Alcohol Monday, May 19 2008 

I’ve long believed that alcoholism was more severe, more pandemic during 18th and 19th centuries in “beer countries” such as England, Germany, and the Netherlands than in “wine countries” like France and Italy. The mass production of hard liquors like gin, whiskey, and all those other types of whiskey that are supposed to be different than whiskey combined with urban life is why I think alcoholism became what it did at that time. But why I’m more severe for the beer? I always chalked it up to cultural differences in the way that pre-industrial “soft liquors” were consumed, beer as a drink for the sake of itself and wine usually as part of a meal or event . So, when hard alcohol is introduced in abundance the one group is more likely to drink it frequently, independent of cause, and the other not. Make sense, right? Excellent material for my prejudice against masculine/populist icons like blue jeans and beer.

But today I was reading the wikipedia article about gin and I saw something interesting to add to the theory. Apparently gin was often made from crops grown for beer that failed certain quality standards. The implications are obvious and adds an economic dimension. I could now argue that with the introduction of grain based alcohols the beer countries produced an abundance of hard liquor as a profitable by-product of the brewing process. Throw in means of production and some other Marxist hoo-hah and you are well on your way to a credible piece of historical sociology. I could research this, see if I am right, do up what in the big-city college world we call a “paper” but that is something I will not do.

I feel the social sciences and the natural sciences for that matter suffer from what Nietzsche criticized philosophers for in Beyond Good and Evil: “Collectively they take up a position as if they had discovered and reached their real opinions through the self-development of a cool, pure, god-like disinterested dialectic… basically they defend with reasons sought out after the fact an assumed principle” Meaning that these sort of ideas don’t arise out of an examination of the world, but does pretend to. The scientific method essentially amounts to picking your favourite idea and then trying to shoehorn in some evidence around it rather than looking objectively at events and then drawing some conclusion. That’s why I love literature, because there is a greater emphasis on hypothesis, on simple claim making. Sure, there is that boorish bit about backing up what you say about a book with examples from the text that I have always hated. If the author is allowed to simply state an idea about the world I have never understood why the student or the critic cannot do the same about a book. Or for that matter why we can’t do the same about chemical reactions, or crime, or whatever.

The best book about alcoholism and the period I described that I’ve read is, ironically, a French novel: Emile Zola’s L’Assommoir (apparently untranslatable but the copy I had was called The Drinking Den, and others might be called The Dram Shop or just use the French title.)

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Masculinity Survey Monday, May 19 2008 

So here we are with survey results! Because of time limitations I didn’t really get to talk about it in the presentation, but it will be really useful in the response paper I’ll have to write this weekend. So to everyone who participated thanks, you are true blue. To everyone who is a fuckin’ flake and doesn’t follow through on what they say they are willing to do, fuck you guys, you are fuckin’ flakes. You will be punished in time when your potential lovers don’t call you back and when your passports don’t arrive in time for an important overseas trip. And there I will be, state department letters in hand and voice mails diverted that say “I had so much fun last night and I can’t wait to hear from you.

Parsing the data:
I’ll admit to engaging in what Francophones would call a double jeux. My purpose was not entirely literal in asking these questions. On the one hand I did want to gauge the difference between how I think of myself and how you, the body public think of me. On the other hand I was also interested to see what you would identify as masculine traits and what you would identify as feminine and how they would balance out.

50% of men say I am mostly masculine and 50% say that I am androgynous and for women 80% say I am mostly masculine and only 20% say I am androgynous (see chart). One thing I noted is that it seemed as if there is a certain amount of masculine capital required to comfortably express femininity. To whit: 75% of those who identified me as androgynous scored my masculinity higher on a scale of 1-10 than my femininity on the same scale. All respondents who ranked me as mostly masculine scaled me at least two points more masculine than feminine. What I take that to indicate is because of my base sex traits that are divergent from the masculine norm are more potent than those which conform to it. For example I can be 7 of 10 masculine and only a 4 or 5 feminine and still be considered equally as masculine as I am feminine.

In the same vein, respondents frequently identified the lack of a masculine quality as the presence of a feminine one. Most commonly this was a lack of interest in sports and physical activity. In only one instance did anyone identify the abscence of a feminine trait as the presence of a masculine one (That I do not seek consensus when forming opinions.) Also, many of you expressed something along the lines of the following:”The strength of [Scott’s] masculine traits allow [him] to express [his] feminine ones without, in general, very much stigma.”
Again indicating that there is a certain masculine cache that must be achieved to be able express feminine traits or even diverge from the masculine norm without spiraling into effeminancy.

The definition I’ve come to use for gender roles is certain attributes and behaviors related to our sex which we allow to have an effect on our self-esteem and from which others derive their esteem for us to a degree. It is easy to use these roles to deflect certain criticisms using these roles as a tool (Of course I can’t do ___, I am a ___!). For me I would say I derive more self-esteem from feminine traits in that I will feel prouder of myself if someone were to say that they like how I reference the emotions of others in conversations than I would if they talked about my healthy appetite or ability to argue assertively. So in that way I had myself pegged as being rather feminine, but most people said I was generally as masculine as other males. I suppose I didn’t think about that all-important masculine cache because to a large degree divergence is rarer and more pronounced than conformity.

So yeah, there we have it. To those wonderful few, thank you, you have done a princely kindness I not likely to soon forget. You are as a rain of ten thousand cherry blossoms, that is to say–good. To those lazy and profligate horrors: I am stamping one hundred stamps of Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Syria in your passports.