Two recent events highlight the difficulty the secular culture has with understanding and appreciating masculinity. The first was when The American Psychological Association (APA) issued “APA Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men.” The new guidelines, said “traditional masculinity ideology” contained the following constellation of standards: “anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.”
An article on the APA website about the new guidelines says research demonstrates that “traditional masculinity—marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression—is, on the whole, harmful.” While some of the guidelines show common sense, such as encouraging fathers to connect with their children, for the most part they are driven by faulty, modern gender ideology. For example, psychologists are encouraged to help the boys and men they treat to recognize their male privilege, not to assume there are only two sexes, and to “develop awareness of systems that assume cisgender masculinity expression is the expected norm.”
The guidelines claim that masculinity is a social construct, ignoring biological science and social research showing that men and women really are different. Those differences tend to be seen in all cultures and societies throughout history, as Glenn T. Stanton explains in his article, “Is There a Universal Male and Female Nature?”
If one is going to hold to a gender-construction theory of gender difference, or that male and female are only different in the bedroom or bathroom, it must be done either in ignorance or denial of a mountain of impressive anthropological, psychological, and neurological scientific research that reveals the opposite.
It is actually personal and social androgyny that is the social construct, for it only exists within the rickety ideological scaffolding of gender studies theory. It must be built and sustained with great intention, ideological force, and political power.
The second event, which received widespread popular attention as it erupted across the internet, was an ad for Gillette razors which received millions of online views, as well as condemnation and mockery from many observers. The ad campaign, “Men We Can Do Better” begins with shots of somber, guilty-looking men shaving and listening to the news reports of boys and men behaving badly. The ad then shows a montage of scenes of boys and men behaving badly, including shots of: men ogling women; an executive belittling and interpreting a female executive’s comments (also known as “mansplaining”); a group of boys chasing and attacking another boy; and two boys wrestling and fighting while a long line of men, standing behind barbecue grills, monotonously intone, “Boys will be boys.”
One of the main criticisms is that men don’t want the companies they buy from to lecture and preach at them. Others complain that the ad implies all men abuse, threaten and assault others, or that men stand idly by, excusing the bad actions of others. Over at The Blaze, Matt Walsh says the phrase “Boys will be boys” isn’t an excuse for bad behavior, but a cliché that contains truth and wisdom, “Boys will indeed be boys, and should be boys, and should be allowed to be boys without their natural boy-ness being constantly suppressed. Boys are energetic, aggressive, creative, competitive. They need safe and accepting outlets for these impulses.”
Chad Felix Greene, at The Federalist, takes a different view as he makes a key point in his column, “Gillette Ad Waxes Nostalgic About The Fathers The Left Has Yanked From Boys’ Lives.” He writes that for decades so-called “progressives,” along with overly sexual and violent entertainment, have mocked men and masculinity; denigrated marriage and family; and “encouraged several generations of young men to indulge their every desire outside of morality or social structures like marriage.”
As we reap the whirlwind, the Gillette ad shows the desire for men who will act in responsible, healthy manly ways. Rather than just castigating men for bad behavior, Greene believes the ad shows a “longing for the father figure they so arrogantly dismissed, mocked, and demonized decades ago.”
Greene, a conservative who is also gay-identified, is in some ways an unlikely ally. But on this issue he sees clearly. It’s not conservatives and Christians who’ve attacked men, masculinity, sexual standards, marriage and family. He writes,
Ironically, the concept of young men having confident, positive male role models is a conservative message and has been for a long time. It has been the progressive left and the media that encouraged several generations of young men to indulge their every desire outside of morality or social structures like marriage. …
In truth, conservative culture––Christian culture in particular––went to great lengths to protect young men from the cultural revolutions that shamed away sexual modesty, impulse control, and respect for parents. Conservatives were mocked for encouraging young men to remain virgins until marriage and advocating for courtship and including parents’ opinions and consent in decisions to date. In subsequent decades, every social norm instilled in young men regarding respectful treatment of women in public and private was challenged, shamed, and openly rejected by feminist social activists.
He’s right. Christians understand the good of men and masculinity, knowing that God created us in His image male and female. Men uniquely reflect something of who God is. And even though men and masculinity are marred by sin, both can be redeemed through relationship with Christ. Our biblical message is far better than the confused and ideologically driven statements from the APA. And with a biblical theology and practice that proclaims and demonstrates the good of redeemed masculinity, as Greene points out, we have something that the world is longing for.
For more reading and resources: