Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Masculinity and Leisure

Richard Beck, while reflecting on Mark Driscoll's appeal, makes the interesting thesis that education feminises men (HT Steve).  As many pastors tend to be well educated this means that male pastors have a tendency to be femininised, to the potential detriment of their ability to connect with blue collar "manly" males.  What is interesting is that Beck's criteria for the femininity of educated men are actually not to do with physical appearance or language (which you might consider primary in terms of interpersonal relationships) but are based on leisure.  Hence if a man chooses to take up knitting he is behaving in a feminine way, but if he prefers to hunt he is being more masculine.  So feminity here, while correlated to education, is actualy a function of leisure. 

This gave me some food for thought.  What is it about education that should cause men to change their leisure habits?  I am reasonably educated but I also love hunting, fishing, mountain biking, motorbikes and power tools.  But I don't get to do much of any of them because they are just not a priority for me. Instead most of my leisure time (and I don't get much due to having small children at home) gets spent doing things like reading, playing music, and soduku - I'm a girl!  It's not that I don't like doing manly things, I just don't have enough drive to do those things regularly.

Here's my stab at some pop-psychology:

Men who have acheived educationally tend to get jobs where they are affirmed in their competencies, respected, and given decision making power.  Thus while their jobs may not look especially "manly" they feel affirmed as men through their work and are free in their leisure time to do whatever they want, having expressed their masculinity satisfactorily through their work. 

On the other hand, blue collar workers, though doing man-ual labour, are often at the bottom of the tree in their working environments, undermined and with little power or authority when it comes to making decisions (and yes I have worked in both construction and manufacturing).  Hence they have a greater drive to use their leisure time for the purpose of reinforcing their masculinity.  These manly leisure activities generally involve asserting control over the environment (MTB or DIY!), machines (cars, bikes, computers) or over other creatures (hunting, fishing, coaching sports) and thus are designed to make up for what is lacking in the work place. 

Nietzsche might see that as a product of the will to power, but perhaps a Christian could see it as God's gift of dominion to humanity (Gen 1:26) trying to assert itself in frustrated men.  Let me know what you think :-)

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