from your Lordship will confirm or disperse: I long, yet dread to have your Answer, which I am certain you won’t fail to send, as soon as this comes to your Hands If you have any Regard for, My Lord, Your most entirely, most passionately devoted Servant, W. Wilson
To Mr. Wilson. Did it fret and tease itself because I have got a Wench, but don’t let one Fear perplex it: When I have Thee in my arms, thou shalt see how I despise all the Pleasures that changeling Sex can give compared to one Touch of thine; it’s true, I had her dirty Maidenhead, which I took some Pains for; not so much to amuse the dull Time in thy tedious Absence, which no Consideration but your dear Health, could have made me comply with; as to stop some good nartur’d Reflections I found made on my Indifference that way. But thou alone art every, and all the Delight my greedy Soul covets, which is heightened to such Excess, that even pains me, to find my dear Willy has such a Tenderness for its nown Love; then hasten to my fond Heart, that leaps and bounds with Impatience to see Thee, and devour thee with greedy Kisses.
LOVE LETTER XII.
To the Lord ———
My Lord, It is not to be express’d with how much Rapture I receiv’d your Lordship’s Commands to attend you, and if it were possible that could increase with me, it is even now, when the different Transports of my Soul prevent my ready Obedience to them. Can I support your adored Presence with the Torture of not seeing you entirely my own. No, my Lord, the Greatness of my Passion created and inspired by you, has disdained to share a Pleasure with that base, low, dull, insinuating Sex; let not one of them presume to hope the least Thought, in your exalted Mind, or noble Appetites, and condemn the ideal medling insipid World; but I forget myself, and save with the distracting Thought, that any thing in Nature should be able to interpose between us; pardon, my dearest Lord, when I assume to joyn myself with you; remember, it is a Crime you first descended to encourage me in, and impute it to no other Spirit of Ambition, but that of being inseparably, Your Lordship’s most obedient Slave, W. Wilson
To Mr. Wilson. Are these my Willy’s Raptures, that instead hisself, sends me only Words? Why this Difficulty about a Trifle I despise? For all Things are so, compared to Thee; she shall be turn’d a drift, and I will condemn the ideal medling World, and nothing shall interpose between us; for thou canst be guilty of no Crime to me, but that of this peevish Absence, which I shall chide it for, and beat it, and then eat it up with greedy kisses. I have got the six pretty Horses, it said it liked before it left the Town, and something it can’t know of till it comes. Make Haste.
To the Lord ———
My Lord, When your Lordship past me yesterday in the Mall, it’s probable, you might see me take up a Pocket-book, which I found with six and thirty Letters from a very great Man to a Lady, who must have dropt it just then; they, discovering an Amour of some Continuance between ’em, and wherein was an Order for fifty Pounds payable to the Bearer, under his Grace’s Hand, I saw it absolutely necessary to return it entire to the Lady, but with such Caution, as she can never be sensible who it is has had the perusal of her Paquet. The Spirit of ’em throughout, to me, seems low and wrangling, but suppose ’em writ with infinitely more Force than even this great celebrated Man is said to be Master of. What must they appear to those who have the Honour to have a frequent Correspondence with your Lordship. I took Time to copy four of the most remarkable Letters, and only wish they may prove as instrumental to divert your present Shagreen, as the Secret you were so well entertain’d with some Time since, concerning that noble Peer who lay in. I flatter myself it wont be long, before I have Orders to attend your Lordship.
To Mr. Wilson, Is this thy Faith? Is this thy Return to all my foolish lavish Fondness? It seems I have taught you a Trade, and Harlot-like you intend to be as common and as despicable as those abject Wretches [We must beg Pardon of the Reader for omitting here some Lines which are in the Original of this Letter, being too obscene to be inserted]. May every Disease incident to them infect and destroy thee. What, couldst thou find none but that our nauseous Dog to kiss and slobber thee? Don’t pretend to deny it, for by ——— I saw him: Had not a little Regard to my self prevented, I had stabb’d thee that Moment. I suppose you intend to hide your detested Head in some Hole, to escape my Rage; but my Revenge shall find thee, and punish thy black Ingratitude: an Ingratitude so vile, that thou deservest to be a terrible Example to all that base Srye: Did not I take thee from a wretched necessitous Life, perplex’d with petty Duns, and have raised thee to be the Nation’s Wonder? Have I deny’d thee any thing? but have been so lavish to make thee (or thou pretendest) to blush at my Excess of Bounty: But now I will be as boundless in my Hatred as I have been profuse in my extravagant Love. May all ——— torture thee, as thy Baseness does me.
To the Lord ——— May all the detestable Curves your Lordship has been pleased to pronounce, with ten thousand more, inflict ——— if I know or can guess what you mean. Is it to try the Bent of my Mind, under the most calamitous of all Circumstances, your Lordship’s dread Displeasure? as you have before done the other Way, in raising me from that abject Fortune to your high Grace, dispensing Favours beyond my own aspiring Hopes, or vainest Desires; which when I cease most gratefully to acknowledge, as is my Duty, or give just Cause of Offence, either by Action or Omission, may all the Valuable World, nay, what is infinitely preferable to all, your Lordships self, continue to hate, despise, and brand me, for the most villanous of all that black and loathsome Herd you have already rank’d me with. Am I not the Creature of your Framing, to rise, to fall, to live or die, to mould and fashion as you please? And should I dare to repine at, or more basely endeavour to hide my self from the Fate you have allotted me? It is thinking too poorly of the Wretch, your Lordship once vouchsafed to honour with your Love and Esteem, which, perhaps, you’ll see was not wholly misplaced, when I have an Opportunity to throw myself at your Feet; in the mean Time, devise as many Tortures to rack this hated Body, as at present my Soul endures, and let both fall a willing Sacrifice to gratify your Pleasures. I am, My LORD, Your Lordship’s most faithfully most entirely devoted Slave, W. WILSON.
To Mr. Wilson. Sure thou art false for these Eyes saw you suffer G———n to kiss and slobber you, you have disarm’d my Anger, wou’d you could my Doubts: Let them see you, but come with certain Proofs of thy Faith, that I may not be fatal to Thee and myself: Swear never to see that hated Dog, and I’ll believe Thee; You have a powerful Advocate within, that would fain find Thee true; the very Hope, is a Joy, great as ever fill’d my Breast; then what must the Certainty be? Add that to the many Raptures thou alone could’st give, and I will be thy humble Slave for ever; but take Heed or you’ll find my Wrath terrible, exceeding even the Malice of Women.
To the Lord ———
My Lord, With longing Expectation of the coming Joy, I was flying to attend your Appointment; when taking my Tour, according to Custom, I observed some Persons, well known to your Lordship, who took the Pains to dog me; the particulars of which whimsical Adventure I’ll relate when I have the Honour to approach you next in private, in the mean Time your Lordship I hope will not blame my cautious Retreating; and give me leave to say, I wait your fresh Orders with the utmost Impatience.
To Mr. Wilson.
My dearest Boy. This impertinent Letter I have sent Thee, was brought me up this Morning; they told me the Fellow would not give his Name but press’d to have it deliver’d as something of Consequence to me; could I be angry with my darling Rogue, I should chide it from this Neglect that you did not contrive with me or some other Way to get rid of him; go or send to him immediately without taking Notice you have heard from me, and be very smooth with him, till I be able to manage it so as to make the Impudent Rascal wish he had been ignorant, or at least not fancy in my Affairs; after you have been with him come away to me; for one melting Extasy, thou alone can’st give, will recompense a thousand such Uneasinesses, ——— D———n this confounded Hurry of Business, which has debarr’d me of Thee these five Days, and forced me last Night to make use of my Pillow which was as insipid as a ———.
