Alice von Hildebrand C.S. Lewis
Reclaiming Our Masculine Identity Part 1: The Emasculation of Man6:00:00 AMJonah Soucy
What does it mean to be a man?
If you were to ask this question to a handful of random college students across the country, you would probably get a wide range of answers. It’s an important question that we need to address, because our outlook on the human person as a culture is going to deeply affect the direction and movement of our world. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this play out in a couple really deadly ways. Over the last couple decades, the image of man has been degraded. On one hand, there’s this world viewpoint that “men are pigs”. We see this cry in some of the more radical feminist groups out there, but we also feed into it when we fully embrace movies like “Superbad”, which centers around two high school boys trying to get ahold of alcohol for a party so they can lose their virginity(presumably by getting a couple woman intoxicated enough to “consent”). The epidemic of pornography , which does violence to the most intimate sphere of the person, is a large part of the problem as well. It teaches men (and women) to forsake true intimacy and treat themselves as no more than a means for pleasure.
Unfortunately, It doesn’t stop there. On the other hand we have the image of man as a lazy idiot being shoved in our face. Think of shows such as Family Guy, which depict the main male character as a bumbling moron, or the countless other tv shows which display men as nothing but football obsessed, overgrown children who would rather seek the easy way out of a situation then work for something. Of course, these depictions are a form of hyperbole, blown way out of proportion for the sake of comedy; however, there is a sad truth at the heart of it. Most boys these days never grow up to be men. Things such as responsibility and commitment, which used to be seen as crucial elements to growing up, are now put off for as long as possible.
In her book Man and Woman: A Divine Intervention, Alice von Hildebrand writes about another sort of distortion, one in which we see so many men fall into: that of becoming a brute. Unlike the man who is piglike or lazy, the brutish man is one who has become cold-hearted out of a misguided sense that tender emotions are contemptible. “His noble male heart became a desert in which feelings, however noble, failed to blossom. How many men, deluded by a foolish machismo, view “feelings” -compassion, tenderness, or contrition- as being despicable signs of female weakness?” (1) Humility and pity are signs of a great soul, despite what philosophers like Nietzsche say, who claim they are unworthy of noble men. C.S. Lewis calls these brutish types “men without chests”. He writes of how trends in culture and philosophical thought cultivate these men, while it is the heart which plays such a crucial role in a man’s life. He writes “You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and honor.” (2)
Lewis’ book was published over fifty years ago. Today, the problem is made even worse in that our culture has seemingly given up on asking for that dynamism and drive. It promotes self-fulfillment as one of the greatest goods, yet doesn’t give the means to do it. In reality it turns into selfishness. Relativism and individualism have made us so narcissistic as a people that anything that makes us uncomfortable is immediately classified as intolerant. Fifty years ago the majority of young men were willing to fight and die for their country. Today we need safe zones on our college campuses in case people are offended. Authentic masculinity doesn’t shy away from petty challenges. Authentic masculinity doesn’t cut corners. Authentic masculinity is true to itself and doesn't back down from the challenge of facing what the world says it is.
This blog post is not meant to show every avenue in which masculinity has been attacked. One could write an entire book about the topic and still not cover everything. What I have sought to show is that authentic masculinity is under attack. This attack demands a response. My next post will elaborate more on what authentic masculinity looks like; from there we will look at how authentic masculinity can respond to these challenges.
- Alice von Hildebrand, Man and Woman: A Divine Invention p. 11
- C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man p. 26