Saturday, May 5, 2012

In Which My Blood Boils

My wife called my attention to another excellent article recently. While I don't agree with everything this author writes, much of what he said resonated very strongly with this unguy. (Chris, should you ever read this post, you're welcome to join the Unguy Club.)

Like the author, I too am not a member of the Dude's Club. I'm pretty sure I never have been. And while there have been times I wished I could be, I have reached a point of contentment in not being in. In fact I no longer mind being excluded and wouldn't want to join even if I could.

“I'm okay with that, really. Members of the Dude's Club are hard to talk to. When I hang out with them, I feel like I'm constantly being weighed, measured, and found wanting. If I don't drop enough sports references, or if my voice cracks, of if I use too many art terms, or if I express an awe of beauty, or if I talk about how I love to cook, or if I'm not physically aggressive enough, or if I wear the wrong colors, or if I talk poetry... I feel as if I'm relegated to a lesser status. Not a real man. Not a man's man anyway.”

Among the guys I know locally, the favorite activities seem to be hard-core bicycling and hunting. Although I enjoy bicycling, I'm definitely not hard-core about it (I don't have the gear and can't afford it even if I wanted to) and I do not enjoy hunting in the least. Nor am I at all interested in guns. So that effectively limits my involvement and puts me outside the Dude's Club at my church.

More significantly than this question of inclusion or exclusion from the Dude's Club, I like how this author examines the use of the term “effeminate.” Although I disagree with him on the complementarian/egalitarian question, I think he's on target with questioning the way that some Christian leaders (and others) use the word “effeminate” as a label to discount and marginalize men who do not fit their image of manliness. These men are gender shaming all those who don't subscribe to their definition of what a man (or woman) should be. And that's wrong.

“Thus my conclusion is, these 'Esau Christians' are guilty of using gender shaming as a way to insult those they disagree with on minor issues.” [I would argue that not all these issues are minor.] Call someone effeminate and you can marginalize them. Nitpick about their clothing and you can explain them away as part of the problem. Associate that music style that you dislike so much with womenfolk, and you can get people to reject it. It's emotional manipulation. Faggot, pussy. Girly-man. It's manipulative and it's wrong. Because God, even if he turns out to be complementarian, embraces a wider and larger view of masculinity than Driscoll and Wilson and Rosebrough do. There is room in the church for all kinds of men.

Like this author, I am not trying to say that men cannot be “manly” in the traditional cultural understanding of this term. If a guy likes guns, or cars, or sports, then great. But if a guy likes art and poetry, beautiful fabrics and pastel colors, that's okay too. We err when we establish some type of behaviour as normal for either gender and then ridicule, mock and marginalize those who don't hold to that. We do this with women as well, pushing them into stereotyped images of what it means to be a godly women that usually have far more to do with our cultural conceptions than they do with anything God has in mind. That was my point in this post. Gender is defined culturally, not divinely.

This use of effiminate as a pejorative label also bothers me deeply because it implies (or states even) that things associated with woman are somehow inferior. It continues the practice of marginalizing activities, behaviours and character-traits that have come to be defined as feminine. The division of these character-traits, behaviours and such into categories of masculine and feminine is culturally and socially driven in the first place and inaccurate in the second. These divisions and labels more often than not define that which is “masculine” as superior and preferable and that which is “feminine” as inferior and to be avoided, particularly by men. Based on these perceptions the worst thing a man could be is like a woman, as if a woman is somehow inferior and exhibits undesirable qualities by virtue of being a woman.

The Body of Christ called the Church should be a place where each individual can embrace and live out her or his identity as a woman or man of God without regard to her or his biological sexual identity. Belittling men because they don't fulfill one's concept of what a “real man” is like has no place in the Church. None. 

“My God is big enough that he describes himself in both Father imagery and Mother imagery. He is bigger than gender, bigger than gender roles, bigger than all the silly trappings. And if in my God there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female – then there certainly isn't any demarcation between the properly manly men in the Dude's club and those of us who aren't macho enough to make the cut.”

And if an unguy like me gets labeled as effeminate, I will accept that as a badge of honor, for it identifies me with our sisters who have been marginalized and demeaned for far too long.

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