Saturday, February 18, 2012

The War On Masculinity - Part I

This post comes after Fin encouraged me to write it here - mostly, I think, because she was curious to read it. In formulating my ideas, I've discovered there is too much for a single post. This will be a running series and theme. For a while, I've termed myself as a "male feminist" - strongly believing that women should be afforded equal rights to men in society. When I talk about the war on the masculine - I'm not directly talking about the "Battle of the Sexes".

I'm still looking for good terms and definitions that are not overly loaded on all this. When getting out on my own and developing an internal code of conduct, I've struggled constantly with how to be a man. The church defined things very narrowly and leaving left a gaping void in my personal philosophy. On some deep level, I wasn't comfortable with the church's definitions of gender rolls. Mostly, I found myself repulsed by "the good wife" described by the church. Fin, in a lot of ways, is the polar opposite. As I worked at growing personal, and especially after developing my relationship with Fin, I began noticing an odd trend. "Men" are under attack. Now, I don't men as in male. I say "men" as a people - male or female - at the moment expressing a masculine quality. In this case, the English language is somewhat lacking in expressing ideas.

In explaining difficult abstract concepts, sometimes mythology helps.

Photo Credit

Meet "The Green Man". He exists in many different religious traditions and provides a base-type for multiple fictional characters and myths. He's generally portrayed as grown from vegetation, or made with stone. Much of Robin Hood's image and mythology points toward the Green Man symbol. I pick the green man as being a very specific symbol of masculinity without too much extreme baggage. Many religious traditions use the masculine in their figures such as Jesus in Christianity, the Horned God in Wicca, or Hercules in Greco Roman mythology.

Looking at the Green Man and related figures, we find a general set of values represented by the Masculine - strength, courage, ingenuity, sexual prowess, independence, protection, and sacrifice. While termed "masculine", there is nothing male specific here. Indeed, on rare occasions the green man could be depicted as female. The importance of the myth is a reminder of masculine values in ourselves.

While some would say feminism has done a lot to "push-back" masculine values, I would disagree. To understand why, let's start with how I see masculinity being attacked:

  1. Preventing children from expressing masculine energies when they are inclined to do so. Young children need healthy outlets for masculine energies - including competition and physical activity. EVERY child (boy and girl) should be doing something they enjoy that at some point will cause them physical and/or mental pain. Another way of putting this: kids should be kids.
  2. An insistence that everyone be constantly "in touch" with their emotions. Dr. Phil is probably the worst offender here. A stoic countenance requires extreme emotional control - not a lack of depth.
  3. The idea that all problems can be solved without use of force, or that the use of force to solve a problem is a failure.
  4. Forcing men to act feminine, and not accepting women acting masculine. There are naturally feminine men. There are naturally masculine women. This has nothing to do with gender identity or sexual orientation.
  5. A generalized view of the "intellectual" as superior to the "laborer". I say laborer for lack of better term. I'm speaking of the skilled trades here - electricians, farmers, janitors - as opposed to the banker or software engineer. There's definitely intellectual aspects to wood working and so on. I must admit, I'd find it more difficult to speak for the physical aspects of software programming...
  6. A lack of respect for the warrior. We "support our troops", right? We support them yes, but we don't give them anywhere near the respect they deserve. This is really somewhat contained in the previous item, but it's important enough it needs added again.
  7. A pervasive sense of entitlement. I don't think our perception here matches the reality, this cuts a lot of ways and across all demographics - from "trust fund kids" to the stereotypical abusers of social programs.
  8. A constant desire for safety, and freedom from pain or consequences. This beyond anything else, is perhaps the most damaging to masculinity.

As an aside, these are societal pressures against masculinity. There's been various mentions in news sources and documentaries about environmental impacts as well. Our growing mastery of chemistry exposes bodies to a whole range of newly created concoctions. Why are young girls entering puberty earlier? Do these environmental impacts also hurt male development? I have a feeling they do, but without knowing the exact causes, there's no telling. This aspect is interesting, but I'm not going to go too much into depth here.

In parting my list of the current attacks on masculinity, only a few are directly associated with "female" centric values. The observant might note that several items on the prior list are rooted in feminine values not being expressed. In these cases, a furtherance of feminism would help restore masculinity.

I hesitate to name a single "enemy" collecting troops to fight, but at least two weapons are clear: fear and wealth. Combined, these weapons have driven us to drive away the Green Man, pushing him back into the forest as a lowly creature worthy of no respect or honor, and removing all but a dim shadow of his vitality.

I think there's a lot of questions I've introduced here: Are the above attacks on masculinity valid, important, or real? What exactly is causing them? Is there anything to be done? I hope I've at least introduced a new viewpoint for anyone reading. Phrased simply, this viewpoint is - Masculinity is under attack and Feminism has little to do with it.

-- Fate

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