masculinity

Kissing Sexist, Racist Christianity Goodbye

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Brock Turner’s case is not an isolated incident of a poor judge or a flawed judicial system. The roots of Brock Turner’s three month sentence goes deeper than the courtroom in Santa Clara, Calif. These roots extend deeply into the soil of power, privilege, and patriarchy — systems actively formed, in part, by misdirected Christianity. Eldredge, Harris, Driscoll, and Piper are only four recent examples of a harmful narrative that has been preached for centuries.

Weekly Wrap 4.22.16: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Mourning Prince and David Bowie, Who Showed There’s No Right Way to Be a Man

“… We’ve lost two men who had an expansive, almost luxuriant vision of what it meant to be a man and lived out that vision through decades when it was much less safe to do so.”

2. On Earth Day, a Look at How Americans View Environmental Issues

Should the country do whatever it takes to protect the environment? The number of Republicans who say “yes” has decreased in the past 12 years.

3. Wage Gap Alarm Clock Rings After 79% of the Work Day Is Done So Women Can Go Home

Brilliant.

What Masculinity Really Looks Like

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The poor Italians! Every March 17 across Ireland, United States, and around the globe, there are thousands of parties, parades, and festivals celebrating St. Patrick. Sadly, the feast of St. Joseph — the patron saint of Italy — celebrated just two days later on March 19 gets comparatively little attention. But Pope Francis has been trying to change this. Three years ago, he chose to have his inauguration as the Bishop of Rome on the Feast of St. Joseph. On that occasion, he hailed Joseph as a person of “unfailing presence and utter fidelity” who is “constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own.”

Myths of Masculinity

Man Enough / Amazon
Man Enough / Amazon

MOST CULTURES have ways to initiate boys into manhood. Being a man is thus seen as an earned status that must be maintained, which can generate tremendous anxiety. (This is similar to what Simone de Beauvoir observes in The Second Sex about being a woman—one is not born but rather becomes one.) I’ve felt this anxiety myself in social spaces where masculinity is outside of the norm: I’m forced to think through how I am a man and what that means.

Nate Pyle confronts some of this anxiety in Man Enough. He explores how being rooted in Christ can seat the Christian man’s identity more firmly in Jesus. Rather than trying to frantically maintain any particular form of masculinity, we can rest our identity in Christ.

This is key to freeing us from ridiculous posturing and status games. Pyle fleshes his argument out not only through scripture and ethical reflection but also by powerfully recalling his own personal development as a man.

Still, as Pyle puts it, “saying Jesus defines what it means to be a man is easy; actually defining manhood in light of Jesus is harder.” We have so many pictures of Jesus in the New Testament, from the righteously angry Jesus condemning the false teachers of his day to the Christ restraining his power and submitting to death on a cross. Perhaps, Pyle argues, this is the point: Jesus is complex, so any picture of how to be a man (or a woman) needs to be similarly complex.

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Read One Mom's Touching Thank You Letter to a Teenage Skateboarder After He Helped Her Daughter

Twitter / Jeanean Thomas
Photo via Twitter / Jeanean Thomas

When Jeanean Thomas' 6-year-old daughter Peyton walked up to the local skatepark, she felt a little uncomfortable. The park was full of teenage boys smoking and swearing, and all Peyton wanted to do was skate.

"Mom, it's full of older boys," she said.

Thomas was nervous too, but encouraged her daughter, saying, "So what, they don't own the skate park."

Inevitably, one of the older boys approached Peyton, and Thomas prepared to deliver her "She's allowed to use this park just as much as you guys' speech."

Weekly Wrap 6.12.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Masculinity Gets Modern Makeover in Latest Getty Images Collection
Tired of seeing stock images that reinforce traditional gender roles? Getty Images is (finally) changing that with the help of Sheryl Sandberg's LeanIn.org.

2. The Human Right to Have a Home
As Congress plans to slash funding for housing assistance programs, Catholic bishops in the U.S. are protesting, arguing "housing is a human right."

3. WATCH: ‘What Are You?’ — Multiracial in America
Listen to how multiracial Americans react when they're asked "What are you?" (Hint: I's usually not well).

