Jessa Crispin:

A truly progressive man, then, would be one who rejects the social and economic advantages that come from hegemonic masculinity and patriarchal conformity. A “feminine flourish,” as Cremin puts it, of perfume or lipstick or a silk blouse, would undercut a man’s power immediately in both the workplace and on the sexual market. But why is that still true, other than because men are heavily invested in retaining old forms and modes of power, and are unwilling to take even the smallest step toward voluntarily relinquishing it—as well as having a disinterest in, or belittling viewpoint of, femininity and women, and a fear of being mistaken for gay? You know, small things like that. The feminine potential that lies within men is often spoken about in terms of caretaking and parenting within marriages and nuclear families—which are forms of patriarchal control, too—rather than with regard to exploring sensuality, beauty, and softness.

I suppose I stand corrected. When I suggested the other day that our inclinations and behaviors around here were more truly genderbendy than all these bandwagon-jumpers who change their pronouns as often as their underwear, I failed to recognize that those ostensibly non-conforming practices were still taking place within the confines of a hetero-patriarchal relationship, rendering them null and void with regard to their revolutionary potential. Plus, the Lady of the House still harbors a reactionary fondness for fashionable clothes and makeup, while I, with my “gym bod” and “nostalgia bearding,” am clearly reacting out of subconscious fear of the, uh, “rise of the visibility of women and queers in the public realm,” desperately trying to reassert my threatened masculinity. Let’s not even mention my t-shirt and cargo-shorts wardrobe. Point is, “true” revolutionary socialism will only arrive when we’re all dressing like Ziggy Stardust. If the history of actually-existing revolutionary socialism is any indication, it’s more likely we’d all be wearing drab unisex Mao Suits, but okay, whatever.

Funny enough, I don’t actually have any problem with the idea that fashion is a largely-arbitrary social construction that could be changed with no lasting consequences to the social order. Whether we call them kilts, skirts, sarongs, kimonos, dresses or robes, I’m all in favor of dressing comfortably. If it became socially acceptable for guys to wear eyeliner, I’d probably do it. I fully admit that the only reason I don’t is because it’s not a hill I’m willing to answer ten thousand questions upon. Life is all about tradeoffs, and I simply don’t feel strongly enough about men’s indubitable right to wear makeup to do it myself. I mean, having a beard, even if only because I like the way it looks, apparently opens me to charges of being subconsciously homophobic and misogynist, so I really just don’t have the time to face interrogation over the subtext of my lip gloss as well. Is this proof of the stifling conformity of capitalist patriarchy, or is it just the adult recognition of the fact that not all battles are equally worth fighting?

No, the article would be unremarkable were it not for the fact of Crispin’s determination to squeeze in her typically half-baked ideas about socialist utopia. Well, since we’re all pretending to be able to read each other’s minds here, allow me to go ahead and speculate that her generic bowl of buzzword soup here is just the latest product of her admittedly-incomplete education and its attending inferiority complex. An intellectual orphan, left to fend for herself in the inhospitable, culturally sterile Midwest, trying to cobble together a sophisticated worldview through voracious, indiscriminate reading, she apparently impressed upon the first jargon-spouting critical theorist she encountered and never outgrew it. And so, sadly, here she is, close to middle age, proud of having attained fluency in academese, and evidently unaware that it does nothing to disguise the adolescent puerility of her ideas. “When we remove forms of control, we are left to act freely on our desires.” Yes, and only a superficially-intelligent naïf who confuses bookishness with wisdom assumes that this is likely to turn out well.