Patriarchy is a society made up of a collection of people, men and women, who all participate in phallocentric ideologies. Figure 1 illustrates the social system of patriarchal society. The Patriarchal Tree demonstrates how patriarch is deeply rooted in phallocentric (male dominated, as noted prior) ideologies that germinate out into institutions. These institutions affect everyone, man and women, as they are part of everyday life: schools, employment, leisure, and even the family ideologies at home. For these institutions to operate, each individual must participate in this system by adhering to the ideologies presented to them and “learn[ing] the rules that regulate punishment and reward based on how [they] behave and appear” (Johnson 40). The rules of patriarchal culture require having distinct binaries that dictate that one is either a man or a woman. Both must behave in a way that patriarchal culture expects of them, dependent on men being masculine, and women feminine. Messages about masculinity and femininity are given to us daily through a “set of symbols and ideas that make up a culture embodied by everything from the content of everyday conversation to literature and film . . . includ[ing] ideas about the nature of things” (Johnson 38-39). While women, as participating individuals of patriarchal society, adhere to their own strict gender binary rules of being feminine, they are also enforcing the rules set upon men as well by making sure that men are masculine. However, the messages imprinted onto the male, being that these messages already stem from a society characterized by male domination and power, come to them “through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence” (hooks). These messages are society’s expectations and ideologies that insist on being heard.
The Panopticon Prison (as pictured in figure 2) is a circular prison with a guard’s station in the middle that acts as a representation of patriarchal society. All inmates’ cells can be seen from this one location:
This enclosed, segmented space, observed at every point, in which the individuals are inserted in a fixed place, in which the slightest movements are supervised, in which all events are recorded, in which an uninterrupted work of writing links the centre [sic] and periphery, in which power is exercised without division, according to a continuous hierarchal figure, in which each individual is constantly located, examined and distributed among the living beings, the sick and the dead—all this constitutes a compact model of the disciplinary mechanism. (Foucault 197)
This “continuous hierarchal figure” that Foucault references is the face of patriarchy that controls what it means to be a man or a woman and “continuously” reinforces these binaries through fierce expectations.
The expectations for men are the foundation of patriarchy and are instilled in both boys and girls as children and are reinforced through surveillance in schools, hospitals, prisons, the army, and religious institutions as seen from the patriarchal tree illustration. These expectations are perpetuated by instilling the rules of the system into the next generations of children, and more specifically, “to indoctrinate boys into the rules of patriarchy, we force them to feel pain and to deny their feelings” (hooks). Theorist bell hooks believes that patriarchy is “the single most life-threatening social disease assaulting the male body and spirit in our nation” because these government institutions are of a rigid and precise scheduling manner that can only be controlled through relentless surveillance. This surveillance comes in the form of society’s gender guards (in the form of a systemic surveillance of individuals, as Foucault theorized) who decide and tell how men and women to behave. As watched members of this society, men and women can be seen as prisoners within a patriarch. Each inmate is isolated from fellow inmates, but can be seen from the tower. However, because the prisoners cannot likewise see any of the guards in the tower, a particular state of mind begins to develop where the prisoners begin to self-discipline. Self-disciplining comes from the messages individuals receive in everyday life that support the patriarchal tree system. In other words, the prisoners (members of society) begin to self-discipline even though they cannot see the guards because the guards might be watching them (judging their gender binary behaviors) —in this sense the guards are everywhere, and they are nowhere at the same time. The prisoners must behave at all times in order to escape any repercussions from not adhering to the “guard’s” rules. To compare the “guards of the panoptic prison” to society’s ideologies and surveillance, one must first looks at society’s own impossible definitions of what it means to be a man.
Within the ideologies of a patriarchal society, being biologically male (in possession of a penis) is inherently linked with masculinity, just as a biological female would need to be considered naturally feminine. In this sense, gender and biological sex become fused in the patriarchal system. Manhood is “historical. Manhood is not the manifestation of an inner essence; it is socially constructed . . . it is created in culture . . . we come to know what it means to be a man in our culture by setting up definitions” (Kimmel 120). Men are stereotypically aggressive, competitive, anxiety-driven, dominant, brave, emotionless, and independent. Alternatively, women are stereotypically passive, submissive, nurturing, innocent, graceful, and emotional. In essence, being a man means not being like a woman: “In traditional gender ideology, a real man never makes himself vulnerable by opening up and sharing what he feels; to expose a need for others compromises independence and makes a man like a woman” (Patterson 105). Men suppress any of these stereotypically feminine qualities “because they come to be associated with the femininity” . . . and reject them “as part of [their] quest for masculinity” (Kaufman 148). Feminine characteristics are abject to a man’s masculinity because of how he may be categorized as effeminate for having such qualities, and therefore, not a real man.
