Back to Hosannah Pour Le Chatre-Negre Part 1
Couldn't this organ begin to represent the very essence of your struggle against the oppressive race? Isn't it possible that you would begin to feel, since its manipulation was your one absolute strength and your enemie's one absolute weakness, that with the operation of this organ lay the solution to all your problems? How else could you react to centuries of attack on this part of your body, this organ that separated you from nonexistence, from extinction, from nonmanhood-from death?
For hundreds of years white men had written and spoken about how the black man was "hung like an ape", about how he fucked like an animal. The big black prick pervaded the white man's nightmare. Why? In a male chauvinist society each man is somewhat threatened by every other man's virility. Because white men were the oppressors and blackmen were oppressed, white men had an even greater cause to fear the black man's virility.
It was really quite simple. As long as black men were virilenlack people would continue to exist (assuming the women were willing) and as long as black people existed, there would be the popssibility of liberation, their taking what was theirs-the products of their labor-even of their conquering the white man.
On one level, the emotional, hysterical level and the level on which most powerless white men react, white men feared the black man's sexual dexterity, the black man's sexual appeal, and the black man's attraction for white women. But on another level, on the level at which actual power changes hands, white men feared the black man's penis as the starting point of black families, of the strength of numbers, ofthe perpetuation of the race, and the resourcefulness gained from centuries of oppression.
Although Michele Wallace was drawing upon the experience of gender and race relations in North America, the relevance for an understanding the situation in Europe is not hard to draw out. Under the Nazi regime about 500 Rhinelandbastarde were sterilised in 1937. These were the children of African soldiers serving in the French army of occupation. This was part of a broader nazi programme of sterilization of African-Europeans, gypsies, jews and people regarded as asocial or biologically unfit. Of course, this was not limited to the Nazis: Social Democrats in Sweden used sterilised 62,000 people from 1935-1975. (The bulk of these were women.)
Michele Wallace continues:
The Civil Rights Movement occurred when black men and black women could not be terrified into silence any longer. A black woman, Rosa Parks, set the wheels in motion. Both black men and black women had grown weary of suffering,were ready to struggle, and thought they had discovered techniques that would soon lead to their freedom, But white men would not budge an inch. Despite the Civil Rights Movement's dedication to the methods of "passive resistance", white men saw the speaking out of black men as a combined threat to their own virility, to their money and their power.
Under pressure the white man enacted meaningless legislation. He continued to debate the inferiority of the black race. He gave the blacks the right to vote and nothing to vote for, the right to buy but no money to buy with, the right to go wherever they wanted but no transportation to get there. And lastly he told the black man to keep his penis tucked between his legs or there would be nothing at all. With good reason, the black man grew blind with rage. He decided he would do exactly what he thought the white man wanted him to do least. He would debase and defile white women. He would also show the white man that black women had no influence over him and that they would have to pay for fucking white men for all those years. He too would make his woman submissive, but he would not be the chump the white man had been. He'd give his woman nothing for her submissiveness.
Yes, white men were perversely obsessed with the black man's genitals but the obsession turned out to be a communicable disease and in the sixties black men came down with high fevers. Richard Wright was the first to present the white nightmare, Black Macho, as a vehicle of liberation. Then Mailer spoke of the nobilityt of the primitive within America's center and described how if that primitive was ever to realise his equality - equal education, wealth, political representation, and couple it with his sheer physical magnificence, his awesome virility and stoneage sexual morality, he would rule the earth.
Blackmen began to harp on the white man's obsession with their genitals and that was the very point at which their own obsession began to take hold. Baldwin, under pressure, Jones, Cleaver and many others began to glorify the primitivism of the black man, to take his macho out of the category of human error and place it in the category of divine destiny.
An assertion of his selfhood and sexuality, a rejection of the all-importance of fear, was very probably essential to the black man's development at the stage he found himself in the sixties. Perhaps it was necessary for Huey Newton and the Black Panthers to make a public display of arming themselves. Their actions represented an unprecedented boldness in the sons of slaves and had a profound and largely beneficial effect on the way in which black men would regard themselves from then on. Yet the gains would have been more lasting if an improved self-image had not been so hopelessly dependent upon Black Macho-a male chauvinist that was frequently cruel, narcissistic and shortsighted.
Pulling back from immersion in such contagious fantasies, we can see that these fantasies are rooted in defence of white male power and priveleges. Let's use this to understand the mysoginist views which are recited in Thoughts On Masculinity:
"Women are still generally thought of and educated as weak creatures, short-sighted, irrational and ruled by their feelings and emotions. This is in contrast to men, who are rational creatures with the power to reason and change the world (with their technical capacities)."
Clearly women are not irrational. However when people operate from a different set of priorities, then they are likely to reach different conclusions. So to dismiss women as 'irrational' is a way of avoiding discussing those other prioritise which are being brought into play. (Of course, another way is to ban them from meetings . . .) So 'irrationality' is projected onto women, or onto non-Europeans precisely because white men are the people with the power to change and define the world, and hence to define what is reasonable, even when it defies reason. The problem with 'Thoughts on Masculinity' is that it does not seek to move outside the mysoginist fantasy world:
Our first task is to try to define and analyse methodically what, in our patriarchal culture, is more often attributed to men on one side, and to women on the other. We should then attempt to perceive the various ways in which these differences are used by some to dominate others. We can assume that there are presently good and bad things, to keep or to reject, in both masculine and feminine specific social attributes.
According to this recipe we first elaborate mysogynist stereotypes, but then instead of looking at how these stereotypes are used to hide real social relations, the plan is then to evaluate and redistrbute these fantasies in a process of 'pastry making'. then for example:
[F]or example, masculine self-confidence as it is presently expressed often oppresses others. But it also potentially offers fulfilling potentials to individuals. It can initiate huge dynamics, the will to surpass oneself and to change things.
Now while I can understand self-confidence as a justifiable understanding of one's own abilities which allows the development of realisable goals, I see 'masculine self-confidence' is something which is always oppressive, in that it is a false self confidence which is based upon men utilising gender privilege - a socially conferred advantage - to acheive their goals. It is about men acting as 'men', rather than acting as human beings. It remains within the dynamics of patriarchy, and while it may well be shrouded in metaphysical speculation of self-overcoming a la Nietzsche, Evola etc. it is much more about maintaining existing gender relations.
Moving onto A Few More Reflections on the Usefulness of Men-only Groups, here the problem is further elaborated: "Men´s groups are a way to do our part of the job as men" - i.e. maintaining the illusion of changing gender relations whilst still remaining man-identifeied man in comparison to Robin Morgan's woman-identified women. No matter the wonderful intentions of creating a new caring man, it ends up defending the importance of 'man' the gender category as a way of ordering our lives. What it avoids is the process of men and women working together in a radical movement to move beyond patriarchy.
We have a few days together at this conference, and it has been agreed to spend at least a day discussing gender issues. But precisely at this point we are faced with an argument that suggests that men should be allowed to wiggle away from dealing with gender by secluding themselves in men only meetings.
Of course it maybe that a significant number of women decide that they need a women only discussion. And some men maybe wondering what they should do while this takes place.
Is it too radical to suggest that there will be plenty of housework, chores, childcare and other work for men to busy themselves with?