Remaining Men Together

In Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, the narrator is afflicted by a rare form of insomnia which prevents him from getting any sort of sleep unless he experiences an extreme rush of emotion. At first, he frequents various support groups to get this rush, including one for testicular cancer survivors called “Remaining Men Together.” As part of the recovery process, once a session the men grab hold of one another and violently sob in each other’s arms. The narrator gets paired with Bob, an ex-bodybuilder with a bad case of gynecomastia (an affliction which causes men to grow breasts as a result of hormone issues after having their testicles removed). He nestles his head right between Bob’s breasts and the two weep pitifully together. The whole scene is utterly pathetic.

I feel quite sure that this is not what Charlotte Gilman imagines as proper behavior for men in a gynocentric world. In Our Androcentric Culture she writes that “each and all shall be taught the real nature and purpose of motherhood; the real nature and purpose of manhood; what each is for, and which is the more important” (Gilman 66). Nothing there dares to suggest that men ought to be more like women. As we discussed in seminar, she does believe that maleness has its uses.

If we go back to Fight Club, we see much the same idea. The narrator meets Tyler Durden, who is so fed up with feeling emasculated by society that he asks the narrator to punch him in the face. The two start the global phenomena of Fight Club, attracting thousands of member, including Bob, who beat the hell out of each other for the sake of regaining their masculinity. Eventually they tire of just fighting and form “Project Mayhem,” a terror group with the express intent of destroying the social institutions that robbed them of their dignity. A crusade is launched against consumerism and multi-national business, and the book ends with the men destroying all of their city’s banks, effectively eliminating all debt. With their anger and frustration, they manage to change the world for the better (or much worse, depending on your reading).

I think Gilman would have liked this story. The Desire and Combat inherent in men can be a good means of changing the world. To paraphrase what the comedian Wax said: the sexual frustration of an eighteen year old man is up there with wind and volcanic activity as one of the most powerful forces on the planet. Just think of all the Desire and Combat involved in any major political shift. Even some of the suffragettes, when they started hurling bricks around, were exhibiting the essential male characteristics. The goal, as I am sure that Gilman would agree, is  to harness this energy in a productive way, rather than to suppress it.