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J.A.A. Purves

I'm no longer writing this book ...

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Oh good grief! Try some Hollywood films from the 30s-60s: Cary Grant, Gary Cooper (yes, he played "sensitive" men, too), Jimmy Stewart, Paul Muni, Henry Fonda, Leslie Howard, Paul Newman, James Dean (!!!), Rock Hudson (!!!!!), etc. etc. etc. Or Fred Astaire movies. You really are looking at cultural history with funhouse-style lenses (imo) - in other words, in a distorted way. (See my comments on Aubrey and Maturin in the "fiction for men thread," too.)

Re. "the English dictionary," I'm not quite sure which specific dictionary you're referring to - could you clarify? ...

Here's the thing: you seem to assume that all women are down with a lot of things. And that all men should be down with a lot of things. Those are sweeping generalizations; in the case of women, I can tell you for sure that it's a truism, not the truth. People are individuals and can and do think for themselves. There's not some cabal of women directing things. (Or maybe I should say "cabal of women + gay/effeminate men"?!) Though I know you probably won't believe me about that, I'll post anyway.

e2c,

- The point with marketing, is that (contrary to what modern sociologists often claim) they recognize the difference between masculine and feminine character traits, and make money based on specifically targeting both of them. Hence the existence of "chick flicks" and "action movies," men’s magazines and women’s magazines, and even different sections of the newspaper. Sure, individuals of both sexes do buy whatever they want. Some women enjoyed watching "Die Hard." Some men read the Twilight series. But that doesn't change the fact that men’s and women’s different tastes make the existence of specific products possible.

- On Hollywood, I enjoy a number of films from the 20s-70s actually, and I have yet to see a generation of actors that had such a shortage of masculine heroes until the last couple decades. (These lists could take a whole book, but Wallace Beery, Robert Newton, John Garfield, Paul Muni, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, William Holden, and John Wayne all come immediately to mind).

Sure, even Robert De Niro can play a "sensitive" character like Gary Cooper did. The point is not that there have always been both masculine and less-masculine Hollywood leads, but that today’s generation of Hollywood leads is different. Again, make a list of every actor in his 20s that you can think of - here's a start for instance, Michael Cera, Elijah Wood, Robert Pattinson, Paul Dano, Gael Garcia Bernal, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hayden Christensen, Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Schwartzman, Jim Sturgess, James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Zachary Levi, Ryan Gosling, Shia LaBoeuf, Justin Long, Zac Efron, Justin Timberlake, Elijah Kelley, etc. - who are the exceptions to the rule here? Seth Rogen? Maybe Chris Pine?

Looking at actors in their 30s, the majority still seems pretty "in touch with their feminine side" - Orlando Bloom, Tobey Maguire, Zach Braff, Ethan Hawke, Jared Leto, Topher Grace, Ashton Kutcher, Ben Affleck, Jude Law, Ben Whishaw, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Jerry Ferrara, etc. I’m not commenting on how good these actors are (many are incredible) but on whether they could believably star in something like Taxi Driver or Die Hard or The Godfather or even Fight Club. But, a decade later, I'll admit there does seem to be a larger number of exceptions - Christian Bale, Colin Farrell, or most recently Sam Worthington for instance (and there are more). I’m not trying to ignore these guys. Others like Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon have at least got past their pretty boy roles now. I think Vince Vaughn just turned 40? (Guess who else is another generation later? Brad Pitt and Edward Norton are both in their 40s).

This is not going to wreck anyone’s life; it’s merely an indication of the modern trend. If anyone thinks I’m just cherry-picking names here, say so. This is something that first came to my attention while talking to my friends about modern films. If a film calls for a more masculine role, Hollywood has to look to the older generations. But looking at older actors, they never had to wait for a young James Cagney, John Wayne, Robert De Niro or Russell Crowe to grow old enough to fill a story's masculine role.

- Take any English dictionary you like - Merriam-Webster for instance ...

feminine: characteristic of or appropriate or unique to women

masculine: having qualities appropriate to or usually associated with a man

Then take a look at this for example- just googling "feminine and masculine" will get you a number of similar lists just like this one (from academic and serious sources). I don't see why one side has more potentially negative traits than the other side does. This list is of course a generalization. It is impossible to talk about gender differences without making "stereotypes" or "appeals to common knowledge." I realize that, normally, there are some women who are more masculine than most women, and there are some men who are more feminine than most men. This doesn't make any of these lists on traits specific to gender not true. What I'm objecting to is a culture that seems to be actively encouraging feminine traits in men.

There is a spectrum of gender differences that have been agreed to by scholars and normal every day people for a long, long time. So, in a sense, yes - many of the ideas here will be referring to common sense (or knowledge). But I'm not interested in defending the idea that men and women think differently. Men and women are different (i.e., character traits, values, psychological, etc.) Books have been forced into existence because the idea of gender differences has been attacked. But one assumption I am going to make is that the average reader on the street already assumes the existence of a difference between masculine and feminine.

So, when I criticize overly effeminized aspects of our culture, or when I criticize the existence of too many dominating feminine traits in men,I am trying to demean women. Neither am I claiming that feminine traits are less valuable than the masculine traits. Sometimes it's possible to have too much of a good thing, and too much of it in the wrong places. And no, I do not believe that there's a cabal of women directing things. So when you argue that there's not, you aren't arguing against anything that I've said.

Edited by Persiflage

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Would this be a candidate for your book?

