Friday, February 15, 2008

True masculinity?

O.K. --- I will fully admit that the following rant is, at times, a bit tongue-in-cheek and is probably not an example of gracious speech, but this post has been screaming to be written for way too long. And there is some stuff of value in it after all. Read with discernment.

I'm tired of men trying to define "femininity" for me in ways that are silly, denigrating, narrow, stifling, and just plain ridiculous. Over the years, I've collected some real doozies, including the man who railed against me for not bottlefeeding with the near hysterical cry of, "But don't you see that breastfeeding is! Why do you women have to claim you are so much better than men?"

The idea that breastfeeding was the equivalent of shouting, "I am woman; hear me roar" was news to me. Nor did I have any idea that doing so was claiming that I was better than men.

Then there are men who have tried to convince me that having a bunch of children is "simply not feminine; after all, you are not breeding stock", to which I can only answer, "HUH? Giving birth is not feminine?"

I've also been told that the following is not at all feminine: talking too much, talking too little, reading books, studying theology, laughing out loud, having a sense of humor, sweating while doing heavy housework, exercising, wearing comfortable shoes, going barefoot, wearing a denim skirt, getting along well with my brothers, any sort of athletic activity, using "big words", reading the Bible too much (oh, if this were only true of me!), writing about anything but recipes and household hints, looking people in the eye while speaking to them, having a firm handshake, etc., etc., etc.

Whenever some man wants to push his ideas of femininity on me, without any basis of Scripture or even common sense, to say nothing of a real knowledge of women, to back them up, I've always been tempted to let him know exactly how I felt he was lacking in the masculinity department.

Until now, I've not given in to that temptation.

Masculine can be defined in a number of different ways, but I thought I'd stick to the most basic that I got from an online dictionary: pertaining to or characteristic of a man or men, such as masculine attire; having qualities traditionally ascribed to men, as strength and boldness.

So, without further ado, let me tell you what I find to be completely unmasculine, in no particular order of importance:

Men who are not gentlemen. I mean real gentlemen. No matter what your station in life, you can still be civilized, gentle, sensitive, dignified, and well-mannered. It takes a real man to be those things. Sadly, all too many males today are very unmasculine in this regard. It's been refreshing for me to meet some young men who are courageous enough to buck the uncivilized trend of our current culture.

Couch potatoes. There is no boldness in passivity.

Men who do not protect their wives. Yes, I know that many husbands like to fantasize about heroic acts of bravery, where they imagine some action movie scene in their minds in which they save their wives (who probably look much more movie-starrish in these fantasies) from some dangerous fate. But I'm surprised to see that, in the day to day living of life, women tend to be far more protective of their husbands than husbands are of wives. Women will attempt to shield their husbands from stress, overwork, lack of sleep, poor health habits, etc. Women will defend their husbands against attacks. Husbands will often stand by helplessly, not wanting to "cause a scene" when their wives are insulted or unjustly criticized. Of course, not all husband are like that. For example, men whose are protective enough to watch the children every Saturday morning so that wives can catch up on lost sleep are showing true masculinity!

Men who do not lead by example. Even a two-year old can bark orders or give speeches. It takes a real man to live a life of godly humility, servitude, and integrity in front of his family --- and to set the family standard for these things. I'm glad to have had a number of masculine examples in my life, who set the bar very high in these areas.

Men who lack courage. I don't know how many times I've heard wives say things like, "I'd love to have another baby, but my husband is afraid." "I wanted to have natural childbirth, but my husband was too scared to let me try." "My husband is afraid to go to church." If I --- world's most fearful person --- can do these things despite quaking in my boots, it's hard for me to view someone as masculine when they are far weaker than me. Thank God for those men who are more courageous than their wives, but who are tender-hearted enough to encourage their wives, rather than to criticize them for being fearful.

Men who lack compassion. Weeping with those who weep is not just something women are to do. Jesus wept. Don't confuse a lack of empathy and a fear of emotions with masculinity.

Men who are arrogant. So are a lot of toddlers. Grow up. Godly humility in a man is wonderfully masculine.

Men who are more concerned about rebuking women than about becoming godly men. Silly children do this sort of thing. Be a man. Lead the way. Set the example. Let women teach women how to be godly wives. Don't try to pretend you are everyone's husband and that every woman must submit to you. You're neither an older woman nor husband of all, so please quite trying to act like that you are.

Christian men who act as if the fruit of the Spirit are feminine. If the Holy Spirit is in our lives, we should all be growing in our demonstration of "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control." Lacking these things does not make you a man; it simply means that you are not submissive enough to allow the Holy Spirit control of your life. (Yes, I used the "submissive" word on purpose. Even men are to submit to God.)

