Anti-racism law has been constitutionally codified where anti-sexism law has not. What accounts for this distinction? I’ve been on-and-off working on a history of bros for The Awl, where my studies led me to this, from an article on Adam Sandler:
According to Frank Krutnik’s perceptive formulation, romances are intensely personal experientially (they are lived out as private affairs) and yet highly conventional in their expression (their articulation is dependent on cliches).
A short personal note– this has puzzled me for as long as I can remember. Continuing:
Correspondingly, romantic comedies tend to oscillate between a view of romance as a form of defiance and a depiction of marriage as potentially asphyxiating. Classical screwball comedies such as Bringing Up Baby (1938) solve this romantic paradox by featuring unconventional partners deviating from social norms through shared play. By contrast, later “nervous romances” such as Annie Hall (1977) are torn between a desire for the stability that conventional romance promises to provide and a loss of faith in the idealization of the couple. (Taylor pp. 39-40 in Millennial Masculinity: Men in Contemporary American Cinema, ed. Timothy Shary)
Every ideology has a contradiction and the conventional/unconventional knot is romance’s. I haven’t read her book, but C. tells me Elizabeth Povinelli has a term for this — “the intimate event,” which is neoliberal. Here’s Povinelli’s summary from an interview in e-flux:
Every time we kiss our lover goodbye within liberal worlds, we project into the world the difference between the autological subject (the recursive ideology of the subject of freedom, the subject that chooses her life), and the genealogical society (the supra-individual agency threatening to condition our choice). The intimate event is an anchor point because it seems to me to be the densest, smallest knot where the irrevocable unity of this division is expressed. What do I mean by an irrevocable unity? In the intimate event the subject says two things simultaneously. On the one hand, the subject says, “This is my love, nobody can choose it for me, I am the author of my intimacy.” Love is thereby treated as uniquely and unequivocally autological…But at the same time, the subject also thinks, feels, evaluates love in terms of its radical, unchosen quality: “Love happens, I fall in love, I hope it happens to me,” like I were struck by lightning. And the intimate event is an unavoidable anchor point.
Perhaps lawmakers and electorates disdain codifying anti-sexism law because gender is performed chiefly through romance and childrearing, both places which are supposed to be revelatory — and whose intensity and ability to make truth depend on the mythology of an unconventional interior. Romance is like a voltaic cell: conventional on the outside, personal on the inside. The revelatory effect is generated through this difference. Attempts to regulate gender can feel like an abridgement of romance, child-rearing, and other human relationships whose revelatory effect depends on a private inner cell. Lawmakers and electorates need to feel like their relationships are not gendered — that is, not conventional or genealogical — if those revelatory qualities are to remain intact.