“Manhood Acts: Gender and the Practices of Domination” by Michael Schwalbe— Manhood and Domination

manhood acts

Schwalbe, Michael. “Manhood Acts: Gender and the Practices of Domination”, Paradigm Publishers, 2014.

Manhood and Domination

Amos Lassen

There are definite practices used by men to keep women and other men in unequal categories, to claim identities and men and to compete for status as men. The study of men and masculinity seems to have come to a full stop because the feminist roots are no longer there and we live in a world where it is possible to have multiple masculinities. One of the first concepts to die was that of the gay man being a sissy. Now straight men are running to the gym to build up their bodies just as gay men have done for so long. Notice also how the straight world has begun to copy the gay world in so many ways.

Michael Schwalbe tries to reclaim radical feminism’s ideas that gender is a field of domination and not just a field of play. Manhood is therefore basically about exerting and resisting control. He also “examines the intersection of capitalism and manhood, showing how manhood and economic exploitation are co-emergent and mutually sustaining”. Schwalbe reaches the conclusion that doing away with gender, as a means of oppression, needs more than transgressive self-presentation. To end the damage caused by manhood acts and by competition for manhood status, it will be necessary to end the exploitive economic relationships that necessitate manhood itself”. We see here a sociological analysis of masculinity and manhood. Using critical gender theory Schwalbe deconstructs masculinity and its destructive outcomes. He takes issue with the current focus in men s studies on multiple masculinities and argues, “masculinity, as part of the hierarchical gender order, is based on domination of women and less-valued men”. He then calls for what radical; feminists have wanted— a call for a gender-free society.

 This is a brave and compelling theory of manhood in all its manifestations, from relations between women and men to the dynamics of global capitalism. Schwalbe presents an indispensable guide both to understanding patriarchy in its present form and how to envision change that is meaningful. He does this with great clarity that will cause many men to step back and recognize something of themselves. If this makes us uncomfortable, it is because he has deeply analyzed the situation and makes it clear that the future is dependent upon “transcending

the pathological values of patriarchy”.  By linking masculinity to other forms of domination, we see that attention to gender is a matter of survival and not of identity politics.

“Fairyland” by Summer Locke Elliott— The Life of Seaton Daly

fairyland

Elliott, Summer Locke. “Fairyland”, (Text Classics), Text Publishing, 2013.

The Life of Seaton Daly

Amos Lassen

“Fairyland” is Elliott Summer Locke’s last book and his most autobiographical. It is heavily based on his own coming to terms with his homosexuality as an aspiring writer. He lived in Sydney, Australia at a time (1930s-40s) when the atmosphere of the town was repressed, especially in the inner city where he lived. Seaton Daly was lonely and depressed and dreamt of coming to the United States. This is an intimate look at a lifelong search for love and it is affecting and sometimes harrowing. This is Locke’s coming-out novel and was published for the first time in 1990. Locke died a year later. This new edition contains an introduction by Australian gay scholar, Dennis Altman.

The novel is about growing up gay in Sydney, on the eve of WW II is this Elliott’s ninth novel that is at times tender and at other times filled with satire. Seaton Daly is the son of an aloof mother who idolized his dead hero father and he is orphaned at a young age. After being seduced by another schoolboy, Seaton moves from unsuccessful affair to unsuccessful affair. The novel focuses on the men for whom Seaton yearns: “Byron the narcissistic actor; baby-faced Milly Dick in a pink apron, offering to share his horsey wife; the authoritarian Captain Smollett and the nameless tough guy who lures gays only to brutalize them.

Seaton created a juvenile radio program series called “Fairyfish”. He was able to come to America as a playwright— we see him as “a character fixed at a level of naive sensitivity in a gay world delineated as treacherous and transient”.

Seaton observes life passively and he allows others to use and manipulate him. We share no sympathy for him since he is a product of his own making. Elliott’s last novel was also his most courageous in that he freed himself of explorations on his troubled childhood and expressed himself as a gay adult, sketching a variety of obstacles that realization led to. As he stumbles through various sexual encounters, which lead to no love whatsoever, Daly’s optimism is gradually grated away. “Critics and reviewers often misconstrue where this well-trodden gay pathway leads, for Seaton’s destination is awkward, it is sudden, but, in its time and place, is devastatingly credible”. The writing is wonderful and the story is a reflection of other times.