To Mr. L———
Sir, Is it possible that a Man of Honour and good-Nature, as Mr. L——— should be stirr’d by imaginary Injuries to treat his Friend after so surprizing and inhuman a Manner, as the taxing me with Crime to him whose Welfare you must needs be sensible I have ever had, and shall continue, the most tender Regard for. I protest solemnly, so far have I been from harbouring a Thought of Dishonour to your Family, that I prefer it every Way to my own; and would sooner run on my Damnation than offer Injuries, or omit Opportunities of paying my grateful Acknowledgements for your singular Favours; I am not insensible the real Offence taken was more justly grounded, unhappily, by one we are unable to contend with. And it is a great Misfortune to have it placed to my Account, which I shall use my speediest Endeavours to acquit my self of, by straining my utmost Interest to give you all the Satisfaction you can require, as a Gentleman who have so much obliged, and may so entirely command, Your most humble Servant. W. Wilson
OBSERVATIONS ON THE FOREGOING LETTERS. It is evident by the Beginning of the first Letter, that there was a preceeding one from his Lordship, but wrote in so ambiguous a Manner that Wilson, who was as yet a Stranger to his Passion, could not by that be induc’d to accept the Challenge; which put his Lordship on another Project, and naturally led him to imagine that a Cash-Note must be the only Bait to draw this cold Insensible. Yet even this Letter was not open enough to discover the Sex of the Writer; for Wilson in the following one appears with all the Extasies of an impatient Lover, in the delusive Expectations of meeting a fine Lady; which, undoubtedly, were rais’d from the Words of the unknown, who says, Where to give and receive excess of Pleasure was to have been the only Combat between us. But had he consider’d how awkwardly the polite Softness of that Sex is imitated, the most lascivious of them generally expressing themselves, tho’ in as Passionate, yet in a much decenter Manner, he would soon have been convic’d of his Error, especially, by the last Line, where he says you may secure me ever yours, which is different from the Sentiments of the Fair, who know their chief Power is in gaining, and all their Hopes to keep depends only on the Faith of the Lover. What the Consequence of that interview was, appears through the whole course of these Letters; but the next of them must surprise the Reader, where he sees so unnatural an Appetite express’d in so tender, passionate, and obscene a Manner; but what will appear most strange is his Lordship’s Orders to Wilson to be dress’d for this amorous Encounter in the Habit of the Sex he shews so great a Contempt for: By this Time we perceive their Intimacy was very great, and that it was the Interest of both to prevent the least Discovery; for Wilson became the Wonder of the whole Town, who from being a private necessitous Dependant on Fortune, seem’d now to be the Ruler of her; the Eyes of all were turn’d on him; his Splendor, Gayety, and Dress was the Delight of the Fair, and the Envy of his own Sex; some were resolv’d to find out the hidden Source of all his Grandure, and destroy this Meteor of Profuseness; the several Conjectures made on him, and their Resolutions were discover’d by his Lordship, as we find in Letter IV. Who to frustrate their Designs agrees to be at the Head of the Conspiracy, and press to know the Secret of his Living; Wilson being thus apprised of their Designs, guarded himself against them at their Meeting, where his Lordship, as before agreed, insisted on the Discovery of it, but he, pretending a Resentment, left Turnbridge, and shortly after, in order to prevent the least Suspicion of his Lordship’s being in the Secret, sent word by some of his Friends, in a publick Manner, that he thought himself injur’d by this Treatment; and, in particular, by his Lordship; that it did not become a Person of his Lordship’s Character to be concern’d in such an Affair, tho’ to One so, much his Inferior; his Lordship, in as publick a Manner, own’d himself in the wrong, and, at the same Time, hinted that somebody very powerful must
support him. This was their first Plot to destroy suspicion; the rest which I shall relate, must, by all, be own’d to be the Masterpieces in their kind, and to excel the most Jesuitical Designs that ever were known; this Management may convince the World that his Lordship was no less a Politician in his private Affairs, than he was in the Publick; he seems himself highly pleas’d with it, because by that he had left them in a greater Perplexity than ever. But tho’ no light could be gain’d from thence, yet not long after, an unlucky Accident fell out, which had it not been countermanag’d with abundance of Art and Cunning, must inevitably have discover’d their Intimacy, and cast an everlasting Odium on them; for it having been conjectur’d that Mrs. V———ll———s (who is the great LADY mention’d in Letter VI) was the Person who had thus rais’d him, and coming to her Knowledge, she was very uneasy, believing if such a Report spread, it might Occasion a Difference between her and the Power who supported her; but certainly nothing but a secret Esteem for him; with that Curiosity, natural to her Sex, could induce her to so formidable an Attempt to discover his mysterious Affairs. In order to this, she set Spies to watch him from Place to Place, who found he usually din’d with different People of Quality, and saunter’d away the Afternoon at Court, Park, or Play, with such other Amusements; and that often about ten at Night, he dismiss’d his Equipage, and took a Chair, which carry’d him to a private House near Hyde Park Corner, into which he enter’d by a Key he had with him; where they waited to observe who else went in or out; but nothing was seen to move or stir in or about the House ‘till about Five the next Morning, at which Time he generally return’d. After this Mrs. V———ll———s sent one of her Spies there to enquire for Lodgings, a Bill being on the Door for that Purpose, who was answer’d by an old Woman who kept the House, that she did not care for Men; the next Day she sent another Spy, who enquir’d for Lodgings for a young Lady, who was told by the same old Woman, that Women Lodgers she could by no Means fatigue herself with; which plainly convinc’d them that her Bill was only a Blind. Mrs. V———ll———s Curiosity was heighten’d by all this to that Degree, that she could not rest ‘till farther Discoveries were made; they found a back Passage to the House, by which they supposed some Person gave him a Meeting there; accordingly, the House being on both Sides carefully watch’d, Wilson went in the Street Way, as usual, and in less than an Hour after, the Old Woman provided a Chair at the Back Door, which was immediately fill’d by one in the Habit of a Lady, whom they follow’d to the Nobleman’s, about four Hours after, they saw the same Person return to the Back Door, and shortly after, Wilson went out at the Street Door directly Home. Mrs. V———ll———s finding to be a frequent Practice, concluded, this fine Lady who made her Midnight Visits so constantly to my Lord, could be no other than Wilson himself, but was resolved to be thoroughly satisfy’d, and as Women are quick at Invention, she and her chief Engine, whom I shall call
Johnasco, contrived to have him arrested in his Chair; which was accordingly done, to the great Surprize of the seeming Dame, who alledg’d that the Name and Action were false, and dared them to detain him at their Peril; but they insisted they were not afraid to answer what they did, and if she would not pay down the Debt, which was laid vastly high, they must do their Duty in securing her ‘till she gave in Bail; and notwithstanding he strenuously insisted they were mistaken, they carry’d him to a Spuning-house, and lock’d him up by himself, where he was a short Time left to reflect on this surprising Usage, when Johnasco came into the Room, who with the Pretence of taking him for a Lady, after a Preamble of Complements gave him to understand he was violently in Love with him; and that judging by his Midnight Visits to my Lord— ——his Affections (unfortunately for him) were there pre-engag’d, he had contriv’d this Strategem to get him in his Power, which he was resolved not to part with ‘till his Happiness was completed; by Degrees he began to press for indecent Liberties, which was repuls’d with great Modesty on Wilson’s Side, but in spite of all his Strength and Resistance, the over soon found a Cure for his pretended Passion, by discovering him to be of his own Sex, which chang’d his amorous Addresses into as seeming furious a Rage, threat’ning to kill him unarmed, unless he would confess what all those dark Doings meant; but finding him too steady to be moved by such Menaces, he shifted the Scene of Fidelity to Mrs. V———ll———s, staggering at the Sight of Wilson’s Gold and Promises, which outweighed his Hopes from the other Quarter; thus began the Acquaintance between Johnasco and Wilson, which in the End prov’d