An Analysis of Masculinity

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In Manuel Puig ‘s novel, Kiss of the Spider Woman, the reader is instantly exposed to the universe of two cellmates-Valentin and Molina. Molina, a homosexual window-dresser who chooses to populate life as a female, and Valentin, a reserved revolutionist, have really small in common. Given their descriptions, it would hold been easy to picture Valentin as ultra-masculine in comparing to Molina, whom many would comprehend to be less masculine entirely based on his sexual penchant and visual aspect ( Tuss 1 ) . Herein lies the problem-there are so many preconceived impressions refering maleness and homosexualism that is hard to dissect them in order to derive a better apprehension of the footings. The interaction between the two work forces in a gaol scene is interesting because these two work forces, who are apparently polar antonyms of one another, are now forced to interact. It is through this interaction that one can get down to analyze how truly intricate maleness is in the sense that how it is defined varies depending on who is specifying it. By continually interrupting down and reconstructing the reader ‘s sense of maleness, Puig explores what it means to be a adult male, demoing that regardless of the obvious differences between work forces there are unconditioned features present within all. Given this, one must wholly “ reconstruct ” the ideological thought sing maleness ( Tuss 1 ) . Judith Halberstam claims, “ Masculinity must non and can non and should non cut down down to the male organic structure and its effects ” ( 935 ) . Alternatively, it is necessary to analyze the issue as a whole, taking all facets of maleness in to account-from cross-dressers to transexuals, all must some how autumn within the term “ maleness. ” Puig is able to ease this procedure by showing the reader with oppositional characters-each of whom embody two really different sets of masculine characteristics-allowing the reader to better understand and define maleness through Valentin ‘s and Molina ‘s interaction with one another.

Establishing Roles Within Masculinity

In the beginning of the novel it is apparent that Valentin feels the demand to constantly set up that fact that he feels intellectually superior to Molina by puting regulations. Possibly it is his political background that leads him to experience the demand to put the model for there coexistence, as if Molina is non capable. When Molina finishes giving an luxuriant word picture of the Panther Woman, Valentin rapidly interjects by stating, “ Look, retrieve what I told you, no titillating descriptions. This is n’t the topographic point for it ” ( Puig 4 ) . Valentin ‘s demand further supports the thought that he feels comfy with running things in the cell. In this sense he absolutely conforms to Halberstam ‘s thought that “ Masculinity in this society necessarily conjures up impressions of power and legitimacy and privilege ” ( 937 ) . Because Molina is a homosexual and hence less-masculine in Valentin ‘s eyes, Valentin feels as if he has every right to move magisterially. Harmonizing to Cliff Cheng, this type of behaviour is common and that, “ One manner to ‘prove ‘ hegemonic maleness is to move sharply or even violently toward what is regarded as ‘feminine, ‘ for illustration, adult females, homophiles, and swots ” ( 1 ) . He does non halt to see that possibly the description was an indispensable portion of the narrative he was being told, or that Molina may hold enjoyed giving such descriptions. It is interesting that about instantly following his ailment to Molina, Valentin offers his ain word picture of the Panther Woman as “ dark-looking, non excessively tall, truly nice figureaˆ¦ ” ( Puig 5 ) . This shows that it is non the existent word pictures that worry Valentin, but alternatively he fears hearing such descriptions and accordingly going “ aroused ” ( Tuss 1 ) . Had the description been coming from a heterosexual male or even a female, it is likely that Valentin would non hold objected. However, Molina ‘s homosexualism causes Valentin to avoid anything that could perchance endanger his position as a adult male. Often times a heterosexual male will do this type of witting attempt to eschew or flog out at anything deemed to be homosexual, because they feel as if it is assisting them set up their ain maleness. But even within homosexualism there exists an avidity to make separation from other homophiles, as is seen with Molina.

Molina adamantly suggests that although he loves work forces, he is non needfully gay. He can admit the fact that he was born a adult male and is besides attracted to men-making him “ homosexual ” by definition-but he avoids this truth by claiming he is a adult female. In his head he is non a adult male that loves men- he is a adult female who loves work forces. To assist set up this thought, Molina looks down ill upon homophiles and uses derogatory footings to depict them. He claims, “ But as for my friends and myself, we ‘re a 100 per centum female. We do n’t travel in for those small games-that ‘s purely for gay ” ( Puig 203 ) . If, “ Work force are the manufacturers of their constructs, ” so Molina has created the construct of being a female, even if everyone around him knows it is n’t true ( Marx 656 ) . By floging out at other homophiles, Molina is merely seeking to set up his high quality as a cross-dresser over homosexuals that do n’t take to populate as adult females. This is really debatable and contradictory. Even though Molina would love to be accepted by society and non be looked at otherwise by the universe for being a homophile, he continues to oppugn the patterns of other homophiles. In this sense he is really moving in an oppressive mode against his ain cause, making a ne’er stoping rhythm that is difficult to interrupt. This type of behaviour, nevertheless, is nil new. In her essay “ The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators, ” bell hooks explains how she was punished for gazing as a immature kid. What is even more interesting, nevertheless, is that “ white slave-owners ( work forces, adult females, and kids ) punished black people for looking ” ( hooks 510 ) . Much like Molina, this type of inter-domination mimics the subjugation coming from exterior, whether it ‘s Whites over African Americans, straight persons over homophiles, or in Molina ‘s instance, a cross-dresser over other homophiles. This is illustrated absolutely in Kiss of the Spider Woman, because both Molina ‘s and Valentin ‘s words and actions are oppressive towards homophiles. The implicit in difference is that Valentin does so in order to negatively depict homophiles as less masculine, while Molina volitionally does this in order to provide to his ain desire to populate as a adult female, non a adult male.

