While is it common knowledge that dogs, in particular male dogs, urine scent mark their territories, human males often mark their territories in other forms more noxious and poisonous than urine. We witnessed the deadly effects of turf battles recently in Waco, Texas between rival motorcycle clubs (gangs) in the parking lot, outdoor patio, and inside the local Twin Peaks Restaurant.
While male dogs and human males “spray” to restrict others from their claimed territories, for dogs, the stimulus stems from innate genetically-programmed instincts. For human males, who are significantly less controlled by biologically-mandated reflexes, on the other hand, the motivational incentives come from the socially manufactured gender roles inculcated and enforced within us to maintain our physical and psychological domains. In dogs, the impetus for what I am calling “turfing,” is essentialized. In human males, it is largely socialized. Humans contain the capacity for higher levels of reason to mediate and even override any dispositional factors that might be involved.
Preeminent scholar and social theorist Judith Butler addressed what she refers to as the “performativity” of gender roles in that these roles are basically involuntary reiterations or reenactment of established norms of expression, acts that one performs as an actor performs a script that was created before the actor ever took the stage. The continued transmission of gender roles require actors to play their designated parts so that they become actualized and reproduced in the guise of reality, and in the guise of the “natural” and the “normal.”
As we are assigned the designation “male” at birth, thus begins the life-long process of “masculinization” in which society teaches us that if we are to be considered worthy of respect and pride, we must be athletic, independent, assertive, domineering, competitive, tough, that we must bury our emotions deep within the recesses of our souls, and, most importantly, that we must search for and destroy any signs of “femininity” — “the woman” — within, which clearly represents society’s devaluation of females.
The members of the biker gangs in Waco learned their scripts only too well. What appears to have begun as an informal gathering of rival gangs, ended in the killing deaths of 9 bikers and injury to another 18, and the arrest of approximately 170 others, primarily white with some Latino men. The ages of the dead ranged from 27 to 65 years. The gangs include the Bandidos (an international crime syndicate, the dominant gang with an estimated 900 members throughout the U.S.) and a smaller gang, the Cossacks.
Trouble erupted on many fronts after the groups came together, most related to issues of turf. On the micro level, members fought over spaces in the Twin Peaks parking lot where over 200 motorcycle riders vied for parking. In addition, since the Bandidos claimed Texas as their exclusive territory, members felt only they could wear Texas state vest patches known as “bottom rockers,” though Cossack members came with these patches affixed to their vests as well.
On the larger macro level, the battle came down to domination of one club (Bandidos) over another (Cossacks), and command of territory in the sale of drugs (cocaine, marijuana, and production and distribution of methamphetamines). Police officers at the scene found numerous pairs of brass knuckles, knives, and fire arms. All the deaths appear the result of shootings.
According to Steve Cook, executive director of the Midwest Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association: “The fact that they were wearing a Texas bottom rocker is a direct affront to the Bandidos. This is just not something you do. Texas is a Bandido-controlled state, and for the Cossacks to do that…they had to know there was going to be retribution for it.” In addition, a bulletin released by the Texas Department of Public Safety stated in part: “The conflict may stem from Cossacks members refusing to pay Bandidos dues for operating in Texas and for claiming Texas as their territory by wearing the Texas bottom rocker on their vests, or ‘colors’ or ‘cuts.’ “Reports also indicate that another gang may have attended the meeting uninvited.
Though I am certainly not placing blame or responsibility for the violence on executives at Twin Peaks, I find it as no mere coincidence that the bikers not only planed their meeting for this site, but that violence resulted. Within the male gender script we find the imperative to regulate and objectify females, which is the major draw for Twin Peaks.
I define “sexism” as the overarching system of advantages bestowed on males. It is prejudice and discrimination based on sex, especially against females and intersex people, founded on a patriarchal structure of male domination through hegemonic social and cultural systems.
Throughout history, examples abound of male domination over the rights and lives of women and girls. Men denied women the vote until women fought hard and demanded the rights of political enfranchisement, though women in some countries today still are restricted from voting; strictly enforced gender-based social roles mandated without choice that women’s only option was to remain in the home to undertake housekeeping and childcare duties; women were and continue to be by far the primary target of harassment, abuse, physical assault, and rape by men; women were and remain locked out of many professions; women still earn significantly less than men for performing the same work; rules once required that women teachers relinquish their jobs after marriage; in fact, the institution of marriage itself was structured on a foundation of male domination with men serving as the so-called “head of the household” and taking on sole ownership of all property thereby restricting these rights from women. In other words, women have been constructed as second-class and third-class citizens, and even as the property of men, but certainly not as victims, because through it all, women as a group have challenged the inequities and have pushed back against patriarchal constraints.
Twin Peaks represents one of a number of eating establishments collectively known as “breastaurants” or cleavage chains. Others in this category include Bone Daddy’s House of Smoke, Tilted Kilt, and Hooters. Also included in this list is Girlie Pancake House whose motto is “They’re Better Stacked.” The theme and marketing strategy is quite simple in the full menu restaurants: give men red meat, beer, and sports, with a large pair of breasts side order. The clientele eating and drinking at these breastaurants is estimated at 3 men to every woman.
Twin Peaks, whose motto is “Eats * Drinks * Scenic Views,” presents mountain lodge décor where its wait staff, almost exclusively female known as “Lumber Jills,” wears lumber jack plaid bikini tops exposing the mid-section and no sleeves, very skimpy khaki shorts, and a smile. Innuendo abounds on Twin Peaks posters and on its website: “Mountain tops should always be within the reach of a man.” “Get to home plate at the peaks.” And if a man comes to the restaurant on his birthday and orders a meal, he receives the gift of a set of antlers mounted on a plaque, which reads: “I saw some nice RACKS on my birthday.”
The reinforcing messages sent from these “breastaurants” are quite clear: they further reinscribe gender roles by promoting socially constructed norms of female beauty, which are exclusionary hegemonic ideologies in terms of body size and shape, standards for skin and hair type, and an idealized and circumscribed age range that acts to the detriment of all women. As such, these establishments endorse a consumeristic colonization of women’s bodies for the edification and commodification of the objectifying male gaze.
In the end, however, no man or boy can truly attain socially constructed mandatory hyper-masculinity. As we attempt to reach it, as is so often the case, we enact inter-male turf battles through violence as we saw in Waco. Hence, the quest for turf through hyper-masculinity literally kills.
Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).