Indulgent, gluttonous men. This takes zero courage and zero boldness. The truth of the matter is that overweight men don't even look remotely masculine. Once when I was languishing sick in bed, I happened to turn on the TV and watched, in horror, "The Biggest Loser". I'm not sure why I watched as much of it as I did. The most appalling thing is that every single man took off his t-shirt for the weigh-in --- and they showed this on TV! It was one of the most disgusting and offensive sights. It struck me that these men looked like hideously extreme caricatures of unbelievably ugly pregnant women. In fact, they looked worse than that, with their grossly distended, sagging bellies and their lack of anything remotely approaching a masculine physique. It makes sense to me that a lack of strength and will-power would lead to such a de-masculinized appearance. In fact, it seems rather just. If someone will not act as a true man should, why should he look like one?

Now that I've vented, let me hasten to add:

This post may seem like male-bashing. In a way, it might be. But since it is open season, on many other blogs, to bash women for not cooking enough or for being too outspoken, or for writing books, or whatever, it seems that justice requires that at least one voice say, "Hey...if any man least one woman wishes men were more masculine --- at least more truly masculine!"

Silly little children and gorillas can puff out their chests and make a big show of being all tough. But true masculinity is a wonderful, wonderful thing. I'm not impressed by the silly Hollywood stereotypes; I've never been a fan of John Wayne; I don't think most professional athletes are particularly masculine.

Some of the most manly men I've known were short of stature...some were even physically weak...I can think of several who were infirm and crippled...but they stood head and shoulders above all other men in their devotion to Christ and to their families, in their self-sacrifice, in the powerful way the fruit of the Spirit shown from their lives, in their tenderness, in their compassion, in their protectiveness, in their integrity, in their courage. I wish there were far more of these men.

So, if anything, I'd like this post to encourage women to be more appreciative of the real masculinity in their husbands, and to encourage it and nurture it. I'd also like to encourage men to embrace true, Biblical masculinity. I'll admit that my rant strayed from the Biblical in some respects, so feel free to throw out anything that is simply of me!

Edited here and there because I posted it too hastily and to add the following: I did not mean the section about overweight men to seem insulting to pregnant women. Many husbands, mine included, find the sight of their pregnant wives cute, if not beautiful. I have never met a wife who thought her husband's big belly was handsome or attractive in any way. Pregnancy is a wonderful state, one that can be a sign of God's blessing. Obesity is a sign of the sin of gluttony. I know it's politically incorrect to speak this bluntly about it. I know all too well how difficult it is to wage battle against our own flesh, rather than to indulge ourselves. But the Bible speaks plainly on the sin of gluttony --- far more plainly than it does on who is to do the cooking.

Edited yet again to add this disclaimer: yes, I know that not all men with huge bellies are gluttons. There are those extremely rare cases of men eat completely in moderation, have all their appetites under control, only allow themselves to eat healthy and low-calorie fare --- and yet are overweight due to unusual hormonal imbalances, medications they must take, cancer treatments, or thyroid imbalances. Also, some men are gluttons and yet remain thin. Gluttony is a sin. Being overweight can often be an obvious sign of that sin. Once in a while, being overweight can be a sign of something else. I was speaking of gluttonous men, most of whom also happen to look very much like we would expect them to look while living gluttonous, indulgent lifestyles for quite some time. I am speaking especially of those men who try to pretend that their gluttony is masculine. It's not. It's sin.


  1. Rebecca, all this talk of "feminization" of discourse, of church worship, etc.. makes what is feminine out to be bad, and what is masculine out to be good.

    It makes me think these men are still going through their identification as being boys (something that needs to take place before a boy is of kindergarden age). You know -- the little kid that wanted "the boy shubble" type of stuff. Yes, I read that entry of yours.

    Psychologists claim this identification is a more intense and precarious thing for boys on account of females being the primary caregiver to both boys and girls, so at some point little boys must make a transition away from mom that little girls don't need to make.

    Whatever goes on in the minds of little boys, the behavior of these grown men is reminding me of what the psychologists say about the little boys. I wish they could know how juvenile they look. This gets me frustrated, and makes me want to smack them, tell them to grow up, and quit denigrating what is feminine in order to make themselves feel more masculine.

    That kind of behavior ought to have run its course long before a boy hits puberty.

  2. That is what I've believed for a long time is behind the inordinate focus on sex and sex differences for so many pro-patriarchalists: perpetual adolescence. We expect teenagers to have sex on the brain. We expect adult men and women to have mostly got over the "ooh, check it out -- she's got ******* and I don't!" stage.

    Yet we have authors who don't just stick to titles of books in that regard (thinking here of Rob Bell's SexGod) but really do write whole books devoted to how God is engaged in sex with creation. I'm not joking. One of the big names in the Manhood/womanood movement wrote such a book. If anyone wants proof, I'll provide a link upon request.'s awful!

    Sometimes I want to say, "Just get over it!"

  3. Something else I find extremely unmasculine is a man being selective about whom he'll extend courtesy to. Even the heathens love those who love them. But if they feel justified in ripping apart those who dare to disagree with them, how are they any better than an unbeliever (in their Christ-signifying love, that is)?