Use of Film

Despite the initial ill will felt by Valentin, Molina is able to bit by bit set up himself as a trustable cellmate and loyal friend. Molina significantly changes the manner Valentin views him in big portion through his graphic narratives of movies he has seen in his life-time. Despite being annoyed at these descriptions at foremost because he finds them to be irrelevant, Valentin rapidly learns to love them because they allow him to get away the rough world of being locked in his bantam cell. This transmutation bit by bit occurs as he becomes progressively cognizant that there is no get awaying his life in gaol. He even begins to congratulate Molina ‘s narrative stating ability, stating, “ Mmm, it ‘s truly been entertaining ” ( Puig 205 ) . Aside from conveying the two captives together, the assorted movies besides are valuable in measuring maleness in footings of the thoughts and constructs that ‘s are typically associated with being “ masculine ” in today ‘s society.

In Molina ‘s word picture of a Nazi propaganda movie, for illustration, Leni falls in love with a Nazi soldier, therefore bewraying her darling France. The movie ends when Leni is shot after she betrays her state and decides that her love is excessively strong to disregard. In modern film it is as if the strong female character has to decease at the terminal because she has become excessively powerful. Leni becomes powerful in the sense that she non merely ignores her duty to her state, but she goes every bit far as knifing the majordomo in his dorsum ( Puig 91 ) . Leni has merely become excessively powerful-a masculine trait-and therefore has to decease so that hierarchy can once once more be established. The narrative of Molina and Valentin, in many cases, mirrors the events of this movie. Much like Leni, Molina is willing to courageously come into contact with Valentin ‘s chap revolutionaries in order to go through on valuable information. Because Molina is depicted as a female, he excessively must decease because he has exhibited far excessively much power for a female character. The narrative of Leni absolutely foreshadows what will finally go on to Molina.

Mother-Son Relationship

Another interesting and relevant portion of the novel when discoursing maleness is Molina ‘s stopping point relationship with his female parent. Molina describes her as a delicate adult female who becomes perfectly devastated when she learns that her boy has been sentenced to prison. It is apparent that the two have a really close relationship and that their separation has been hard for both. In contrast to this relationship is the 1 shared by Valentin and his female parent. Valentin describes her as being “ really hard ” because, “ she ‘s ne’er liked my thoughts, she believes she ‘s entitled to everything she ownsaˆ¦ ” ( Puig 121 ) . This is important because it seems to propose that Molina is less masculine for holding such a close relationship with his female parent. He is even dependent upon her in the sense that she on a regular basis brings him food markets from a local shop. By picturing Molina as being so near to his female parent, it ‘s as if two are really comparable-a comparing that Molina would certainly be pleased with. Valentin, on the other manus, is really independent and refuses to trust on any one-even going disturbance when Molina makes determinations for him without his consent. As is the instance in assorted other cases throughout the novel, the contrast seen between the two work forces through their relationships with their female parents shows how each exhibit a really different set of masculine features. As usual, Valentin is seen as an ultra-masculine, while Molina is seen as the antonym.

The mother-son relationship plays a larger function later in the novel. Valentin becomes highly sick when guards poison his nutrient. In a really in writing scene, he is unable to command himself as he becomes overtaken by a turn of diarrhoea, doing feelings of atrocious hurting and uncomfortableness. Molina, upon seeing his cellmate in demand, instantly comforts him, gently telling him to, “ Take it, delay, lift yourself, non that manner, that ‘s it, careful, delay, so it does n’t acquire on the sheet ” ( Puig 120 ) . This type of unagitated demeanour and gradualness closely resembles the actions of a female parent when her kid is in demand. In this sense, Molina becomes a female parent figure for Valentin-a figure that he has been missing for most of his life. It is no happenstance that instantly following this scene, Valentin volitionally opens up and negotiations about his female parent with Molina, something he had non done until this point. Finally the reader is offered a glance into Valentin ‘s life that does non picture him as a tough revolutionist machismo, alternatively demoing that he excessively can be emotional and sensitive. This serves as a major turning point in their relationship and besides helps shut the spread between the manner Molina and Valentin are viewed as antonyms, demoing that they both have a batch in common despite their evident differences.

