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

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Realmannspracht (The Spiritual Problem with "Real Man" Talk)

Realmannspracht. It's a word I have coined for "real man" talk. Indeed, there is a lot of it afloat. Do you know what a "real man" is? Can you know? The psychologist Roy F. Baumeister wrote:
The phrase “Be a man” is not as common as it once was, but there is still some sense that manhood must be earned. Every adult female is a woman and is entitled to respect as such, but many cultures withhold respect from the males until and unless the lads prove themselves. This is of course tremendously useful for the culture, because it can set the terms by which males earn respect as men, and in that way it can motivate the men to do things that the culture finds productive. ("Is There Anything Good About Men?" Address to the American Psychological Assocation, 2007)
I'm quite happy to uphold this traditional understanding of what makes a "man" if we uphold the traditional understanding of what makes a "woman" ... thus rolling back many of the economic, political, and social gains that women have been given. But seriously, I think that if we have made progress in how we treat women, people of color, etc., then surely we should make a little progress in how we treat the "disposable sex." What makes a man? Who gets to answer that question? How about the One who actually has made man?

What does the Word of God say in Genesis 1:27? It says, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (KJV). Here's something to note from this passage: To be a man or a woman is not to merely state one's sex, but to affirm one's humanity. Value judgments about what a man or a woman should be are ultimately subordinate to how the Creator has made us. He is made us "male and female." Webster's dictionary defines a man as an "adult male human." A man is distinct from a woman, a child, or an animal. Even a man who is a eunuch is still a man.** To be a man, in essence, is a matter of God's creation, not social conditioning.

Throughout the ages, "real man" talk has been used by people to shame men into compliance with social norms. Even feminists with all their bravado about "equality" and freeing men from "restrictive sex roles" are not above using this type of language as a bludgeon themselves. That woman do not receive similar treatment is indicative of the sickening disrespect modern society has for men. It's "lifeboat feminism" at its worst. And yet, the talk of "real men" persists, even among those who profess to be Christians.

When someone denies that I am a man, he denies that I am a male human being created in the image of God. This denial of my humanity suggests that my soul is not valuable and that my life is not higher than an animal's. Such a willful denial is an act rooted in hatred. No one who claims to follow God can hate his fellow man: "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him" (1 John 3:15, KJV). Look, you may not like what a particular man is doing. I may not like it either. But neither you or I have any right under God's throne to deny that man's humanity by declaring he is not a "real man." Religious pundits and commentators do not get to exercise some special prerogative in this matter, either.

I suppose I have may have used the phrase "real man" or "real men" in the fashion I described. We all slip up, but I think we need to change our language if we going to endeavor to be a civilized people. Self-respecting men should balk at the phrase "real man" the way women balk at the phrase "dame" or "broad."

What should we say of those who still use the phrase "real men" or "real man"? I may, at first, call into question their understanding, but if I've already warned them, then I am forced to call into question their integrity. Indeed, there a lot of "real women" and "real men" who don't have it.

-----

Note:

**In the Greek text of Acts 8:27, the Ethiopian eunuch is a called "a man" (aner). That logically presupposes he had all the essential characteristics of a man. And yet, he was a literal eunuch [see Darrell Bock, Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007), 341].

18 comments:

Amir Larijani said...

One could say that the eunuch had more balls than many of the men coming out of today's seminaries...

slwerner said...

"Throughout the ages, "real man" talk has been used by people to shame men into compliance with social norms. Even feminists with all their bravado about "equality" and freeing men from "restrictive sex roles" are not above using the term as a bludgeon themselves."

The only time such "man up" talk is appropriate is when it comes from a friend (and, even then, only from another man) who one knows cares about his well being. Then, and only then, can it be seen as a positive encouragement rather than simply manipulative shaming.

Even IF women mean well, it is still highly inappropriate for them to try to use such expressions towards a man. Their encouragement should not come in the form of a challenge (with, perhaps, some allowance for female family members). If a woman wants to positively encourage a man, she should do so in a manner which suggests that intention - "I know you can do it" as opposed to "be a man".

The "challenge" to "be a man" is, again, only appropriate between male friends and comrades.

In all other cases, it should be rejected as shaming language.

Justin said...

The question is, how is one to respond to that type of shaming language? How can one positively affirm one's manhood while deflecting the shaming manipulation?

TMink said...

Justin, I think a manly sneer is the correct response!

From a Jungian perspective, boys are transformed into men. Through ritual, we move from the world of boys into the world of men. Unlike women, we have no clear biological marker that happens, so we have a bar mitzvah or get our driver's license or say our catechism or the like.

While I see the point of this perspective, I wonder if there are Biblical precedents for men coming of age. Certainly Saul's conversion to Paul and Simon's change to Peter were both transformations, but they happened to adult men.

Any of you scholars have any ideas?

Trey

Anonymous said...

"When someone denies that I am a man, he denies that I am a male human being created in the image of God. This denial of my humanity suggests that my soul is not valuable and that my life is not higher than an animal's."

