Something that I did not touch on in the previous post’s denunciation of the descriptive and/or definitive use of “masculine” in relation to butches (and everyone else) was the possibility of the reclamation of the word. I do not think the term “masculine” can be legitimately reclaimed by anyone for the same reason I do not think it can be claimed by anyone: namely, because what it denotes does not truly exist.
The proper, fundamental definition of masculinity (as well as femininity) is: A particular set of personal characteristics + an unfounded sexist perspective on who can/does/ought to display/claim/embody them. Insofar as one accepts that there is no reason to believe that only/mainly men/boys can/are/ought to be the displayers/claimers/embodiers, and that this attitude, conscious or not, is an integral part of what masculinity is, then it is clear from this analysis alone that masculinity is a fictional concept.
However, even if we try to separate the characteristics that masculinity denotes from the sexist connection to men/boys, we run into trouble. First of all, just what would we be separating? Without the underlying concept of “like a man,” how do we know what masculinity consists of? Not only does masculinity lack a neat and tidy list of what it does and does not denote; whatever semblance of a list there is remains hopelessly culturally-contingent.
Even if we ignore this difficulty, or qualify our use of “masculinity” as a set of characteristics that are generally recognized as such by, perhaps, most or some people in a given time and place, the fact remains that we are, curiously, naming a random assortment of personal characteristics. What possible reason for this could one have? Would we take other random sets of characteristics, perhaps something like introversion, manual dexterity, poor reading skills, a fondness for animals, and color-blindedness, and name them something-inity?
This analysis illustrates the inherently patriarchal nature of the term “masculine” by showing us that sexism is the glue that ties the various contents of masculinity together: without the unifying concept of “this is what men should be/are,” masculinity is just a rag tag bunch of possible personality components that anyone can have some or all of. In summary, although it would be theoretically possible to separate the characteristics from the sexism, the sexism is the only reason to conceptually group the characteristics together, and so the entire concept crumbles; thus masculinity is inseparable from sexism. It is to be rejected in its entirety, as it cannot be accepted in part.