Sissyphobia and Male Identity

Posted: February 21, 2009 in Uncategorized

Judith Butler says that homophobia is at the root of gender identity. Judging from my own experience, I would say that the root of boy identity and later ‘male’ identity is sissyphobia. I think I and other boys were subjected to a constant gender policing and institutional violence that instilled in us a terror of being thrust into the identity of crybaby, sissy, pussy and fag. This policing came partly in the form of a constant threat of bullying and getting beaten up for transgressing gender norms. This leads to what I call sissyphobia as foundation of ‘male’ identity. This differs from homophobia is two respects:

1) The fag discourse – In ‘Dude, you’re a fag’ Pascoe has described what she calls fag discourse in an American High School. Boys are bullied and called a fag continually, but the label fag does not really relate to sexuality but failing to project masculine gender norms, such as: mastery, dominance, physical prowess, lack of emotion (toughness), and lack of attention to appearance. I think that crybaby, sissy, pussy, fag and other abuse is for those who are low in the masculine dominance hierarchy or are outside of it. I failed at the boy gender. I learned to take abuse without fighting back. I learned to let my boundaries be violated on a constant basis during the worst years between 12 and 14 years of age. Metaphorically speaking, I learned to bend over and take it without fighting back. If to be male is to be emotionally stunted, we should look back to these early hazings for an explanation rather than to innate difference.

2) Sissyphobia is a fear of being labeled fag, pussy and sissy, of being brutalized for being different. Homophobia is usually conceived of as an external fear of gays or an internalized fear of being gay. Sissyphobia is a fear of being exposed as different. It is a fear of being different.

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Comments
  1. sarah says:

    First up, can I offer a blog comment hug to 12 year old you? There are sure a lot of ways to get hated on in school.

    I remember a passage from a Terrance Real book, “How Can I Get Through To You?”, that seems to fit with this.

    He wrote that his young son loved to dress up in costumes and would dress up as a princess, a fairy, etc. One day the son dressed like this and tried to play with some older boys, and they gave him the silent shunning treatment. The author’s analysis was that the older boys were policing/teaching masculinity by sending the message, “This is what we do to the feminine.”

    That phrase sticks with me, “this is what we do to the feminine.” Ugh. I want to send that little son a blog comment hug too. I’d never seen so clearly the connections between gender construction, transphobia, homophobia, and misogyny. Binary gender as gender terrorism. Sissyphobia seems connected with so many other phobias.

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