Morphologies of the Male Narrative

Here, I’ve done some thinking on the workings of the Male Narrative and why we’re at the end of it.  I hope you find this explains the concept a bit more.

How the Male Narrative, becoming emptied of meaning, suffers from internal fatigue and is no longer capable of sustaining us. But this is not all loss. 

Because, although our traverse is some uneasy, here at the narrative edges, still, we have enough, we are enough to allow and tolerate this discomfort.

First to say, empathetic threads have coursed through our collective tellings of ourselves, our inherited narratives, all along.  We are human afterall, “all too human.”

However, at this moment, this crux time equal to Gutenberg’s with his movable type, of multiplying crossings of simultaneous and all at once turning points, there is practiced a certain refusal to re-cognize what is upon us.  Understandable.  In crisis we narrow down, sharpen focus, which, by the necessity of optics, tightens the framing.  Excludes.  What then falls outside the frame seems undeserving of our attention.

But this is a misconception.  And must be consciously worked against as we seek an opening out, a stepping onto molten ground just now flowing into being beneath our feet.

So, without further ado…

Some characteristics of the Male Narrative:

An inability to throw off, because of an investment in, the origin stories brought forward with us from out-of-the-cave.  These tribal, mostly desert stories posit our earthly birth & nature, associated with the female, as morally corrupt. 

We need no reminder.

  These tales cast woman’s desire of knowledge as evil and 

more, transpose that desire as sexual, only. 

This spawns (or is it spawned by?) the yet to be taken-a-good-look-at mess of paternity and its insecurities..

A practice of refusal to loosen the mighty knot of repression which has grown within, untold buckets of repression required to prop up our belief in this portrayal of humanity as at root immoral.  This emotional tightfist calls for an equally mighty denial, at great expense & diversion of energy, of the sumtotal knowledge of ourselves (which is simultaneously a negation of our brilliance) and this world that the collective all-of-us through time have so arduously discovered, observed, experimented, catalogued, treasured, documented and shared.

Dependence on conflict as the dominant mechanism of drama.  In the more and more uncontainable atmosphere of the present moment, doubled up on by our unfolding digital reality, there is no “there” there to act against.  It dissolves as instantly as it is invoked, so efficient is the snatch up (not to mention the make-a-buck) of our era’s masterful absorption, adoption, adaptation.

“The old rhetoric of opposition and co-optation” …assumes a world that could be pushed against.  Now anything with difference is absorbed.”

Henry Jenkins. Convergence Culture Where Old and New Media Collide.

The difficulty with a narrative tradition rooted in oppositional meaning and symbols and language in order to provide momentum for story is that this dependency has become pathological.

Which is to say, at best, producing narratives of no meaning beyond stimulant and distraction.  And at worst?   Encouraging regressive endorsement of inequities and alienation. The shorthand of engrained stereotypes.

(This would include the accepted dogma that the fight always makes us stronger.  Which, as all things, contains in part good and bad, depending.  One aspect, as in intellectually defending one’s ideas, makes a person think them through.  A good.  Growth.  The downside?  Inflexible cognition that excludes.  Defensiveness.  Erosion of empathy.)

Character within this conflict mechanism is dependent on an oppositional stance premised on being “outside,” doing, being “bad,” acting in ways prohibited.  This creaky notion of the Rebel, this aging model of distanced being is protectionism and is at end, most certainly, nostalgia.  (Which makes us feel some sympathy.)  This model’s dissolving narrative signifiers of outsider status leak what exhausted meaning remains and encourage a devolution into cynicism.  Or an eternal boyhood spinning off of emotion due the self onto the shoulders of others.

Oppositional narrative and character depend on the use of others as a shim for self definition which is, when all is said and done, destructive.  Blindspots spread within the story and the self from avoidance of naming the other’s worth.  This is required to justify the taking of an other’s energy (lifeforce) for one’s own.  To accomplish this the other must be degraded, be perceived as less (or inexplicably mysterious.)

 Can you blame our anger when you derive your meaning from our void?

This degradation of others’ value becomes the inability to acknowledge that what has been taken has any value.  So nothing, not even thanks, needs be given in return. Which nullifies the ages old justification of sacrifice and its requirement of responsibility.

Meanwhile the demand for self definition against the other pushes harder and harder to suck the remnants of life from all surrounding in order to sustain previous levels of meaning – the high.  When this mechanism causes the other to disappear completely, as in predation, then the self, dependent on the other for definition, dissolves, too.  Much danger there.  And, need it be said, addiction.

 In addiction we seek relief from the arduous task, which is ours to do, of figuring right from wrong and all the sliding scales between.  It is difficult and often lonely, this secular thinking for ourselves.  Especially now, as we do suffer abandonment from the old stories of black and white edicts where good and evil are starkly portrayed.  We suffer withdrawal, starving from want of sustenance from the prolific remnants of the old stories swirling round us which mistake sexual explicitness for creativity, mistake adrenaline for expression, cynicism for intelligence.

The default use of hate and anger as a fuel as narrative stimulant (as if that needed encouragement in us.)  This weakens, makes us prone to giving over entirely to the strong man, not the thinker, not the empathetic (with whom there is room to grow) and lets us off the hook for the earnest exploration of this miraculous fission, our life.

Beyond that, remember, all actions/emotions leave tracks.  Especially the unpredictable incinerations of rage. Trailways blazed with these fires trend to the rut.  Disengagement more difficult with each successive use, it becomes easier to fall back on the known comfort of the old familiar venom, directed either at the self or displaced onto others.  The result?  Polemics of polarization that speak past, are unable to hear other ways of being.