fatal to the latter, tho’ for the present he had secured him his Creature. Johnasco returned to Mrs. V———ll———s, who was on the Rack of Expectation to know the Event of her Plot; when seeing him, with eager Impatience she asked him his success; he reply’d, I have discover’d, Madam, that the Person whom you suspected to be Wilson, is really so; but tho’ I have us’d my utmost Endeavours, both by Threats and Promises, to disclose the Mystery of these midnight Visits, I could by no Means prevail; he behav’d himself with so resolute an Obstinacy, that I fear if he is longer detain’d, it may be very injurious to you; I believe he would be glad to excuse what is past, to be set at Liberty; however, I have yet some Hopes of prying into the Cause of this Intrigue. Mrs. V———ll— ——s reflecting on what Johnasco had said, which I suppose Wilson had order’d him to say, intending by that Means to confound and blind her in what she had already found out, gave Orders for his Release, leaving the entire Management of it to Johnasco. Not long after this, my Lord address’d to Mrs. V———ll———s, to obtain a Trifle of the King, with such a Complaisance and an insinuating Respect, that she readily comply’d with his Request, being willing to oblige a Person of his Interest, thinking at the same Time, that her Civility in that Affair would prevent his suspecting her to have a Hand in the Design against Wilson. Some little Time after, my Lord being out of Town, Johnasco inform’d her that he had made one of my Lord’s Servants his Friend, but could not find
by him that any Lady came to my Lord in that private Manner; but that one Night, walking in the Garden, which he had frequently done, both before and since my Lord went out of Town, to make Discoveries, he perceiv’d a Lady, the Shape and Height as Wilson appeared to be of in his Female Dress, come in at the Garden Door, go to one of the Parlour Windows, and give a small Rap, which immediately open’d for her Reception; some Time after she was got in, he crept close to the Window, and heard low talking, but could not distinguish either the Words or Voices; on Enquiry, he found it was the Steward’s Apartment, who was a French Gentleman who pretended to have left his Estate and Country on the Score of Religion, and with his Daughter fled into England. When he had told Mrs. V———ll———s this, with other Circumstances, which he thought would confirm her Belief of it, he gave his Opinion, that he thought it could not be my Lord that Wilson came to, he being at that Time out of Town; that perhaps the Steward might not be so great an Enemy to the French Interest as he pretended, therefore there must be something extraordinary in that misterious Proceeding; which if, says he, my Lord is ignorant of, as I am inclin’d to believe, he wou’d be the propperest Person in finding it out, having a Power over his Steward to call him to an Account, it being his own House in which the Design is carry’d on. Mrs. V———ll———s, who believ’d all he said to her, according to his Advice, acquainted my Lord with it as soon as he came to Town, who pretending a great Surprise, made a thousand suspicious Conjectures, with a Resolution to search into the Meaning of it; and consulting with her concerning the best and surest Method for Discovery, it was at last agreed, that Johnasco and another of her Creatures should be on the Watch in the Garden, as usual, till they saw Wilson approach, which they did not ‘till the fourth Night; Johnasco immediately ran to acquaint my Lord; after some small Time the Steward was order’d to be call’d for, who was not to be found; my Lord then pretending that he wanted some Papers that were in his Custody, went to his Apartment with Johnasco and the other Person, broke open the Door, where they found Wilson confused, and his Female Dress very much ruffled; the Steward’s Daughter, surpriz’d at the unexpected Coming of my Lord, and for the Shame of having thus expos’d, ran to the Bed, endeavouring to hide herself in the Cloaths; my Lord turning to Johnasco said, I perceive this is only a Plot on the French Petticoat: So left the Lovers, and went with Johnasco and the other to Mrs. V———ll———s where he show’d a Fund of Wit, and diverted himself in a Ridicule on the Pains they had all taken about such a Trifling Intrigue. Thus, by the private Help of Johnasco, was she brought to believe she had found out the real Truth of Wilson’s Designs; when, in Fact, ’twas only a Counter-Plot to destroy her just Suspicions. How Wilson got into the Favour of the French Girl I know not; but we may easily suppose that my Lord, who took such Pains to deceive Mrs. V—— —ll———s, contriv’d with him that the Girl shou’d be first gain’d e’er they put in Execution this artful Project.
I know not whether to impute the Design of this surprizing Counter-Plot to his Lordship or Mr. Wilson; but certain it is, that without it they had been discover’d. I have often heard that the World would never allow Wilson to be a Man of any Parts or Capacity; but by these few Letters of his, especially by Letter IX, he seems to be perfectly skill’d in the Art of Insinuation; whether inspir’d by my Lord’s excellent Genius, or his Gold, I will not pretend to determine, perhaps it was the latter, made him feel all those Pangs we find he expresses in so lively and respectful a Manner to his Lordship. While Wilson was out of Town for the Recovery of his Health, from whence he wrote the abovemention’d Letter, my Lord was diverted in some Measure from his Passion for Wilson, by a young Lady whom he had seduced from her Friends; and in Order to excuse himself to Wilson, says, It was not so much to amuse the dull Time in his tedious Absence, as to stop the World’s good-natur’d Reflections on his Indifference that Way; but I should be inclined to believe he dissembled with him, did not the following Story, which I had from a Relation of my Lord’s, shew he stuck at nothing tho’ ever so vile to accomplish his Ends; and as the Circumstances agree with this Letter, I am convinc’d it is the same Person he hints at therein. This Lady (my Lord’s Relation) at the Request of Cloris’s Parents, brought her to Town, that she might have the Advantage of a genteeler Education than the Country could afford; in order to which, no Expence was spar’d, by which she might be improv’d; she introduced her into the Company of most People in Town, and at the same Time took Care to instill into her the Principles of Modesty and Vertue, as the surest Guards against the too frequent Temptations of Men. Cloris was tall, tho’ very young, a lively Vivacity in her Looks, and a Sprightliness in her Words and Actions, that rather inclin’d to ill-natur’d Satire, than a well-bred Politness. My Lord, who used frequently to visit there, was, when not restrain’d by Policy or Civility, of a troublesome peevish Temper; and poor Cloris, who retain’d, in Spite of her Dancing Master, some awkward Country Airs, had her Patience perpetually exercis’d by his splenatick Reflections, which she did not fail to return with a Tartness that occassion’d such Clashing between them, as created a thorough Hatred for each other. She had often heard that his Lordship’s handsome Person formerly made great Impressions on the Ladies, and was resolv’d to let him see he had outliv’d that Attraction, by taking an Opportunity before Company, to run Pins in his false Calves, to shew them that Age had depriv’d him of his natural ones; which childish Trick he resented so deeply, that from that Moment he study’d to be reveng’d on her, to which he was encouraged likewise by a particular Incident: A Lady who was there visiting, falling into Discourse with him about the Virtues and Vices of the Female Sex, he asserted that Vice was the most predominate in them on his own Knowledge; the Lady as warmly maintaining the contrary: The Argument was heighten’d ‘till they came to Particulars, he
