Posts Tagged ‘gender studies’


Tall and Bearded: Augustine on the Resurrected Male Body

5 March 2010

Early Christian theologians were concerned to maintain a real sense of continuity between this life and the next.  If the resurrection of the flesh meant that the male/female differentiation was erased, then it stood to reason that men and women should downplay their gendered characteristics here in their earthly life.  That was not an option for those trying to preserve a gendered hierarchy.  Patristics scholars have done work on what how the theological argument was addressed toward women.   I want to offer a few ideas on the resurrected male body in Augustine’s City of God.

Augustine of Hippo in the 5th century addressed the doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh, which was widely held in Christian communities but still considered scandalous by many.  In book 22 of City of God he addresses many of these objections and misconceptions, including the idea that the resurrection would mean an elimination of maleness and femaleness.  Not so, says the bishop.  They retain their bodies, including the genitals and basic bodily features.

One preserved feature of the male body is its size.  Augustine defends the resurrection of infants and children, claiming that God will fulfill their full bodily stature according to the “seminal principle” in them (22.13-15).  They will be raised in the full bloom of youth, around age thirty perhaps, after the model of Christ.  But does that imply that all be raised after the pattern of Christ in a very literal sense, viz., Jesus’ exact size?  Men and women would then all be the same height and weight.  Augustine does not allow this, claiming that the preservation of the fleshly material in the resurrection will not permit men with large mass to be raised without their full stature (22:14).  They will, presumably, be taller than women.  The sheer physical ratio is kept in the eschaton.

Beauty is also valued prized by Augustine, and he mentions male bodies as possessing this beauty in a very ornamental way.  Women’s bodies will be beautiful too, beautiful in a way that “excites praise” rather than lusts (22:17).  Their breasts and vaginas and wombs will be aesthetically pleasing in a pure way, not desired for pleasure or function.  Nevertheless, it seems that Augustine highlights even more strongly men’s bodies as those possessing beauty.  In particular, men are raised with their nipples and beards and rough skin (22.24).  Since these features do not serve any real function, thus unnecessary to the human constitution (as proved by the fact that women’s bodies are different), nipples and beards and rough skin are to be understood as ornamental, as beautiful adjuncts to the resurrection body. 

In short, the male body in Augustine’s vision of the resurrection holds onto key masculine features.  Whether the basic size of the male body or its decorative aspects, it is to be raised powerful and beautiful, and celebrated as distinctly male.


… with Liberty and Hotness for All

4 February 2010

The I-Slept-through-My-Gender-Studies-Class Award for 2010 has its first nominee, Us magazine, which in its 18 January 2010 issue presented a picture of Nicole Kidman looking serious and as flawless as ever.  Its tag line:

“Nicole Kidman visited the United Nations in NYC Jan. 4 to give a speech about women’s rights.  For more Hot Pics, turn to page 14.”


Whose Depression?

20 December 2009

On American television this month has been targeting depression sufferers.  Their commercial features a middle-aged woman who describes a difficult situation: her marriage had been struggling, her husband wasn’t communicating with her, he threatened to leave, she begged him to stay, that she would do anything; he left anyway.  The commercial then switches to the WebMD web site, which features a quiz to see whether you are depressed.  The person (not pictured) clicks on “excessive crying.”  The narrator encourages viewers to log on in order to determine whether one is suffering from depression.

The interesting thing about this commercial is that it is unclear all along exactly who they are describing and who they are targeting.  In this unfortunate situation, is it the woman who is depressed?  Or is the commercial saying that her husband, acting wholly irrational, is the one depressed?  After watching it several times, it seems the commercial is targeting the former, viz., the unfortunate woman who is left to fend for herself after being abandoned by a man.  She is sad, no doubt, but he manifests the more acute signs of emotional distress and perhaps mental illness.  Yet the clicking of the “excessive crying” box in the commercial seems to have reference to her, not her despondent husband. 

As someone who has been in men’s support groups for over a decade, I have had exposure to numerous cases of male depression.  It isn’t nearly so obvious as one would hope.  Men tend to be less willing to describe themselves at being depressed, and tend to attach it less to communal stresses, a recent study by Stacy De Coster found (“Depression and Law Violation: Gendered Responses to Gendered Stresses,” Sociological Perspectives [summer 2005]).  Men will, however, attend more to “agentic stresses,” that is, stresses caused by others calling into question their own personal competency.  Men respond not through overt depression; they break the law. 

If WebMD really wanted to help people who are unaware of their condition, they would have made some kind of effort to underscore the fact that it is the husband who is probably suffering from chronic depression.   As it is, this commercial (like most advertisements advertising for depression through stereotypical displays of sadness) will find themselves reaching women far more than men.


