para 1.0 - para 9.0
para 10.0 - para 18.0
para 19.0 - para 21.0

A Critique of His Critique
. . .
Or Poor PoMo Masculine Speculations

Para 10.0 - 18.0

March 26, 1997
University of Toronto - Erindale

 10.0  But he has generated no alternative metaphors. In small part because he has misconstrued the "coming out" strategy of gay liberation; in large part because of his disavowal of collusion of the oppressed with the oppressor.  10.0 
 11.0  Now instead of an in/out formation, we distribute the pronouns around a name, we have a more porous demarcation, in effect we have filters for osmosis. Me, we, they, you are all positions which lay claim to a name. The name itself is the site through which various positions address each other. Identities function to communicate from one person to another. And as with any communication there is the possibility of "split addressee"  11.0 
 12.0  This is where Gutterman fails to ask, see and hear, what coming out accomplishes. When I come out I speak and appear not for myself. I may be addressing a straight person but I'm also addressing "closeted" individuals. Gutterman assumes that liberation strategies are solely designed to educate the oppressor hence his celebration of the subversive strategy of profeminist men passing up to a point to gain the confidence of men and teach them the art of rewriting the scripts of normative masculinity. However liberation strategies are also if not more so designed to mobilize the oppressed. Gutterman has staged an interesting rewriting that does nothing to dismantle normative masculinity. Adam Mars-Jones in "Venus Envy" collected in Blind Bitter Happiness summarizes this move brilliantly:
Feminism has changed the way men think but not in the way that feminists might have hoped. Although feminist criticism has made some male habits unfashionable in certain circles, masculinity has been quick to redefine itself, in terms not of nature or even of freedom, but in terms of responsibility. Lost ground has been recaptured, without any admission that ground was lost in the first place, or that any slow struggle is going on. A new style has arisen of faintly synthetic introspection, presented as a maturing process unprompted by contemporary debates, which nevertheless reads more convincingly as a rhetorical response to cultural pressure. (128-129)

Whether Gutterman's is a "faintly synthetic introspection" or not, it is clear that he cleaves to a narrative of a maturing process, an opening to the unfolding of difference.

 13.0  Well let's see how he does. My contention is that he is wholely oblivious to the notion of "split addressee" and reads his sources as if they spoke only to him. In doing so he totally misses in the texts that he reads the important messages about collusion.  13.0 
 14.0  First, the case of Marlon Riggs. Gutterman in reference to the film Tongues Untied makes no reference to Riggs being Afro-American and gay. Gutterman's lack of specificity allows for a universalisation of the experience that Riggs reports:
In this case, Riggs was categorized and defined as the "governing culture" recognized his (racial) difference, branded the cultural meanings attached to race (gender and sexuality) onto him, and turned them into otherness. However, as Riggs recognizes the contingent, unstable state of the identities branded onto him, he is able to resist the limits placed on him by others while reveling in difference. (223)

This is just plain wrong on two fronts. One, Riggs in the film and text of Tongues Untied certainly adopts a persona that speaks in the "I" but this persona is not meant to be read as the autobiographical Riggs. It is the speaking voice of a very specific, very stable identity. Check out the interview with Riggs in Brother to Brother. Gutterman, secondly, stops the story short. The speaking persona of Tongues Untied goes on to dismantle the illusion of safety in the depths inside the self. The Afro-American is "seduced out of [his] adolescent silence" by white boy. The personal solution of interracial love is both a blessing and a curse. There is the struggle with "snow queen" status and then the return to the search for self found in the beat of his own heart.

The beat was my salvation.

I let this primal pulse lead me
past broken dreams, solitude
and fragments of identity
to a new place, a home
not of peace, harmony and sunshine.

But truth.

Simple, shameless, brazen truth.