Men who are characterized as being effeminate are often associated with being homosexual due to the stereotypical behaviors identifying with the feminine, and therefore not behaviors of a “real” man. Because “homoerotic desire is cast as feminine desire, desire for other men” (Kimmel 130), a man cannot be considered a real man when they do not uphold the ideologies of a patriarchal society and what it means to be one. Even before the 19th century, homosexuality was described as a “species, and aberrant type of human being defined by perverse sexuality” (Spargo 18) and therefore seen as something not naturally occurring in the binary order that our patriarchal society has created. Because of this “perverse” category that society has put homosexuals into, “every mannerism, every movement contains a coded gender language” (Kimmel 132) for society to identify and categorize according to the binary system. Homosexuals who don’t fit into this binary will be cast out as a dysfunction and abjection in the ideologies of how society should work based on patriarchal values. Because of the repercussions put upon a man who doesn’t uphold his masculinity, homosexual or straight, hypermasculinity is born in order to constantly show that he is safeguarding his manhood by increasing his masculinity characteristics.
While a patriarchal society expects a man to be masculine, “one of the more dominant, formulaic and enduring compositions of masculinity is the cowboy” (Gibson 125) and is considered the epitome of hypermasculinity. Cowboys are stereotypically “scruffy” . . . with “long, caliper legs, [and] possess[ing] a muscular and supple body made for the horse and for fighting” (Proulx 256). They are laconic and taciturn, emotionless and rugged, independent and self-reliant. Masculinity theorists Michael Kimmel and Michael Kaufman state that “gender is a product of human action and interaction, that definitions of masculinity and femininity are the products of social discourse and social struggle” (270); one born as a male is inherently chosen by society to be a man, as previously discussed regarding how patriarchy functions. The difference between masculinity and hypermasculinity lies in a man’s need to exaggerate his manly qualities because the need to significantly prove one’s masculinity is necessary for that culture. Just like masculinity, hypermasculinity and phallocentric potency is not only a signifier of society’s “manhood,” but “of a man’s fundamental sense of identity” (Hardling 129). The conflict, pain, and impossible expectations of what it means to be a hypermasculine man is portrayed in Annie Proulx’s short story.
In Brokeback Mountain, the society that Jack and Ennis live in and the “mindset of the 1960’s cowboy culture cannot accept any man, especially a cowboy, who does not meet its definition of masculinity: to be strong, stoic, successful, and heterosexual” (Rose & Urschel 248). In America’s culture, and specifically in 1960’s Wyoming where Proulx’s story takes place, both men represent a show of hypermascuinity. They are both “rough-mannered, rough spoken, [and] inured to the stoic life” (Proulx 254), the true definition of masculinity according to phallocentric society. Ennis DelMar is a confident cowboy who wears cowboy hats, drinks, smokes, and drives a truck. His “masculinity lies in his frontier brand of self-discipline, expressed through his avoidance of unnecessary risk and his knowledge of his own limitations in the face of nature” (Barounis 64). Likewise, Jack Twist is portrayed also as a stereotypical cowboy who upholds these characteristics in addition to physically showing he is masculine by working in the rodeo and riding the bulls. However, even though a man may meet the hypermasculine requirements deemed appropriate by society, relentless tests by “the guards” will constantly put his masculinity into question and test him at every given opportunity.
In addition to maintaining “maleness” for society’s guards, men (and Jack and Ennis) must constantly prove their masculinity; it is a relentless test where “the guards” watch, rank, and grant acceptance of a man. Just when masculinity is proved by patriarchal standards, it is questioned again, forcing all men to constantly self-discipline and aggressively prove that they are acceptable men. Ennis asserts his masculinity when his wife, Alma, questions his relationship with Jack. Ennis becomes violent (a considerably masculine quality) because his masculinity has been into question by insinuating that Ennis and “Jack Nasty” had an inappropriate relationship—“she’d overstepped his line [and] seized her wrist,” saying “I’ll make [you] eat the fuckin floor” (Proulx 271). Shortly after Alma’s accusation, Ennis further proves his masculinity when he goes to the “bar that night, got drunk, had a short dirty fight and left” (Proulx 271)—all showing he is asserting his hypermasculinity by dominating a woman, drinking heavily, and engaging in psychical fighting. Because he is identified as being in a homosexual relationship with Jack, Ennis must not only assert these characteristics, but move away from the feminine by abandoning his two daughters for a long time.
