Books · Gender

Breaking the first rule…

Fight ClubFight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A book I read in one session aged 16 and finished flat on my back in the greenish dawn light of a poisoned Earth

Replying to Annie Weeder’s review of the book, where she said it was otherwise good but too hypermasculine, I wrote:

As I understand it, Fight Club is *so male* because it is about men’s frustration at what Palahniuk/Durden seems to draw as the *death of the warrior* in a *managerial economy* (in which masculist humiliation is used to maintain hierarchical structures). Looking back, this limited idea of an economic shift in favour of women and resulting ’emasculation’ (hate this word) is the work of a racist antifeminist backlash, so I am not down with Fight Club any more. But evidently the idea speaks to what many white men feel at having their domination challenged (see bell hooks for analyses of black masculinities)

The turn to violence for me emphasises the incompleteness of Durden’s analysis. However, having recently read Pedagogy of the Oppressed, I can now accept Durden’s quip that ‘self improvement is masturbation’ with qualifications: the ‘I’ll fix myself then the world’ EXCUSE when it comes from a position of privilege is unacceptable – if we make ourselves comfortable before helping others THERE WILL BE NO LIBERATION.

In Fight Club, the men achieve a degree of personal liberation, but it is hegemonic: confined to a secret elite and mediated by violence. I am uneasy: is the white man beating the white man helping his opponent/partner to abdicate power and privilege? No, they HARDEN each other, restoring a regressive construction of masculinity based on individual power and domination over others…

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