Continued use of the Hunter as a mythmodel for being.  This model has mutated from its out-of-the-cave underpinnings (for survival and because of which we have survived) to close off the possible in us by endorsing our weak need for containment and control through framing.

Is it a fear of open space, emotionally speaking, that seals the deal, makes male love so much about capture? 

Or has it become something more, some hedge against the possible?

The objectification inherent to the hunt is, when we strip away all the fuss, the use, the sacrifice of another being’s life (that deer for example) to sustain one’s own.  From this a conception of male radiance has been indulged, encouraged even, to pull all surrounding light for its own, “more important” uses.  This has always been well buttressed by social/religious/political/cultural structures that excuse this use of an other’s life (energy) for the enrichment/atonement of the self, the family, the tribe.

The equation of the hunt requires a corresponding role of the one hunted (the victim.)  It is here, within the imagery of sacrifice, that the sexual mystery, which both confirms us (as our endless source of regeneration) and confuses us (prompting our fear, our impulse to contain) not to mention being how we propagate (at least still) is vulnerable to diversion into illusionary hopes of holding one another forever – to stop time and its inevitable endings. 

Allowing capture we succumb.  The need to remain safe breeds our tread along, endless grasping at the dissolving  known.

This tilts oh so easily into obsession and control (predation, again) and finds narrative form in visual fascination/fixation where love is portrayed as adolescent impulse.  This lays claim so to contain our sexual alchemy (safely) in a frame (as if) and thereby kills the possible that Love (which does, yes, include sexuality but is not sex, only) could lead us out into.  A delicate open.

Loss as a dominant theme.  With change, too, shadowed as loss.  And regret.  Perhaps the most obvious evidence of this is the stubborn pervasiveness of the loss-of-paradise myths and their co-fantasy the paradise-to-come.

These narrative fantasies are not harmless.  They encourage fear and mindlessness, playing on, manipulating our less conscious tendencies.  And they inevitably, if you dig a bit, read to keep power inequities in place.  Any movement to get out from under prompts a restless, uneasy feeling in those that have and want to keep.  Attempts to trigger shift are reframed as wrongs, as loss of things precious; which is to say the underlings’ place to sacrifice their energy to those who demand it and are given permission to take in the framing of the Male Narrative.

Whereas, it is the function and great gift (always becoming from us and that we give ourselves & each other) of Narrative’s treasured stories (strung jewels of entwinement chromosomal) to bring to surface (that is to consciousness, collective and individual) what previously was unrecognized, unknown to (and in) us.  Forming continuously in a shared eternal that eludes us as individuals.   And is, yes thankfully, mysterious.  To keep us, this brazen, audacious animal, busy.  Reason for being.

There needs a re-minding. 

All this change, this remaking upon and within this twirling sphereofus is our chance, too. Openings await. And besides, believe me that I say with sympathy, 






    • Luanne
    • April 15th, 2011

    Hi Annie, the part of this piece that resonated the most for me is your point about the “dependence on conflict as the dominant mechanism of drama.” In looking at popular narrative ‘art’, whether it’s fiction or film, this seems to be the overriding requirement for publication or production. Without conflict there is no sale. Without a sale there is no exposure (distribution) to a broader audience. Without a broader audience there can be no discussion or propagation of broader more inclusive, more consensus-building versus head-cracking solutions to world problems. War becomes the ‘comfortable’ place to go. I think the discussion you are promoting is an important one…Keep going! And thanks.

    • Luanne, thanks for the encouragement and for your astute highlight of the importance of commerce in the process of distribution, that without the sale there is no exposure to a broader audience. This allows us to ponder if it’s possible that narrative explorations derive any benefit in their gestation by being hidden from the spotlight, at least through this time when so much is still settling? I appreciate the ramifications of the tactic of overlooking as a historical pattern, a way to dismiss the expressions of women and other Others. And it makes little difference that these days lack of notice is more likely to be the result of being trampled underfoot in the clamor than being purposely ignored by cultural gatekeepers.

      Which is never to say poverty, obscurity, lack of support are noble. Just that the rush of notice, and the supplicants that come with “success” in our cultural cacophony, often derail. Seduce. Neuter.

      That said, is there something in the relative invisibility of the just now forming narrative otherways, the lack of distribution as you say, that allows more for unstunted creative exploration, which we know to be elusive and difficult to tap? And what if, besides room for gestation, the hard-to-findness of narrative otherways requires an effort of archeology on our part – we, the hoped for, searched for audience? Is our effort an essential part of the process of discovery and also our chance, and obligation, to come forward, think and contribute, too. With the reward for this effort our own growth.

      Maybe there’s some bit of privilege for this emerging way of perceiving and its telling to happen not in broaddaylight. (Not that anyone’s hiding exactly, ( if that’s possible anymore) more the needs of a subversion, a finding room, space, time to explore.) Because from our oft unsettling collective core come stories just now to surface with an awareness that can frighten. And the frightened human can be a dangerous human. But in this questioning that unmoors is also our chance at opening to a place where everything is not already spoken, spoken for, claimed.

      Which is all the more to say, when we find a story that confirms our experience we must speak up in order to encourage one another in our reading of the signs as we navigate chameleon-like the cultural topography so to escape notice of predators. Or at least sunburn. Westward ho!

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