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1000 Black Lines

:: digital coffee stains on the paper of the blogosphere ::

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The American Male

From the chapter "Models of American Masculinity" author Weldon Hardenbrook details four models; The Tough Guy model (think John Wayne; always the lone, friendless victor), The Archie Bunker model (belittling his family to establish his personal worth), The Wimp model (i.e. Dagwood Bumstead, the submissive, can't-do-anything-right bum) and The Athlete model (self-worth through athletic achievements or athlete worship). He then concludes the chapter with this:

"These are not the only phony icons of masculinity... There is the Gender Bender, who invites men to trade their masculinity for the identity of unisex. There is the comedian, who hides his true self behind an endless stream of jokes... There is the little tycoon, who falsely equates masculinity with financial security and insulates himself from family and friends in a manipulative world of wheeling and dealing. But each of these images is just inappropriate... Following them has not helped the American male."

A friend of mine loaned me this book, Missing from Action: A Powerful Historical Response to the Crisis Among American Men, because I was struggling with the responsibilities of being a new father. I've never been a father before and I respected his advice. He seemed to be training his three children well and I thought he would be a great person to seek wise counsel. As a creative individual, I have found it difficult to find real male role models. At the university, I had an art teacher who really seemed to exhibit confidence and responsibility as male artist. How many times have you heard the expression; "He's an artist... he's in touch with his feminine side"? My art professor didn't seem to have a feminine side. He was very physical in his paintings and instructions; seemingly diving into a sketch or painting (and at times literally crashing into class with a wind swept appearance). I imitated his style of drawing, carried a black sketchbook around campus, and drew when and where ever I was able… in essence, I modeled myself under his creative shadow.

Though his impact upon my life is lasting, I still search for true masculinity in the art/lit community. A quick search through a local bookstore revealed several women's issues books, not to mention a weekly women's open-mic and on the purchase counter a 2005 women's artist calendar. The only men's issue books I found dealt with homosexuality, transgender oddities or the playboy lifestyle. Nothing really addressed the crisis among men in America. Based on Weldon Hardenbrook's searing analysis, I am patterned after The Athlete model; replacing athletic achievements for creative achievements in order to establish self-worth. In other words, please people by being bookish, artistically odd, arrogantly flamboyant or the misunderstood wounded poet.

I have almost completed reading this book. It has revealed that my journey toward true masculinity has only begun. I meditate on St. Paul the Apostle's exhortation: "I ask you to follow my example and do as I do. That is the very reason I am sending Timothy--to help you do this. For he is my beloved and trustworthy child in the Lord. He will remind you of what I teach about Christ Jesus..."

  1. Anonymous Rob Eppes | 7:43 PM, August 01, 2005 |  

    I came across your posting while preparing for an upcoming men's retreat which I facilitate periodically. Thanks for pointing me to the book and I will quote your comments in my next workshop. I see you posted this almost a year ago, hope you return to find this comment.

  2. Blogger 1000 black lines | 10:17 AM, August 02, 2005 |  

    Rob Eppes,

    Men's retreat... wow... do they exist? Yeah, I read Missing from Action about a year ago. I borrowed a copy from a guy at church ... liked it so much I tracked down a used copy on Amazon.com.

    I'm working on a follow-up article on this topic for an online journal. I'll post when it gets published. Thanks for planning to quote my comments during your workshop.

    Let me know how the retreat goes.

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