For some time now, feminists have examined literary works in terms of the absent/objectified presence of the Other, in whatever form Other might be recognized (for example, anyone not white, male, or educationally and economically privileged). We have also critiqued culture and history in these terms, articulating at least some of the consequences of such constructed oppositions and exclusions. For example, Toni Morrison, in her critical text Playing in the Dark, has argued that everything that constitutes whiteness as a racial identity--from the national literature of the United States to its Constitution to the daily practices of its citizens--is a response to the absent/objectified presence of the black Other or, in her words, "to a dark, abiding, signing Africanist presence" (5). She goes on to say: .
Just as the formation of the nation necessitated coded language and purposeful restrictions . so too did the literature, whose founding characteristics extend into the twentieth century. Through significant and underscored omissions, startling contradictions, heavily nuanced conflicts, through the way writers peopled their work with the signs and bodies of this presence--one can see that a real or fabricated Africanist presence was crucial to their sense of Americanness. And it shows. (6) .
Thus, racial opposition--though misrecognized by whites--has allowed for the creation of a self-narrative of the (so-called) white race in the United States. Extending Morrison's claims about race to gender, I would say that gender opposition--though, again, misrecognized--has allowed for a self-narrative of men. In other words, the space for the creation of self-narrative of whites in the United States has been in the opposition between their freedom and the enslavement of Africans, and the space for the creation of the self-narrative of white men has been in the opposition between their public power and women's domesticity and reproductive capacity.