Monday, September 12, 2005

A is for Archetype

Maleness has been cast in a particular light by the women’s movement. Because of their struggle against the traditional role that women held in society, some of those promoting women’s rights cast men in a negative light – men as violent, prejudiced oppressors. To energize their battle, women’s rights advocates had to malign men. Women have been successful in their struggle; today women can and do vote, own property, serve as judges, senators, heads of major corporations, and maybe someday president. This change was good. However, the casting of men in the villain role has continued to take hold of our media and our culture.

In this way the meme of the evil oppressor man used in the liberation of women has become malignant. The women’s movement and the media continue to cast men in a role of stupid, sex-driven, violent abusers, who discard women for ‘younger models’ at a moment’s notice, and could care less about how their children fare. Men supposedly can’t cook, take a temperature, or get their kids off to school on time, all while oppressing women in various ways with their purportedly superior financial and legal advantages. With the victory of the women’s rights movement, this view of the male has become the default view, and continues to spread through our culture; a meme that casts men as evil oppressors.

So a very important part of the job of the men’s rights movement must be to re-discern the nature of men – to show people what men really are, and differentiate the male from the evil oppressor meme. Statistics that illustrate actual male behavior are slowly becoming more public – those who read the studies are learning that men tend to be hardworking to a fault, self-sacrificing, generous and caring, tend to put themselves in harm’s way for the greater good, and die early due to their work. But to counteract the evil oppressor meme, we need more than statistics and studies – we must influence the zeitgeist – the spirit of our times, and to do that we need stories – archetypical stories that speak to people about the nature of men and influence how they think.

We need to:
1) Find stories that catch the imagination, and show the truth of maleness.
2) Grasp those facets of male truth and claim them as ours.
3) Share them widely with others.

Here is a traditional story from the world of Zen, elements of which are practiced by many men worldwide, that I think illustrates one facet of maleness. See if you agree.

Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him,
"Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know it's nature is to sting?"
"Because," the monk replied, "to save it is my nature."

Traditionally men are cast in a self-sacrificing role – a role of the hero. Some men find that role binding, especially in an age where women have equal rights and ‘no longer need’ a Hero, a Mr-fixit, a Car Tire Changer. But, I think the man-as-savior IS part of the archetypical man – a role so rooted in maleness that it cannot be eliminated. This is the other side of the ‘abuser’ coin, and the side which has more truth to it.

Let me phrase what I am trying to express in less theological terms: when you are lying in a ditch, bleeding, after an accident – what sex is the person that you would prefer to have to drive by and see you? And as a man, what role do you perceive yourself taking on if you are driving along that deserted road, and you see an accident? Does your response change depending on who the victims are? -Mostly not. The savior archetype is that strong. You try to save, irregardless of the victim, or the circumstances, or your schedule.

Perhaps men don’t HAVE to be the hero every time, just as men don’t necessarily have tools, or know how to change flats, but I do think that it is in men’s nature to save – to help others – and these other skills (like tire changing) are just ways in which one helps, and THAT is why they have become associated with maleness.


Further reading: The Masculist Meme.
This post was simulposted on MIsForMalevolent as H is for Hero.


Blogger Iguana said...

Great post!

9/12/2005 03:47:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Main