That article describes a phenomenon I've never heard of, and certainly -- thank God -- never experienced. I read this and wonder how anyone could think like the author:

I think all parenthood is sudden. Watch all the TV, get all the family advice, read all the manuals you want -- there's just no way to prepare for its wrecking-ball effect on life as you knew it. There's also no parental model for dealing with it honestly and openly. In our parent's generation, stoicism was a paternal virtue.

What's with the "wrecking-ball effect" stuff? Life is different with kids. Maybe it's just a matter of how much you valued your single life, or married life before kids came along. I appreciated the latter much more than the former, but never felt like my life was "wrecked" after kids came along.

I love my son dearly, but when he was born -- to my eyes, an oozy bundle of constant need -- it felt as if I had traded in my own life in exchange.

See, there it is. I'm not wanting to oversimplify this guy's problems, but is it unfair to evaluate his own words on the matter? Of course a baby is a bundle of constant need, and he's there to help provide for those needs. What did he expect?

I expected paternal pride to hit me like a recovered memory, but all I felt was loss. To his parent's eyes, the child never ages, so the loss felt like a permanent condition, eventually mutating into resentment.

That's deeply sad. I worry for the kid. I'm glad the father is getting help.

Sorry for the thread derailment. I don't want to sound like I have it all together as a father. I'm very frail, and I worry day to day about my future and my ability to provide for my family. But that's a healthy worry in some sense. I have several people to provide for. I don't idealize my past. Maybe that's the key?

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That's deeply sad.

The initial Newsweek piece is even more descriptive of his anguish.

I didn't mean for this to be a thread de-railment, as I when I read it, I thought it was an interesting case of a male talking in a mode, and with respect to a condition, that is typically associated with women. In this case, it has even been slated as a technical psychological condition.

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- On Hollywood, I enjoy a number of films from the 20s-70s actually, and I have yet to see a generation of actors that had such a shortage of masculine heroes until the last couple decades. (These lists could take a whole book, but Wallace Beery, Robert Newton, John Garfield, Paul Muni, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, William Holden, and of course John Wayne all come immediately to mind).

Sure, even Robert De Niro can play a "sensitive" character like Gary Cooper did.

Are you talking to me?! Seriously, De Niro plays a ton of morally questionable thugs, far more than he plays any kind of positive male role model. But you have cited him as an example of (seemingly positive) masculinity we no longer see in the movies.

Even your initial post mentioned how you would get beat up, but it was a good thing...it seems you are justifying bullies. Like, somehow, in your mind, a bully is just a guy being a guy. It's quite honestly, on the border of rage inducing. As someone who spent most of my youth bullied? Your assessment of their behavior as somehow the natural default? It is, to be polite, entirely unpleasent.

That's deeply sad.

The initial Newsweek piece is even more descriptive of his anguish.

I didn't mean for this to be a thread de-railment, as I when I read it, I thought it was an interesting case of a male talking in a mode, and with respect to a condition, that is typically associated with women. In this case, it has even been slated as a technical psychological condition.

I don't know...it strikes me as anly "300" style thinking. Babies are weak and needy-not strong and manly.

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When I think of characters who are strong "masculine" role models, I think of the character played by Christian Bale in The New World, who is offered up as an answer to, and a sort of rebuke to, Colin Farrel's character, whose ambition and ego led him to pursue fame and fortune and greatness, only to lose his connection to something far greater ... love, which calls us to sacrifice, which calls us to make ourselves less. I think of Samwise in The Lord of the Rings, whose greatness is in his steadfastness and faithfulness more than his skill with a weapon ... I don't think "femininity" has anything to do with your troubles getting good sports news.

Overstreet,

Film - First, let me just say that I've read Through a Screen Darkly and always find your reviews thought-provoking. I find I need to make another distinction here. Questioning whether something or someone is masculine is different from questioning whether something or someone is sinful. Masculinity can express itself sinfully, and can express itself rightly. God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them. There is both a godly masculinity and femininity, and the twisted versions of them in a sinful world.

Eastwood, De Niro, Ford, Gibson and Willis have all played different characters that were more or less moral, more or less sinful or/and self-sacrificial. Their character roles were very often the heroes/underdogs who stood between evil & monsters and vulnerable innocents (you discussed in your book). Now, while I remember you didn't like films like Braveheart, The Patriot, or Gladiator, you liked what Unforgiven and Munich had to say about violence. Regardless of discussing the story arch of their characters, Clint Eastwood and Eric Bana were cast in those roles for a reason - in other words, I'd argue that actors like Richard Gere or Ben Affleck wouldn't have been believable in the same roles.

When I think of John McClane - no, I wouldn't describe his character as egomaniacal, immature, adolescent and childish. Yes, some tough guy characters are less mature than others - say Mel Gibson's Martin Riggs is more immature than Samuel L. Jackson's more serious Jules Winnfield. Some "tough guy" characters are obviously better role models than than other "tough guy" characters. What I'm saying is you can't replace these characters with Orlando Bloom or Tobey Maguire. Once Liam Neeson was out of the picture, how believable did you find all those men following Balian in Kingdom of Heaven? What would you say to Shia LaBeouf replacing/inheriting Indiana Jones films from Harrison Ford?

