Friday, March 30, 2007

Masculinity

The concept of what a man is, is as old as philosophy itself. But even now we are no closer to the answer then we ever were. Masculinity is not a static term than can be defined with one brush stroke. Yes, there will be those who attempt to encapsulate masculinity in the cloak of machismo, or the milieu of the Alpha Male, but the truth of it all is that such a narrowest focus will always be overcome by the calculus of variety. Men are not uniform and neither is manhood. Now it is an unfortunate reality that masculinity has been defined in opposition to homosexuality in many a society but this has not always been the case. The Ancient Greeks for one saw masculinity and homosexuality as being intertwined. Spartan warriors often fought alongside their lovers in battle. Even the Ancient Romans were more open to homosexuality (although they had no problem in discriminating against women – a situation much improved under Judeo-Christian ethics). However with the rise of Christianity and Islam as the dominant faiths in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East same-sex masculine relationships became less tolerated. Homosexuals were pushed aside to create guardian societies. The male-female family unit took precedence (against which homosexuals were seen as a threat). While liberal democracy has chipped away at this model in the West its legacy is still persistent.
As a teacher it is important to realize that sexual orientation does not make one more or less of a male. I will emphasize this to my students. Masculinity is in a way a straw concept – for it is defined not what it is, but what it is not. While men have unique anatomical features that set them apart from women, the overlap with females on almost every other category of what it is to be human, reduces such classification’s to a pragmatic minimal.
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