Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Columnist Opeyemi Parham: Masculinity and the Global Heart

Direct competition of physical skill and stren...Image via Wikipedia.

Masculinity and the Global Heart .
On the cover of the September 20th issue of Newsweek is this photo of a hunk of a guy (and I do mean hunk, the muscles just ripple off of his naked back, as he faces away from the camera), holding a three year old boy in his arms.  The boy looks directly into the camera, and the look on his face is wise beyond his years.
I don’t know how they got that little boy to give such a probing stare, but the article’s title is what hooked me. “Man UP! The traditional male is an endangered species. It’s time to rethink masculinity.”
My reaction to the title?  Thank GOD someone has noticed! Let us now hope the article takes a sensible direction and not a sensational one.
I’ll let you read the article yourself, and decide what you think of it’s biases:
 All I can say is, finally someone is talking about what I have known for years. Men have been as trapped by the sterotypes of masculinity as women have been by those of femininity. The trouble is there has been no first, second or third wave of feminism to help the poor guys out of their own mess.
I am very excited to have recently read a book by Anodea Judith called “Awakening The Global Heart: Humanity’s Rite of Passage from the Love of Power to the Power of Love”. In this well researched and deeply spiritual treatise, she describes our historical evolution through various kinds of power. She points out positive and negative characteristics of dynamic and static eras of time, with masculine or feminine power at the helm. She describes our current evolutionary crisis as needing to move from a static masculine to a dynamic feminine model, and our emotional state as equivalent to an adolescent, moving into adulthood.
It is a facinating book and an exciting theory. In order for us to make this shift, men have to surrender (I use this word with caution) many of the trappings of power that have actually been hinderences to the heart. And in the power of that arresting photo that I saw the shadow that we still carry culturally
It is the emotions evoked deliberately by that Newsweek photo that led me to comment here. Something about the beefcake guy holding the child implied protection and “father”, but the lack of a face and the photo’s deliberate focus on the physical symbol of power (muscles) disturbed me. And that probing stare of the boy child seems to hold an accusation. Something about this boy not having a clear set of  scaffolding for himself, if the roles are changing. There is a bit of a feeling of If you take away my power, WHO AM I?" in the eyes of that child.
Then I remembered an Anne Geddes photo of these huge hands, holding this tiny sleeping child:
and the Spencer Rowell photo of a blue-jeaned man and a baby
 And I realized that we have truly done boys and injustice, with very little imagery to offer alternatives to static masculine, "power over" roles.
Google”man and boy” as a subject line and you won’t find many heart warming images. In fact you won’t find many images, at all. That is how foreign this concept of men moving outside their proscribed role of protector into other roles as nurturer, or caregiver, or healer (of the heart-- there is an image of a man later in the Newseek article that implies that he is a NURSE, not a doctor) truly is.
Opening to this conversation may be a dirty and painful process risking cheap shots and silly inuendoes, but finally someone is talking about how scary and threatening new roles for men can be.
Let us keep shifting that paradigm.

                        Opeyemi  413-336-1291
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