I agree with you that Christian Bale is a better "masculine" role model than Colin Farrell in The New World. But my point is that both Bale and Farrell (in their 30s) are in a shrinking masculine minority among Hollywood male leads. In the last decade, Russell Crowe came along (he's in his 40s), but an increasing number of films that demand a masculine role are having to turn to the older generation (the same ones they were using over 20 years ago) instead of the younger. Putting this another way, there are actors out there who are masculine in real life, and they bring that to the screen. There are certain roles you could never cast Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Russell Crowe or Robert De Niro in without it being a joke (see De Niro in Stardust). There's a reason men love these sorts of guys - but you think this is a bad thing? What I'm criticizing is a tendency I'm seeing in our culture now to equate masculinity with the immature, sinful, less desireable, and to promote femininity as what is more mature, responsible and adult.

I like Samwise and John Rolfe. Their characters are good role-models because of their love, steadfastness, and self-sacrifice - but there is nothing particularly feminine or masculine in those virtues. Love and self-sacrifice are counter-cultural, but how do they make a character more masculine than feminine? I don't think they do.

Sports - The one point here was that turning on the sports channel or opening up the sports section on the newspaper didn't used to be the same as turning on the E! channel or the opening up the Life section of the newspaper. This isn't ruining anyone's life, it's just another cultural trend, indicative of something that has changed. A sports magazine shouldn't read like a typical women's magazine, most of them now do.

Edited by J.A.A. Purves

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A sports magazine shouldn't read like a typical women's magazine, most of them now do.

I think what many are responding to in this thread is that this use of the word "typical" is grating at best.

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e2c wrote:

: Persiflage wrote:

: : What would you say to Shia LaBeouf replacing/inheriting Indiana Jonesfilms from Harrison Ford?

:

: And that would be bad because...???

Never mind whether it would be "bad" -- the question here is whether LaBeouf is "masculine" in the same way that Harrison Ford is.

Persiflage: I recently came across another one of Dirk Benedict's rants about the feminization and/or sexualization of Battlestar Galactica, and I was wondering if THAT might have any place in your thesis.

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Couple quick housekeeping notes while I have a few spare minutes -

I think what many are responding to in this thread is that this use of the word "typical" is grating at best.

I can make an effort to cut down on it, but when you're discussing differences of gender, good luck avoiding having to make any generalizations. There are exceptions to every rule, but doesn't the fact that something is an "exception" by definition, prove the rule?

e2c - Persiflage, I wonder... have you spoken with any women about your ideas? If not, I would strongly recommend that you do.

Yes, not that I'm finished doing so by any means.

e2c - My other thought along the "have you spoken with..." line is: Have you spoken with anyone who isn't a white, middle-class evangelical of a certain theological bent? Have you talked with any Jewish people, or Muslims, or Latinos, or Catholics, or... ???

Having spent 8 years as an enlisted man in the Army, the answer is yes (except for talking to any Muslims about it). I don't know what to make of it, but it's the white, middle-class evangelicals who like my questions and ideas on this topic the least.

e2c - I wonder if you could name some other kinds of movies (not action) that you like, and lead actors whose work you enjoy in those films?

I like most of what I've seen from Johnny Depp, Sam Rockwell, and Casey Affleck for instance. Perhaps they don't always take the most masculine of roles, but their acting and their films are usually high quality. Some of the best films I've seen over the last couple years, in my opinion, include - Up, The Lovely Bones, Bright Star, Moon, Crazy Heart, The Brothers Bloom, Stone of Destiny, Two Lovers, Bottle Shock, Marley & Me, Gone Baby Gone, Assassination of Jesse James, August Rush, The Fall, and Pan's Labyrinth - just off the top of my head.

Chattaway - Persiflage: I recently came across another one of Dirk Benedict's rants about the feminization and/or sexualization of Battlestar Galactica, and I was wondering if THAT might have any place in your thesis.

Is there a link to it? I'd be interested in reading it at least. While I don't watch much SciFi, I did see all of Battlestar Galactica, and one of my dissapointments with the show was the weak male leads, I'm really hoping Jamie Bamber's character isn't going to be typical of the male hero we're going to be getting in film & television over the next couple decades. Even the bulwark masculine presence in the show, Edward James Olmos, caved and was proven wrong (as compared to President Roslin's stands on issues) more and more as the series progressed.

Edited by J.A.A. Purves

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Regardless of discussing the story arch of their characters, Clint Eastwood and Eric Bana were cast in those roles for a reason - in other words, I'd argue that actors like Richard Gere or Ben Affleck wouldn't have been believable in the same roles.

Sure, there are reasons that Eastwood and Eric Bana were cast in those roles.

Eastwood and Bana are of different physical stature, and they tend to exhibit more... I don't know... toughness, I suppose, than Gere or Affleck.

But I don't see that as a masculine/feminine contrast. I see that as a case of some men can play muscular tough guys, and some men are more suited to other kinds of roles. I do not become more masculine by becoming more muscular.

There is a remarkable difference in the presence of, say, and NFL lineman and, say, N.T Wright, but I wouldn't say that the NFL lineman is more masculine. Bono's onstage acrobatics and bombast are quite different than the quiet understatement of Leonard Cohen, but is he more masculine? I know women who swoon at the sound of Cohen's voice.

And judging from the way many women swoon at the sight of both Gere and Affleck, I certainly assume there's something powerfully attractive about them to the opposite sex. Having met Orlando Bloom, I can tell you, he moved in a cloud of testosterone that is so thick it's a little bit alarming. (SDG, do you remember his manner at the Return of the King interview table? He seemed more interested in flirting with Liv Tyler than in answering questions.)

I'm afraid I still fail to understand your definition of masculine, and what little I do understand does not persuade me that we should be worried about this at all.