Sexual Exploration

Valentin ‘s willingness to go more comfy with Molina becomes really evident after he helps him through his illness. It is as if the happening causes Valentin to wholly reassess his state of affairs, and he easy begins to recognize that there is no manner for him to get away his life in prison. Given this, it makes sense that he begins to handle Molina otherwise, because he might every bit good do the best of his state of affairs. He supports this thought by stating Molina, “ In a sense we ‘re absolutely free to act nevertheless we choose with regard to one another, am I doing myself clear? ” ( Puig 202 ) . It is about unthinkable that Valentin-who was one time disgusted with Molina ‘s homosexual behavior-would brand such a risque statement, touching to the fact that he sought more so merely friendly relationship. By recognizing that he can truly make whatever he wants within the confines of his cell, “ his realisation liberates Valentin to show himself to Molina and finally to do love to him ” ( Tuss 1 ) . When the two really become sexually active, it is interesting that Molina invariably asks if he is gross outing Valentin, as if he expects him to respond this manner. It becomes evident, nevertheless, that Valentin no longer posses these types of feelings towards Molina, leting himself to to the full bask all facets of Molina ‘s company. By falling in love and get awaying societies norms sing maleness that had antecedently controlled how Valentin felt, he is able to experience a sense of freedom. This is certainly a really liberating feeling for a captive, leting Valentin to escape-if merely momentarily-from his atrocious life as a political captive. Molina is besides able to liberate himself by giving Valentin the elaborate descriptions of the films-something Valentin one time criticized him for. However, Valentin comes to recognize that such flights do non needfully make false hope, and really let him to temporarily come in a new head province, relieving any negative ideas he may hold. It is hard to cognize whether Valentin views his relationship with Molina as echt or merely another “ flight. ” It is interesting, however, how Valentin comes to footings with his actions, and realizes that he does non necessitate to move like Molina in order to bask being with him. In this sense, Valentin deconstructs his apprehension of homosexualism by recognizing that non all homophiles must exhibit ultra-feminine features like Molina does.

By showing the reader with these two oppositional forces-Valentin and Molina-Puig is able to do the features of each character much more seeable and evident. For illustration, Puig depicts Molina as being more feminine in the gaol so when he is free. In a prison, where inmates are frequently envisioned as being strong, dominant figures, it is easy to conceive of Molina as being seen as being really feminine. The same can be said for Valentin, because in the beginning of the novel the reader is lead to believe that he absolutely fulfils the function of a stereotyped captive. By puting both work forces in the same cell, the stereotypes environing the two work forces are easy torn down. Valentin, who is seen as ultra-masculine, finally becomes really emotional and vulnerable, such as when he was incapacitated by a serious unwellness. Molina, who is seen as really feminine, makes the ultimate forfeit by giving his life to assist Valentin ‘s political cause. In many senses, the functions of the two captives are reversed, an thought support in Tuss ‘ essay. He claims that by describing back to the warden, “ Molina stands revealed as maneuvering Valentin for his ain intents, and Valentin, the strong, intelligent, efficient Rebel who staunchly espouses his cause, stands revealed as a victim who is every bit susceptible to Molina ‘s disingenuous question as he is to Molina ‘s storytelling ” ( Tuss 1 ) . Although Molina ne’er gives in to the warden ‘s desire for information sing Valentin because of his emotional fond regard to him, it is still important that he was able to keep such a powerful place over Valentin, albeit Valentin was n’t even cognizant of it.

One of the most important points made in Halberstam ‘s essay is that while muliebrity is “ approximative, ” maleness is “ precise ” ( 953 ) . This means that it is highly hard to specify maleness because in general people are much more willing to flex the regulations of muliebrity so maleness. There are things that adult females can make that merely would non be tolerated if work forces were to double them. Take, for illustration, a buss on the cheek. If two females do this it is seen as friendly and polite, but it is extremely improbable that a buss between two work forces would earn the same reaction. Because Molina is so openly defiant of the regulations that typically set up maleness, it would be easy to see him as an castawaies of kinds, lost someplace in between both genders. This, nevertheless, would merely be unjust. It is blatantly evident that Molina does n’t suit the typical word picture of a adult male, but portion of the job lies within the procedure of set uping a definition of maleness. For most of history, people like Molina would hold been left out wholly in treatments of maleness merely because of his visual aspect and demeanour. Merely late have transexuals, cross-dressers, and other similar groups been acknowledged of playing any important function, outside of incarnating everything a adult male is non. People all excessively frequently base their thoughts of maleness on features that do non efficaciously define maleness. As seen with Molina and Valentin, even those on the opposite spectrum of maleness can hold legion things in common. Given this, one must non try to specify what it means to be a adult male based on expressions and the manner one carries them self. In a resource usher for pedagogues, the oft quoted Pastor William Hybels states that, “ The freedom of reliable maleness is an astonishing thing to see ” ( 9 ) . Both Molina and Valentin express this freedom of maleness in similar ways, despite their obvious differences, by doing bold determinations that question their functions as work forces. Although Puig takes each adult male down two really different waies, it is undeniable that Valentine and Molina come together to ferociously contend for what they believe in, while keeping the same civility that allows them to love one another without being ashamed. By coming together and stand foring maleness as a whole, Valentin and Molina illustrate that is necessary to see a broad array of factors when trying to specify the term, alternatively of trusting entirely on the machismo features that typically dominate treatments of maleness.