affirming no Woman was Proof against the Importunities of a Man absolutely resolved to gain her, be it ever so disadvantageous to her Reputation or Interest: Upon which the Lady (piqu’d with what he said) made Answer, And do you believe that even your Lordship, supported by the mighty Treasures you possess, with that powerful Address you are Master of, could obtain Cloris in a dishonourable Way? Grounding her Challenge on the Hatred she had observ’d the Girl conceiv’d against him: To which he made some trifling Reply, and turn’d the Discourse; but was resolv’d within himself to convince them both he had Youth enough left, as well as fashionable Galantry, to work her Ruin. From that Time, he began to pay more frequent Visits than usual, and so soften’d his Manner to his intended Prey, that he soon insinuated himself into her Favour; he readily inclined to any one that seemed to admire her Person or Parts, willing to gratify her little Pride and Vanity, by shewing her Acquaintance she deserved to be distinguish’d above them, as superior in Wit and Beauty. Thus prepar’d by the natural Failure of her Sex, and wrought up by his Artifice, it will appear no mighty Difficulty, if one of less Skill than this great Statesman, should carry off a Prize of Higher Value than it seems he ever esteem’d her to be. Having thus obtain’d a Conquest he had no further Regard to than that of making it subservient to his Ends, as the amusing the dull Time in the Absence of his beloved Minion, and to shew his irresistible Power with the Fair, but more particularly to make good his Affections with the Lady who presumed to dispute his Influence: These, with some few other Reasons, induced him to keep Cloris in so grand a Way, as might make the Loss of her Reputation the more remarkable, which the poor deluded Wretch attributed to the Effects of his Lordship’s violent Passion for her Person. By this Time Wilson returned to Town, and was alarm’d at so seeming a dangerous rival getting into his Lordship’s Favour while he was absent; but when he found by the Answer his Power was not diminish’d, his Jealousy abated; and the Fondness his Lordship expresses in Letter XIII, shew’d him how ready he was to comply with any Thing he desir’d, tho’ of more Difficulty than turning off a Mistress. She had now serv’d all the Designs he had on her; and not being willing to support an Expence he had no farther Occasion for, he thought fit to let her know by a Letter he was thoroughly sensible of her ill Conduct, and Secret Correspondence with another; which Ingratitude had so disobliged him, that she must not presume to think of him any more, nor attempt to be troublesome by impertinent Messages, or complaining Scrawls. The poor Girl was Thunderstruck at this unexpected Expulsion from his Lordship’s Favour, at a Time when she thought her self fully secur’d of it. All the delightful Idea’s she had form’d of her future Grandeur, and the splendid Way of Living she was just arrived at, were now changed to the dreadful Apprehensions of future Shame and Wants: Now she began to think her Character and Interest with her Friends were blasted and ruin’d for ever. Some Time she remain’d under the greatest Distress of Mind, without Courage to endeavour her Justification to
my Lord, or Reconciliation to the Lady she had so rashly eloped from; ‘till by Degrees she rally’d up Spirit enough to attempt the former, tho’ she could not the latter, not being conscious of his Accusations; but finding all her Protestations, and softest Submissions, nay even her acquainting him with her moving Condition of being pregnant, and the Distresses she was reduced to, not only fruitless, but return’d with Contempt and Hatred, she resolved to revenge herself on the Author of her Miseries; she provided herself with a Man’s Habit, and according to the Intelligence she had got, she watch’d an Opportunity of meeting him as he return’d from Kensington, which fell out to her Desire toward the Dusk of the Evening; she made Signs to stop the Coach, and approaching his Lordship with great respect, begg’d she might be admitted to a private Audience with his Lordship about a Matter of high Importance to him, which requir’d his instant Knowledge of; tho’ somewhat surpriz’d, his Lordship’s Curiosity was rais’d to know what it was; and not suspecting any ill Design, nor being at all prejudic’d to a Youth so beautiful, he very readily comply’d with his Request, and waiting with her to a more retir’d Place in the Park where they could discourse with Freedom, the poor Girl, fully on her rash Undertaking, began to upbraid him with basely deluding her from her Parents and Family, destroying her Virtue and Reputation, and then thrusting her forth to such Infamy and Misery, as must infallibly fall on one left in her abandon’d Condition; then presented a Pistol to his Breast: His Lordship, who had a Spirit above being surpriz’d with Fear, push’d it by with as much Contempt, as if she had rapt his Knuckles with her Fan, seeing her manage it after so timorous and awkward a Manner, he easily wrench’d it out of her Hand, and pretending to take her for a Bully (tho’ her Voice, Discourse, and effeminate Fears must needs discover her to him) she had sent to assassinate him, swore he would chastize him with his own Hands, which he did in so unmerciful a Manner, that she quickly sunk down at his Feet under the Violence of his repeated Blows and Kicks, where he had the Inhumanity to leave her exposed to what Chance or Providence allotted. This barbarous Usage to a Woman, and with Child by himself, plainly shews what a Hatred he had to the whole Sex; for no Man that was not given to the most abandon’d Vices could treat them whose tender Delicacy courts and invites our Protection, with such unheard of Cruelty. The forlorn Cloris having lain some Time without Sense or Motion, recover’d so far as to feel extreme Pains, which she express’d in melancholy Groans, that were heard by a Soldier who accidentally came that Way, who with great Humanity took Care to get her into a Hackney Coach, that drove according to her Orders to the private Lodging she had taken to shift her Female Dress. The Agonies which this brutal Treatment flung her into, brought the Pains of Labour strong upon her; and believing her miserable Life was near it’s End, she gave Directions to the Soldier to go to the Lady from whom she unfortunately absconded, and desire her to come immediately; who much surpriz’d with such a Message from a Gentleman at the Point of Death,
knew not what to do, being apprehensive of some ill Design; ‘till being press’d by the Messenger, who told her the dismal Condition he had found him in, and that he conjur’d her to come, not being able to die in Peace without seeing other; she went under the Guard of a Gentleman. No sooner had she enter’d the Chamber, but casting Eyes on Cloris then in Bed, she knew her; upon which she dismiss’d the Gentleman that came with her, and approaching near the Bed, all her Resentment for Cloris’ ill Conduct gave Place to Compassion, at seeing her in that deplorable Condition; which the Girl perceiving by her Tears, said, Is it possible that you, who have so just a Right to reproach my Guilt and Folly, can pity a Wretch whose Life you see thus miserably torn from her by the cruel Author of her Crimes? The Lady answer’d her very mildly, finding both her Griefs and Pains extreme; which gave some Ease to her distracted Mind, tho’ to her Pains it was impossible; for after a Continuance of them for three or four Days, she was deliver’d of a dead Child, two Months before its Time, and immediately expir’d. Thus fell the unfortunate Cloris, a Sacrifice to one who had not even the Excuse of once liking her; but work’d her Ruin, to gratify his own Pride, and mortify hers. FINIS
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2. Born to Run: Fantasies of Male Escape from Rip Van Winkle to Robert Bly 1. Brownson converted to Catholicism because he felt it to be more manly and patriarchal. 2. Although I will treat only the West in any detail here, there were other forms of masculinist resistance to cultural feminization. For example, much of the early 19th-century commune movement, from Fourierist phalanxes to Oneida, Brook Farm, and New Harmony, were efforts to restore manly dignity to men’s work, to return men to the land, from which all integrity sprang. 3. See also M. Meyer, The Jacksonian Persuasion (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1960), p. 139. 4. Webber wrote that “[t]he primitive virtues of a heroic manhood are all sufficient, and they care nothing for reverences, forms, duties, etc., as civilization has them, but respect each other’s rights and recognize the awful presence of a benignant God in the still grandeur of mountain, forest, valley, plain, and river, through, among, and over which they pass.” Such men, Webber wrote, “do not look back to society except with disgust”(p. 311). 5. See Walden, pp. 216 and 66. Businessmen “come tamely home at night only from the next field or street, where their household echoes haunt, and their life pines because it breathes its own breath over again,” he wrote, while workers “are so occupied with the factitious care and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them.” As a result, “[t]he laboring man has not the leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men; his labor would be depreciated in the market. He has no time to be anything but a machine” (pp. 142, 9). 6. No wonder Bly calls Thoreau one of his heroes. In a recent poem, Bly praises Thoreau for living so “extravagantly alone . . . keeping company with his handsome language.” Robert Bly, “The Insatiable Soul,” poetry reading at Scottish Rite Temple, San Francisco, 30 January 1993. 7. See Henry Nash Smith (1950), Turner, The Frontier in American History, John Mack Faragher, Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer (New York: Henry Holt, 1992), esp. pp. 6, 29, 66, 327–28. All three men were, as Yale President Theodore Dwight wrote, “impatient of the 231
