Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How to be a man

I've shared here Chuck Wendig's lengthy, 'comments closed', blog post in response to the latest mass shooting in the US, because it's the best piece of writing on the subject of men and guns and power and patriarchy I have ever read.

I want to add by a man because men almost never write on this subject and I've read (and perhaps written) so many well researched essays by women expressing the same basic sentiment that Chuck espouses: namely, that the problem of violence and men is essentially one of a world-wide, culturally corrupt ideal of masculinity that begins with the telling of men -- heterosexual and particularly white men -- that they are special and better, divinely ordained first beings. Chiefly, this superiority is positioned against women, the inferior second sex, and by extension gay men, who are denigrated for being 'like women': emotional, weak, 'deformed men', to use Aristotle's description of women.

But I'm not adding this because I appreciate that it is both more difficult and more important for a man from this privileged 'special' group to express this sentiment and say, both, that it is wrong and dangerous for men and women alike to assume that men are better, as well as right and empowering for men and women alike to admit that we - (white heterosexual) men - are not special.

God is not a heterosexual man, Muslim, Christian, Jewish or whatever other name and frame you give 'Him'. God is gay. God has a vagina. God has balls. God has fur and leaves. The one thing 'God' doesn't have is a gun or any other man-made macho weapon of destruction, including the fist clenched in anger.

All babies make fists. All babies cry. One action is not masculine, the other feminine, neither expresses strength or weakness. They are merely natural and equal ways that human beings express emotion. Ironically, perhaps, the baby fist tends to express insecurity and the baby tears frustration and anger, at least some of the time.

All babies smile and all loving parents celebrate that first smile which occurs very early on in life. The challenge is to sustain that celebration into adulthood.

We are all frustrated, angry and insecure and we are all capable of joy. Beyond our individual quirks of character, we humans are all essentially the same, and that which says we are essentially different corrupts, weakens, angers and ultimately destroys us all. If we are ever going to learn to live together without violence and hate we need to go back to the beginning and undo that first mistake of thinking one group of people more special than and fundamentally different to any other group.

Thank you Chuck for taking us back to the beginning and for not making this mass killing about religion or terrorism or even homophobia, but instead the cultural construction and corruption of masculinity. Awo-men to that.

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