Talking about masculinity makes me nervous for a number of reasons. First, I've never been a particularly macho guy. Christian Youth Culture was always awkward for me growing up, because I wasn't an athlete, and so much of the activities focused around athletics. Second, I have always been emotional. I'm the guy crying in the theater at the romantic comedy, not my wife. Third, I have gay friends. Where does "true" masculinity fit for them? Finally, I don't think it's legitimate to talk about masculinity in a theoretical vacuum: to explore masculinity is to explore femininity, and we need to be careful that statements we make about one are not in any way exclusive.
Sensitivity is a feminine trait. Sensitivity is a masculine trait.
Aggression is a masculine trait. Aggression is a feminine trait.
Nurturing is a feminine role. Nurturing is a masculine role.
I checked out Fr. Rohr's M.A.L.Es site. It reads:
Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM has been exploring issues of male spirituality since 1987. From this work Richard observed that men in our western culture were lacking in their experience and understanding of the transcendent power of God. He has established Rites of Passage programs to help guide men through a formal initiation process that they may have missed during their critical developmental period as young men.
This premise rings really true for me: there is a lack of awareness in our culture when it comes to becoming a "grown up." I assume the same is true both for men and women. We see a fictional reality portrayed in incongruent, contradictory simultaneity on television. We watch our parents or teachers, coaches or pastors - all imperfect and well-intentioned - but there is little ritual left in our society. There is little to mark our passing into adulthood. There is little to guide us into a deeper sense of self...
And so we take on these broken, warped pop-archetypes of gender and act out what we have observed, hoping it fits. And we make a mess - men and women - and we hurt ourselves and each other because nobody ever said, "Peter, this is how to be a man..." and certainly not in a way that transcends cheap, damaging stereotypes, completely out of date and inappropriate to an egalitarian society.
So I appreciate what I assume is the heart behind Fr. Rohr's program. It's just that mantra that gets me: "liberate men to be truly masculine." More often than not, it isn't men most in need of liberation. But we do need liberation. And perhaps, we need liberation from the de facto role of oppressor.
I'm reminded of a program a friend of mine, Doug, told me about some time ago:
The ManKind Project
What are your thoughts and experiences on gender? How have gender labels helped or hindered you? What wounds or blessings have you encountered relating to the process of understanding gender?