And the idea that Christianity needs more of the stuff associated with Eastwood/Willis/Gibson action heroes is not an idea I can get behind.

There are certain roles you could never cast Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Russell Crowe or Robert De Niro in without it being a joke (see De Niro in Stardust). There's a reason men love these sorts of guys...

Whoa. Watch it. You say "men" when you mean "certain men."

And I think you've forgotten that these actors can play characters that aren't primarily brawny, macho men of action *without* it becoming a joke.

I, personally, am bored with Russell Crowe's macho roles. But I enjoyed his role as, of all things, the affable dishwasher guy in Proof (the Proof that had Hugo Weaving in the lead role as a blind man), and as the reluctant whistleblower in The Insider. I thought those performances were much more interesting than his familiar brawny heroes.

Bruce Willis's macho was played for comic effect in Nobody's Fool, while Paul Newman's more thoughtful, understated presence won the day. And Willis's not-so-macho role in Twelve Monkeys was one of his finest performances.

De Niro's turn in Mad Dog and Glory made him anything but macho, and it was a wonderful performance. His "macho" became the butt of many jokes in Midnight Run, as Charles Grodin's white-collar criminal ended up being the more honorable character.

Just for example.

Edited by Overstreet

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it's the white, middle-class evangelicals who like my questions and ideas on this topic

This fits nicely with one of my on-going curiosities. I'm of the general opinion that white, middle-class Americans who grew up in the latter half of the 20th century -- people like myself -- lead the most privileged, comfortable lives this world has ever seen. No bombshell there, I realize. Yet, as Christians, we're called upon to be "counter-cultural" and self-sacrificial, and the Bible sets a pretty intimidating standard for the kinds of persecution we would receive if we truly lived the lives we've been called to live. Which we don't. Not by a long shot. As a result, white, middle-class evangelicals, in my opinion, are a little too eager to find evidence of persecution in their lives. It's like a little flag we can hold up, saying, "See? We are different from the rest of America. The gay agenda! They're removing the Ten Commandments from our court houses! This biology textbook calls the Genesis account of creation a myth!" I remember driving once from Knoxville to North Florida and hearing David Limbaugh interviewed on the radio in five different markets (Knoxville, Chattanooga, Birmingham, Montgomery, Tallahassee). In each interview he supported the thesis of his book, Persecuted, by arguing that he was being prevented by the liberal cultural gatekeepers from promoting his book. Five times. Five different markets. This is persecution?

I'm not at all well-versed in the evangelical literature re: masculinity and femininity, but at least as it's being presented here in this thread, I'm getting some of that same "searching for signs of persecution" vibe. Persiflage's earlier comment about how it's okay for women to waste time on Facebook and Twitter but it's no place for a man -- to me that jumps clear over "traditional conservative values" and lands somewhere back before first wave feminism, to the grand old days when womenfolk gathered in the parlor knitting bobkins (or whatever other Victorian notion of femininity we want to dust off for display).

Persiflage, I think a good book can be written on this subject, and you might be the person to do it. Your biggest challenge will be the first chapter, in which you will be required to lay out your argument for why a "rebirth of traditional masculinity" is a necessary and important corrective to the feminization you see becoming so pervasive. Because for most of us, the return of those traits is neither necessary nor important. It's scary.

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I hope SDG doesn't mind my doing this, but I'd like to invoke something that he said in our discussion of Andrei Zvyagintsev's The Return (2003):

How does a father's relationship with his children differ from a mother's? From pregnancy and childbirth and nursing on, a mother is physically closer to, more intimate with her children; a father, be he ever so close and loving, is by comparison more distant, more remote. Mothers also tend to be more protective, fathers more rough and ready. In families around the world fathers rough-house with and toss their children about from the time they are babies, to the worriment of mothers everywhere. Mothers are more likely to intervene to spare their children suffering; fathers are more likely to stand back and allow their children to deal with something on their own and potentially fall on their face, scrape their knee, bloody their nose, and perhaps make a better show of it next time. Go to a playground on the weekend when there are children being watched by both fathers and mothers. Who's watching the children more closely? Who is cautioning "Be careful, not too high, not too fast," and who is saying "Can you go higher? Can you go faster?" I suspect that fathers may also be quicker to
cause
their children suffering by disciplining them.

Don't misunderstand, I'm in no way extolling fatherhood over motherhood -- after all, it was God in his infinite wisdom who not only gave us mothers, but made us closer to and more dependent on them from our earliest years. But as we grow up we need to be pushed as well as to be protected, and that's part of what fathers do. . . .

There may or may not be some overlap between SDG's observations there and Persiflage's thoughts on the spectrum between masculinity and femininity.

It also occurs to me that I used to be one of those people who believed you should never gender-stereotype, but then I had fraternal twins -- one boy and one girl -- and as they got older, it became very apparent that the boy was behaving more boyishly and the girl was behaving more girlishly. They are the exact same age, raised within the exact same environment, and yet they turned out rather differently, and precisely on the lines that some people might have found "typical" for their genders.

Persiflage wrote:

: Is there a link to it? I'd be interested in reading it at least.

See here. An excerpt or two:

There was a time – I know I was there – when men were men, women were women and sometimes a cigar was just a good smoke. But 40 years of feminism have taken their toll. The war against masculinity has been won. Everything has turned into its opposite, so that what was once flirting and smoking is now sexual harassment and criminal. And everyone is more lonely and miserable as a result. . . .

