A blog for Christian men "going their own way."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mother Worship (The Primal Roots of Chivalry)

Novaseeker has recently posted an excellent piece on why chivalry needs to come to an end. In thinking about chivalry myself, I wonder if men's rights activists need to look more at how men are affected by their mothers in this regard. No one challenges the truism that the "hand that rocks the cradle rules the world," so why aren't people who are interested in men's issues discussing the ramifications of what this means?

I'm certain there will be plenty of men that deny that they are under the control of their mothers. There is a stigma attached to men who are. They are called "momma's boys." However, watch what happens to a man if you insult his mother. You may accuse me of waxing Freudian, but we are stupid to deny that there is a special bond between a mother and her son. Even if the bond is dysfunctional and characterized by abuse and neglect, the influence is still there.

Here are some inarguable facts: The mother is the primary caregiver for a boy the moment he comes into the world. This typically lasts well into middle school years. If there is no strong male figure around, this can last into young adulthood. Let's be more specific about the primary caregiver role. Human beings are born with a need for physical intimacy, quite apart from any latter considerations about sexual development. A man's first experience with physical intimacy comes from his mother when he is an infant. She additionally provides food, dress, clothing, warmth, and relief from psychological distress to her baby son. Finally, she is the first contact he has with the opposite sex. A very young boy may refer to grown women as "mommies" before he learns better.

I will not linger on restating the obvious of developmental psychology, here. True, boys grow into men, and usually make a significant psychological break from their childish idealization of their mothers. They may talk of marrying their mothers at age 3, but not at age 13. But let's not kid ourselves. A man's relationship with his mother usually has an impact on how he relates to women.

We hear the term "momma's boy" bandied about. Unfortunately, it may be misused against grown men who have a healthy relationship with their mothers and who are merely trying to honor their mother as the Bible commands. I think of envious wives and girlfriends who resent the affection a man may have for his mother. Unfortunately, in some cases, the only woman that may truly care for a man is his mother, and I think it is by virtue of the fact that he is her child. Women often give to their own children the unconditional love they seem incapable of giving to men their own age.

Yet, there is perhaps some men who truly haven't quite cut the apron strings. To many people, these men seem admirable and responsible. But in actuality they have simply transferred their childish idealization of their mother to women in general. A gynocentric culture may reinforce
this childish idealization of women by men. This may lie at the taproot of the chivalry we see.

I hear so many fellow men talking about how they can't live without women (whether it be due to the sex, the intimacy, or whatever). These men extrapolate from their own insecurities and assume that other men are equally beholden to women. It's truly galling and nauseating. Like male infants who haven't formed an identity separate from their mothers, these men refuse to form an identity independent of what women think of them. I think these men need to cut the apron strings in their minds.

Men need to stop treating women like Mesopotamian fertility goddesses. Women are not going to magically make the crops grow, put food on your table, make everything in your life fall into place, etc. We may feel naked in the face of the existential abyss. Indeed, we are. Running to the arms of the opposite sex is not going to make the abyss go away, however. Only God can touch the deepest longings, loneliness, fears, and vulnerabilities of the human heart.

Women are only human. They can be just as messed up as men are. In a gynocentrist society, they are oftentimes even more messed up than men. They are not the default solution to men's problems. In too many cases, women are the problem. The Bible tells us men how to treat women, especially the ones in our families. We can honor them, we can provide for them, sacrifice for them, and love them as Christ commands us. But please, men, stop worshipping them. If more men heeded this advice, we might make some progress in securing justice for both sexes.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

You're not the only one to feel nausea when men state their inability to live without women. I agree that it arises from over-identifying with mothers, and it shouldn't be any great surprise that it is so widespread considering there isn't any rite of passage where men are encouraged to put aside their childish ways and make a very deliberate break with their mothers. Men must consciously refashion their relationship, replacing intimacy with a care for their mother's welfare as they grow.

The presence of fathers that sons respect is vital for this transition from dependency to independence. Although a father's direct influence on his sons may be difficult to prescribe, his example is a lasting one. Fathers should think hard about minimizing their own relationships with their mothers, and be certain not to allow ridicule of those men who go through life free of any women at all.

Alphadominance said...

The extent to which men are deferential to women is appalling. There are few real men left in America, and popular culture perpetuates a view of supreme female competence and male ineptitude. If you took your views from TV, every man is a fat, balding, slovenly ingrate and his long-suffering wife does everything around the house, is the savvy businesswoman, the family matriarch and counselor and is endlessly undoing her husbands bunglings. The research just doesn't support this warped view however. Men can and do cook and clean and care for their children just as well as women. Men still provide the bulk of the income. Men still do most or all of the handiwork and yardwork. Where are all of these superwomen willing to do it all and let doofus hubby drink beer all day? They don't exist. Women desire a competent and authoritarian man despite the insipid teachings of the feminist movement.

Adam T. said...

Women desire a competent and authoritarian man despite the insipid teachings of the feminist movement.

Right, which is why one of the things I'd like to see from people like Anakin would be less whinging and more instruction on how to become such a man.

Alphadominance said...

Adam,

Pop on by my site. I think you'll like it.

Anonymous said...

"I hear so many fellow men talking about how they can't live without women (whether it be due to the sex, the intimacy, or whatever). These men extrapolate from their own insecurities and assume that other men are equally beholden to women. It's truly galling and nauseating."

Judgy-Wudgy was a bear!


"Like male infants who haven't formed an identity separate from their mothers, these men refuse to form an identity independent of what women think of them."

Nice dime-store psychology.


"Only God can touch the deepest longings, loneliness, fears, and vulnerabilities of the human heart."

Same old religious bullshit that dismisses the needs of the single and the divorced.

Anonymous said...

"Same old religious bullshit that dismisses the needs of the single and the divorced."

Anon. 3:56 PM

Easy to see you graduated from Charm School err Troll School with honors.

Anika Qing said...

I found this blog from your other excellent one, "Scripturally Single". I've been reading both with interest. I may differ on a handful of points, but where I don't agree there is definitely food for thought. So, basically - thanks - though your blog seems to be primarily directed towards men, it's been helpful for me in re-thinking how I should live as a Christian woman (primarily in not viewing myself higher than I ought!) and how I should encourge and love my brothers (biological and spiritual) unconditionally. (If you were to do a post specifically on this, it would be appreciated - but I do understand that your audience is a male one.)

On the topic of the idolisation of the feminine have you thought of doing a study on Dante Aligheri? I don't know a lot about him, but he seemed to idolise femininity in a woman he had barely met, while ignoring the woman to whom he was married (who, in all fairness, sounds like she was a shrew - but the point is that all women have shrewishness in their sinful nature). This is the logical extension of any form of idolisation - the reality doesn't meet expectations. The problem with Dante was that he wanted to continue living in a goddess-ruled fairyland, rather than acknowledging that no woman could meet his needs.

Alphadominance said...

Anita,
Sounds much like the type defined by Pygmalian: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmalion_(mythology)

Novaseeker said...

"I don't know a lot about him, but he seemed to idolise femininity in a woman he had barely met, while ignoring the woman to whom he was married (who, in all fairness, sounds like she was a shrew - but the point is that all women have shrewishness in their sinful nature). This is the logical extension of any form of idolisation - the reality doesn't meet expectations. The problem with Dante was that he wanted to continue living in a goddess-ruled fairyland, rather than acknowledging that no woman could meet his needs."

Anika --

This is an important point.

As I see it, this is where chivalry originates and where it falls down. The basic idea that men should protect women from harm is a sound one -- we are the stronger sex. However, chivalry took that to extremes by idolizing women beyond all realistic conceptions of women as human beings. In part this sets up disaster when women fail to live up to these expectations, but in part it also permits women to walk all over men (if they choose to do so) because the culture forbids men standing up to that, again because women are viewed as superior moral creatures to men.

The spirit you see in Dante is very much alive today, in our culture, I think. And it not helpful for men or women.

Anika Qing said...

The basic idea that men should protect women from harm is a sound one -- we are the stronger sex. However, chivalry took that to extremes by idolizing women beyond all realistic conceptions of women as human beings.

Yes. (Though I have heard chivalry used in a variety of ways - from the simple concept of "he walked her to the car to ward off the zombies" to "he walked her to the car to show her that his life revolved around her and her activities".)

In my age group (late teens), I've noticed that the "faux innocence" routine is the preferred way of taking advantage of faulty concepts of chivalry. In other words, "I'm sweet 16 and am hopelessly sweet and innocent. I cannot therefore be held responsible for my actions, having no idea that they are wrong. And, believe me, you do not want to be the one to inform me either, for I will burst into tears and make you feel like you are defiling my innocence through telling me the Biblical truth about my actions".

But there is more than one way of taking advantage of another's idolatry.

David said...

Running to the arms of the opposite sex is not going to make the abyss go away, however. Only God can touch the deepest longings, loneliness, fears, and vulnerabilities of the human heart.


I don't know whether to barf or cry. When will believers quit confusing physical and spiritual needs?

TMink said...

David, many of us believe that we are complete, that we are bio-socio-spiritual beings. Overlooking any aspect of who we are hurts our entire being.

Oh, and the "dime-store" psychology is actually multi-million dollar neurology. We are beginning to understand the neurology of attachment, and it is a basic part of normal human development, not fanciful theory.

Trey

Learner said...

David,

"I don't know whether to barf or cry. When will believers quit confusing physical and spiritual needs?"

Are you saying that someone who thinks the solution to "the existential abyss" is found in the opposite sex is the one who is confusing spiritual and physical needs, or are you saying that the one who says God is the answer to "the existential abyss" is the one who is confused?