New & Noteworthy

A Good Neighbor
Children’s television host (and Presbyterian minister) Fred Rogers was known for his gentle, soft-spoken manner. Michael G. Long argues in Peaceful Neighbor: Discovering the Countercultural Mister Rogers that Rogers was also a radical, imbuing his show with nonviolence and care for creation. Westminster John Knox Press

Be a Man
The creators of Miss Representation bring us The Mask You Live In, a portrait of masculinity in the U.S. through the eyes of young boys, educators, and social scientists. The documentary argues that hyper-masculine cultural messages manifest in violent, isolating, emotionally stunting ways. The Representation Project

All in the Family
For 10 years Patricia Raybon and her daughter Alana didn’t talk about faith—because Alana had become a practicing Muslim. In Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace, they tell about their search together for healing and understanding. W Publishing Group

Americana Moses
In Leave Some Things Behind, the Steel Wheels use mandolin, fiddle, and bass to bolster a lyrical theme of “Exodus.” The foursome reflects on the joy and consequences of leaving home for an abstract promised land, singing, “It makes a difference where you go. It makes you different where you go.” thesteelwheels.com

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'The Mask You Live In': A Blessed Mess

From impossible standards of beauty generated by the fashion and make-up industry to the disproportionate number of women who are elected to political office, women and girls in America face a variety of obstacles in their journey of empowerment. But what also warrants attention are some of the less noticeable consequences when gender norms are so narrowly defined across the board. For instance, if we characterize women as submissive, emotional, or alluring beings, then what does it mean to be a man? And how might damaging myths and stereotypes about masculinity produce its own host of social ills?

These questions remain central to The Representation Project’s latest documentary The Mask You Live In, a film that ambitiously seeks to re-evaluate how masculinity is defined and expressed in America. According to director Jennifer Siebel Newsom, when mainstream culture views masculinity as a rejection of everything feminine, traits like kindness, healthy emotions, and constructive resolution of conflict become undervalued if not wholly disregarded for most men. Instead, the prevailing norms that young boys receive from their homes—as well as in movies, sports, and video games—push them to equate masculinity with domination, violence, stoicism, financial success, or sexual conquest.

Being a Man, a la Paul

Silhouette of man standing on wall. Photo via Alex Emanuel Koch / Shutterstock.com

Paul teaches a bedrock unity in marriage. Both the Christian wife and husband are members of the Church which is Christ’s body (v30) and have further cemented this with particular devotion to union with each other (v31). Since we have this fundamental unity, a divisive gender identity in marriage or elsewhere is impossible to accept—it sets up barriers where Christ recognizes none.

As such, men inside or outside of marriage must follow Christ’s example in giving of themselves for others, particularly to those who rely and trust on them. This is why domestic violence is such a satanic perversion of masculinity: it replaces a protective, self-sacrificial love with a violent, domineering authority. A relationship which should point to Christ and the Church instead becomes controlled by power and violence.

Paul forces me to think differently about what it means to be a man. I need to reorient my actions in a way that recognizes that Christians, male and female, are all part of one body of Christ. That should push men, especially those in positions of authority, to a love that seeks to build up and to serve rather than domineer. That love, rather than a macho authority, is the true mark of a man.

The Play's the Thing

WHEN I FIRST arrived in a western district of Georgia, on the shores of the Black Sea, in 2004, I met a group of young people walking along the muddy dirt road to school. They were walking slowly, linking arms and talking and laughing together. Like teenagers anywhere, the young people were happy to talk about their own lives: tensions with parents, boredom at school, friends, and anticipation of the future.

The girls that I spoke with also mentioned their fears of being abducted for marriage.

Surprisingly, in this modern era, the abduction of girls for marriage was still considered common and acceptable. In rural Georgia, if a young man fancied a young woman, he arranged with his friends to have her abducted as she walked home from school. If she was held overnight away from her home (and often raped), her chaste reputation was lost, and she had no choice but to leave school, marry him, and move in with his family. Honor demanded it.

In rural Georgian high schools, rumors flew about who was about to be kidnapped, or who was thinking of kidnapping someone. Boys thought it was romantic and a test of bravery and manhood. Almost all the boys we spoke with said they would help a friend abduct a girl if requested, and many said they felt pressured by their friends to abduct girls. It was seen as a way of proving yourself a man, a true Georgian man.

Most girls were afraid of being abducted, but some girls I spoke with had mixed feelings, wondering if they could manage to elope with their boyfriends using a traditional kidnapping story as the cover to overcome their parents’ disapproval.

Parents also commented on the problem. One mother of a teenage girl said, “When I was in school, kidnapping girls for marriage was a big problem. In order to be a ‘real man’ and demonstrate his bravery, a boy had to kidnap a girl. But girls did not think kidnapping was romantic. They saw it for what it was—violence.”

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