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restraints of law, religion, and morality”; the pioneer despises the “dull uniformity and monotony” of civilized life when “compared in his mind with the stirring scenes of wild western adventure” wrote David Coyner, in his fictionalized 1847 biography of Carson, The Lost Trappers, cited in Turner, The Frontier in American History, p. 251. All were fiercely anti-intellectual; Boone, for example, “rather eschewed books, parchment deeds, and clerky contrivances as forms of evil,” as his biographer Timothy Flint put it, cited in Dubbert, A Man’s Place, p. 35. 8. Ever since Rip, writes Leslie Fiedler, “the typical male protagonist of our fiction has been a man on the run, harried into the forest or out to sea, down the river or into combat—anywhere to avoid ‘civilization’ which is to say, the confrontation of a man and a woman which leads to the fall to sex, marriage and responsibility.” Fiedler, Love and Death, p. 26. 9. Recent versions of this cross-race male bonding require the absence of any hint of sexual contact between the two men, and so one of them—usually the white man—is transformed into an overtly sexualized—and heterosexual—character. Thus do the movies like Last of the Mohicans, Lethal Weapon, and Dances with Wolves stress Natty’s, Riggs’s, and Lt. Dunbar’s love interests. The man of color as spirit guide remains relatively desexualized. 10. “The existence of overt homosexuality threatens to compromise an essential aspect of American sentimental life: the camaraderies of the locker room and ball park, the good fellowship of the poker game and fishing trip, a kind of passionless passion, at once gross and delicate, homoerotic in the boy’s sense, possessing an innocence above suspicion.” Fiedler, Love and Death, p. 143. 11. See also Henry Nash Smith, Wilderness, p. 256; Cawelti, Apostles of the Self Made Man, p. 78. 12. Bumppo returns to this theme of anti-intellectualism, and the feminizing qualities of women throughout the novel. 13. But Hawkeye’s escape requires that he exchange clothes with David, the bespeckeled bookworm. “Are you much given to cowardice?” Hawkeye asks him. “My pursuits are peaceful and my temper, I humbly trust, is greatly given to mercy and love,” David responds, “a little nettled,” Cooper tells us, “at so direct an attack on his manhood,” p. 323. 14. This is the same unconscious obsession, Leverenz argues, that fueled Melville’s rage at the capitalist Leviathan that had consumed his own father, driven by marketplace failures to bankruptcy, insanity, and eventually suicide. 15. Like its female counterpart, this insanity is based not on gender nonconformity, but on overconformity to crazed behavioral norms. 16. “The monsters of antebellum politics, like Jackson’s Bank and Ahab’s whale, were centers of hidden power, which explained the bourgeois’s failure to master the world,” writes Michael Rogin. “They have the power he wants,
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and the sensual materiality he experiences as resisting his will, and so he makes war against them.” Rogin, Subversive Geneology, p. 126. 17. These fin-de-siècle institutional mechanisms to retrieve manhood are discussed by me at greater length in chapter 6 of Manhood in America: A Cultural History (New York: Free Press, 1996). 18. See also The Saturday Evening Post, 29 November 1919. 19. The cowboy is a man “in flight from his ancestors, from his immediate family, and from everything that tied him down and limited his freedom of movement,” writes cultural critic Christopher Lasch, The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics (New York: Norton, 1991), p. 39. To the cowboy, as Wallace Stegner puts it, civilization “meant responsibility, meant law, meant fences and homesteads, and water rights and fee simple land ownership, meant women.” Stegner cited in Ben Merchant Vorpahl, My Dear Wister, p. ix. 20. The unattributed quotations above are all from Owen Wister’s letters to his friend Frederic Remington, and an essay “The Evolution of the Cow Puncher” (1893) all in Ben Merchant Vorpahl, My Dear Wister, p. xi, 81, 93, 94, et passim. 21. It was also an eroticized world, which has not escaped the notice of contemporary cultural critics. Robert K. Martin, for example, calls the western a “homoerotic cowboy romance” in which cowboys “gallop ‘side by side’ in furious flight from an increasingly feminine world in which they fear they will have no place; their search is ultimately for an imagined past before the civilizing entry of women.” Robert K. Martin, “Knight Errant and Gothic Seducers: Representations of Male Friendship in Nineteenth Century America” in Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past (M. B. Duberman, M. Vicinus, and G. Chauncey, eds.), (New York: New American Library, 1989), p. 174. Of course, it was not only male camaraderie that was eroticized on the range; in the absence of women, several other props—like guns and horses— also carried that erotic charge. 22. “It is this note of manliness which is dominant through the writings of Mr. Wister,” wrote Theodore Roosevelt in 1895, cited in G. Edward White, The Eastem Establishment and the Western Experience, p. 197. To contemporary feminist literary critic Madonne Miner, The Virginian is a “panegyric to American manhood’’ that ultimately fails—“a terrified, and decidedly unsuccessful response to processes undermining traditional modes of manhood.” Miner, “Manhood on the Make: Owen Wister’s Virginian” (Men’s Studies Review 8(4), 1991), p. 15. See also her “Documenting the Demise of Manly Love: Owen Wister’s Virginian” (in Journal of Men’s Studies 1(l), 1992). I am grateful to Madonne Miner for her help in thinking through this section. 23. In Wister’s fiction, as in many westerns, a tenderfoot narrator serves to bring the eastern reader into the western setting, and we see the West through his admiring and less manly eyes.
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24. The western hero is the living repudiation of Marketplace Masculinity. Wister writes that the cowboy scorned the traveling salesman’s “being too soon with everybody, the celluloid good fellowship that passes for ivory with nine in ten of the city crowd. But not so with the sons of the sage brush. They live nearer nature, and they know better.” Wister, The Virginian, p. 16. Wister rededicated the novel in 1911 to Theodore Roosevelt. 25. Interestingly, Wister’s western egalitarianism halted before inequality based on race, gender, or even class. There are really two classes in America, he claimed, the “quality and the equality.” 26. When more than 100 historians, novelists, and journalists were asked by American Heritage magazine to name their favorite American historical novel, The Red Badge of Courage was most often mentioned—an amazing feat for a work of fiction in which virtually no women appear, the only exception being Henry Fleming’s mother, and she only in his memory. (Gone with the Wind, The Scarlet Letter, and War and Peace were tied for second, another astonishing result, since those surveyed were specifically asked about American novels.) USA Today, September 30, 1992. 27. In his famous short story, “The Open Boat” (1896), Crane presents an allegory of baptism by fire, immersion and regeneration, only after the ordeal of survival in a lifeboat can the men who did survive “then be interpreters” of life. Overcoming the first fear, the fear of death, the fear born of woman, is the masculine project, so that action can be motivated by the second—homosocial—fear is Crane’s version of the transition to adult manhood. 28. In the last line of the book, Buck becomes both wolf and dog, so that now “he may be seen ahead of the pack through the pale moonlight or glimmering borealis, leaping gigantic above his fellows, his great throat a-bellow, as he sings a song of the younger world, which is the song of the pack” (p. 102). 29. Contemporary literary critic David Leverenz adds that “London unambivalently contrasts Buck’s natural leadership with the degeneracy of [feminized] men. Nevertheless, ideal manliness thrives in Buck only because he becomes less and less human, more and more wild, while his admiring narrator—like Cooper—writes a ‘wild’ book about him for boy-men readers who feel trapped in the maturation and long for exotic virility.” David Leverenz, “The Last Real Man in America: From Natty Bumppo to Batman” in American Literary History, 3, 1991, p. 761. 30. When Jane first sees him, she is a captive of a great ape, and Tarzan swings in on a vine to her rescue. Jane’s “lithe young form flattened against the trunk of a great tree, her hands pressed against her rising and falling bosom, and her eyes wide with mingled horror, fascination, fear, and admiration— watched the primordial ape battle with the primeval man for possession of a woman—for her” (pp. 155–56). When Tarzan has slain his foe, he grabs Jane’s arm and she rebuffs him. “And then Tarzan of the Apes did just what his first
Notes for Chapter 3
ancestor would have done. He took his woman in his arms and carried her into the jungle” (p. 157). 31. See also David Leverenz, “The Last Real Man in America,” p. 759.
