The last 100 years have been quite a turbulent ride for men. We can all picture those homogenous chaps in flat caps streaming out of the factory or shipyard.
Britain was a different place, the centre of an empire and still innocent before the killing fields of Flanders. Then after the first world war, women got their vote and some stayed in industry where they’d never been before in the same numbers. The 1920s saw women take even more traditionally-held male ground, with short hair, pantaloons, smoking and riding motorcycles!
By the 1960s the sexual revolution was in full swing and women were being further ‘liberated’. There was a rise in feminist ideology and family life had begun its tragic decline. The 80s witnessed the dismantling of British industry on a massive scale. The 90s saw the dawn of the ‘new man’, the normalising of ‘stay at home dads’ and homosexuality becoming part of the furniture in British society.
So, being born in the early 80s, I’m more accustomed to post-modern manhood than anything that came before it. I’ve never even thought of working in an industry, there are none to speak of in southern England (other than finance or tourism, and that’s hardly going down the pits is it?). I’ve never questioned the fact that I do a lot of the housework and have looked after each of my children at least a day a week while my wife went to work. I’ve never been to war, never killed an animal or caught a fish. To make matters worse, I’m a musician – an artist – my hands are pretty soft.
Does any of this make me feel unmanly? Not at all. If my identity was tied up in stereotypical gender-type, cast by impressions from previous centuries – I would possibly be in trouble. However, I actually believe that these don’t really exist anymore. There is no archetypal male today.
I do have a few Christian friends who are really into ideas about ‘biblical manhood and womanhood’. They seem to want to be physically strong, tough and direct-talking and, if possible, very visibly hairy. They want to lord their ‘authority’ in home and church, often suppressing amazing, gifted women in the process. They baulk at their sons playing with dolls or their wives having more of a career. They also claim that the Church has been feminised, that it’s all too touchy-feely, and worry about singing songs that make Jesus sound like their girlfriend.
You want tough, direct talk? Ok. Get over yourself, mate. Literally – your ‘self’ is in the way. Stop being so tied up in your narrow-minded, outdated ideas about gender and just be secure as a son of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit. Worried about Jesus ‘being your girlfriend’? It’s worse than that – he’s your bridegroom, bro! Your insecurity about gender roles tells of your lack of will to serve as Jesus did. He didn’t boast in his ‘toughness’, his physique or his gender (or sexuality either). He didn’t have to neck lager, shag around, or get tats to be a ‘lad’. He was his Father’s son. End of. If you’re claiming him, then that’s your aim too. He is your only hero, role model and example as a man.
It’s not about gender, but his kingdom agenda.
Thanks, now back to my arty, touchy-feely, New Man ways. X
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