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Myisha Cherry on Masculinity and Human Virtue @ Brooklyn Public Philosophers, Tuesday 3/18
Mar 18, 2014 @ 7:00 pm| Free
Myisha Cherry (John Jay College) will be joining Brooklyn Public Philosophers to speak about using Aristotle’s conception of human virtue to overcome problematic norms of masculinity. Here’s a bit more about the talk, in Prof. Cherry’s own words:
Acting “Mean”: Queering Hegemonic Masculinity through a Cultivation of Human Virtues
Hegemonic masculinity is the dominant and ideal masculinity within a gender hierarchy. Hegemonic white masculinity is characterized by aggressiveness, lack of emotion, denigration of others, and wealthy and powerful status. In the U.S., hegemonic masculinity is white, Christian, heterosexual, and upper-class. It is projected through the media and by religious, sports, and leadership figures as well as through institutions such as the military. When men conform to hegemonic masculinity they are rewarded; when they do not they are frowned upon and sometimes punished.
Hegemonic white masculinity not only affects how one treats a certain gender or racial group, but it also affects how one treats oneself. I argue that hegemonic white masculinity causes self-harm. This gives men personal reasons to resist. Because hegemonic white masculinity is not one person or institution but an ideal and norm, effective resistance will come through resisting the norm, an act I refer to as queering. As opposed to suggesting that men of color should queer by “acting like a woman”, I believe it is important to find a mode of resistance not grounded in essentialism.
Therefore, I argue that men of color queer through a cultivation of human virtues; they should “act mean”, in Aristotle’s sense. For Aristotle, virtuous living is the mean between two extremes: excess and deficiency. For example, servility is a deficiency, cantankerousness is an excess, but friendliness is the mean, the virtue we ought to strive for. I will argue that human virtue or the doctrine of the mean is opposed to hegemonic masculinity. Not only is it possible for men of color to queer through a cultivation of human virtues, but the rhetoric of “cultivation of virtues” respects difference and doesn’t slur the feminine. While queering through a cultivation of virtues might sound like a politics of respectability, it turns respectability on its head by debunking stereotypes and resisting hegemonic white masculine norms. I hope that my argument is not only a philosophical contribution to queer theory and conversations about progressive black masculinities in the Humanities, but that it has pragmatic implications as well.
It promises to be a provocative discussion – hope to see you there!