I also had a look at race at some point because it ties to what I was researching. White men have essentially monopolised Western history and culture (there’s a word for that): the Western canon.
It’s the body of literature, music, philosophy and art that is highly valued in the West and is considered classics. They don’t necessarily originate from the West, nor are they appreciated only in the West.
The word canon comes from ancient Greek and essentially means standard.
It has expanded to include more women and racial minorities, but I feel like it remains a slow process. Who decides what is a classic in the first place anyway? A classic is usually a book that has received critical praise and is either considered the greatest work in someone’s career or outstanding in its creativity and skill. It’s the best of Western culture.
What I didn’t know was that, historically, the terms referred to a work of a high standard that was produced to gain access to a guild, academy or the likes. However, a few centuries ago, most, if not all, of the members were male and white. So weren’t great white men technically creating work for other great men white in positions to praise said work as a masterpiece and a classic? Isn’t it some sort of vicious circle of whiteness and maleness, as well as a form of gatekeeping?
As mentioned before, it is getting better, but because it’s been reinforced by everyone for years, it still permeates every single aspect of culture and society.
It took me a ridiculous amount of time to find the term ‘Androcentrism’. I got so frustrated with research that looking up anti-feminism books seemed like the best bet to find anything concrete. It was indeed the best thing to do. There was an absurd amount of results decrying feminism and, something I’d never heard of, gynocentrism. There had to be a masculine equivalent.
: dominated by or emphasizing feminine interests or a feminine point of view.
: dominated by or emphasizing masculine interests or a masculine point of view.
I found a book titled The Man-Made World: Our Androcentric Culture by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It was an interesting read. There’s a lot to criticise such as the fact that this is blatantly classist and racist amongst other things. I’m also sure that there are a few things I didn’t pick up on or because we’re always influenced by our own biases, that there are a few things that I misunderstood and/or shouldn’t agree with.
“Charlotte Perkins Gilman analyzes the many negative effects of male domination, not only on women in particular but on the welfare of the human race as a whole. Society’s long history of male hegemony and female subservience has not enhanced the natural qualities of the human race but rather distorted them, says Gilman, as can be seen in many of society’s institutions. In separate chapters, she discusses family, art, literature, games and sports, ethics and religion, education, fashion, law and government, crime and punishment, politics and warfare, and industry and economics. In each case, she shows how the domineering male influence has caused grievous problems.”
And she goes on the explain how it has permeated every layer of society, its lasting effects and how it could be improved. I absolutely adored this book. Mostly because a lot of subjects I spent hours pondering were explained in a clear and concise way. It’s also interesting to remark how despite being 100 years old, a lot of it is still relevant (some less).
HOWEVER, it is a century-old, a lot of it is Christian apologist, heteronormative, gender essentialist, and racist. It is a rather conservative take but it’s also a brilliant rebuttal of Darwinian sexual selection. Despite all of the conservatism on some aspects, it is in some way ahead of our time, let alone it’s own.
I think androcentrism could be an interesting take. I’d like to work on literature. I don’t know how or even which take to work on but I’d be interested to work on how literature in academic settings, the books found in curriculum and whatnot, are very male-centred.
9 overrated classic novels and which books to read instead:
Links and references: