Bromosapien: Evolution of the Postmodern Male (Part 2)

This is kind of a three-part blog post series.  I wrote about part of the discussion I was a part of at Wild Goose Festival on Masculinity and male identity two days ago, and yesterday, I shared the first half of the story I told during that workshop. Below is the second and last part of that story.

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A few examples of how clueless I am about male identity, and how mixed-up the gender roles are becoming, just in my own family:

I’ve never killed anything, at least on purpose. The only time I ever shot a gun was when my dad took me to the range and handed over his Ruger for a few rounds. I hated it. The noise was deafening, and the recoil scared the shit out of me.

I own a pathetic amount of tools for a man in his late thirties who has owned two homes. By my age, my dad and grandparents had staked their claim on the garage as exclusively male territory by covering every wall and bit of floor space with table saws, drills, vices and every wrench – standard and metric – anyone could ever need. I have more guitars than screwdrivers, and it was only a few years ago that I finally got straight in my head what the difference between channel locks and regular pliers is.

I like potpourri; my wife digs the nickel defense.

I changed more diapers in the first month of my son’s life than my dad ever did on me. I take care of the kids when Amy goes to meetings in the evenings, and I work from home every day.

I cry every time I watch Extreme Home Makeover. Amy records every episode of Real Sports on HBO. Oh, and I always cry when I watch that too. Damn you, Bryant Gumbel.

I know how to braid hair. I also cook most of our meals, and I actually enjoy it. I went to the first year of the Lilith Fair festival, and I paid good money to get second-row tickets to an Indigo Girls concert when I was in high school. I went by myself to that concert. Wasn’t even trying to impress a date.

I don’t get NASCAR. At all. I once took my nephew to a monster truck rally and was so annoyed by the noise and fumes I was ready to leave before the first event was over.

I’ve never been to a rodeo. Every time I even see clips from one on TV, I just end up feeling sorry for the animals.

I am an avid fan of American Idol and, though I’m ashamed to admit it, I also watch Dancing with the Stars.

I think cigars are disgusting. Even the smell of one being smoked makes me want to vomit.

All of this being said, I should point out that I do possess at least a handful of prototypical male traits too:

I can tell whether a team is running man-to-man or zone defense when I’m watching a basketball game.

I can tune up a car, as long as it was built before about 1980.

I love to grill pretty much anything; I have a magnetic, primal attraction to fire.

I absolutely adore scratching myself, and I do so any time I have the opportunity.

I say “dude” reflexively far too often in casual conversation (also a dead giveaway of my whiteness).

I am obsessed with boobs. I can think of nothing negative to say about boobs whatsoever, and regardless of shape, size or age, I have yet to encounter a pair of boobs from which I can’t derive at least some modicum of enjoyment.

I am a voracious fan of all things Monty Python, and I have a special place in my heart for the Three Stooges.

I can quote every single line from any Quentin Tarantino Movie – the good ones, at least, before someone told him he had talent and got obnoxious.

I can name every artist and album name for any 80’s heavy metal song ever played. On a good day, I can also nail the year it was released, what label they were signed to and every member of the band at the time.

I enjoy scotch, even when no one is watching, and I can explain the difference between a lager, an IPA and a stout. I also consider it heresy to put a piece of fruit in a beer under any circumstances.

Another critical part of my potentially emasculated male self-image lies in the very fact that I’m involved in church. Not only that, but my wife is the one in charge and I’m in a support role. We started a church a little over five years ago in our living room, and we’ve graduated to a “big kid” building, with chairs, toilets and everything. But despite the pretty amazing diversity in our congregation with regard to age, income level, ethnicity and even religious background, the great majority of people at church are women.

Not only are men less involved in religion than women; they’re also significantly more likely to identify themselves as atheists. In many seminaries across the country – at least the ones who allow women to prepare for ministry in the pulpit – there are way more women enrolled than men. And though some churches still hedge at the idea of a female pastor, more often than not they’re facing this as an inevitable choice if they want to have trained leadership at all.

So what’s with men? We’re outnumbered in everything from church to college. Are we facing a cultural and spiritual identity crisis? If we can be in charge of everything, are we doing the equivalent of packing up our toys and going home? Or have we actually become so self-conscious and tentative about who we are as men that we’re afraid to express ourselves at all? What if guys don’t really care what it means to be a man anymore? Am I a prophet for the Fallen Man, or a bitter guy with an identity complex, licking his wounds in the public eye?

And if postmodern male identity is so up in the air, am I a man or not? How would one even begin to define what constitutes masculinity any more, if people even care? For every Dale Earnhardt these days, there’s a queer eye. For every hairy-chested icon of bygone years, there’s now a freshly manscaped boy-model to take his place.  And for every charismatic preacher-man there’s a behind-the-scenes male preacher’s wife like me.

 

About Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

  • OracularZenana37
  • elizabeth

    it is encouraging that men and women now have more societal endorsement to pursue diverse interests, which can include interests that are outside their stereotypical gender roles.

  • http://charityjilldenmark.wordpress.com/ Charity Jill Denmark

    This tickles my funnybone. When my husband and I were dating we joked a lot about “role reversal” – he actually cried telling me a story about a missions trip the first time we had a conversation. But seriously, here’s my question: might this whole “what has happened to masculine identity” thing be another iteration of the “good old days” myth? I wonder if, through the ages, men have always tried to outrank each other in some sort of hierarchy of masculinity; and feminism, rather than creating gender role confusion in men, has rather just exposed the level of judgmentalism men display in regards to their own masculinity? (I’m totally not trying to sound like we’re in a lit seminar but that’s the way it’s coming out.) Perhaps through all of this, God does not want us to examine our gender issues, but rather the ways we judge ourselves and others, to heal us from self-loathing and gracelessness.

  • http://twitter.com/micahjmurray Micah J. Murray

    Sometimes I hear people say “A real man does ______ “.
    I’m like, No, that’s not necessarily true. Are you a man? Then look at what you’re doing. Because you’re a man… THAT’S what a man does. A lot of guys use the “I’m a real man” thing as an excuse to be out of shape, selfish, prideful, and messy. Jesus (who was a man) was sensitive, patient, and humble. The prophets wrote poetry and wept. David played a harp AND killed giants. Whenever we narrow down what is acceptable for men into a NASCAR/Guns/Cars box, we probably wind up discouraging a lot of men from being who God created them to be.

  • jkb

    I’m commenting
    here, but this is in response to both 1 and 2. The lines that stick with
    me are “As the father of a baby girl, I
    certainly want to see her grow up to be independent, courageous, and to take
    zero shit from any guy. I also have a
    five-year-old son, and the truth is I’m not really sure what to teach him about
    being a man,” because that is the line that I’m ruminating upon.

    “Men”
    are who we initially saw modeling “manliness;” for most of us, probably our
    fathers/grandfathers/uncles. Two of my
    favorite memories: First, my grandfather is one of the better cooks I know.
    He’d work a full day as a union electrician or handyman or whatever he
    needed to do at the plant in Detroit, then come home to prepare dinner.
    My grandmother taught piano, and the afternoons and early evenings were
    the busiest times for her–so he took on the cooking duties. And since he
    cooked, he preferred to do the grocery shopping. And my dad, an airplane
    mechanic, amateur reloader (a firearms thing), avid motorcyclist/tinkerer, and the man who taught me how to use a (and indeed, bought me my first) chainsaw, was also a classically-trained violinist. One of my most cogent childhood
    memories are regarding him working on his motorcycle or his guns or one of his VW’s in the garage,
    listening to the Metropolitan Opera broadcast every Saturday
    afternoon. For me, enjoying opera–and having an appreciation for the
    actual arts–along with being able to cook well, and nurturing your family–are, and
    always have been quintessentially “manly” things to enjoy. Which
    isn’t to say that I didn’t get my ass kicked—or at least teased mercilessly—for
    listening to “faggy” music; I’m still often one of the only men in the grocery
    store (not that I mind; like you, I’m a big fan of boobs).

    What
    behaviors will I model? I have no children of my own, but I look at my niece
    and nephew. What sort of man will they
    see? By certain “traditional” measures, I’m very manly: I do like to shoot, and
    own several firearms, I’ve got the requisite number of high-quality tools (more
    than you, but fewer than your sires!); not only do I like scotch and have the ability to distinguish between IPAs
    and stouts, I own a whole damn brewery; I’m a corporate/transactional attorney
    and entrepreneur by day; I think the first weekend of college football is about
    the greatest weekend ever; I drive a big, powerful, and fast car; and my
    constant companion is a great slobbering, farting bulldog. But perhaps
    I’m also just a great big pussy: I don’t understand whatsoever the draw of
    NASCAR; while I like
    to shoot, I’m squeamish about hunting (but feel that I should hunt or at least
    kill my own meat, for reasons that Michael Pollan summarizes well in Omnivore’s
    Dilemma) (oh, and I reference people like Michael Pollan); my body is so used
    to fresh “real” food that I can’t eat fast food or at most chain restaurants
    without becoming ill; I spend hours planning menus, grocery shopping, and cooking; I spend too much money on facial
    moisturizers/cleansers/etc; I like classical music much more than I like
    anything like hard rock or what have you; while I may like to drive a fast,
    powerful, car, it is an Audi, not actual muscle car; and I spend a lot of time
    trying to take care of the women in my life.
    So—what it is that I am modeling?
    Are all of these purely neutral characteristics, or are any inherently good
    or bad? Or helpful or harmful?

    Great
    articles, and thanks for the conversation starter. I look forward to part 3.

  • http://ideafaktory.com ideafaktory

    Great post. I couldn’t agree more. Men are broken beasts wandering the digital world looking for answers. A while back, I broke down this gender extinction theory with a heavy does of humor in my post, Profiting from the death of masculinity. Check it out here:

    http://www.ideafaktory.com/trends/profiting-from-death-of-masculinity/

    I think you’ll get a kick out of it.