One thing is certain. In the new un-imagined, re-imagined world of Battlestar Galactica everything is female driven. The male characters, from Adama on down, are confused, weak, and wracked with indecision while the female characters are decisive, bold, angry as hell, puffing cigars (gasp) and not about to take it any more. . . .

Overstreet wrote:

: Having met Orlando Bloom, I can tell you, he moved in a cloud of testosterone that is so thick it's a little bit alarming.

Well, I've met Orlando Bloom too, and I don't remember a cloud of testosterone following him anywhere; he did bring his dog to the roundtable interview, though. (A BIG dog, though, not one of those LITTLE dogs that make such an interesting point of contrast whenever Mickey Rourke gives interviews.) In any case, I would caution against confusing the real world with the movie world, here. Orlando Bloom is being cited for his persona as an on-screen movie star, and not because of anything going on in his personal or private life.

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It also occurs to me that I used to be one of those people who believed you should never gender-stereotype, but then I had fraternal twins -- one boy and one girl -- and as they got older, it became very apparent that the boy was behaving more boyishly and the girl was behaving more girlishly. They are the exact same age, raised within the exact same environment, and yet they turned out rather differently, and precisely on the lines that some people might have found "typical" for their genders.

I don't know if I have much to contribute to this topic, but my ME ME ME nature compels me to add a me too to this statement. Our fraternal twins are only 14 months old and it is staggering to watch our son chase the ball and our daughter hold the doll. This is not something we would encourage or try to force, it's just happening.

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I think you're being tremendously unfair and even insulting to women here. So, it's fine if women waste time sending each other trivial, inconsequential talk, but not men? ... the addiction of so many to Facebook and other social networking sites speaks of a desperate need for intimacy of one kind or another. It's not the answer, and rarely addresses that need. But men need more humility and intimacy to be healthy, not less ...

For instance, gossiping about the ins and outs of each minute detail of almost anyone's romantic relationship was, in my albeit limited experience, quite common for the highschool and college girls I knew. Is it insulting to point out a usual feminine character flaw? I'm willing to own up to any number of primarily masculine character flaws. Speaking of this sort of thing, talking to Christian girls about this, I've had a couple of them tell me they thought that Harlequin romance novels were the equivalent for women what pornography is for men.

I don't like Facebook, but I'll admit that I have an account because it's a way to keep in contact with friends who live across the country and across the world. While some "facebook friends" occasionally post something interesting to share with everyone, many of them have little, trivial updates as well. Nothing particularly wrong with that - unless you start adding up the time you spend doing it - or the obsession some of my friends have with nonstop texting, facebooking and twittering.

So ... do you think it's possible to say that men and women have some different general character traits? If so, do you think it's possible to claim that men and women have some different general character flaws? Then, if you start to notice that your and some of your friends' character flaws are commonly "feminine" character flaws, is that something you're allowed to ask about? Or did I just offend people and insult women again by asking that last question? I'm asking each of these questions seriously.

Persiflage - "While it may be normal (if still unhealthy) activity for a high school girl, it shouldn’t be activity for a man."

Darren H - "Persiflage's earlier comment about how it's okay for women to waste time on Facebook and Twitter but it's no place for a man -- to me that jumps clear over "traditional conservative values" and lands somewhere back before first wave feminism ..."

Btw, I would never say that men don't need emotional intimacy. But, I'm under the impression that women have a stronger desire for emotional intimacy than men do. Is that a misogynistic impression?

Church,

I agree that church shouldn't be a bunch of programs and clubs based on emotional "sharing." But church is meant to be a place of worship, prayer, bowing down and confessing, participating in the intimacy of communion.

Completely agreed.

That's the scandal of God's love for us. His love is not merely agape love - a sort of platonic "caring." It is intimate and personal. And this is why the erotic poetry of scripture is a very, very important part of the whole picture.

While I agree that God's love is intimate and personal (although using the adjective "intimate" to describe it is counter-intuitive to a lot of guys), I wouldn't dismiss agape love as simply platonic caring. In fact, I'd have to recommend The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis on this where, where he goes into the Greek words and classical & Biblical understandings of (1) affection, (2) friendship (platonic) (3) erotic love, and (4) charity (agape love).

Why do you think God speaks of the church as his bride?

Because a man's love for his wife is supposed to be like Christ's love for the church. However, we now fail today to make the distinction between the church being the bride of Christ and the individual Christian being a bride of Christ. David Murrow is good at addressing this church teaching -

You are not the bride of Christ. According to the Bible, there is only one bride of Christ: the church (all believers collectively throughout time and throughout the world). Individual believers are not brides of Christ ... feminine terminology flows freely from the lips of churchgoers. References to sharing, communication, relationships, support, nurturing, feelings, and community are sprinkled throughout the conversation of Christians - both men and women. Gordon MacDonald finds it strange that Christian men use words such as precious, tender, and gentle. MacDonald admits these are nice words, but not typical masculine conversation. Woody Davis found that Christian men emphasize themes and endorse messages that unchurched people - both men and women - regard as womanly. In other words, Christian men talk and think like women, at least in the eyes of the unchurched.