“THE FILMS OF JAMES BROUGHTON: COMPLETE— 1948-1988

films of james broughton

 “The Films of James Broughton: Complete”

1948-1988

Amos Lassen

James Broughton was a poet, an author and a filmmaker and was referred to as the “great and wise master of the American avant-garde” by critic Amos Vogel He attempted to use cinema as kind of poetic statement. Broughton used love, sex, the human body, and dream imagery as his subject matter and he presented it with playfulness and often with an erotic touch. This is a three disc sets that organizes 17 of Broughton’s films from three different time periods and this is way to become aware of the evolution of the man and his themes.

Disc 1 is named the “THE EARLY YEARS” and contains
Broughton’s first films focused on the themes of romantic love and human behavior. A highlight in this collection includes The Pleasure Garden, which was named Best Fantastic-Poetic Film at the Cannes Film Festival. This group of black and white shorts includes: Mother’s Day (1948), Loony Tom (1951), Four in the Afternoon (1951), and The Pleasure Garden (1953).

Disc 2— A MIDDLE PERIOD—
During the 1960s and 1970s, Broughton’s imagery became more erotic while his subject matter explored the landscape of dream and the mysteries of Zen poetry. A highlight in this collection is Testament, a self-portrait that depicts Broughton’s life as a pageant of personal imagery. This group of color films include: The Bed (1968), The Golden Positions (1970), This Is It (1971), Dreamwood (1972), High Kukus (1973), Testament (1974), The Water Circle (1975), and Progeny (1976)

Disc 3: FINALE: THE FILMS WITH JOEL SINGER–
In the last era of his life and career, Broughton teamed with partner Joel Singer to produce a series of films on the nature of intimacy and personal relationships. Films include: Songs of the Godbody (1977), Hermes Bird (1979), The Gardner of Eden (1981), Devotions (1983), and Scatteret Remains (1988), a portrait of Broughton by Singer in which the artist acts out his poetry.

”Peter Hujar: Love & Lust” by Vince Aletti and Stephen Koch— The Tender and the Taboo

peter hujar

Aletti, Vince and Stephen Koch. ”Peter Hujar: Love & Lust”, Fraenkel Gallery, 2014.

The Tender and the Taboo

Amos Lassen

The work of photographer Peter Hujar has been something of a secret. His photographs taken between 1969 and 1986 define a time in New York City and today they are considered to be his most radical and his finest work. Hujar viewed the human body uninhibitedly and without compromise as he explored sexuality and desire. The photographs show us a universal humanity. Looking at the photos is something akin to inhabiting them.

This book is published as a monograph in conjunction with an exhibition at Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco and it is the “first to deal specifically with Hujar’s photographs of love and lust”. They are in black and white and give us a view of human relationships that include both “the tender and the taboo”. The book also contains an interview with Fran Lebowitz from 1989 and new essays by Vince Aletti and Stephen Koch.

Hujar did not get the recognition he deserved while he lived but with this book and the exhibition that may change. His work is erotic and the photographs say it all. Male nudes are finally coming into their own and Hujar was there ahead of other such as Mapplethorpe. He dared and in it is what makes me great. He created “some really exceptional photography rescued from obscurity. It offers the reader/viewer a depth not often seen in the modern age of instant publishing”.

 “Peter Hujar (1934-1987) was born in Trenton, New Jersey and moved to Manhattan to work in the magazine, advertising and fashion industries. He documented the vibrant cultural scene of downtown New York throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In 1976, he published Portraits in Life and Death, with an introduction by Susan Sontag. Hujar died of AIDS in 1987”.

“ABSENCE OF LOVE”— “Love Does Not Begin and End the Way We Think it Does”

absence of love

“Absence of Love”

“Love Does Not Begin and End the Way We Think it Does”

Amos Lassen

James (Ernest Waddell) is an openly gay male who left home because of the way his family felt about his being gay. He now returns to go to the funeral of his prejudiced father. He now not only has to deal with his father’s death but also with his brother and love he once shared with Michael. Director Billy Gerard Franks packs a lot into just 20 minutes—the cinematography is brilliant as is everything else including the performances that are very, very real. The fact that the plot is familiar to so many makes this a strong film and even more so since this film is set in the African American community that puts so much emphasis on masculinity and manhood. We have “the turbulent relationship between James and his father; a former minister of a small Atlanta parish and a man whose homophobic views and aversion to the world of art and literature”. James left home moved to New York to live his life as an artist and where he found the love he was denied at home. In this film we see what James Baldwin once said so powerfully, “Love does not begin and end the way we think it does”.

absence1

There is a scene between James and his brother Samuel (Marc Damon Johnson) who has became a minister in which they have a long overdue conversation in which we learn of the past. This is a film about love. The brothers try to make amends while at the same time James and his boyfriend Michael are having a rough time.

