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Demilitarizing Italian men PDF Print Email
By Laura Nathan-Garner
Saturday, February 28, 2004

Recently, when I was reading an article in the most recent issue of Kitchen Sink on guys who pretend to be gay to get women to warm up to them or to get free drinks and non-sexual gifts from men who are actually gay, I rolled my eyes a bit, thinking how opportunistic it is to use the marginality of others strategically to get what one wants (and apparently couldn't get in spite of one's privileged position as a heterosexual male). But now straight guys are feigning queerness in a way that potentially disrupts one of the most masculine institutions — the military.

Appartently, dozens of Italian men, typically known for their homophobic, machismo demeanor, are pretending to be gay to get out of mandatory military service. Taking advantage of the mandate's exemption for gays, men are visiting doctors in droves to get someone to document that they feel uncomfortable being around other men in such close quarters, that they feel living circumstances might undermine their professional interest and focus on their military responsibilities, etc. And they appear to be succeeding.

But in the process of evading their responsibilities to the institutions of ”manliness“ and the military, are these men undercutting an oppressive culture of heteromasculinity? Or are they simply taking advantage of the suffering of other men (i.e., men who are forbidden from serving in the military based on their sexual orientation) for their own benefit, thereby preserving the privilege associated with heteromasculinity?

Laura Nathan
 
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To some degree it matters who's in office, but it matters more how much pressure they're under from the public. —Noam Chomsky, American activist and professor of linguistics at MIT
 
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