The account continues with a major encounter with the truth of mortality (hint of HIV in those blood rhythms). The final lines are distinctly designed to be "heard" and "overheard". There is a split addressee in this concluding paean:

I was blind to my brother's beauty/my own
but now I see
Deaf to the voice that believed
we were worth wanting/loving
each other.
Now I hear.
I was mute,
burdened by shadows and silence.
Now I speak
and my burden is lightened
 16.0  This text could be glossed as "reveling in difference" and resisting limits. However, it is very important to ask whose difference and who imposed the limits --- with whose collusion. In failing to do so, Gutterman leaches the multiplicity out of his sources.  16.0 
 17.0  He does it again in the conclusion when he draws upon a speech by Bernice Johnson Reagon to bolster his own version of risk taking. Here again context is crucial to understanding the import of what it means for coalition to be dangerous. It is not equally dangerous for everyone. Here we have a Black woman addressing a workshop at a women's music festival, particulars that Gutterman fails to signal. One important factor that escapes notice in Gutterman's selective quotation is that coalition work is not a permanent condition. Reagon is very very clear. Gutterman ends his selection with "In a coalition you have to give, and it is different from your home." Reagon continues "You can't stay there all the time. You go to the coalition for a few hours and then you go back and take your bottle whatever it is, and then you go back and coalesce some more." Dangerous risk taking is intermittent. Gutterman also drops a key sentence from the middle of this paragraph. "Some people will come to a coalition and they rate the success of the coalition on whether or not they feel good when they get there." Does Gutterman's piece contribute to the reproduction of a feel good kinda guy?  17.0 
 18.0  Well it certainly does install a controlling instance that judges who can change and to what extent. This is especially true in the section on Gay Male Gender Identity where's Gutterman ahistorical framing of C. Lonc's discussion of "how he initially adopted the 'passive' role of a 'women' in sex in an effort to 'mimic straight society' but eventually was able to adopt an active role in sex." overlooks the fact that the story Lonc tells does not belong to 1991 the date of publication of the anthology in which it appears. Indeed the anthology covers at least some two decades of gay experiences. (Gay roots: Twenty years of gay sunshine: An anthology of gay history, sex, politics, and culture. San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1991) This lack of historical perspective allows Gutterman to simply state disagreement with Jeffery Weeks contention that "sexual identity, at least in the lesbian or gay subcultures of the west, has broken free from gender identity." Gutterman is quoting from Sexuality and its Discontents (1985, 191). Gutterman broadens Weeks's formulation to state his disagreement. He writes: "I do not agree with Weeks' conclusion that sexual identity for gay people is now independent of considerations of gender." Fine. But not so fine his misreading of Jeffrey Escoffier whom he uses to tie both gay liberation and feminist struggles to a very narrow view of identity politics. Gutterman:
Given the increasing centrality of sexuality as a defining element of individual identity and the constitution of the social subject, it is no surprise that identity politics has been central in feminist and gay movements. For example, Jeffrey Escoffier (1985) asserts, "The fundamental ambivalence of homosexuals originating in their being raised to be heterosexuals made the discursive process of identity formation central to gay and lesbian politics" (pp. 119-120)

The key phrase here is "identity formation" which Gutterman seems to read as "identity". Escoffier's essay draws on the work of many lesbians including that of Barbara Ponse whose Lesbian Identities (1978) posits a consistency principle. Escoffier is quite eloquent on its consequences:

If the principle of consistency ideologically holds together the ensemble of practices, discourses, and institutions of the sex/gender system, then the emergence of the homosexual as a subject and particularly as a political subject can only take place on the basis of reinterpreting the meaning of sexuality and gender. Otherwise, as long as homosexuals remain within the discourses of "consistency," most aspects of homosexual life will be interpreted and treated as anomalous and unnatural.

Gutterman is saying no gay men have broken from the consistency principle; they just realign the elements of the sex/gender system. Escoffier says that without breaking away from it they cannot be gay. Gutterman contra Weeks "would suggest that in this case male gender identity has broken free from the imperative of heterosexuality." (228) Gutterman wants to recognize the "performative character of gender".


para 1.0 - para 9.0
para 10.0 - para 18.0
para 19.0 - para 21.0

copyright 1997 François Lachance