Posts Tagged ‘men’s studies’

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Final Post of Men on the Moon

30 June 2014

If my grandfather were still alive today, he would have turned 100 this month. Raymond Hitchcock made it to 88, having lived a generous, courageous life. There were the remarkable occupational elements of his career: he exercised considerable skill in farming, automobile repair, business management, and real estate. He did everything with great determination. He was and is an icon of manly strength to me. All importantly, Raymond was known for his kindness. He showed tenderness to his family, friends, and neighbors. He demonstrated sacrificial integrity. He told great stories. He was famous as the designated hugger at his local Methodist church.

I mention Raymond Hitchcock as I close shop on this long-standing blog. It was started six years ago as a way to explore aspects of masculinity in the modern world. So often manliness is understood as a kind of oppressive imperative, some kind of social conduct which burdens men with high, even unrealistic, expectations. This blog has tried to show that masculinity can affirm many of the great traditions for men without demanding of them exact codes of conduct and being. Men can walk on the moon.

I close this season of my e-life with gratitude for the men in my life who instilled in me a solid core. My father, my pastors, friends like Mark and Travis and the guys from the Round Table and MKP. Men like Raymond Hitchcock. They affirmed that men can strive to be true men – from a starting point of real manhood. My grandfather had a center, and from that center he lived joyfully.

I wish the same for you, friends and strangers. May you be free men.

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Manning up with Casting Crowns

28 March 2014

Casting Crowns arrived on the music scene in 1999. By a long but steady ascent, they have become one of the few Evangelical bands to move between Christian and secular radio, touting positive messages for general audiences. As such, their lyrics hold special insight into values popular among conservative American believers. Among the consolidation of virtues Casting Crowns is responsible for is a set of gender expectations for men. In particular, their code turns on concepts of moral integrity, inner piety, protection of women and children, and evangelism.

In 2011 Casting Crowns released the single “Courageous,” which accompanied the film by the same name. With a story about a police officer in the background, the song laments the loss of traditional manliness, when men “were warriors on the front lines, standing unafraid.” Now, men are “watchers on the sidelines while our families slip away.” The golden days of patriarchy have waned into the dark days of men without backbone and purpose. The refrain that Christian men are “taking back the fight” does not refer to a program to subject women. Rather, the fight is directed at the heart, turning to a life of prayer. This battle to regain the authoritative self starts with the regaining of the authentic self, “on our knees with lifted hands.” Those who “reignite the passion,” the song goes on to say, “become warriors.” Accordingly, the battle for one’s place in the family has been internalized to take place on the war-field of the heart, in which lethargy and cowardice are put to death via prayer. The song ends with the promise, “In the war of the mind I will make my stand.”

Casting Crown’s inner masculinity continues to the be the basis for external masculine honor in 2014’s “Heroes.” The woman of the song expresses her valor in financial ways, supporting her two children (notably after her breadwinning husband abandons her). The high school boy in the second verse “walks against the flow” in fairly nebulous moral ways, not following “the hopeless road” but “willing to stand alone.” His manhood comes through principally in a moralistic separation from the world (though this is somehow equated with seeing the school as “his mission field”). Again, the battle is fought in internal terms, battling for moral integrity through self-discipline and prayer.

Through both songs one hears the moralistic theme of Promise Keepers set in the militaristic language of John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart. Thus lead vocalist Mark Hall confesses his penchant for uber-manly movies like Braveheart, saying, “I think that’s my spirit in me longing to be the warrior that God created me to be.” Yet his battle-loving language is simply the key through which he sings of a longing to return to traditional values beginning with the conquest of self. Notably, this sort of Evangelicalism is still psychological and inward-facing while much of the rest of Christianity is turning toward the social sciences and political action.

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Why Women Can’t Be Magicians

9 January 2012

In her fascinating book Pythagoras’ Trousers, Margaret Wertheim makes the claim that most physicists are male to this day because physics, like organized religion, deals with a knowledge of the “magical” core of the universe.  On a more mundane level, I got to wondering why men often proliferate as magicians (the entertaining sort).  It turns out that 95% of magic club membership is male.  Why?

Peter M. Nardi offers a collection of explanations for the trend in his article “Why Have Women Magicians Vanished?”  He quotes a number of practicing male magicians, some of whom actually claim that women’s anatomy and clothing is what inhibits them from performing magical tricks (e.g., where do you hide the doves if you have to wear tight-fitting clothing, especially around your breasts?).  Such technical problems may exist, but they don’t do much to give a deeper explanation of the dearth of women in the field.   Nardi gets closer to the solution when he says,

Magic has always been presented as something of a fraternity, and for the longest time, magic clubs did not allow women to join (following the trend of most private clubs of the era). The traditional role of a male magician and his female “assistants” is not a social role that is easily transposed into female magician and her male “assistants.” This makes the road to being a successful female magician even harder since they have to create a whole new paradigm of what it is to be a magician in order to succeed.

