No one knows what the body can do. -Spinoza

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Men Behaving Badly

Alexander McQueen, F09

Men are *not* allowed to eat you alive. I realize I advised a couple of days ago on the attire to best support women projecting such a persona, but let me be clear that men are *not* allowed to participate in such activities. If we're to take something like standpoint theory, or various other analyses of social-political hierarchy seriously, what we've learned is that men (broadly speaking) have a different kind of social advantage than women do. Of *course* there are exceptions to such theoretical views--that is, of course there are particular men that do not so readily gain such social advantage, or that don't take advantage explicitly of such possible gain--but that is part of the point of understanding what it means to have a *theoretical* perspective. There are empirical exceptions to theoretical interpretations of things. As a quick side note, I've decided it's important to see that there are stars *everywhere* in our lives, and so I've chosen, for today only, to insert as many * as possible and emphasis-appropriate into this post.

Here's a different way to put the same point: we're focused these decades on making sure we all understand that men and women are equal. *Here! * Here!* There's a big part of that with which I agree, of course. (The ways I disagree are too bloody complicated to put here right now.) That doesn't deny, however, that in the current state of our social world, at least here in the United States, there are different options available to men than to women. Still, that is the case. Women have certainly gained access to many more options than, say, thirty years ago, but that doesn't mean we should be done yet in our trying. And so, part of how we all can take responsibility in striving for making our lived-reality match our ideal (that is, for our everyday lives to begin to look like the equality we are focused on) is to realize that we might have to measure out the choices we make for our own sake, because what any one of us chooses or enacts really does impact not only our own individual lives, but the community around us, and the world we're striving to produce for tomorrow. And, further, we can think about the intertwined nature of our own lives, with the lives of those around us, whether we're willing to do something like take a feminist stance or not. That is, even if you think women have excellent choices and something like "as many" as men, you still might decide eating people alive isn't the best thing for you to do, you know, for the sake of your community.

Having said all that, I received a complaint in response to my Hélène Cixous post, that there was not enough regard for the range of options men's clothing might take. I think there is a way for men to take up their own version of the Cixous commitment. That is, we men can dress in ways that celebrate and acknowledge the triumphs of the past, while problematizing the possibility of taking them for granted. To put it another way, we men can dress to eat our own advantage alive. In doing so, we can trouble the positions we might otherwise too easily fall into, and so undermine the norms that are obvious to us in order to gain a different sort of advantage--one born from enacting ideals thoroughly questioned, and so rightfully gained. That is, from undermining what we're simply given, from interrogating what we take for granted or believe to be obviously true, we claim our more profound sense of social advantage--the vision to begin to see ourselves as we are and for what we can be, by seeing too the place we take up in the world. Sometimes the first step to accomplishing such a grandiose plan is just to make the obvious, well obvious.

So, following are my outfit recommendations for men ready to eat the obvious alive.

1. Going to drink beer with a buddy that you know gets a little cranky when he drinks:

Alexander McQueen, F09

2. On your way to a "Business Attire" luncheon pissed life made you take your pajamas off:

Thom Browne, F09

3. Presenting at a Professional Historians Conference Determined to Prove that Amelia Earhartt *did* make it all the way to Gardner Island, and only crashed because she just needed better wing welding:

Alexander McQueen, F09

4. On your way to pitch the TV show, "Opie Grows Up (but not too much)":

Lanvin, F09

5. Going into the office just after your boss has instituted a new Tie-Required policy, a week after receiving an employee reprimand for not following company rules:

Raf Simons, F09

6. And finally, just before re-inventing your life in order to teach the world about the paradoxical nature of love that looks like war:

Pat Benatar, 1983, Love is a Battlefield


  1. Oh,
    I have water in my eyes and I am trying not to lol. Nobody here in my office would understand or appreciate.
    What would you have said about the guy at the head of your post?

  2. As much as I'd like to wear these outfits, (1) I can't afford the original couture versions, and I doubt that I'll find them at my favorite second-hand shop; (2) Vanity alert-- these styles won't flatter my 50-something corpus, excepting outfit # 3 of course. Leather always looks good; (3) I think I have sufficiently undermined my advantage in spades--c'mon Elaine, you know me, fer crissakes; (4) I can't stop laughing. Great post!

  3. In order to contribute to this, in my own special way, may I provide the accessories? I would give them,

    1. A straw
    2. A teddy bear named Nomnomnom
    3. A Velcro bib pocket
    4. A hickie (let me just say I will not be providing this one personally...)
    5. A penguin on a leash, and,
    6. Something fluorescent. I distinctly remember a lot of fluorescent orange and green in 1983. Or Prince. Who doesn't love them some Prince...

  4. this post is proof that *some* designers who have enough imagination really *can* do the seemingly impossible, and make men's clothes *very* *interesting*.

  5. Step 1: Grab your iPod
    Step 2: Use it to read Elaine's blog.
    Corollary 1: Laugh out loud; cry a bit.
    Step 3: Think about getting out of bed.

    What a great way to start a day!