Mainline churches have adopted inclusive language, stripping masculine pronouns from hymns, liturgy, and even Scripture, in an effor to make women feel more comfortable in church. It seems to be working. 60 to 75 percent of the adults in our mainline congregations are female ... Conservatives use man-repellent terminology as well. For example, in the Baptist universe you have two kinds of people: the saved and the lost ... I've heard many a man ridicule Christianity by crying out, "Hallelujah, I'm saved!" When Hollywood released a movie mocking Christians, they titled it Saved! Although Jesus used the term saved a number of times in the Gospels, only twice did He pronounce someone saved (Luke 7:50, 19:9). But He called many to follow Him. Hear the difference? Follow gives a man something to do. It suggest activity instead of passivity. But being saved is something that happens to damsels in distress. It's the feminine role. So why not use the descriptor Jesus preferred?

The term relationship gets a workout in church today. Evangelical churches frequently invite people to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Does that phrase appear in the Bible? Nope. Nowhere does Scripture invite us to have a relationship with God or Jesus. Yet it has become the most popular way to describe the Christian walk ... Nowadays it's not enough to have a personal relationship with Jesus, many of today's top speakers encourage men to have a passionate relationship with Him. These teachers have chosen a very uncomfortable metaphor to describe discipleship. Speaking as a man, the idea of having a passionate relationship with another man is just plain gross. Then we have the ever-popular intimacy with God. When men hear the word intimacy, the first thing that comes to mind is sex. Those dirty-minded guys! But guess what? Whenever the words passionate and intimate appear in the Bible, they always refer to sex or lust.

... It gets worse. More than once, I've been exhorted by a prominent men's minister to have a love affair with Jesus. I just saw a new book for Christian men: Kissing the Face of God. An ad for the book invites men to "get close enough to rreach up and kiss His face!" Time out - this is a men's book? ... Using bedroom vocabulary to describe Christianity is not only unbiblical, but it sows doubt in men's subconscious minds ... One more thing on relationships: men really do need to have a relationship with God. Religion without relationship is bondage! But men are not relationship oriented. Relationship is not a term men use in conversation, except when describing a male-female couple. Also, men file their relationships by what they do together; they have fishing buddies, business partners, army friends, and so forth. It's helpful to talk about God in the same active terms. Instead of encouraging men to have a personal relationship with Jesus, encourage them to walk with Christ ... Challenge them to build the kingdom of God. (from Why Men Hate Going to Church)

That is, after all, precisely how Jesus spoke to his disciples. Was David, for instance, passionate in his love for God? Absolutely. But his Psalms never took quite the erotic turn so many church worship songs have taken today. The erotic poetry of the Song of Solomon is describing the godly love between a man and a woman - the allegorical interpretation that the book is an allegory of our relationship with God is rejected by a number of Bible scholars (for different hermeutical reasons, such as the poetry describing the wife's beauty).

Consider the parables of Jesus. How do the men who behaved honorably in those stories measure up to your idea of a "man's man"?

Like, oh say, the good Samaritan? Just fine. Besides, I can't really think of a parable that addressed any differences between the masculine and feminine.

If I understand Christ correctly, a "man's man" will serve his wife as Christ served the church. That is: Humble yourself, and take on the form of a servant.

Completely agreed again.

Hardly glamorous, by the world's standard. But it looks a lot more like St. Francis than Mad Max.

I wouldn't claim Mad Max as a Christian role model. But, while he absolutely had some admirable traits, I wouldn't wouldn't hold up St. Francis of Assisi as the ideal Christian man. Precisely because he is just the sort of Christian a lot of churches would really love to consider as the ideal Christian male.

Edited by J.A.A. Purves

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If "manly men" are supposed to be the norm, I'm not sure Jesus himself would make the cut.

On another note, I've been meaning to test this here.

Pop Quiz: Examine these two sets of values: Which one best characterizes Jesus Christ and His true followers?

Different Value Sets

Left Set / Right Set

Competence / Love

Power / Communication

Efficiency / Beauty

Achievement / Relationships

Skills / Support

Proving Oneself / Help

Results / Nurturing

Accomplishment / Feelings

Objects / Sharing

Technology / Relating

Goal Oriented / Harmony

Self-sufficiency / Community

Success / Loving cooperation

Competition / Personal expression

While everyone can have all of these traits and values, you have to prioritize them somehow because they often will conflict with each other. So out of the Left Set and the set of words on the right side, which do you think a Christian following Christ should value more?

Edited by J.A.A. Purves

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Jesus Christ and His true followers?

Jesus and his followers were very different. I would characterize them very differently.

What do you mean by "true followers"?

If the left set is meant to represent a definition of masculinity, I think the test is flawed from the outset.

The greatest command we have is love, but most of the values on this list play parts in following that command in on circumstance or another. Any attempt to set them up in some kind of hierarchy feels like an attempt to define Christian values on some kind of grid - a process that will lead to all kinds of trouble.

And some of these choices are far too vague and open to interpretation. "Power"? Is power a value? What kind of power? Communication is a kind of power. So how am I to choose which one characterizes "Jesus and his true followers"?

Edited by Overstreet

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I kind of hope you do write this book, because I am frequently puzzled by the frequency with which your central thesis is invoked by the Driscoll/Eldridge crowd. As a male feminist, I look around and I have no idea what these people are talking about.

The examples you have shared and the ways they appear persuasive to you but make no sense at all to the rest of us suggest that a an attempt at a comprehensive argument might be a useful step towards debunking this myth of feminization once and for all.

Thank you.

We'll also see what we can do about adding other names to the list of the John Eldredge/Mark Driscoll/David Murrow crowd.

"We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful."

- C.S. Lewis

“We live in an effeminate age ... Not only are we up against the pietistic foppery that has been present in the Church in every age, we are also up against a prevailing feminism. This feminism is very dangerous because one wing of it is pervasive in the conservative wing of the Church and is disguised as 'traditional values.'"

- Douglas Wilson

"There has got abroad a notion, somehow, that if you become a Christian you must sink your manliness and turn milksop."

- Charles H. Spurgeon

Edited by J.A.A. Purves

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Ah, but in that last quote "manliness" is set in opposition to "milksop" ... not what is feminine. Milksops are wimps, not women.

"Men without chests" is set in opposition to something feeble and gutless. The antithesis of "men without chests" is not something feminine, but something foolish.

Christ was fully human, as human beings were meant to be. He wasn't a milksop. Neither was Mary. Neither men or women are meant to be "milksops".

If anyone wants to see the Spurgeon quote in contest, here it is. What he's writing there does not scorn women or their behavior, but speaks against cowardliness and weakness.

Nobody here is saying that the church should not be courageous. For me, I cringe at the idea that courage and boldness would be seen as manly, implying that cowardliness and weakness be equated with "feminine."

Many of the values you are implying are "feminine" are essential, in my opinion, for anyone to be fully human as we were meant to be. In the case of the C.S. Lewis quote, I believe he's basically saying, "We need men with guts." I don't think he means to imply that men without guts are women. Because clearly, he admired women with guts. Joy was one gutsy woman. She had, if you will, a chest. :)

"Feminine" and "feminism" are two very different things.

"Men without chests"* are, indeed, sad and incomplete. To equate "sad" and "incomplete" with "feminine" is a sexist statement. But men *with* chests have the courage to communicate, to care, to cooperate, to value beauty, etc... so many of the things you are giving over as "feminine."

Consider Jesus' behavior: Tenderly washing his disciples' feet, committing to memory the songs of poets, speaking quietly and intimately with women as well as men... this, the very same Christ who drove moneychangers from the temple with a whip. Fully human. Behaving in ways that might be considered "un-manly" by those who define things too narrowly.

Remember - the same Solomon credited with being a great king also wrote the most beautiful, erotic, communicative love poetry. The same David who slew Goliath wrote the Psalms and was known for singing songs that would calm the heart of a king.

* (And to be fair, C.S. Lewis and many other Christian scholars have been men of their times, betraying some insensitivity in their diction, just as others will see our own insensitivity in generations after us.)

Thank you. If I write the book, and it's really that bad, I can always go cry about it later. Afterwards, I'll just go to the local Barbershop, um Hair Cutterie, I mean Hair Style Salon (where they even offer men's facials) and get the emotional support I need from my relationship with the barber, well I mean the ... oh, never mind.

Wow. Just... wow.

I don't know how to continue this conversation in the face of that. I'm not sure what person or social group you're attacking with that outburst. So some men are into fashion, and others aren't. It would be easy to read this and conclude that you're stereotyping and judging with a broad brush.

Are you saying it's "feminine" to compulsively gossip at salons? Many women do, I'm sure. And I know plenty of contexts in which I hear men gossiping and speaking inappropriately of others as well. Where it happens is a cultural detail.

You are painting things in such extremes, I don't know how to respond. There is a huge range between macho badass tough-guy and blithering co-dependent emotional weakling. And if you're suggesting that one end of that range is "feminine" is really unfair.

Edited by Overstreet

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By the way, perusing your list of favorite movies was very interesting in view of this conversation. I mean, it's just a list of favorites, and I don't want to jump to any conclusions. But the list does suggest that I'm unlikely to understand what's driving your argument, because it suggests that our values are very different.

1 - Die Hard

2 - Braveheart

3 - Gladiator

4 - Master and Commander

5 - Cinderella Man

6 - Tears of the Sun

7 - Fight Club

8 - The Passion of the Christ

9 - The Nativity Story

10 - Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

11 - L.A. Confidential

12 - The Patriot

13 - Pulp Fiction

14 - Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

15 - Thank You For Smoking

Edited by Overstreet

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I'm getting really interested in the psychology of this. Persiflage, not to get too personal, but are you single? Married? Do you have much success in the romantic sphere?

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Overstreet wrote:

: In the case of the C.S. Lewis quote, I believe he's basically saying, "We need men with guts." I don't think he means to imply that men without guts are women. Because clearly, he admired women with guts. Joy was one gutsy woman. She had, if you will, a chest. :)

Hmmm. I know Lewis held to the traditional view that women shouldn't be priests, partly on the basis that male and female are "not merely . . . facts of nature but . . . the live and awful shadows of realities utterly beyond our control and largely beyond our direct knowledge". I wonder if that would have any bearing on this discussion. More from Lewis:

Suppose the reformer stops saying that a good woman may be like God and begins saying that God is like a good woman. Suppose he says that we might just as well pray to 'Our Mother which art in heaven' as to 'Our Father'. Suppose he suggests that the Incarnation might just as well have taken a female as a male form, and the Second Person of the Trinity be as well called the Daughter as the Son. Suppose, finally, that the mystical marriage were reversed, that the Church were the Bridegroom and Christ the Bride. All this, as it seems to me, in involved in the claim that a woman can represent God as a priest does.

Now it is surely the case that if all these supposals were ever carried into effect we should be embarked on a different religion. Goddesses have, of course, been worshipped: many religions have priestesses. But they are religions quite different in character from Christianity. Common sense, disregarding the discomfort, or even the horror, which the idea of turning all our theological language into the feminine gender arouses in most Christians, will ask 'Why not? Since God is in fact not a biological being and has no sex, what can it matter whether we say He or She, Father or Mother, Son or Daughter?'

