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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Stunted masculinities...quo vadis?

Maher new rule- masculinity brave sports guns
By Al Smith, Literate Owl blog, January 26, 2013
While popular culture continues to tell us woman are oppressed it is males I see floundering with their roles and sexual identity. Now I’m not disregarding horrors like rape or domestic violence, nor issues like equity or fair pay but I believe that gender bias is largely a myth driven by media embedded too deep in a politically greedy white male Washington DC. In my world, the only place women are under represented is political office. From my armchair, I see a culture of men ( and boys ) quite unwell and acting out with dysfunctional behaviour and following questionable values. Bill Maher is an entertainer but his monologue raises some questions about many of my male counterparts.
By Bill Maher, on Literate Owl blog by Al Smith, January 26, 2013
And I think it’s because a lot of men today just aren’t feeling all that… useful. They did in the days of hunter-gatherers, but in today’s society, women do the hunting and the gathering — it’s called shopping. And the men, for most of us, the most masculine thing we do all day is pee standing up.
And that’s why we wind up idolizing other men who do the masculine things we’re not doing: football players, soldiers, action stars who solve every problem with violence, tough guys who start wars for no reason, generals who conquer rag-tag armies from third world countries. These are the vessels of our outsourced masculinity.
Why do men collect guns? You know, former Georgia Senator Zell Miller once said, “I’ve got more guns than I need, but not as many as I want.” Well, the Pentagon is just Zell Miller on a larger scale with shoes on. It has more guns than it needs, but not as many as it wants.
And I know some of you out there are saying, oh, that’s some liberal bullshit right there, calling guns a replacement for testosterone. But if that’s not true, how come as a man gets older, his gun always get bigger?

Living vicariously  through the "action figures" in sports, movies, the military, all in a blind "outsourcing" of our masculinity, has merit as a perspective. Living vicariously has always had its own tragic pitfalls, mostly found in an emptiness similar to the hunger experienced after eating Chinese food. Often, too it is the feelings and the full experience of powerlessness that drives us to suck life energy from others who, they believe, are living a real, authentic, full and fulfilling life.
In the historic 'run' to this epiphany, men have disdained opportunities to experience life differently.
Conquering the competition, extrinsically, has relevance only for those whose testosterone levels require a physical release, in adolescence, early adulthood and perhaps even up to forty-something.
However, as Carl Jung reminds us, human life takes a different turn sometime near the mid-forties, and many of us turn from extrinsic rewards and pursuits to the intrinsic variety, looking inward, reflecting on the meaning and purpose of our existence, 'becoming something like more spiritual' (to use today's parlance) and less interested in the acquisition of symbols of success and power 'over'.
In the course of that development, males often find themselves searching for words to describe, and thereby help them to accept and to uncover, the pain they have been avoiding for the first four-plus decades of their lives.
It was words in their English classes that sounded, at fifteen to most of them, like so much "BS" or, put another way, "too effeminate" for my taste. Shakespeare often drove male adolescents crazy with his verdant text filled to the brim with metaphors, similes, personifications, pathetic fallacies, ironies and dramatic ironies...just to mention a few of the "extravagant overblown" exposures of human emotions...like jealousy, the pursuit of power, the tragedy of hubris, mistaken identity and character foils to entertain and, if necessary, to teach....Milton, too, with his copious pages of pounding yet balanced political rhetoric breathing hot from the mouths of Beelzebub, and the host of the fallen angels in Paradise Lost seemed, to the mechanical, or even scientific and especially pragmatic adolescent, more than a little melodramatic.
And, being male, one wanted to avoid melodrama like the bubonic plague, given its obvious affinity with the female gender.
So, avoiding the devices associated with melodrama, including the words that served as its vehicle, and the exploration of the inner emotions they revealed, and the discoveries of personal responsibility that accompany all voyages into the "heart and the soul" including the forgiveness of those whose overt abuse of each of us somehow, on reflection perhaps over many replays, began to disclose the "part we played in the tragedy," a disclosure that can come only to those patient and courageous and vulnerable enough to believe that the mining of those moments, left silent like the bear in his winter cave, for decades, is truly a journey into a new conscious awareness of how things too painful or too complicated to face are really the nuggets of new life that bring meaning to the last three or four decades one breathes.
Countries, too, just like individuals, and families and communities, have the opportunity to discover their own "shadow" in the repressed tragedies of their collective experiences, should they find the courage and the vocabulary and the perspective and the quiet time to "mine" those moments, lying silent just waiting for their 'spring'(ing) to light.
However, a permanent adolescence will cling tighter and tighter to the extrinsic symbols of power like guns, and sports and military uniforms, and executive offices and BMW's and private jets in a desperate and extended pursuit of approval, acceptance and the pride/hubris of status, in a world addicted to the make-up that permits the permanent avoidance of both truth and vulnerability.
Men, especially, are so deeply embedded in a self-sabotaging culture of masculinities that reduces us to the contemptible "gayness" of the artist, or the even more contemptible "arrogance" of the action figures, in a bi-polar and hypermanic and tragic pursuit of our own emptiness.
Unless and until we discover the garden of multicoloured and nuanced floral arrangements that are already planted and waiting only for our discovery, in novels, biographies, poems, lyrics, movies and plays, and in art galleries, dance recitals, symphony concerts and individual music and art lessons, men will continue their stoic and axelithymic ("no words for feelings") path of self-destruction.
There are those, many of them men, who live by the adage, "what I do matters more than what I say" as if silence and a stunted vocabulary were innate to the male gender. Cutting the larynx/brain off from the oxygen of words, especially those words that express how we feel in all of its nuances, will only exacerbate our experience of powerlessness and generate an even more desperate pursuit of the hollow symbols of hard power...after all, isn't that hard, orgasmic power the core definition of masculinity?
Oh, only in the world of make-believe, you say?
Pity, and here I thought it was the brass ring to which every man both aspired, and once found, clung to desperately, hoping never to be found out as human, weak, vulnerable and still admirable.
Reclaiming our authentic masculinities, including a rich and nuanced vocabulary of colours to paint the canvas of our inner experiences, including our feelings, will significantly reduce our dependence on the acquisition of hard power in all of its many forms, and demonstrate both to ourselves and to our partners, that in weakness and in vulnerability and in deep reflection we can find the full value, meaning and purpose of our existence. And, then we will be able and willing to thank people like Bill Maher and Al Smith for their courageous and cogent nudges.

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