As mentioned by several posts earlier, I began by reading Sedgwick’s piece which I felt was a great lead up to Percy’s “Refresh, Refresh”.
As I read Sedgwick’s work about the homosocial desire, I couldn’t help but think about the word “brotherhood”. It’s considered alright to have that male bonding, but there’s a fine line that crosses over into homosexuality. Society wants it stay on that brotherhood side. This could be seen later on in Percy’s “Refresh, Refresh”. Josh and Gordon were best friends and formed an even stronger bond after both of their fathers left to join the military. While they spent all of their time together, homosexuality was never brought up. They spent their time doing masculine things and visibly staying on the “safe” side of the homosocial spectrum. However, although their feelings for each other were never spoken, you could get sense of the strong relationship between each other. The best example of this is when he says that he could just tell that his friend needed to let his anger out and punch something. He stands there as a literal punching bag until his friend feels better. You don’t just do that for anyone.
As we discussed this in class and I thought about it a little more, I was also reminded of the phrase “no homo” that ran rampantly through middle schools and high schools in the past few years. Growing boys would find it acceptable to compliment another guy or say something positive, but as long as nobody took it as a homosexual comment. It’s an example of the fine line between homosocial and homosexual among men.
After reading both pieces I have decided to stick with Benjamin Percy’s “Refresh Refresh” which stood out more to me.
At the beginning of the reading I had a certain understanding of the two boys living in Crow, Oregon. The boys do not seem to fit in. The two fight for protection and hope to defend themselves. The first feeling I came across was a lack of belonging. Having both their fathers gone, a huge hole is present that both attempt to fill. Throughout their growth and search for belonging we see Josh and Gordon fall more and more into the route of their fathers and eventually they end up in the same situation by enlisting in the Marines. It is not the search for belonging that shocks me but the fact that they chose the route they did. I ask, why did Josh and Gordon end up enlisting?
Throughout the reading Josh is describing the situation of his father going to war. The entire description is very real and very tough to imagine happening. We see emails as the only line of communication between father and son. The emails even slow down to very limited messaging, leaving Josh wondering if his father is ok. We see a young man forced to refresh his computer screen and pray no doorbell rings in order to ensure his dad is still alive. The only advice read about is given from his grandfather when he says, “It’s just the way it is” when explaining why the men were away. The boys have no understanding of why their fathers are gone when Percy writes, “We didn’t really understand the reason our fathers were fighting.” Another big detail is that Josh and Gordon have an extreme hate towards the recruiting officer, how he behaves, and his job. Throughout the reading it is seen that there is no respect for Dave Lightener, the recruiter, and josh states, “We hated him because he sent people like us off to die.” They seem confident that joining means death. Two growing young men are fatherless and in need of a role model and direction. There is no reasoning of why such decisions were made to join the Marines.
Throughout all the negative aspects of the Marines, fathers involved, and personal experiences and pains, I do not understand how these boys could put themselves as well as their families in the same situationWhy was there such a need to follow in his fathers footsteps, only repeating what had occurred to him? And why do they enlist, after despising the man in-charge of recruiting and acknowledging it is being sent “off to die.” I understand they search for belonging but I thought they would have found this connection through another outlet.
I began by reading Sedgwick’s piece which I found provided some background for Percy’s “Refresh, Refresh”. The first term I would like to discuss is Sedgwick’s “homosocial”.
Homosocial is the term used to describe “acceptable” nonsexual relationships between members of the same sex, in other words, your standard friendships. She refers specifcally to male bonding. In our society, this has become normal as well as defined by homophobia. In Percy’s short story, there are several instances of homosocial relationships. These include the Marines, hunting and sitting around the campfire, fighting, etc. This story does not directly portray homophobia but homosexuality is not mentioned or even hinted at. The boys just want to make their dad proud by being masculine; fighting and joining the Marines.
Another correlation between Sedgwick’s piece and the short story is her mentioning of women as sex objects as defined by MacKinnon. MacKinnon says that “what defines a woman as such is what turns men on.” The only times women are mentioned in Percy’s story are in relation to sex. Specifically, Dave sleeps with the lonely wives, Josh and Gordon sleep with the girls from the bars, and the varsity football team discusses one girl’s breasts.
“Refresh, Refresh” is a piece about masculinity and homosocial behaviors in our society. The boys act in ways that they have come to learn are masculine and perform their roles in a patriarchal society, as defined by the males as the protectors. As I was reading this story I was expecting a twist involving homosexual behavior but this did not occur. In the end, the piece was about citizenship and belonging (as men) but not about love.