3. Consuming Manhood: The Feminization of American Culture and the Recreation of the Male Body, 1832–1920 1. Such books were enormously popular. William Alcott’s The Young Man’s Guide (1833) ran through 21 editions by 1858. The first edition of Daniel Eddy’s The Young Man’s Friend sold 10,000 copies. In 1857, Albert Barnes noted “the unusual number of books that are addressed particularly to young men” and the way in which “our public speakers everywhere advert to their character, temptations, dangers and prospects with deep solicitude.” Cited in Joseph Kett, Rites of Passage (New York: Basic Books, 1977), 95. 2. “Men were preoccupied with the fear of a loss of sperm, connected as it was to the whole question of manhood and to a man’s hopes for some kind of immortality,” the author remarks. “Men believed their expenditure of sperm had to be governed according to an economic principle” (pp. 180–81; see also chapters 15–16). 3. These included: Languor, lassitude, muscular relaxation, general debility and heaviness, depression of spirits, loss of appetite, indigestion, faintness and sinking at the pit of the stomach, increased susceptibilities of the skin and lungs to all the atmospheric changes, feebleness of circulation, chilliness, head-ache, melancholy, hypochondria, hysterics, feebleness of all the senses, impaired vision, loss of sight, weakness of the lungs, nervous cough, pulmonary consumption, disorders of the liver and kidneys, urinary difficulties, disorders of the genital organs, weakness of the brain, loss of memory, epilepsy, insanity, apoplexy and extreme feebleness and early death of offspring. . . . In part, the cautions against sexual expression were based on a volcanic theory of the orgasmic eruption. The nervous system, Graham warned, is almost unbearably fragile, and is unable to bear “the convulsive paroxysms attending venereal indulgence”: The brain, stomach, heart, lungs, liver, skin—and the other organs— feel it sweeping over them, with the tremendous violence of a tornado. The powerfully excited and convulsed heart drives the blood, in fearful congestion, to the principal viscera,—producing oppression, irritation,
Notes for Chapter 3
debility, rupture, inflammation, and sometimes disorganization;—and this violent paroxysm is generally succeeded by great exhaustion, relaxation, lassitude, and even prostration. (1834, p. 20) 4. See also John Haller and Robin Haller, The Physician and Sexuality in Victorian America (New York: Norton, 1977), 208. 5. Anti-urbanism as a theme in the critique of feminization is discussed by T. J. Jackson Lears, No Place of Grace: Anti-Modernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880–1920 (New York: Pantheon, 1981). 6. William James argued that there is “no more contemptible type of human character than that of the nervous sentimentalist and dreamer, who spends his life in a weltering sea of sensibility and emotion, but who never does a concrete manly deed.” Cited in Robert N. Bellah, et al., Habits of the Heart (New York: Harper and Row, 1985), 120. See also Henry Childs Merwin, “On Being Civilized Too Much” in Atlantic Monthly 79 (June 1897). 7. See Harvey Green, Fit for America: Health, Fitness, Sport and American Society (New York: Pantheon, 1986). See also G. Carson, Cornflake Crusade (New York: Rinehart and Co., 1957). 8. One medical text in 1883 anthropomorphized and assigned political tendencies to male and female reproductive cells, claiming that “the male element is the originating factor, and the female the perpetuating factor; the ovum is conservative, the male cell, progressive.” William Keith Brooks, The Law of Heredity (Baltimore: J. Murphy, 1883), 94; see also Cynthia Eagle Russett, Sexual Science: The Victorian Construction of Womanhood (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), 94, and H. W. Foster, “Physical Education and Degeneracy” in The Independent 52, August 2, 1900. 9. Hall was elaborate in his advice on the methods to avoid the evils of masturbation. He counseled boys and young men to sleep on hard beds, “throw your whole energy into your work,” and perform a regimen of ritual ablution and purification: “Arise three-quarters of an hour before breakfast every morning, take a cold sponge or shower bath; drink two glasses of cold water; dress and go out and walk around the block before breakfast” (58). 10. See also Martin Holbrook, Eating for Strength; or, Food and Diet and their Relationship to Health and Work (New York: Holbrook, 1888). 11. I am grateful to Ms. Knight for sharing her work with me. 12. Veblen was one of many who were less sanguine about sports’ curative potential. His blistering critique of the nascent consumer culture suggests that organized sports are an illusory panacea. For the individual man, athletics are no sign of virtue, since “the temperament which inclines men to [sports] is essentially a boyish temperament. The addiction to sports therefore in a peculiar degree marks an arrested development of the man’s moral nature” (Veblen, 1964, p. 200). And culturally, sports may be an evolutionary throwback, as they “afford an exercise for dexterity and for the emulative ferocity and astuteness
Notes for Chapters 4 and 6
characteristic of predatory life” (Veblen, 1964, p. 203). Boy Scout leader Ernest Thompson Seton thought that watching would lead to “spectoritis,” and turn manly men into “mollycoddles of the bleachers” (1907, p. 500).
4. Baseball and the Reconstitution of American Masculinity, 1880–1920 1. The material in this section is from Kimmel, M., Gender and Society, (Volume 1, Number 3) pp. 263–66, copyright 1987 by Michael Kimmel. Adapted by permission of Sage Publications, Inc. 2. Of course, many masculinists were vigorously antifeminist. But the thrust of the masculinism was indifferent to the institutional gains for women and sought only the preservation of “islands” of masculinity. 3. Of course, the key term here is organized, and I will return to that aspect in the next section. 4. Such experiences of community are reproduced by baseball across generations, so that community with neighbors is linked with a relationship between father and son as fans. I recall vividly, for example, my first ride on the subway to Ebbets Field, when I knew everyone in the train was as adoring of the Dodgers as my father was—and, of course, as I was. I remember reaching up to hold his hand as we walked to that sagging building, and gasping as we entered the stands when I saw how bright and green the field itself was. One needn’t be a psychoanalyst to understand how feeling so close to 46,000 neighbors was so intimately linked to feeling so close to that most special person. The memory of community is linked to the memory of family love for generations of American men. And the sinews of that community are the shared idols of boyhood—his Rube Walker and my Sandy Koufax. Such links may help explain my continued passion for the game, both as a player and as a spectator. And, perhaps, why I still root for the Dodgers, who, from my perspective, are simply on a very long road trip.
6. The Cult of Masculinity: American Social Character and the Legacy of the Cowboy 1. Although I continue to use the word “American” in several places throughout this essay, I have tried to limit its use to those places in which I join the discourse on the “American personality”or the “American character.” But even there, I do not use the term to refer to all the Americas, but rather to the United States in particular. In those places where I am not engaged in the discourse about the American personality, I have tried to use the more accurate (if more cumbersome) specific term “United States” or “U.S.”
Notes for Chapters 6 and 7
2. It is curious that the United States does not evince a concept of “Motherland” in the same way as other advanced capitalist nations do. Perhaps the westward expansion was cast in such terms as “taming” and “subduing,” that the protection afforded an archetypal mother was replaced by the violent subjugation of a wild territory, an errant child. Michael Kaufman suggested to me that part of the answer lies in the patriarchal, yet not traditionally paternal, nature of the U.S. state (as opposed to individual politicians), again, perhaps, a father of fury and not a father of compassion. 3. President Reagan may be a “cowboy president” in his foreign policy, especially vis-à-vis the mythic Communist monolith that stretches from Central America to Africa to the Soviet Union. But his domestic policies—while no less compulsively masculine and compassionless—are cast in a “Father Knows Best” kind of paternalism that, I believe, softens their impact and lends an air of kindliness to rather systematically unkind domestic policies. This “successful” blend of patriarchy and paternalism—a father of fury and a father of compassion—might be the key to Reagan’s popularity.
7. From “Conscience and Common Sense” to “Feminism for Men”: Pro-Feminist Men’s Rhetoric of Support for Women’s Equality 1. See my Against the Tide: Pro-feminist Men in the United States, 1776–1990, A Documentary History, with Thomas Mosmiller (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992) for documentation of the existence of pro-feminist men. This essay is based on the archival research for that book. 2. Many of these documents can be found in the Women’s Rights Collection at the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women, Radcliffe College. 3. This little poem is also reprinted in Woody, 1929, vol. 1, p. 114. 4. In one letter, Higginson did seem to indicate a belief in women’s moral superiority, explaining that, “I do go for the rights of women as far as an equal share in government goes . . . I think it a monstrous absurdity to talk of a democratic government and universal suffrage and yet exclude one-half the inhabitants without any ground of incapacity to plead.” He continues, arguing that women’s participation is not only right and just, but would infuse the political process with morality; while his earlier comments were theoretical practically, I have no doubt we should have much more principle in politics if women had more share from her standard of right being higher than that of man (cited in Higginson, 1914, p. 73). 5. I develop this idea of the crisis of masculinity at the turn of the century at greater length in Kimmel 1996, chapters 3–6.
Notes for Chapters 7 and 8
6. I develop my analysis more fully in Kimmel 1987 and 1996. 7. I refer here, of course, to the two works of John Stoltenberg (1988, 1993), who is perhaps the most visible and articulate purveyor of this rhetoric of support.
8. From Lord and Master to Cuckold and Fop: Masculinity in 17th-Century England 1. Much of the research on the late 17th- and early 18th-century English pamphlets was made possible by a Visiting Fellowship to the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library and a Summer Faculty Fellowship from Rutgers University. I am grateful to the staff of the library, and especially Carol Briggs, for their generosity and hospitality. I have also benefitted from comments and criticism from Jeff Beane, Harry Brod, Martin Duberman, Kate Ellis, Carol Gilligan, Margaret Hunt, Barbara Laslett, Joe Fleck, and Catherine Stimpson. An earlier version of this essay appears as a section in my “The ‘Crisis’ of Masculinity in Historical Perspective,” in Harry Brod, ed., The Making of Masculinities: The New Men’s Studies (Boston: Allen and Unwin, 1987). I edit and introduce two of the pamphlets mentioned here, The Levellers and Mundus Foppensis in the Augustan Reprint Series of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library (1988). 2. See my “The ‘Crisis’ of Masculinity in Historical Perspective” (1987) for a fuller discussion of the sex-role socialization and gender relations models. 3. By the second half of the 18th century, fewer than 9 percent were unmarried, so the percentages had shifted from one in four to one in ten in less than a century. 4. This form of pamphlet has a venerable tradition in England, dating back at least to the translation of Antoine de La Sale’s well-known and popular French pamphlet Quinze joyes de marriage (1603), which was translated into English by Thomas Decker as Batchelor’s Banquet that same year and was continually revised by different authors. 5. Note here that the masturbatory fantasy does not result in her orgasm, but rather heightened sexual frustration. 6. The reference to James I and Buckingham may be obscure to the contemporary reader, but everyone in late 17th-century England knew of James’s promiscuity and sexual orientation, and knew that his relationship with his closest aide was more than platonic. 7. England was at war with France for much of the late 17th and early 18th century in the War of Spanish Succession, and each side indulged in a favorite pastime of political rivals, namely the questioning of the virility of the other side.