But Christians think that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. To say that it does not matter is to say either that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin, or else that, though inspired, it is quite arbitrary and unessential. And this is surely intolerable: or, if tolerable, it is an argument not in favour of Christian priestesses but against Christianity. . . .

: Consider Jesus' behavior: Tenderly washing his disciples' feet . . .

Heh. As John Dominic Crossan has said, before Jesus became the Host, he was the Hostess. ;)

: . . . committing to memory the songs of a poets . . .

Eh? Which passage is this?

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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It also occurs to me that I used to be one of those people who believed you should never gender-stereotype, but then I had fraternal twins -- one boy and one girl -- and as they got older, it became very apparent that the boy was behaving more boyishly and the girl was behaving more girlishly. They are the exact same age, raised within the exact same environment, and yet they turned out rather differently, and precisely on the lines that some people might have found "typical" for their genders.

I don't know if I have much to contribute to this topic, but my ME ME ME nature compels me to add a me too to this statement. Our fraternal twins are only 14 months old and it is staggering to watch our son chase the ball and our daughter hold the doll. This is not something we would encourage or try to force, it's just happening.

I know people who have come to the opposite conclusion because their daughter prefers "boy toys" and vice versa. So, basing one's concepts of what is natural for genders on anectdotal evidence is not very conclusive.

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I'm now in the difficult position of trying to explain to my friends at the Calvary Chapel I started attending that (1) it's not a sin to go hang out at bars drinking with my nonbelieving friends, and (2) making nonbelieving friends who you actually socialize with, invite over to your place for dinner, and hang around is not the same as encouraging temptation. I've been asking almost everyone I get to know about these ideas for the last 5 years or so now, and I'm getting fascinating responses back - but, besides a one time unproductive mistake of mentioning them to a feminist in lawschool once, it's white/evangelicals who react to this the most negatively.

I fail to see the ties between opposition to alcohol and any notion of feminization. Abstaining from alcohol fits your thesis only if you presume the issue of feminization goes back to the early church.

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Other recent notes,

Ah, but in that last quote "manliness" is set in opposition to "milksop" ... not what is feminine. Milksops are wimps, not women. "Men without chests" is set in opposition to something feeble and gutless. The antithesis of "men without chests" is not something feminine, but something foolish. Christ was fully human, as human beings were meant to be. He wasn't a milksop. Neither was Mary. Neither men or women are meant to be "milksops". If anyone wants to see the Spurgeon quote in contest, here it is. What he's writing there does not scorn women or their behavior, but speaks against cowardliness and weakness.

So, if you are willing to continue this discussion when you have the time, do you (and others here) actually think it is scornful to women to say that it's bad for the culture to be effeminized?

I'll admit that in the military, it's taken for granted that the culture is feminized, while in the civilian world, obviously, the idea that our culture has been/is being feminized is still up for debate. I was in the army and attended law school at the same time, so the contrast between my two groups of friends was pretty significant. I was deployed to Iraq for a year and then came back to live in Washington D.C. for one more year. I realize there's a period of adjustment you go through after that, but I'd been thinking through some ideas already, and hanging out with the D.C. crowd only kept confirming them. Then I got a temporary job with a moving company in D.C. (and suddenly found myself around guys, some of whom were from other cultures, who weren't exhibiting as many feminine traits), I found myself enjoying the blue collar circle more than the lawschool circles I used to be around before.

"Feminine" and "feminism" are two very different things. "Men without chests"* are, indeed, sad and incomplete. To equate "sad" and "incomplete" with "feminine" is a sexist statement. But men *with* chests have the courage to communicate, to care, to cooperate, to value beauty, etc... so many of the things you are giving over as "feminine." Consider Jesus' behavior: Tenderly washing his disciples' feet, committing to memory the songs of a poets, speaking quietly and intimately with women as well as men... this, the very same Christ who drove moneychangers from the temple with a whip. Fully human. Behaving in ways that might be considered "un-manly" by those who define things too narrowly.

So no, I'm not trying to equate adjectives like sad, incomplete, weak, etc. to women or to the feminine. What I'm trying to do is discourage guys from acting in a certain way. I believe that our culture has done something to guys - they are being raised and taught things that are against their masculinity and more in line with femininity (which is a good and healthy thing if you're a woman). There are a whole number of Christian virtues that everyone possesses - men and women alike. The claim that I'm having problems making here apparently is that there are also certain traits that are primarily masculine and some that are primarily feminine. So what I'm working on figuring out is how to make this claim without apparently implying that what is bad is what is feminine, or to be implying that women are somehow inferior.

Are you saying it's "feminine" to compulsively gossip at salons? ... You are painting things in such extremes, I don't know how to respond. There is a huge range between macho badass tough-guy and blithering co-dependent emotional weakling. And if you're suggesting that one end of that range is "feminine" is really unfair.

So nope, wasn't being serious with that one. But no one thought it was funny, so I'll stop it.

Nezpop - I fail to see the ties between opposition to alcohol and any notion of feminization. Abstaining from alcohol fits your thesis only if you presume the issue of feminization goes back to the early church.

I wasn't make that tie in modern day times. And you're right, I wouldn't make the claim except for once in a while it being a relic of the old women's temperance leagues that we can talk more about later. The only thing I was doing on that was distinguishing myself a little from only being in the white, middle class, evangelical culture - my friends outside that culture are often the friends I meet in bars.

Edited by J.A.A. Purves

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