They're not calling you an ANIMAL, they're calling you a BOY.

Davout said...

"I'm quite happy to uphold this traditional understanding of what makes a "man" if we uphold the traditional understanding of what makes a "woman" ... thus rolling back many of the gains that women have made economically, politically, and socially."

Anakin,

The bolded latter part of the phrasing presumes that women fairly earned all of their political, social and economic gains. This is not true because women definitely would not be anywhere near where they currently are without various artificial crutches (e.g. affirmative action etc).

Consequently, I suggest that the words 'been given' would be more suitable in place of 'made' in the quote above. Thus, there can be little guilt in rolling back the female gains.

Anakin Niceguy said...

Correction noted, Devout.

Anonymous said...

"The bolded latter part of the phrasing presumes that women fairly earned all of their political, social and economic gains. This is not true because women definitely would not be anywhere near where they currently are without various artificial crutches (e.g. affirmative action etc)."

lol. Women made gains because of birth control, not affirmative action or any other kind of programming. Affirmative action contributed barely a blip towards female advancement, which took place just as much in countries that had a lot less of it.

Much more credit is due than that.

TMink said...

Anon wrote: "Affirmative action contributed barely a blip towards female advancement, which took place just as much in countries that had a lot less of it."

You state this as a fact rather than an opionion. What is your source?

Trey

Triton said...

Instead of "real man" talk, I think the more accurate phrase would be "civilized man" or even "gentleman".

Conversely, women would be pressured not to act like "real women" but to act like "civilized women" or even "ladies".

Women made gains because of birth control

Absurd. Women's "gains" come at the hands of men who enforce them. If the government were to collapse overnight, all those "gains" would evaporate with it.

TMink said...

I have made "real man" insults on another blog. It was a case in which a man tricked into fatherhood abandoned his child.

I called him a cad, but it was the same insult. I deeply believe that a full grown man takes responsibility for his actions, and being tricked into fatherhood is basically impossible without intercourse.

I wonder how much of the real man question has come up after the rise of birth control and abortion. Not that I am against birth control, but what is the net sum gain from it? More sin?

Trey

Davout said...

"Women made gains because of birth control, not affirmative action or any other kind of programming. Affirmative action contributed barely a blip towards female advancement, which took place just as much in countries that had a lot less of it."

anonymous,

As you will note from the 'etc.' in my comment above, I did not quote affirmative action in isolation as the only cause of female 'advancement'.

Birth control has historically been (I'm thinking of the Roman empire, post 100 AD in particular) a major reason for female 'independence' from marriage. However, this did not make women more economically attractive in and of itself.

Affirmative action is particularly insidious because it deprives male students ON THE CUSP of admission or job qualification, gifting those jobs to women. This forces employers to employ these women.

The two issues (AA and BC) derive from mutually exclusive theories, both of which are utopian: birth control derives from individualism while affirmative action comes from egalitarianism.

Implementing affirmative action requires a powerful state. Spreading birth control does not. This is why birth control is easier to implement in poor countries, which typically do not have powerful states.

I am curious to know where exactly you think female economic attractiveness rises only as a result of birth control. Think about this: if women could advance economically only with birth control, why are there massive employer programs for maternity leave and flex time in every 'advanced' country today?

SavvyD said...

I wonder if it might have more to do with instilling the idea of a family wage or pay based on the number of dependents. Hmmm, how many of you would go for being paid less so that a guy/gal supporting a family could be paid more. we can't assume that all heads of household would be male. we also should not be assuming that all female heads of household chose to be so intentionally and we should not engage a man or woman as single head of household punitively.

Novaseeker said...

I wonder if it might have more to do with instilling the idea of a family wage or pay based on the number of dependents. Hmmm, how many of you would go for being paid less so that a guy/gal supporting a family could be paid more. we can't assume that all heads of household would be male. we also should not be assuming that all female heads of household chose to be so intentionally and we should not engage a man or woman as single head of household punitively.

I think this is not politically feasible. The single people (men and women alike) and non-head-of-household people are not going to want to subsidize the salaries of people who have children like that. It happens today through the use of things like flex-time and so on which are productivity subsidies, often, but I can't see a flat-out wage subsidy being politically feasible.

Anonymous said...

I would like to think that in the future a real man will be as I am now. That is I will extend a helping hand to other men but would not do the same for any woman. Indeed if I saw a woman on fire I would not even give her the benefit of any water I was carrying.

Hopefully in the future real men will despise and loath women.

njartist said...

The bible doesn't say anything about having to go through a ceremony to be a man; instead, manhood seems to be a given. God will put his children through crisis to refine them: they are still his creation. Perhaps the rituals that sprang up for the declaring a boy a man are a way of declaring that one's manhood is not defined by God but by other men upon performing certain deeds: the removal of God from the consciousness of a man. In this regard, a man who moves back under God becomes, in the eyes of other men, who underwent the manhood rituals, a non-man.

Wonder Woman said...

I prefer a man's man, myself.

He's gotta have balls!

It's how I roll...

Heh.

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