This is a moving, character-driven piece that shows us what dedicated storytelling is all about. 

“God Told Me to Draw These” by John De Salvio— Supporting Who We Are

god told me

De Salvio, John. “God Told Me to Draw These”, CreateSpace, 2014.

Supporting Who We Are

Amos Lassen

John De Salvio is a former Benedictine monk and journalist who created this book on support of the LGBT community and it is wonderful. The LGBT community in the last few years has made wonderful progress and there are of course people who do not want this to happen and have tried in various ways to stop the freedoms that we now have. De Salvio has found and brought together over one hundred of his own political cartoons, newspaper columns on religion, politics and military, interviews, feature stories, etc. and then shows us the impact these have had on the LGBT community and its members. De Salvio was educated within the Catholic Church and went on to become a newspaper editor and a fine artist. He came out as a gay man and was at Stonewall so he saw history being made and is therefore in a place where he can share his past, enjoy the present and be ready for the future which will the culmination of those of us who spent our lives fighting for our rights in various ways. We were all affected once by homophobia and we really feel the relief today now that it is not so vocal. Who would have dreamt that a President of the United States would speak about our community in his inaugural address or that we had the power to bring down the head of a large Internet company?

Did you ever stop to wonder where the people who write political cartoons get their inspiration? Sometimes one picture can say more that miles of words and can be more to the point—that is what we see here with De Salvio’s cartoons. A cartoon has to look at the news and find a way to make it funny and in a very short amount of time—the cartoon must change the eye for a split second in order to be able to deliver its message. Di Salvio manages to give us serious reporting but in the guise of humor. We are able to see the foolishness in some of the reporting done by such characters as Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Bachmann who seem to busy themselves by their own statements.

All is not comedy here. De Salvio gives us interviews with LGBT activists such as Randy Shilts and articles about the new Pope, Pat Robertson and AIDS to name a few. He looks at the topics that we face everyday in the LGBT community—-“teen suicide, gay-positive school programs, international policy on gays in the military, the illogic of automatically associating same-sex orientation with child molestation, right-wing extremism, Bible literalism and distortion, landmarks in LGBT legislation, the myths of recruiting and homosexuality-as-choice, and the Vatican’s perplexing stance on the matter (it’s ok to be queer; it’s not ok to act on it)”.

Satire is one of the most difficult forms of literature to write because it must be based on something real. We all know that laughter is wonderful and it is even more wonderful when we can laugh at ourselves and at our society. Here you see just that and De Salvio has actually given us a bit of history through his writing and while it is, at times, tongue-in-cheek, it does represent who we are. The sections on the Bible  (“revised to Biblical proportions” are amazing). This is a book that can be looked again and again and always seems to say something new.

“A Family by Any Other Name: Exploring Queer Relationships” edited by Bruce Gillespie—- What Family Means Today

a family

Gillespie, Bruce. “A Family by Any Other Name: Exploring Queer Relationships”, Touchwood Editions, 2013.

What Family Means Today

Amos Lassen

For the first time in history lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender relationships and families are really visible and we see more and more of them. This book is a celebration of those families which give a new definition to a word that we all thought we knew the meaning of. This is an anthology that looks at different perspectives of queer families and relationships and it includes stories about “coming out, same-sex marriage, adopting, having biological kids, polyamorous relationships, families without kids, divorce, and dealing with the death of a spouse”. What we get there is a personal look at such families through writings that are funny, provocative, and intelligent and are moving and honest. The writers included are from across North America.

“Breathless” by Alex Morgan— A Body in Provincetown

breathless

Morgan, Alex. “Breathless”, Wilde City Press, 3014.

A Body in Provincetown

Amos Lassen

 The town of Provincetown, Massachusetts is preparing  for Mates Weekend, a popular time when the leather community takes over the place for partying. When a body is found, Corey Shaw thinks that it is probably the result of a BDSM session that went too far and he begins to go from place to place looking for the person responsible. Corey has special paranormal qualities that include clairvoyance and telepathy and it seems that he will have to use them to solve this crime.

Even though the Provincetown police say this was a murder, Corey believes it is the result of a scene that just kept going  and went out of control with the victim being tied up and strangled. As he looks at the different “dungeons” of the town, he becomes immersed in the local scene and discovers a side of himself that he was unaware of. He realizes that he has urges in this new environment where fantasies are fulfilled yet he knows that he must continue to look for the murderer before he kills someone else.