While Nardi doesn’t elaborate, this insight is at the heart of the problem, in my opinion.  A good male magician must not only appear to control the physical world through magic, he must also demonstrate that he can control the social world, a social world symbolized by his female assistant.  Just as he waves his wand and controls the physical elements (fire, water, hankerchiefs, coffins), so he controls the fate of the young woman, his subject.  Her cheerful demeanor glosses the fact that she assents, almost hypnotically, to the will of the magician.  Through the female assistant the audience is encouraged to trust the magician, and thus social control is asserted.

That is to say, women can’t be magicians, at least of the traditional variety, because it is unacceptable for them to exert social control.  They have no male assistant, no medium, by which to charm the crowd.  They do not stand above the earthly elements, above actual men, above the social world.  Women are not free to work the spectacle.  They must remain the spectacle.

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Manly Man Gifts, Christmas 2012

24 November 2011

What?  You’re tired of me pontificating on gender theory and obscure men’s movements?  Fine.  Here’s your ultra-practical, no-fail list of men’s gifts for Christmas 2012.

1. Manpacks.  Manpacks delivers fresh socks, shirts and shaving supplies to that special guy on a monthly basis.  No more last minute desperation runs to Target.  Starting at $14 for 3 months.  http://manpacks.com/

2. Robert Rothschild Farm Blackberry Chipotle Sauce.  Slather this on pork tenderloin for something unbelievable.  Pour it over cream cheese and serve with Triscuits.  Berries have never been so masculine.  $9.  http://www.amazon.com/Robert-Rothschild-Farm-Blackberry-Chipotle/dp/B0045DOA7C/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1322170094&sr=8-1-fkmr2

3. Beretta PB Copper Knife.  If a man needs to pull out a knife for some high-skill application (like slicing off ribbon), he should have something to show off to everyone at the same time.  This replica of the 1940’s Beretta knife has nice talking points, including a shell extractor.  $40.  http://www.berettausa.com/products/pb-copper-knife/

4. South Dakota Magazine.  Forget another subscription to People.  Go for something unique, like a magazine from a state he’s talked about visiting but never has.  South Dakota Magazine is a well-run monthly publication with articles on great tourist spots, historical legends and local culture.  $19/year.  http://southdakotamagazine.com/

5. Antique Maps.  Find an original antique map on eBay, then mount it.  Replicas can be found all over the internet, such as this one of Geneva: http://www.oldmapgallery.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=60&products_id=3068.

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Public Property: My Eyebrows

5 October 2011

Last week, again, a hair stylist took the liberty of trimming my eyebrows and ear hair without asking.  Should I feel a little violated?  What if I want me overambitious ear hair to demonstrate my maturity?  What if I want my eyebrows to mimic Rowan Williams’?

I’m probably just depressed over middle age cosmetic issues, but the whole thing makes me wonder why my hair stylists – who so happen to be women – feel the freedom to trim hair other than that on my scalp.  Were a stylist to do the same thing to a woman, a considerable tussle would ensue, maybe a law suit.  Women do these things themselves, after all.  Since appearance matters so much to others, women  get used to making decisions about every part of their body.  That is their burden and pride, so how dare someone else make that decision for them.

Since we men don’t own our own bodies so much as to care enough about cosmetic details, women take up a stewardship role.  At least in the cosmetic sense, male bodies belong to women.  Now, how is the opposite true in our society?

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The Ultimate Men’s Summit, June 10-19

6 June 2011

Later this month we’ll witness the most ambitious attempt so far to recapture the glory years of the mythopoetic men’s movement.  The Ultimate Men’s Summit, happening online from the 10th to the 19th, will showcase over 75 presenters and field questions via telecom.  The line-up is a veritable who’s who in men’s work: Sam Keen, Warren Farrell, Bert Hoff, Bill Kauth, Herb Goldberg and (“Leader of the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement”) Robert Bly.   I encourage you to sign up for the conference HERE.  Registration is free.

I’m looking forward to the event, though the limitations are quite apparent in my mind.  The cast is dominated by psychologists and self-help gurus.  While a couple of men’s rights people should shake things up, the therapeutic feel of the conference won’t invite too many critical questions.  The conference is being pulled together by Shift Network, an organization devoted to an “evolution of consciousness” that includes “open exchange,” “restorative cycles,” and “global spiritual pluralism.”  Therefore I can all but assure attendees that the New Age ethic of the organizers will make room for a wide array of perspectives, sexualities and social groups, though they will leave prowling on the perimeter the usual suspects: liberal feminists, conservative pundits and orthodox Christians.

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A Man on the Dark Side of the Moon

28 October 2010

Perhaps the best film you haven’t seen yet: Moon, an eerie independent film featuring Sam Rockwell and the voice of Kevin Spacey.  The movie is practically a one-man act, depicting the disintegration of Sam Bell, a energy industry employee who has been hired to man a lunar station for three years all by himself.  As he stumbles across what appears to be a conspiracy, he discovers fascinating and terrifying things about… well… himself.  Creative and provocative, this sci-fi film will have you pondering for days afterwards about human identity, personal evolution, and the lonely predicament of men.  Now on DVD.