“The Shame of Being a Man”?: Masculinity and Shamefulness in Peter Ho Davies’s A Lie Someone Told You about Yourself (2021)
Keywords:shame, masculinity, pro-feminism, autofiction, contemporary writing
Often drawing on a misogynistic psychoanalytical tradition that perpetuates gender stereotypes, guilt has generally been considered a “masculinised” affect, while shame has often been “feminised,” apparently causing men and women to write shame differently. Scholars have often concluded that while women tend to write themselves out of shame, men have frequently written shame in abstract philosophical terms, displaced it onto female bodies or tried to coin glory from it. These alleged differences between men’s and women’s writing in/about shame have been taken as an indicator that shame organises women’s personal sense of self but is never the baseline condition of being a man. However, this article proposes that Peter Ho Davies’s A Lie Someone Told You about Yourself (2021), a narrative about the aftermath of an abortion, can be read as an exploration of the shame of being a man in contemporary postfeminist society. The text investigates the legitimacy of the shame experienced by privileged subjects and demonstrates that the pro-feminist stance of its author/protagonist goes beyond mere imposture. In his exploration of male shamefulness, Davies’s writing aligns itself with the criticised female (or feminised) tradition of “oversharing” and vindicates the feminist adage that “the personal is political.”
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