Jack proves his masculinity in a different way than Ennis that many men in a phallocentric society can identify with. Rather than pick fights and show other hypermasculine characteristics like Ennis, Jack focuses his masculinity on his identity as a working man: he “was infatuated with the rodeo life and fastened his belt with a minor bull-riding buckle” (Proulx 255). Not only does the rodeo “test” the skills of a man, but also “supports the value of subjugating nature, and re-enacts the taming process where the wild is brought under control” (Gibson 129). Jack is “infatuated” with testing his masculinity and taming the sides of his masculinity that do not properly fall into society’s phallocentric ideologies. Jack’s need to focus of his hypermasculine identity in this way comes from society “constantly threatening to unmask [men] as feminine . . . the possibilities of being unmasked are everywhere” (Kimmel 132). The army (a branch of the patriarchal system) rejects Jack for the draft because “they can’t get no use” (Proulx 266) out of him because his body is so damaged by all the physical activity in the rodeo. This can be read as Jack becoming so broken from the constant proving of his masculinity that in the end, he has injured just about every inch of himself but he is still not considered having earned his identity as a “man.” So while masculinity is something that needs to be earned or proved on a desperate level, this shows that a man may possibly not be able to earn or prove his masculinity, much like Jack. Therefore, both Jack and Ennis must face the fear and consequences of their failure of not adhering to ideologies of a phallocentric society: “the route to manhood is perilous, but the consequences of failure are far worse” (Kimmel 266). Because all men (especially cowboy men) are taught these appropriate social behaviors of what it means to be a man, Jack and Ennis learn these constructs from their phallocentric society. In addition, they also learn from their fathers who enforce these ideologies onto them by abusive means; much like the generation of fathers before them that taught them the rules of patriarchy and perpetuating the system.
Jack and Ennis’ fathers have macho mentality and are hostile and brutal, cold and macho; inflicting deep emotional repression “stemming from the lack of close familial relationships in childhood and from trauma and abuse their fathers inflict upon them” (Rose & Urschel 248). In addition to what a cowboy man should inherently be, both Jack and Ennis’ fathers teach them what cowboy masculinity is, hypermasculine, or rather what it is not: homosexual. Masculinity theorists believe that “the father is the first man who evaluates the boy’s masculine performance, the first pair of male eyes before whom he tries to prove himself. Those eyes will follow him for the rest of his life” (Kimmel 130), suggesting that the generations of fathers are responsible for instilling hypermasculinity into their young sons and will continue to monitor them. As noted previously, nine year old Ennis is taught a lesson of what is considered appropriate hypermasculine behavior, and what the punishment is for defying these ideologies: death. Ennis’ strong resistance for engaging with Jack in a homosexual manner shows that the phallocentric ideology of his father’s instruction is deeply imbedded. Ennis must protect his identity of proving he is a heterosexual man and not condemned as an abject homosexual who needs to be annihilated. Ennis’ greatest fear of being found out that he is not hypermasculine is that he will be killed and castrated like the dead man his father forced him to observe. Jack’s father and father-in-law are hostile and cold and treat Jack like he will never measure up to their hypermasculine standards. As a child of three or four, Jack’s father abused him from a simple bathroom accident, “he licked the stuffin out a me, knocked me down on the bathroom floor, whipped me with his belt. I thought he was killin me” (Proulx 280) all because little Jack struggled with the expectation of getting to the toilet on time. Jack’s father-in-law “hates [his] fuckin guts” (Proulx 265) no matter how Jack strives to constantly prove he is a man in the rodeo. It can be read that these father’s “eyes” have followed Jack through his entire life, transferring his proof of masculinity into the eyes of other men such as his father-in-law. Neither Ennis nor Jack can uphold the impossible hypermasculine behaviors expected of them because society’s ideologies are just illusions to be desperately proved or earned so that a man may not fear castration from their fathers or all other men who follow them with their eyes.
