Who will Define Masculinity for Us and for the Young?

Yesterday we raised the issue of Patriarchy, the shadow side of masculinity.  We spoke of how the toxic masculine is breathed in by women as well as men.  We can ask the question: What institutions has Patriarchy not infected? — education, economics, religion, politics and much more have ingested it.  Patriarchy is not restricted to men any more than the Divine Feminine is restricted to women.  Many women have bought into Patriarchy.

The timing of a series on the Sacred Masculine seems deeply synchronistic as it very much corresponds with a recent powerful article on toxic masculinity, published online in the NY Times Magazine.  Entitled “My Cousin was My Hero.  Until the Day He Tried to Kill Me,” it is a moving—and scary—article about the shadow side of being a man in our culture.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., challenged the cultural norm of the masculine through nonviolent protest. (photo: Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress)

Author Wil S. Hylton tells his story of how, as a boy, he hung out with his cousin who was very big and strong and bullied everyone and who joined the army but came back even more skilled at violence and threatening others.  And who, to the author’s surprise, beat him up in a very severe fashion for no apparent reason one day at his home.  A beating that nearly killed him. 

The long story, which includes the failure of Hylton’s own marriage, ends with these thoughts:

My attraction to my cousin and my detachment as a husband both reside in the pantheon of male tropes. Masculinity is a religion.  It is a compendium of saints: the vaunted patriarch, the taciturn cowboy, the errant Knights, reluctant hero, gentle giant and omniscient father.  Like Scripture, each contains a story of implicit values.  Fraternity, dominance, adamance, certitude—they are the commandments of male identity….The veneration of those traits is poison to young men.  It offers an easy escape for the necessary struggle of self-reflection and replaces the work of interior discovery…”

Now, having undergone a kind of wake up and conversion, he writes:

I want my daughter to see a model of what she can expect and demand, and my son needs, as all boys need, to begin thinking about why men fail. He needs to know what it means and does not mean to be a man, what the world will tell him it means and why he can’t believe it.

In the days that follow, we will take up alternatives to what our culture is telling boys and men as well as girls and women about what being a man means.

Banner photo: Peaceful protestors Adelaja and Pancho Ramos-Stierle are arrested at Occupy Oakland protest, 2011. Photographer: Noah Berger

Lectio Divina Practice

Lectio Divina, or “Divine Reading,”is the ancient practice of meditatively and prayerfully reading the words of Scripture or other sacred texts, asking Spirit what your proper response might be to the truths they lay bare.

In this spirit, take a phrase or word from this meditation and be still with it, letting it wash over you and through and through you.  Repeat it as a mantra.  Be with the silence that follows.  Be with, be with…. 

Recommended Reading

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.

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