introduc tion 
White Masculinities and
the Politics of Representation
What then is the American, this new man?
j. hector st. john de crèvecoeur,
Letters from an American Farmer
American Manhood was under siege. . . . The men I got to know . . .
had without exception lost their compass in the world.
susan faludi,
In his afterword to the 2005 reprint of his
best-selling novel, Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk ex-
plains why he wrote the original short story: “The
bookstores were full of books like The Joy Luck Club
and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and
How to Make an American Quilt. These were all nov-
els that presented a social model for women to be to-
gether. To sit together and tell their stories. To share
their lives. But there was no novel that presented
a new social model for men to share their lives.”1
Palahniuk’s complaint, and the sentiment behind it,
is exemplary of the appeals to injury or claims of dis-
proportionate representation that figure prominently
in late twentieth-century discourses about the plight
of white manhood in American culture. Such claims
are, on the one hand, laughable. Surely culture is full
of social models for men? Surely white men are more
often the instigators than the victims of discrimi-
nation? On the other hand, Palahniuk is far from
alone in his assessment of the paucity of emotionally
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