The abuse that Jack and Ennis sustain from their fathers has instilled in them a deep fear of castration due to the imposed connection that a man without a penis means that he has lost his masculinity forever, or worse, that he is associated with the feminine. The physical act of castrating can represent the loss of manhood, but what it truly signifies is a loss of the identity that society has given a man when he is first born male: “Men associate this existential loss with an attack of their genitals or, more generally, on their sexual identity” (Hardling 129). If a man has been castrated, he has lost his manhood, or in other words, his sexual identity lies with the feminine. He can then be deemed homosexual simply because he lacks the biological equipment that holds his masculinity. Ennis is threatened with the possibility of castration by being exposed to a battered and castrated gay man who was killed for this very reason. The deliberate act to expose Ennis to a battered and castrated gay man as a young boy signifies not just that homosexuals are abject, but that a man’s identity will be beat and cut off of him if he identifies with the feminine in any way. Ennis is told, “Nothing like hurtin somebody to make him hear good” (Proulx 267-268); implying that this type of severe discipline (or punishment) is necessary in order for a man to make sure that his masculinity stays intact. Jack was “bothered” when he came to see that his father wasn’t “dick clipped” like him. Jack’s father showing “some extra material that [he] was missin” (Proulx 280) further instilled the idea in Jack the he has not yet proved his masculinity because he lacks the “material” in his genitals like his father. In this sense, it can be read that Jack both feels unmanly and that his lack of “extra material” exposes him as partially female and therefore not a real man. This fear of castration prevents Jack and Ennis from connecting with others as a way of protecting themselves from their identity being constantly questioned.
The deeply embedded fears that both Jack and Ennis sustain prevent them from obtaining any true intimate relationship and connection with other individuals, causing further isolation and pain for these two cowboys. Because a man has deeply embedded fears of what could happen to gay men, it “force[s] him to close himself off from others—indeed to build walls of protection around himself to avoid closeness and to avoid the pain of loss” (Rose & Urschel 248). Ennis closes off from Jack and “maintains [an] uncommunicative, stoic masculinity to hide his own pain and vulnerability” (Rose & Urshel 249) by telling Jack that their encounter was “a one-shot thing” (Proulx 260). “Becoming a man require[s] a suppression of a range of capacities, capabilities, and emotions” (Kimmel 284) because it relates to feminine qualities—this is seen in Ennis’ relationship with the women in his life. His lack of intimacy and emotions with his wife and daughters shows just how substantially closed off Ennis is to any possible close and fulfilling relationship, they could be “left at any time” (Proulx 263). When Jack suggests that he and Ennis run off together, Ennis doesn’t know if he is having a “heart attack or the overflow of an incendiary rage” (Proulx 276) because he if conflicted about what it means to be intimate with a man or to express such emotions in general. On the other side of this conflict, Jack “wish[es] [he] knew how to quit” (Proulx 276) Ennis because Jack simply cannot keep up his distance between them with only “a couple a high-altitude fucks once or twice a year” (Proulx 276). Because Jack longs for a deeper connection with Ennis, he is not fulfilled. Jack then resorts to having a series of meaningless sex with strange men to try and fill this void. Even though his resistance to homosexual tendencies isn’t as strong as Ennis’, Jack still struggles with his identity in this way and his ability to connect and love others just as Ennis does.
In addition to these cowboys’ lack of intimacy with those around them, Jack and Ennis’ love and intimacy for one another cannot grow because “love that cannot be public, love that is forbidden and dangerous, love that has no future is a love that cannot grow with the aging cowboys” (Rose & Urshel 250). Ennis resists identifying himself as gay or bisexual and talks about their sexual relationship as a thing that “grabs on us” (Proulx 267) as if it was something that happened to them rather than a natural occurrence. Jack insists that Ennis “won’t ever catch [him] again” (Proulx 268), implying that sex with a man isn’t something that Jack would intentionally do. The initial sex scene between Jack and Ennis is robotic and detached: it was “nothing [they’d] done before but no instruction manual needed” (Proulx 259), revealing how emotionally vacant Jack and Ennis’ connection is. It also shows how “their resistance to merging and letting go may not affect their sexual pleasure but it curtails their emotional involvement . . . men may fear that such emotional involvement will emasculate them, or, worse, annihilate them, depending on how profound their emotional anxieties are” (Hardling 130). Both cowboys are detached from the reality of their connection and bond because if they “do that in the wrong place, [they] will be dead” (Proulx 267). Jack and Ennis’ inability to strengthen the relationship and have their intimacy grow is impossible under patriarchal society’s pressure to remain a “natural,” real man.
Jack and Ennis find the remote pastoral land of the mountain creates a “natural” space for them to be away from society’s expectations, a juxtaposition on their deemed “unnatural” homosexuality back in their domestic spaces. Annie Proulx “presents the region of transition from agricultural land to wilderness as a refuge for [Jack and Ennis] who’ve been disillusioned by society” (Patterson 120). In the pastoral country of the mountain,
Each man brings with him the fear and shame that’s been instilled in him by society, particularly by the hostility of men like Jack’s father and Ennis’s father and brother, but at least temporarily the separate world of the mountain frees them from these constraints, and allows them to feel and express the physical and emotional attraction . . . that’s a part of both of them and that society forces men like them to suppress. Being in nature permits them to experience and share a desire that’s a basic element of their natures. (Patterson 73)
Jack and Ennis talk about their childhoods, wrestle, and are “respectful of each other’s opinions, each glad to have a companion where none had been expected” (Proulx 258). When Jack and Ennis spend time together on Brokeback they are able to show love and playfulness with each other, “shedding the cold heterosexual stoicism and hypermasculinity of their fathers” (Rose & Urschel 249), but only until they return back to their lives. For a brief amount of time on the mountain Jack and Ennis find relief from the pressure, pain, and questioning of thier identity and are refuge from societal guards, this space being “way the hell out in the back a nowhere” (Proulx 268). The beautiful landscape of the mountain (way far away from “the guards”) can offer these men a utopia like space to be open emotionally and sexually where it’s not allowed in society back in their domestic domains, “as straight people are enabled to do in virtually every space in the society they control” (Patterson 77). Because of this “natural” space, both Jack and Ennis have brief moments of time where their love can be natural as well. Equating the naturalness of the mountain to the naturalness of Jack and Ennis’ relationship challenges the assertion that homosexuality is unnatural. The heavy emphasis on the pastoral and open space of Brokeback Mountain conditions the reader to “equate being in nature with being natural” (Li 111) and thus naturalizing the homosexual actions of Ennis and Jack. By doing so, Brokeback Mountain challenges the traditional ideology that gay men are unnatural through the emotional and truthful dynamic of Jack and Ennis’ relationship and establishes that homosexuality among men, especially the cowboy who resides in pastoral land, is natural.
The physical space on the mountain in Proulx’s story is an extension of the proverbial “closet,” which both offers an illusion that there is a space safe enough away from the “guards” of society. For most homosexuals, “the closet” is an illusion of protected space where one’s sexual identity can “hang.” Proulx uses the two bloody shirts that both Jack and Ennis keep in their closets, as a “coming out of the closet” metaphor. Ennis finds the bloody shirts (representing the two men’s emotional pain and injury) in Jack’s closet hidden in a “shallow cavity” (Proulx 281). Ennis is allowed to take the shirts (the pain), but Jack’s father “refuse[s] to let Jack’s ashes go” (Proulx 282) to spread them on Brokeback like he wanted. Jack’s father refusing to hand over his ashes can be like the father who gives away his daughter in marriage: his father will not give his son away to another man because it is an abomination to the phallocentric constructs of society, but he will gladly hand over the pain (bloody shirts) associated with going against the norms of what it means to be hypermasculine. The act of Ennis taking the shirts from Jack’s closet may signify his wanting to “come out of the closet,” to reveal his true identity, however; Ennis places the shirts back into his own closet because he has seen, once again, the consequences (Jack’s death) of living a non-hypermasculine lifestyle.