Corey,  who is in a relationship with Ethan,  became so involved that he cheated on his partner and I found this issue of infidelity to be a major theme but it just did not work to the advantage of the story.

There are two BDSM sections in which Corey became involved with Darryl, a leather guy and they seemed to be gratuitous because they really did not further the plot. The story is basically a murder mystery but with Corey’s cheating it seemed to me that the direction in which the story was heading got a bit lost. The BDSM scenes were written in a way that made us dislike Corey for cheating on Ethan and took away from his murder investigation which I believe is the main part of the story. And then there was Mitch who is blamed for Corey’s losing direction and his ability to focus on the case.
This could have been such a good story if it had stayed on track. It seems to have lost its way just as Corey did when he suddenly becomes involved in BDSM. The major theme breaks down with the addition of many characters for a short piece and I began to wonder if the real motif on the story was leather, BDSM, infidelity or murder. It would take a longer bit of writing for all of these to work out. Nevertheless, it is well written but just seems to try too hard.

“The Bridge Generation: A Queer Elders’ Chronicle from No Rights to Civil Rights” by Quirk-Collective— Elders Write

the bridge generation

Quirk- Kollective. “The Bridge Generation: A Queer Elders’ Chronicle from No Rights to Civil Rights”, Lulu Publishing Services, 2014.

Elders Write

Amos Lassen

The Queer Imaging and Riting Collective is made up of twenty-sex elder members who tell us their stories here. This is their sixth anthology and in this one they write of their journey from having no rights to attaining civil rights. They have the philosophy that every voice deserves to be heard and for those of us who have felt discrimination of have been the “other”, there is something here for us. This is more than just a book—it gives us inspiration to say what we feel. What we read here is part of the history of our community and it documents the courage of a generation that was not going to sit quietly as the world passed it by. The stories collected in this  book came out of a “series of writing workshops for queer elders that ultimately transformed into a collective process of art-making and community-building”. The book includes short essays that deal with historical eras that shaped the stories—from the 1940s-1950s when homosexuality was still classified as a mental disease all the way to the 2000s when same-sex marriage became legal in Canada. The histories are really only the settings for the stories that follow which teach us a great deal. Fear is one of the main themes but we also have the stories of suffering and tenderness, of first date and first love. These stories tug at the strings of the heart and it is their sincerity that makes them so very special.

“Gay Spirituality 101: Introduction to the Theory of Homophilia” by Joe Perez— A Concise Explanation

gay spirituality

Perez, Joe. “Gay Spirituality 101: Introduction to the Theory of Homophilia”, Lulu.Com, 2014.

A Concise Explanation

Amos Lassen

For the first time we get a concise explanation of homophilia in human nature. Joe Perez places it into a philosophical system which is derivedfrom pre-modern, modern, postmodern, and post-postmodern wisdom. Perez does not see gay spirituality as a previous generation of writers said it is—“a celebration of the gay self immersed in the neo-pagan Myth of a Gay Golden Age”. Instead, Perez sees it to be the practice of homophilia, “inspiring and evocative of the deepest and most divine in human nature”. If that seems to be a bit too deep, look at it as the deep level of unity between the relative self and a higher self. “Homophilia is identified with the love of God or the Divine or the Sacred”. This suggests that gaynness is an approach that is built upon the suffering and unique gifts of the community of same-sex lovers and is therefore a valid and logical spiritual path. Only by understanding homosexuality from a spiritual perspective is then that heterosexuality and straight love properly understood.

 Joe Perez rises to a much higher perspective in his analysis of themes in  a 101 introduction to gay spirituality. He uses the evolutionary and consciousness-stage model of Ken Wilber and places insights into the nature of reality itself which comes out  of “deep investigation of gay inner experience as the real heart of the gay spirituality movement”. To understand sexuality it is necessary to include both heterosexuality and homosexuality and so it is with human relationships— in order to understand the human relationship to the Divine we must include heterophilia and homophilia, that is, the “universe’s love for complementary opposites and its love for itself in its own perfect reflection”. Many times we see that in order to understand something, we must understand its opposite. A modern gay perspective on religion and spirituality goes far beyond pop culture and imitation. We understand somethings as myth and symbol from a pre-scientific time. This is not a book about being religious and looking for a welcoming place to worship. It is rather about looking at and honoring the past. This book isn’t about being a religious gay man or lesbian seeking a welcoming church; it’s about honoring and learning from the unusual perspective that being gay can force upon one’s soul and being.