The poster said ‘WHAT REAL MEN READ’ in bold white font above pictures of books about fishing, pig hunting, brewing your own beer. My boss was hanging it up in the doorway of the bookshop. I was supposed to be stacking books but I stopped and watched. Father’s Day was coming up. My dad probably wouldn’t appreciate a book about fishing. He writes poems and makes cheese. According to this poster, is he secretly a woman? My boss saw me standing to the side, head tilted, arms full of books. He asked if it looked like it was hanging in the right place. I wondered if by ‘right place’ he meant ‘in the doorway of a patriarchal culture where masculinity is measured by the size of one’s neck’. Personally I thought the ‘right place’ was in the recycling bin. Perhaps it could be recycled into a progressive ideal.
What is the ‘Real Man’? It’s a pervasive but elusive notion. The Real Man is never clearly defined, but we have vague ideas of what he does or doesn’t do. Real Men don’t cry, Real Men don’t drink appletinis, Real Men drive Utes and lift heavy things. If we say this is the Real Man, then we are selling men short and giving them an easy ride? If I was to go hunting and skull beer, would I be a real man?
I’ve seen in so many people’s lives, the effects of bad fathers, bad husbands, bad leaders, men who don’t look after women. The culture of the Real Man is a dangerous ideology because it values the musclebound aspects of it. It uses butchness as the yard stick to measure strength of character. So when women are abused by violent, ‘roided up men, the excuse that’s made is ‘boys will be boys’. Every. Time. What if the kind of ‘boys’ that were expected were compassionate, responsible, gallant? Society values the most potentially dangerous aspects of masculinity and devalues the important ones.
Women are not the only victims either. This ideology harms men too. 90% of the world’s violence is towards women, so we tend to neglect the male abuse victims. So I want to say this to the men who’ve been abused: you are no less of a man. Nothing that happens to you against your will can affect the state of your masculinity or the strength of your character. Look at Jesus and the abuse that he went through before he was crucified. He is still the perfect picture of biblical masculinity. You have worth and dignity that cannot be removed from you by any other person.
Jesus was the perfect man. Did he have a bull neck and a shotgun? Was he always working on his car, while Mary Magdalene perched on the bonnet? What can we learn from Jesus about what true masculinity looks like?
For starters, he had a job.
Secondly, he served. Jesus set men as the leaders, then he showed them how to lead. He washed feet, he served and he died. Leadership is to be servant hearted and sacrificial. Men are commanded to lay down their lives for their wives (that’s the second part of ‘wives, submit to your husbands’. In case you didn’t get past that bit).
Thirdly, he took responsibility. He was on the cross, about to die, the sin of the world on his shoulders, and he made sure his mum would be looked after when he was gone. That’s dedication. That’s a man. We need this back in church. We are losing the men. Guys, are you serving at your church and are you committed to that service? Do you commit to going to your bible study each week? Are you committed to pursuing purity with your girlfriend? Do the women around you feel safe? Do they feel like you’ll stand up for them when you need to? I don’t want to be ragey, but if I can be completely honest, I spend of a lot of my time trying not to be hugely disappointed in the men I see around me. I like to play a little game I call ‘wait for the guy to do it’. If I see a job that a man should really do, for example, if someone needs defending, before I act I think to myself that I should let the men be men rather than jump in. I give them a chance to take the opportunity. Nine tenths of the time, I end up doing it myself.
The power for social change lies with men. I’ve just started doing work for Destiny Rescue, an organization that frees kids from sex slavery. The more I think about the events I’m planning the more I realize that I my target audience needs to be men. Feminism also needs to be led by men. The major problems in society are because of a lack of respect for women, so if the only feminists are women, change will be slow. Men will listen to other men. The global sex industry is catered to male sexuality and leads to of millions of girls and boys being kidnapped and sold.
Men can make the difference, and it’s not that hard. All you have to do is stand up to other men who disparage women, who make rape jokes, who contribute to the exploitation of people by indulging in the products of the sex industry, stand up to the guys who don’t do their job. There are legit as guys out there. There are a lot of them. And they are holding up the side so well, but they can’t be the only ones. We need more of them, and there needs to be a culture of biblical masculinity to cut down the culture of the Real Man.
You can lift, and hunt, and break apart apples with your bare hands, but your manliness is not contingent on those things. You can care about your appearance, play the flute, cry in TFiOS. Manliness isn’t contingent on these things either. Man points are not given out based on appearance, hobbies, occupation. Man points are given out by working, serving, being humble, taking responsibility, being like Jesus. I’m not going to give you an exhaustive list of how to be a man, because… well because I’m a woman. We need you to figure out what biblical masculinity is. What the Real Man really is. The church needs you back.