Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Masculinity, Androgyny, Douglas Wilson

Douglas Wilson has a book called Reforming Marriage that I have on occasion recommended to one of my clients in order to start discussion about roles within a family. I usually say that I don't agree 100% with Wilson, but that his ideas are so different from what we are used to hearing that it will make people think. I read this book before I was married and it knocked me over. Wilson organizes his thinking around the covenant in the same way that we organize ours around vocation. He talks about the feminist movement as being driven by wimpy men who have abdicated leadership and instead promote women in the workplace (i.e., their wives) in order to have more money for themselves. He talks about de facto headship, rather than headship as a goal. Almost every edition of Credenda/Agenda has a section for called husbandry. I have collected them all and am reviewing them as possible reference material for counseling. The idea that a therapist would suggest his works would probably make Pastor Wilson physically ill.

I bring this up because I just went to a training session about the psychology of men. The presenter (a renowned psychologist and president of the APA) discussed normative male alexithymia (the inability to put words to feelings and therefore a reduced capacity for feelings). His thesis is that little boys are encultured to define masculinity in unhealthy ways (aggression, restrictive emotionality, over self-reliance, channeling caring emotions into sex) and that one of his therapy goals is to challenge these beliefs about masculinity to get men to look at their definitions of manhood. This is indeed probably taken for granted in most men's lives and is part of their assumptive world. He presented studies that indicate that males are more emotionally responsive at birth and transition from ages 2 to 6 to less emotionally expressive. He talked about the process of replacing feelings of fear with aggression on the playground and being mocked and sometimes physically abused for expressions of emotion such as sadness. All of this very interesting.

At my place of employment - a Christian counseling center - we have a special consideration because our clientele are often basing their behavior on what they have been taught about masculinity from the Church as well as from society in general. Therefore, what do I think about masculinity?

Wilson has been about the only person that I have read on the subject that say anything that breaks the mold ofandrogynyy. Dr. James Hurley therapist/theologian of Reformed Theological Seminary has a book called Men and Women in Biblical Perspective that I want to get my hands on, but it is out of print. Avoiding Wild at Heart nonsense completely, I can find precious little out there that is thoughtful and confessional.


Blogger Eric Phillips said...

I've poked around a bit in _Wild at Heart_, but haven't read it. I know someone who has, though, and he seemed to like it. Could you offer a short critique, or have you done that already?

1:22 PM  
Blogger Seth said...

I've read Wild At Hear too. Didn't think much of it. I thought it gave poor advice to guys who were seeking true, biblical masculinity.

For my pre-marital counseling, we went through a book called _The Mystery of Marriage_ by Mike Mason. We didn't make it all the way through it, but I found the ideas very simple (few things were novel), but they were put so clearly that it made you feel like those were all ideas that you had known but never heard anyone say before. Hope that makes sense. It dealt more with "what is a Christian marriage" vs. "how do you make a marriage work, i.e. communication, affection, etc."

I highly recommend it (although, like I said, I haven't finished it). The author was very thoughtful but not in your face. It really made you step back and consider what marriage truly is, how it relates to our relationship with God, etc.

There's nothing in there specifically about masculinity, but I think it gave all guys (and gals) resources to be good husbands and wives.

3:44 PM  
Blogger solarblogger said...

You might look at Larry Crabb's Men and Women: Enjoying the Difference. He promotes both a kind of headship (though not a power-hungry kind) and emotional openness. I think it may be the kind of thing you're looking for. If it is not, I would be interested in hearing how it falls short.

--Rick Ritchie

3:05 PM  

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