Gender may well be something that is distinct from sex. It may well be a cultural phenomenon. It is ironic, however, that in this age of treating mental illness as being as important as physical illness, and placing human rights on a foundation of cultural identity, that ‘culture’ should be talked of in such dismissive terms.
Gender may not simply be a biological fact. It is probably more accurately described as the cultural expression of biological imperatives. This would account for the apparent consistencies of gender roles over variant cultures, and also the differences across those variations.
|Shiva is a the God of consciousness and creation, the male principle. Source - https://goo.gl/SfRejx and www.wikiwand.com|
In any case, to say that ‘gender is a construction’ is as crude and ignorant a generalisation as saying that gender is programmed into the biology of a human individual. It also indicates a philistine’s world-view, as it reduces culture to some political interpretation. Culture is a complex concept. It does not lend itself to scientific precision. Broadly speaking, we might say that culture is what emerges when biological imperatives meet environmental variables.
None of this is rigorously scientific, and none of it is precise. It is not meant to be. It is merely a sensible working model, which accounts for common experiences.
Masculinity, then, does not need a precise definition. It it is a fool’s errand to try and formulate a definition, and nothing much would change even if we had one. What is observably true, however, is that certain virtues are esteemed higher by the majority of men, and that certain challenges present themselves to people of the male sex.
The question of how to define masculinity is a secondary question to the practical questions around men’s sense of meaning and purpose in the world; how they relate to women; what it means to be a father, and - most importantly - how men take responsibility for their emotional hygiene.
For anyone interested in the challenges men face today, the innovative work of poet and male coach Rick Belden is a good place to start. His articles in the Huffington Post on the unique challenges facing men, can be found here.
In this blog, I refuse to answer the question ‘yes but what is masculinity?’ It is a quibbling distraction. Masculinity, like jazz, can’t be defined, and if one has to ask, one will never know.
The purpose of this blog has always been to evolve knew forms of expression for the ancient imperatives of masculinity. Science is irrelevant here. What matters in this context is culture. And anyone who wants a definition of culture will have to look elsewhere.
This refusal to make definitions is not ignorance disguised as defiance. It is a rejection of a model of discussion which I believe drives all philosophical ideas into paralysis.
The question of what a term means, is not the search for a final truth. It is the jumping-off point for wider discussion. However, in modern discussions of ideas, the quest for definitions is really a desire to shut discussion down.
Modern philosophy is incapable of being of any cultural value because it is not interested in being of value. It’s only purpose it to dissolve mystery. However, ideas are by nature mysterious. They are necessarily incomplete.
The central question of this blog then, is not to answer abstract questions of masculinity, but to offer a range of possible answers to the question I believe men need to be asking themselves: How do I express MY masculinity?
Sex drive is always a good place to start, when you are faced with some typically entrenched pseudo-academic challenge about ‘what does masculinity really mean anyway’.
Most men you meet will be struggling with how they manage the primal, vibrant imperatives of their sexual desire, in a cultural and moral context that is wildly different from that of their forefathers’.
One of the many confusions young men experience today is the sense that they have to hide their natural powers, for fear of being seen as some kind of violent and archaic patriarch; while at the same time knowing that they cannot attract a mate, without showing the teeth of this very inner animal.
Being a man today, is a complex psychological challenge. It means being intimate with a violent and dangerous power - Whitman’s procreant urge - while at the same time adopting nurturing and empathic behaviours that would have been foreign to men of previous generations.
This is why I focus on Marlon Brando so much, and have been fascinated by his acting style for years. Brando, for all his faults, used a peculiar spectrum or emotional range to articulate complexities that were never seen before or since, in Hollywood heroism.
Watching Brando, one gets a sense of competing and complementary forces in the male psyche, forces which are equally primal, but which create layers of friction, mystery and difficulty.
The challenge we face then is how to evolve knew cultural forms that capture such complexities and frictions. This is a huge responsibility, and science is of very little help. We need art, creativity, beauty and mythology to navigate these dark, deep waters.
The question ‘what does it mean to be a man?’ is a poetic question, it is not a scientific one. This means that each man must himself become a poet and deploy the full force of his erotic imagination, in order to carve a new path of leadership and heroism, to meet the demands placed upon him in the world today.