Notes for Chapter 9
9. “Greedy Kisses” and “Melting Extasy”: Notes on the Homosexual World of Early 18th-Century England as Found in Love Letters Between a certain late Nobleman and the famous Mr. Wilson 1. This pamphlet war is more fully explored in Kimmel, 1987. Two of these pamphlets, The Levellers (1703) and Mundus Foppensis (1691) are reprinted by the Augustan Reprint Society at the Clark Library (publication number 248) and included in this volume. 2. This link between male homosexuality and misogyny is neither inevitable nor desirable. I am suggesting that the link is, in fact, historically specific to the construction of homosexuality in early modern Europe. The vilification of women asserts, in a distorted sense, a distinctly homosexual identity, setting off the male homosexual from a set of behaviors that might have been disconnected from individual identity.
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A abolitionists, 82, 105–6, 108–9 abortion, 115, 119 Addams, Jane, 15 Adelman, M. L., 68 Adorno, Theodor, 13–14 Alcott, Bronson, 82 Alcott, William, 40, 235n1 American Indians, 95–96 American Medical Association (AMA), 47, 79 Angell, Roger, 62 anti-Semitism, xi Arthur, Timothy, 40 Astell, Mary, 131–32 Astrachan, Anthony, 87 B Baden-Powell, Lord, 68, 81 Barker-Benfield, G. J., 39–40 Barnes, Albert, 235n1 Barth, G., 70 baseball, 43, 54–58, 61, 67–72 cricket and, 62, 69–70 Zane Grey on, 57, 58, 61 Theodore Roosevelt and, 56–57, 67 basketball, 54, 55, 65 See also sports Beard, George, 52, 54 Behn, Aphra, 131 Benedict, Ruth, 15 Beveridge, Albert, 80, 97 Birney, James, 82, 108 birth control, 86, 106, 115, 117 Blackwell, Henry, 85, 105
Bloch, Maurice, 7 Bly, Robert, 26, 33, 35, 59, 231n6 Boone, Daniel, 24, 95 Bourne, Randolph, 115–16 bowling, 55, 65 boxing, 54–56, 67 Boy Scouts, 29, 64–65, 68, 81, 98 Brannon, Robert, 94 Brogan, D. W., 92 Brooks, William Keith, 236n8 Brown, Charles Brockden, 105 Brownson, Orestes, 21 Bryce, Peter, 52 Buchanan, Pat, 25 Bunyon, John, 19 Burnap, George, 40 Burroughs, Edgar Rice, 34–35, 45 Bush, George H. W., 4 Bushnell, Horace, 78, 113 C Caputo, Philip, 88 Carnegie, Andrew, 100 Carson, Kit, 24, 95 Carter, Jimmy, 102 Case, Carl, 65, 77 Cattell, J. McKeen, 46 Chadwick, Henry, 67 Civil War, 63, 74, 96 Clarke, Edward, 11, 113 classism, ix, 5, 7, 56, 72 See also racism Clay, Henry, 8, 38 Coalition for Free Men, 87 Cody, Buffalo Bill, 30
254 Cohen, Albert K., 13 Cold War, 100–1 communes, 82, 106, 231n2 contraception. See birth control Coontz, Stephanie, 44 Cooper, James Fenimore, 25–28, 32, 35, 234n29 cowboys, 29–35, 43, 45, 91, 94–95, 103 Crane, Stephen, 33 Crèvecoeur, Hector St. John, 22 cricket, baseball and, 62, 69–70 Crockett, Davy, 24, 25, 32, 95 cross-dressing, 79, 101, 192–94, 196 Culverwell, R. J., 42 D Dacus, J., 75 Dana, Richard Henry, 22 Dances with Woves (film), 26 Davis, Natalie Zemon, 5 Debs, Eugene V., 84–85 Dell, Floyd, 85–86, 105, 115–19 democracy, 32, 71, 76, 78–79 Dewey, John, 84 diets, 41, 49–50, 54 divorce, 85 domestic violence, 89, 93 Donoso Cortés, Juan, 99 Douglas, G., 50 Douglass, Frederick, 82, 108, 112 Durant, Henry, 83, 111 Durkheim, Emile, 7 Dwight, Timothy, 22 E Eakins, Thomas, 53 Eastman, Max, 84, 86, 116–18 Eddy, Daniel, 235n1 Edis, Robert, 49 education same-sex, 29 women’s, 11, 78–79, 110–11 Elizabeth I, 127 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 25, 107 Engels, Friedrich, 8 entrepreneurs, 8, 28 environmentalism, 101 Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), 119 Evans, George, 53
Index F Famers’ Alliance, 75 Farrell, Warren, 88 fathers’ support groups, 87–88 feminism backlash against, 77–79, 87–89 masculinism and, 15, 63–65, 73–74, 80–82, 113 men’s support of, xii, 82–86, 105–21 suffrage and, 78, 83–84, 97, 107–17 Women’s Rights Conventions and, 105, 108–10 Ferraro, Geraldine, 4 Fiedler, Leslie, 25–27 Field of Dreams (film), 120 Filmer, Robert, 131 Fiske, G. Walter, 55, 66 Fletcher, Horace, 49, 81 Flint, Timothy, 22 football, 43, 54, 62, 67, 68 Ford, Gerald, 101 Ford, Henry, 100 Foucault, Michel, 99 Fourier, Charles, 231n2 Fowler, O. S., 47 Freud, Sigmund, x, 7–13, 51, 95, 115, 118 G Gardner, Augustus Kinsley, 41–42, 80 Garrison, William Lloyd, 82, 108–9 gay rights movement, 101 See also homosexuality “gender gap,” 102–3 gender roles, 10–14, 35, 43–44, 89, 94 erosion of, 74–77 Oedipus complex and, 11–12 race and, 5, 7 sexuality and, 85–86, 195–96 socialization and, 80–81, 126 See also identity George, Henry, 74–75 Gilder, George, 87 Gilligan, Carol, 87 Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, 15, 52–53 Goldman, Emma, 86 Goldwater, Barry, 101 Gorn, Elliot, 43, 56 Graham, Sylvester, 40–41, 49, 54 Greeley, Horace, 22
Index Grenada, 103 Grey, Zane, 33, 57, 58, 61 Grinnell, George Bird, 54 gynocracy, 15
IQ test, 12 Iran, 102 Irving, Washington, 25–26, 35 Ives, Charles, 4
Haikie, William, 49 Halberstam, David, 102 Hall, Donald, 62 Hall, G. Stanley, 37, 81 Hall, Winfield, 50 Hapgood, Hutchins, 116 harassment, workplace, 89, 119 Harmon, Moses, 82 Harrison, William Henry, 4 Hartman, M., 80 Haskins, C. W., 23 Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 25 Higginson, Thomas Wentworth, 82, 108, 111–12 Hill, Octavia, 68 Hobbes, Thomas, 7, 129 Ho Chi Minh, 4, 100 Hofstadter, Richard, 92 Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 21 Holt, Hamilton, 84 homophobia, xi, 7, 12, 66 homosexuality, ix–x, 10, 37, 88, 113, 138 causes of, 12–13 homoeroticism and, 26–27, 29 identity and, 48, 195–96 sports and, 55, 66 subculture of, 48, 191–96 Howard, Clifford, 114 Howe, Frederic C., 114–15 Howe, Samuel Gridley, 82, 108 Hughes, Thomas, 65, 77 hunting, 54 Hutchinson, Woods, 54 hydropathy, 49
Jackson, Andrew, 4, 63, 74 American Indians and, 95–96 Tocqueville on, 95 Woodrow Wilson and, 100 James, Henry, 20, 45–46, 79 James, William, 80, 96–97, 236n6 Jarvis, Edward, 51 Jefferson, Thomas, 100 Jewett, Milo, 110–11 Johnson, Jack, 56 Johnson, Laura Winthrop, 29–30 Johnson, Lyndon, 4, 102 Johnson, Samuel, 131 Jones, Jesse, 84, 85
