There were a few specific situations over the past couple of weeks that have served to help cure the cement of my hatred of the archetypal American Male. The first two situations are less personal. First off, (if you know me at all, you might have guessed it) was one of my favorite bloggers, John Jensen, laying the proverbial (but loving, of course) smack down on the often thick-headed gender charicature that is Mark Driscoll after his ill-advised comment mocking effeminate male worship leaders (see additional commentary here, here, and here). The second was the orgasmic delight with which seemingly the entire nation reacted to the salvaging of the NFL season.
Thank God for that.
The other two are much more personal, and much more profound, but really served to drive the point home. First, I started to empathize with my incredible wife, who is 9 months pregnant, and still an incredible homemaker and mother to a son who can only be described as extraordinary (in every sense of the word). If I’m being honest, I have to say that I have not been as involved in this pregnancy as I was in the last. Perhaps it’s because the novelty of each milestone might have worn off a bit with this being number 2. Perhaps it’s the fact that I have been working full-time, remodeling a house, and taking no less than 14 hrs of philosophy coursework.
Perhaps it’s because I might have fallen into the same ugly, misogynistic trap where men see wives, and the babies they dutifully carry, as merely extensions of our own manhood. How very narcissistic. Whatever the cause, I’ve made a concerted effort to re-engage over the last few weeks - in spite of the semester starting back up, in spite of a grueling work-schedule, in spite of my general desire to loaf. The more of “her tasks” (the things that I, out of my generally prick-ish attitude often just expect her to do) that I help out with, the more I realize how much of a dirtbag I am, and how incredible she is.
The final one happened last night. We were all laying in bed, doing our usual nighttime routine, when the aforementioned extraordinary little boy, out of the blue, turns around (from the TV no less, during the rare and precious few moments he actually gets to watch it) and plants a wet one on me, followed by a “wub wu dada.” I’m not even going to try to act tough. I cried.
So what’s this about death? First, it’s a catchy headline, but seriously, yellow pseudo-journalism aside, my life has been a pretty typical display of American Masculinity (and misogyny), and I’m hoping to put that life to rest.
I grew up playing sports. I objectified women. I joined the Army. I married a beautiful woman. I started a family. I was tough. I rode a chopper. I had a nice house. I didn’t talk about feelings. I was all of those things you are supposed to be as a man. (I also drank too much, I had a propensity for fits of rage, and I forced distance in relationships because vulnerability made me feel weak, but we don’t talk about that stuff in man-dom.)
As I see it, I’m slowly killing that person through the death of a thousand cuts. Here are the first few…
—I will stop assuming that because I am a man I am owed anything.
—I will stop viewing the most wonderful, industrious, charming, beautiful, godly, genuine, loving, and accepting woman on the planet as an extension of my masculinity. Instead, I will view her as the invaluable, irreplaceable prize that she is, and that I am completely unworthy of.
—I will not foster an ill-conceived sense of male superiority in my son, nor will I discourage the development of his “unmanly” attributes. I love that he is sweet, gentle, loving and sensitive like his mother, and I refuse to let society grind that out of him.
—I will stop using bad theology as a club to beat women down, and I will call out those who continue to do so, not out of a sense of heroic paternalism, but rather as an attempt to empower men to step into their full potential as leaders-from-the-bottom whose fulfillment is found in serving others.
Evidence that I am still a work in progress - she’s lying next to me, sleeping peacefully after a long day of running a household, raising a wonderful boy and building another one, and I can’t say all of this to her…yet.
That would make me too vulnerable. Damn you, old Luke. Die faster.