Recently I was watching sports on TV, when I saw the #EvolveTheDefintion TV spot. The first image was the word “masculine,” as an adjective: “having qualities or appearance traditionally associate with men, especially strength and aggression.” Some of the synonyms recited by various men included, macho, manly, muscular, well-built, red-blooded, strapping, strong, brawny, powerful. A young man appears who said in a rather confused manner, “none of these sound like me.”
The ad was created for Bonobos, which claims to be the largest clothing brand ever built on the web in the US. The name comes from Bonobo, formerly called the pygmy chimpanzee, which is now an endangered great ape. In the attempt to sell men’s clothing, Bonobos intends to offer the best shopping experience in the world. “Your search for the perfect fit ends here” is their claim.
In order to appeal to all men, Bonobos created #EvolveTheDefintion as a project, “that uses the voices of real people to start a conversation around the narrow definition of masculine, its limitations, and how we can expand it to be more inclusive.” Men are encouraged to, “add [their] voice and help create a world where every man fits…….Masculinity isn’t a fixed thing, but an acquired identity. There is no one way of being a man and there never has been one.”
Remember advertising on TV is carefully crafted after much research and careful evaluation as to what the popular culture believes about a subject. From the first blog I wrote almost nine years ago, my concern was to articulate a Christian perspective regarding the masculine soul in contemporary life. This ad is proof positive that masculinity is in crisis. We have lost confidence in the masculine in the West. Striving to be more inclusive will only bring more confusion.
I write to reassure any man reading this blog who might be questioning his masculinity. I strongly reject the notion of masculinity being “an acquired identity.” We are created in our uniqueness to be masculine. Writing at The Gospel Coalition, Brett McCracken writes, “Men and female are not fluid, easily interchangeable constructs we fashion from below. Rather, they represent a complementary unity from above: one that goes beyond bodily or even gendered polarity. It is a complementary unity that reflects the structure of the wider world and the God who created it.”
We read in Genesis 5:1-2, “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them ‘man.'” “Gender,” C. S. Lewis observes, “is a reality, and a more fundamental reality than sex…..Masculine and Feminine meet us on planes of reality where male and female would be simply meaningless.” God has created you in all of your glorious uniqueness to be a man. Your gender is masculine. Celebrate that reality as you also celebrate the opposite; the feminine.
I have learned through much trail and error the wisdom of Leanne Payne. Masculinity is bestowed more than taught. What has this meant for me? First, I accept myself, with all my warts, as uniquely created in God’s image as a male. Secondly, I have found affirmation for my masculine soul, knowing that I have a Father in heaven who delights and is fond of me. Thirdly, I continue to open my soul to the work of the Spirit in bring healing to my wounded masculine soul so that I can stand confidently in my uniqueness as a man. Fourthly, I learned years ago to be among godly, affirmed men, so that I might “taste” their godly male presence.