My discourse on sex and gender, it turns out, is a discourse on power, identity, lineage, paternal right, and patriarchal might. Needless to say, as it moves from procreation without a genitor and without sex, to sex without identity, and from there to sex without procreation, it is also a discourse on anxiety and decay, on faddish medical interventions and on gender-biased philosophical cover-ups, on the disorder that manufactured and fantasized sexual parts create, on the panic that fear of castration and metamorphosis engenders, and on the regulatory regimes of sexuality that are put in place to keep behaviors on track. Thus it is thoroughly and always a discourse on women.
from Valeria Finucci, The Manly Masquerade: Masculinity, Paternity and Castration in the Italian Renaissance, 35-6.
Why can’t a book on masculinity simply be a book on masculinity? I’m okay with the fact that masculinity obviously will have implications on feminimity (and vice-versa for that matter, especially when feminimity is being constructed by men). But if you’re going to write a book on masculinity, why not let masculinity speak for itself? Men are just as entitled to their own history as women are. Neither can be understood in isolation from each other.
One of my big problems, though, with feminist history–at least that I’ve read–is that it tends to focus too much on ‘rescuing’ women’s history from the evil patriarchy of the past in order to assert that women do, indeed, have their own history that is just as valid as the general historical story. No academic worth his or her salt at this point denies this. Women had a specific historical experience that was defined by their gender. Yes. But so did men. Yes, men were the dominant sex, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t restricted and forced into little socially-constructed costumes, just like women were. Men too, in a lot of ways, were just as much victims of socially-constructed expectations. No doubt it sucked being a woman in the past. It’s difficult to make the argument that it sucked equally as much to be a man since clearly it didn’t, but that doesn’t mean that it was always a walk in the park.
I guess I’m just frustrated because I don’t see how her discourse is ‘thoroughly and always’ on women. I simply do not see that as logically following from what she outlines in this paragraph, or any of what she outlines in rest of her introductory chapter. Why does a book about the social and literary construction of masculinity in the Italian Renaissance have to be, at its base, according to this, a book about women?