Heavy Fundametalisms Conference

12 September 2009

Metalheads.  I know you get a little scared when they’re around, but you gotta love ’em.  The guy wearing all black, long unbathed, headbanging to his I-Pod: he’s interesting.  Even better is the mulleted guy at the truck stop wearing a Pantera shirt from 1990, sporting a black eye from last night’s mosh pit.  What is it that makes metal culture so winsome and all-encompassing for so many people?  And why are its adherents something like 85% male?


One of the less dusty academic conferences coming up is the second Heavy Fundametalisms Conference, to be held in Salzburg (Austria) 10 to 12 Nov 2009.  Its sessions will cover everything from ideological domination in lyrics to the musical significance of the power chord.  The last one drew some serious interest; this one promises the same.  Though it’s not touted as a gender studies conference, that’s clearly what it is.  Hopefully there will be some deep analysis going on there with regard to the construction of masculinity, not just a point-scoring session by shaking one’s head at the obvious posturing and power-grabbing of heavy metal culture. 

If I were going, I’d start growing my hair out now.  Rock on, Salzburg.


Online Master’s Degree Available in Men’s Studies

28 July 2009

Would you believe that there is now a graduate-level program for men’s studies?  Through Akamai University one may receive a Master of Science degree in Men’s Studies and Fatherhood.   The degree is online, and the university isn’t accredited – the latter a major down side.  Nevertheless, my interest was piqued by the class titles, which demonstrate overt Jungian themes and sound substantial in content.  The core curriculum is listed below.

Required: The following nine credits:

MSP 531: Rites of Passage: Ancient and Modern (3 credits)
MSP 532: Developmental Male Psychology (3 credits)
MSP 533: Issues in Male Sexuality (3 credits)

Plus nine additional credits selected from the following courses:

MSP 534: Men in Literature (3 credits)
MSP 535: Issues Facing Men (3 credits)
MSP 536: Models of Masculinity (3 credits)
MSP 537: Marriage and Fatherhood (3 credits)
MSP 538: Male Victimization (3 credits)
MPS 539: Male Archetypes (3 credits)
MSP 540: Men’s/Fathers’ Rights (3 credits)
MSP 541: Patriarchy (3 credits)
MSP 542: Male Spirituality (3 credits)


California Unemployment Hits Men Hardest

23 June 2009

Men Filling out ApplicationsThe bottom has yet to reached in California.  The Los Angeles Times yesterday reported that the unemployment rate for May was 11.5% (“Jobless Rate Sets New State Record,” Los Angeles Times 20 June 2009).  While this increase in joblessness follows patterns, a trend now being noticed is that men are the ones being laid off.  Men and women suffered the same rates of unemployment until December 2007, when three out of every four jobs lost were those of men.  The Times softened the data by graphing the twelve-month average: men averaging 9.6% unemployment versus women’s 8.2%.  In any case, the paper claims, California is in a serious “man-cession.”

Two reasons f0r the trend are suggested.  First, men account for most of the skilled trade labor, largely associated with the housing industry.  Since building has crept to a halt, it’s no surprise that men, who do the bulk of building, plumbing, electric work and repairs, are on the hunt for other work.  The other reason the Times glosses over, but I think is significant: the average female worker earns 78% of what a man gets in a similar occupation.  This wage-gap estimate is exagerrated in my opinion, but even if the number is more like 90%, it makes sense why men could be fired more easily and hired more difficultly.  They just demand too much money.  The male unemployment trend will be one of the long-term trends in white collar sectors during recessions as men catch a nasty side-effect of pay wage privilege.


British Aristocrats on American Women, ca. 1890

15 June 2009

A conversation from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, between Lord Henry Wotton and Lord George Fermor: 

“It is rather fashionable to marry Americans just now, Uncle George.”

“I’ll back English women against the world, Harry,” said Lord Fermor, striking the table with his fist.

“The betting is on the Americans.”

“They don’t last, I am told,” muttered his uncle.

“A long engagement exhausts them, but they are capital at a steeplechase.  They take things flying.  I don’t think Dartmoor has a chance.”

“Who are her people?” grumbled the old gentleman.  “Has she got any?”

Lord Henry shook his head.  “American girls are as clever at concealing their parents, as English women are at concealing their past,” he said, rising to go.

“They are pork-packers, I suppose?”

“I hope so, Uncle George, for Dartmoor’s sake.  I am told that pork-packing is the most lucrative profession in America, after politics.” 

“Is she pretty?”

“She behaves as is she was beautiful.  Most American women do.  It is the secret of their charm.”

“Why can’t these American women stay in their own country?  They are always telling us that it is the paradise for women?”

“It is.  That is the reason why, like Eve, they are so excessively anxious to get out of it,” said Lord Henry.