Tuesday, June 11, 2013

progressiveness and a fabricated man

The next two sections of A Queer History of the United States are called From puritanism to Enlightenment Thought and Inventing the American Man. I found these two sections quite interesting.
    The premise is that the enlightenment, a term coined in the mid-nineteenth century regarding the radical social, cultural, scientific, and political wave of thinking that hit Europe in the eighteenth century, helped to ignite the American Revolution. The newly created United States of America would be a republic based on enlightenment style freedom and egalitarianism, at least on paper.
    Enlightenment based reforms swept across Europe and France went so far as to abolish it's blasphemy, heresy, witchcraft and sodomy laws in the 1790's. As enlightenment influenced as the new United States was, never having had anti-blasphemy, heresy or witchcraft laws, it did have sodomy laws. The question is why? Well, it seems that along with the American desire for republican democracy there was also a desire for a national identity/image that was uniquely American as well. And the founders knew exactly what that identity/image would be. The United States was going to have a masculine, virile, rugged, aggressive, manly, combative and patriotic identity. This was the complete opposite of the European man who was prim, proper, refined, mannered, polite and somewhat effeminate. So, even though the founders themselves were of the European model with they're powdered wigs, tights, ruffles extensive libraries and vast estates , the average American would not be. Same-sex love and relationships did not fit this American identity/image, so they were to be repressed and discouraged well into the twentieth century.
    They wasted no time in priming the propaganda machine to promote this American prototypical man either. In 1787 the aptly titled first American produced play, The Contrast, was produced. It was a comedy about two men, Billy Dimples and Colonel Manly. Both men were American but Dimples was of the European model and Colonel  ''Manly'' was the desired American prototype and the hero of the play. The Contrast was a smash hit and the stage was set.
    I personally think this was sneaky and manipulative but I also think it was quite clever. The question is, if LGBT's were to be inherently marginalized with this national identity where was it intended to leave women, men of color and anybody else who didn't fit the mold?

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