Much like Jack and Ennis’ time on the mountain made them feel a sense of freedom in the constricting ideologies of their heterosexual society, there is an illusion as well to the idea that stepping out of the closet would produce the same freedom: “on the contrary, to come out is precisely to expose oneself to a different set of dangers and constraints . . . to suffer one’s every gesture, statement, expression, and opinion to be totally and irrevocably marked by the overwhelming social significance of one’s openly acknowledged homosexual identity” (Halpern 30). The mountain and the closet offer this illusion of a space of safety, free from the guards of society: in a phallocentric, patriarchal society there is no such safe place where one is not being watched and examined. Because of this conflict of being within the safe space of the closet and only having an illusion of safety outside the closet, Jack and Ennis can be seen as being “torn between two identities—[their] essential self in denial and that outer man, a cowboy, who stands for archetypal American values of masculinity that a conservative society expects [them] to be, [they are] insecure and ashamed” (Raljevic 299). Part of this conflict is from society pushing such dire prejudices against the homosexual man that it denies a cowboy man to have the ability to identify himself as a homosexual. This can completely detach his behavior with his identity: after Ennis states, and Jack agrees, that “I’m not no queer,” they never talked about their sexual encounters but just “let it happen” (Proulx 260). Not only are Jack and Ennis trapped in a phallocentric prison, but they are also trapped within themselves save those few precious visits to the mountain.
“The guards”, while they cannot be seen from the tower, give the illusion that there may be a space far away enough from the guards that one can let down one’s self-disciplining behavior. However, since the guards are nowhere (cannot be seen) and everywhere (always surveillancing) it can arguably be said that finding a space away from the allegorical panopticon is not only impossible, but it is an illusion. Unbeknownst to Jack and Ennis, Aguirre (their boss) “watched them through his 10x42 binoculars for ten minutes one day, waiting until they’d buttoned up their jeans” (Proulx 260) before coming to relay the message that Jack has family (domestic) health problems back home that he needs to tend to. These binoculars symbolize an extension of the Panopticon Prison and shatter the illusion that there is a safe space because there are truly “guards” watching everywhere. The name Aguirre means, “open space” and/or “pasture.” In this light, Aguirre both represents man as being “natural” and connected in the pastoral as it is the quintessence of male bonding (fishing, hunting, etc.) but also shows how man is still watching, enforcing the unnaturalness of two men sharing love and is there as a reminder that Jack and Ennis must continue their self-disciplining behaviors. When Ennis presses his face into deceased Jack’s bloody shirt, he realizes this illusion and “the imagined power of Brokeback Mountain of which nothing was left but what he held in his hands” (Proulx 281) -- any sort of freedom Ennis may have felt from his time on the mountain with Jack dissipates because of this realization that there is no safe space to stray from patriarchal ideologies.
Brokeback Mountain is a story that presents challenges within the idea that a man must be masculine (and a cowboy must especially be hypermasculine) and that a gay man must be feminine because he betrays the ideologies of masculine qualities. “Gay men have historically played the role of the consummate sissy in the American popular mind because homosexuality is seen as an inversion of normal gender development” (Kimmel 134) – if a gay man exists because patriarchal society creates a category, or “role,” for them to identify with, it is safe to say that hypermasculine constructs would shatter if there wasn’t a society to first define then enforce them. In addition, because gender and sex become intertwined in the ideologies of patriarch, the binary rule that states a man must be masculine and a woman must be feminine can dissipate if the stereotypical characteristics can be re-examined. Much like Ennis was raised to believe and continues to believe at the end of the story, “there was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can’t fix it you got a stand it” (Proulx 283), rather than “standing it” society should re-define it so that a man can both be masculine and homosexual.
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 Phallocentric: centered on or emphasizing the masculine viewpoint
 Hypermasculine: the exaggeration of stereotypical male behavior.
 Patriarchy: A system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is traced through the male line.
 Allan G. Johnson uses the patriarchal tree in his book The Gender Knot as a metaphor for social systems.
 See works cited page for note.
 Effeminate: (of a man) having or showing characteristics regarded as typical of a woman; unmanly.
 Dr. Jane Rose, the Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Florida, studies and writes about feminist theory and criticism.
 Joanne K. Urschel is in the department of social sciences at Purdue University in Indiana. She writes critical articles for The Journal of Men’s Studies and has various degrees in arts and clinical psychology.
 The rodeo is a sporting event designed to test the skill and speed of cowboys, a particularly interesting metaphor for testing the masculinity of a man.
 Circumcised: because Jack is circumcised and his father is not could send the message to young Jack that he has been punished by being castrated in a sense because he has not lived up to his father’s expectations as a boy, instilling a deep fear of going against masculine norms.
 “Coming out of the closet”: To admit the fact that one is sexually attracted to members of his or her own biological sex.
 As a writer, Gloria Jean Watkins chose the pseudonym bell hooks as a tribute to her grandmother and great-grandmother of the same name. bell hooks decided not to capitalize her new name to place focus on her work rather than her name; on her ideas rather than her personality.