I identity, ix–x, 39, 43 homosexual, 48, 195–96 Oedipus complex and, 11–12 See also gender roles impotence, 51 Ingraham, Prentiss, 30
K Kaufman, Michael, 238n2 Kellogg, J. H., 49–51 Kennedy, John F., 101, 102 Kent, William, 54 Kett, Joseph, 235n1 Kilmer, Joyce, 99–100 Knights of Labor, 10, 96 L Lacquer, Thomas, 5 Lapham, Lewis, 89 Laski, Harold, 91 Laslett, P., 131 Lawrence, D. H., 27, 35 Lea, Homer, 99 Lerner, Max, 91–92 lesbians, ix–x, 195 See also homosexuality Lethal Weapon (film), 26 Leverenz, David, 22, 25, 234n29 Lewis, Denlow, 86 Lincoln, Abraham, 100 Locke, John, xii, 7, 109, 129 London, Jack, 34 Lowell, James Russell, 111
M MacFadden, Bernarr, 46, 49 Man Suffrage Association, 78 Markham, Edward, 84 Marshall, Edward, 57, 67 Marx, Karl, x, 7, 8, 84–85, 115, 118 masculinism, 15, 21–22, 63–65, 73–74, 80–82, 113 masculinity 17th-century, 125–40 19th-century, 42–45, 63–67, 80–82, 106, 112–13 “compulsive,” 93, 95, 100, 102 cult of, 91–103 “hegemonic,” 7, 15 historical tests of, 94–96 self-made men and, 8, 38–42 sissies and, 47–48, 78, 94, 100 social construction of, 126–27 masturbation, 40–42, 49–51, 80, 196 May, Samuel J., 110 Mazlish, Bruce, 101 McCarthy, Joe, 101 McKeever, William, 57, 67 Mead, George Herbert, 15 Mead, Margaret, 15, 93 Mellon, Andrew, 100 Melville, Herman, 26, 28–29, 92 Men Achieving Liberation and Equality (MALE), 87 Mencken, H. L., 83 Men’s League for Woman Suffrage, 116–17 men’s rights groups, xi, 87–88 Miller, Alice Duer, 97–98 Miner, Madonne, 233n22 Mitchell, S. Weir, 52 Monroe Doctrine, 99 Mott, James, 108 Muir, John, 53 Muscular Christianity Movement, 65, 77 N National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, 93 National Geographic (magazine), 45 National Organization for Changing Men, 89 Native Americans, 95–96 Neal, John, 105 Neilson, William Allan, 83
neurasthenia, 31, 52–53 Nielson, William Allan, 110–11 Nixon, Richard, 101 Norton, Sarah, 76 Noyes, John Humphrey, 82 Nussbaum, F., 132–33 nutrition. See diets O Oakley, A., 127 Oedipus complex, 11–12, 95 Owen, Robert Dale, 82 P Paine, Thomas, 105 Panama, 4 Parkman, Francis, 22 Parsons, Talcott, 13 Pateman, Carole, 7 Patten, Gilbert, 29 Pearse, Patrick, 99 Peck, George, 40 Philippines, 4, 97 Phillips, Wendell, 82, 108–10, 112 Pillsbury, Parker, 82, 108 Pleck, Joseph, 13 Plumb, J. H., 129 Populism, 10, 75, 96 pornography, 89, 120 Post, C. W., 49 psychoanalysis. See Freud, Sigmund Pyke, Rafford, 47 R “race suicide,” 11, 21 racism, ix–xi, 5, 7, 12, 26, 46, 72 See also classism rape, 89 Rather, Dan, 4 Rauh, Ida, 84, 116 Reagan, Ronald, 102–3 Reitman, Ben, 86 Remington, Frederic, 53, 54 Riesman, David, 43–44, 126 “Rip Van Winkle” (Irving), 25–26, 35 Robinson, William, 51 Rockefeller, John D., 100 rodeos, 30 Rogin, Michael, 95
Index Roosevelt, Theodore, 4, 46, 53–54, 65, 82, 97–100 on baseball, 56–57, 67 on families, 79 Spanish-American War and, 97, 99, 102 Wister and, 233n22, 234n22 Roszak, Theodore, 97 Roth, Philip, 91 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 26, 34 Rush, Benjamin, 105 S Sanger, William, 86, 116, 117 Sargent, D. A., 54–55, 66 Sawyer, Roland D., 57–58 Sayers, Joseph, 114 Schindler, Solomon, 46 Sedley, Charles, 129 self-made men, 8, 38–42 Seton, Ernest Thompson, 81, 98 sexual harassment, 89, 119 Sinclair, Upton, 45 sissies, 47–48, 78, 94, 100 slavery. See abolitionists Slotkin, Richard, 24 Smith-Rosenberg, C., 126 socialism, 84–85 See also Marx, Karl Social Purity Movement, 113, 115 sodomy laws, 195–96 Spalding, Albert J., 57, 67, 69, 71 Spalding, John L., 77–78 Spanish-American War, 97, 99, 102 “spermatic economy,” 39–40 sports, 48–49, 54–58, 61–62, 65–67 democracy and, 71 homosexuality and, 55, 66 hunting, 54 spectator, 69–71, 98, 237n12 Veblen on, 57, 65, 66, 68 Weber on, 9 women and, 79 See also baseball Stanford, Leland, 100 Stanford-Binet IQ test, 12 Stegner, Wallace, 30 Stillé, Alfred, 47, 79, 80 Stimpson, Catharine, 4 Stoltenberg, John, 239n7
Stone, Lucy, 105 suffrage movement, 78, 83–84, 97, 107–17 See also feminism Sullivan, John L., 56 Sullivan, Louis, 4 Sunday, Billy, 65, 77 Swetnam, Joseph, 127 T Tarzan, 34–35, 45 Taylor, Buck, 30 Taylor, John, 127 Taylor, Joseph, 83, 110–11 temperance movement, 82, 113–15 tennis, 54, 55, 65 Terman, Lewis, 12–13 Thomas, W. I., 15 Thoreau, Henry David, 8, 20, 23–24, 38 Bly on, 231n6 suffrage movement and, 107 Tilton, Theodore, 82, 108 Tissot, S. A., 40 Tocqueville, Alexis de, x, 8, 39, 92, 95 Todd, John, 11, 23, 40, 78–79, 113 Tompkins, Jane, 31 Trall, Russell, 49 transvestism. See cross-dressing Trumbach, R., 195–96 Turner, Frederick Jackson, 22, 74, 97 Twain, Mark, 25, 26 on baseball, 61 Huckleberry Finn, 19 U unionization, 84–85, 96 United States Civil War of, 63, 74, 96 Cold War of, 100–1 exceptionalism of, 92 as Fatherland, 238n2 Revolution of, xii Vietnam War and, 4, 96, 101, 102 war with Spain, 97, 99, 102 World War I and, 82, 97, 99–100 World War II and, 96, 100 utopianism, 82, 106, 231n2 V Van Buren, Martin, 4
258 Vassar, Matthew, 83, 110–11 Veblen, Thorstein, 15, 55, 57, 65, 66, 68 Vietnam War, 4, 96, 101, 102 Villard, Oswald Garrison, 84 violence, 89, 93 Vleck, John, 83 W Walker, Frances, 55 Ward, Edward, 114 Ward, Lester, 15 Warner, A. W., 73 water cure (hydropathy), 49 Watt, James, 103 Webber, Charles, 22 Weber, Max, x, 7, 9 Weld, Theodore, 108 westerns, 31–33, 35, 43, 45 See also cowboys White, William Allen, 82
Index Whitman, Walt, 21, 25, 82–83 Wilder, Burt Green, 83 Wild West Show, 30 Wilson, Woodrow, 100 Wise, Stephen, 84 Wister, Owen, 31–32, 53, 54 women’s education, 11, 78–79, 110–11 Women’s Rights Conventions, 105, 108–10 See also feminism Woods, Robert, 45 work ethic, 9 World War I, 82, 97, 99–100 World War II, 96, 100 Wright, Frank Lloyd, 46 Wright, Harold, 31 Wright, Henry C., 109 Y Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), 29, 50, 64