Sedgwick stated that she wanted to focus on desire not love and in Percy’s piece, desire to become a “real man” was the focus rather than love. In this sense, citizenship and feelings of belonging came from homosocial relationships and fulfilling gender norms.
Benjamin Percy writes about boys in Refresh, Refresh. Boys in a small, marine-centric town. What is seen is the eyes around them. They fight, they drink, they take women home. It seems to be their expectation to do so, because, after all, it is what the men do there. And then they enlist. They follow the same steps as any other man in the town.
Because of this, I couldn’t help but think about Being a Man by Paul Theroux and how he discusses how a man must fit the archetype or his manliness is withdrawn. He makes an example of how his own profession is frowned upon and, unless one writes about bullfighting like Hemingway, writing is much too feminine of a passion.
These thoughts brought me to Sedgewick’s Between Men. In her first section, “Homosocial Desire,” I kept on questioning that exact word “homosocial.” She dives around the definition. Her most direct explanation is “male bonding.” I could not help but think that she was very formally discussing the the dynamics of a bromance. When she talks about homosocial aspects for men, she talks about how it is strongly defined as separate from homosexuality, because God forbid if men complementing one another on a platonic level is confused for being gay.
When I broke this down, I felt that it could be summed up by this song from Scrubs. Turk and JD announce their love to one another, but it’s guy love; it cannot be confused as a gay relationship.
These ideas that we get from both readings are then not quite as applicable to women. In the song “For Good” in Wicked, you don’t hear Elphaba sing to Glinda that she’s been changed for good in the most friendly way, because it just doesn’t need to be said. The relationships of men are clearly defined, and if the line is crossed, then that individual is no longer a man.
It is a paranoia of society. The gender role must be fulfilled in order to fit in with everyone else. The judgment passed by others is a necessity. How else will a man know that he truly is a man?
As of now I am the first one to post, so please feel free to go easy on me with your comments/responses!
After reading both pieces, I wanted to focus my post on examples of belonging and citizenship I found in Percy’s “Refresh, Refresh”. First and foremost, I felt this piece was very relatable, being that the war described in the story is still currently ongoing, and for the fact that almost all of us know someone who has served in the military to some extent.
One of the greatest examples of how this short story embodied the idea of citizenship was how it was centered mainly around the military and service to our country. As we talked about in class last week with the Katy Perry photograph, there seems to be this innate sense of patriotism in us that (at least in the case of the Katy Perry Photo) the media/celebrities often try to bring out of us American citizens. In this short story however, it seemed as if the author wanted to expand upon this by showing us that service in the military seems to be something that, if not exactly hereditary, often seems to be generational in families with members who serve. To me, this was evident when, although it made you seem that both Josh and Gordon did not understand why their fathers had to be deployed, they were however able to grasp the importance of military service at the end of the story, when they sped off to enlist.
While I described the aforementioned example as an illustration of citizenship in the story, I feel it could just as easily serve as an example of belonging as well. As you may have also noticed while reading the story, the author depicts the boys as struggling to find themselves while dealing with the adversity of having their fathers deployed in the middle east. To me, the best two examples of this are when the boys openly insult the recruitment officer at the mall, and when they begin to cope with their fathers’ absence by heavily drinking and fornicating with (as the author describes) “trashy” trailer-park women.
I am curious to hear your thoughts on whether or not you agree that the topics of both citizenship and belonging were evident in this story, and whether or not my examples were, in fact, sufficient!
Group 1: Kevin B, Andrea, Chloe, Austin, TJ, Sara
Group 2: Drew, Haley, Shannon, Sam, Jenna
Group 3: Kevin C, Jordan F, Derek, Erica, Jordan S
In class we talked about how this image combines “Americanness” and “sexiness.”
This next one also combines those same two things, but a bit differently, don’t you think?
Certainly part of it is that Ke$ha has quite a different image from Katy Perry. One interesting thing that emerges out of comparing the two images is that, although we pointed out that Perry’s outfit is retro/vintage, if anything you could say that Ke$ha’s is even more so. The way her dress is cut, it looks like it really could be a flag (albeit a shiny one) that she has wrapped around herself. The messy hair and boots could also be read as evoking the wild west, or the farmland, or the prairies. In both cases I’m still left wondering what the intended messages of the outfits are. Are these women simply saying “I’m American,” or “I’m proud to be American,” or is it more like “This is what it means to be American”?
One more I thought I’d share. In case you want your prom to know you love America: