Basahin sa wikang Tagalog.
Are you as confused by the idea of masculinity as I am sometimes? It seems that every day I read something that either says men must be like this, men shouldn’t be like this, or men are toxic, men are too feminine, men aren’t allowed to be men anymore, and so on. And it’s a confusing issue. I tend to write from the perspective of the church and theology so that’s where I normally look first for solutions. I am also trained as a social scientist so I see the value of empirical research as well in seeking solutions.
This topic is important to me but I am at a loss at times to think about good answers to these questions. That’s why I am creating a multilingual and multiplatform series on masculinities that will help us all navigate this complex issue. This series will be called Pagkalalake at Maka-Diyos, a Tagalog phrase that can be translated as Masculinity and Religiosity. I have written about masculinities in a short series here and I am hoping the new series that will follow this post will add on that foundation. I write from the context of culture and mission in the context of the Philippines and Canada.
I have a couple of thoughts. Humans are made male and female. I realise that this is a disputed claim of late but please know that I am aware of the complexities of the topics of sex and gender, maleness and femaleness, masculinities and femininities, man and woman-ness, and so on. I need to go with how the creation of humanity is described in Genesis 1 and 2 as being male and female in the likeness and image of God.
What I want to know is what is unique about men as men? I mean, why did God make humans this way? Certainly there are areas of humanity that are common to all — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control — but for some reason God created humans as male and female. There is a level of plurality to humanity. What does that plurality look like? What is the significance of that plurality? What do men bring to the table that women don’t and vice versa?
It’s a harder question to answer than we might first think. On the simplest level, men and women work together to reproduce. The man provides the sperm and the woman provides the egg. When the two combine they form a child who grows in the womb of the woman and eventually is born into the larger world. But the fact that asexual reproduction occurs in other life forms on earth means that sexual reproduction isn’t a necessary part of reproduction. So God wasn’t forced into making humans male and female because it was an unavoidable law. So why then? What other reasons might exist?
The purpose of this series.
That is the purpose of this series. Part of it will look at various examples of masculinities in the Bible, to see if that book can provide us with some guidance. (I have already started this here.) I will also examine several topics that emerged from a brief question on my Facebook page. People suggested the following topics:
A lot of Filipinos work in jobs outside of the Philippines. They are called Overseas Filipino Workers and they provide a large economic boost to both their families and the national economy. One aspect of this type of work, however, is the fact that families are often separated, meaning that oftentimes both men and women must function as their counterparts. Several suggested that I explore these topics, including whether or not men become less masculine when they are forced to function as mother or when they work in stereotypically feminine jobs abroad?
Others were also interested in this gendered division of labour but among non-OFW families still in the Philippines and how this affects masculinity. How does performing domestic chores relate to popular knowledge encapsulated in expressions like “under the saya”? Or what if the wife is the chief breadwinner while the husband performs the majority of the domestic chores?
Others are interested in affairs of the heart, such as the pros and cons of being single are celibate or even the proper ways of courtship and dealing with a broken heart. On a similar note, what happens when the two lovebirds take the important step of marriage? How does masculinity play a role? What about mutual submission between husband and wife? What about in cases of abuse — does that nullify the need for submission?
Parenthood and the various roles in that process is also of interest to some. How about raising sons? What kinds of influences do the mother and the father need to have on their sons so that they can be prepared for adulthood?
Other want answers about men’s mental health. That includes exploring “the sensitivities of moving away from ‘you’re okay!’ and ‘I’m okay!’ and getting closer to ‘are you okay?’ and ‘am I really okay?'” as well as discussing issues such as emotions and picking our battles. Connected to mental health is physical health as well.
Others are interested in how masculinities relate to men and society as a whole including masculinity and the church, career, and past times such as video games.
Perhaps you can think of some more suitable topics for this series. If so, I would love it if you would leave a comment below.
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Image by Papaioannou Kostas on Unsplash.