A Thought Adventure

Thursday, February 11, 2016

36. Manhood

Isn’t it amazing that politicians who change their minds or hesitate about what course to take are being accused by many of weakness and loss of prestige? To such people the most admirable quality in a leader appears to be the capacity to be so dead sure of oneself as to inspire fear. I thought any reasonably mature person realized that cocksureness spells self-importance, closed-mindedness and error of judgment. That good decisions are born of scruple and doubt, agony and struggle--anything at all that fosters inner deliberation and reconsideration. And, consequently, that the really admirable quality in any decision-maker--i.e., in any adult human being--is the courage to admit uncertainty yet have the resolve to defy it.

If anything should be the subject of vigorous debate, it’s the meaning of true manhood,  which is a topic hopelessly trapped in clichés. A debate based on the undeniable fact that the sexes have all the human qualities in common--intelligence in varying degrees, courage and cowardliness, aggressiveness and protectiveness, etc.The sexes may (or may not) express these qualities differently, but since both are equipped with the same human psyche, no quality belongs to only one sex. 

The psyche is bisexual
As Martine Rothblatt points out in her book The Apartheid of Sex, A Manifesto on the Freedom of Gender, there are only a few “immutable and irreducible” sex differences, all having to do with reproduction. Persons producing more male than female hormones are male, and vice versa. These dissimilarities are reflected in their bodies and the claims these make on them, but not in a brain sex difference. And since the different behaviors of the sexes mostly stem from their having been socialized differently, nothing prevents them from unlearning them and choosing behaviors that suit their individual personalities better. As gays do, e.g., when adopting the fashion of the opposite sex.

Because at the dawn of consciousness humanity became so enamored with their newly discovered, so-called ‘masculine’ mental powers and looked down their noses at the ‘feminine’ instinctive powers, the two never managed to form what could be called a healthy symbiosis. Note that the word ‘symbiosis,’ which has come to stand for an unhealthy dependence between individuals, really means “the intimate living together of two dissimilar organisms in a mutually beneficial relationship.”

But today we know, thanks to modern neuroscience, that everybody‘s brain, men’s as well as women‘s, has both a left and a right hemisphere. One thinks in logical step-by-step sequences and is responsible for language, the other thinks in images, grasps the totality of a given situation and is responsible for artistic creation. Each brain half feels, thinks and remembers in its own unique way, and, according to measurements of their rate of metabolism, both are doing the same amount of work.

Yet we haven’t fully fathomed that, despite being opposite, these two brain halves are complementary and that it’s up to us to integrate them. That before making decisions we must listen as much to information coming from the right as from the left side of the brain. Learn to identify the famously misnamed female principle (like intuitive knowledge, passion, creativity) NOT with women but with instinctive stuff; and the equally misnamed male principle (like logical reasoning, objectivity, reflection) NOT with men but with mental stuff. To grasp, once and for all, that both sexes have both principles. Because once we do, we’ll see how much we have in common and how little reason there is for the sexes to distrust and disparage one another.

Some cultures have understood this better than others. The Greeks see a metaphor for the psyche’s diverging trends in the two gods Dionysus, the pantheistic god of nature and emotion, and
Apollo, the Olympian god of order and intellect. Writes Camille Paglia in her book Sexual Personae, "The quarrel between Apollo and Dionysus is the quarrel between the higher cortex and the older limbic and reptilian brains." The Chinese see all contrasts (good and bad, high and low, male and female) as false distinctions since they can’t exist without each other; and so, when driven to extreme, each of the polar forces in human nature (called yin and yang) naturally flows over into the other.

In Gilmore’s universal survey Manhood in the Making two cultures stand out from the rest in that they lack sexual differentiation and role-playing. Masculinity is not a matter of concern to either the Tahitians or the Semai people of central Malaysia. They practice no warfare, devalue ambition (because the economy is cooperative) and men show no interest in defining themselves as different from or superior to women. Tahiti men are no more aggressive than women and just as soft or maternal; bravado of any sort is antithetical to the moral systems of Semai men.

So to find qualities that define true manhood, what about trying out the human ones? Maybe a Truly Manly Man is simply a Truly Human Human Being of the Male Sex. An individual, a unique living being equipped with a potential whose unknown ingredients are his, and only his, to probe, develop and put to use. Perhaps someone like the whole-bodied and ‘whole-souled,’ loose-limbed and free kind of male that Carl Sandburg conjures forth in his mischievous poem Wilderness? 

"O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony head, under my red-valve heart - and I got something else: it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and a mother and a lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where—For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness.”

But how can we discuss the concept of manhood without taking into account how it's affected by the concept of womanhood? See next post.

I welcome feedback and would love for you to leave a comment. You can post a comment below this article or you can click on this article's headline.
For the full blog click originofsexism.blogspot.com 

No comments:

Post a Comment

I welcome feedback, please leave a comment!