Back in 2013, a group of sociologists came up with the phrase, “Overdoing Gender,” in describing men who think their masculinity is in doubt, then respond by emphasizing traditional masculine traits. In the study, threatened masculinity was linked to “support for, and desire to advance in dominance hierarchies” and “belief in male superiority.” Some have seen Donald Trump as a symbol of overdoing gender. Without a doubt, masculinity has become part of the national conversation during this political season.
David Frum writing as a sympathetic voice of Trump supporters, offered this explanation for Trump’s appeal to Millennial men. “We feel masculine traits are devalued everywhere. It’s more than just, ‘Oh, the dad’s a jerk in commercials.’ Rather like gay people a generation ago, young men today feel that they’re being treated as if they were born wrong. We didn’t live through the Reagan years. We’ve never seen a man’s man in politics before.” Trump’s confidence and bravado, seem to be hallmarks of masculinity. “Through them he convinces people that he’s correct, in control and trustworthy, even when his words are false or misleading.”
It seems to me that Donald Trump is tapping into a deep, unspoken sentiment among men in our culture, which they suppress because of the fear of being political incorrect, yet wanting to recover a failed manhood of the past. There is a feeling that society is penalizing men for being male. A revolution in gender relations, in which traditional notions of manhood are being questioned is now exerting greater influence in day to day relationship between men and women. American men are becoming more anxious about their ability to prove their manhood through traditional means. Upward mobility, providing financially, feeling in control of one’s destiny have all been bastions of masculinity. Much of this is now threatened.
Men, we cannot turn back the clock to a more comfortable time for being a man in our society, nor should we become defensive, but rather celebrate the meaningful gains women, minorities, and the marginalized have achieved in our culture. We especially should not act in “the overdoing gender” mode. I must confess that I am tempted to “overdo” by defending and justifying my status as a man in our culture. Men, hear me. We as wildmen have no need to be defensive, in an attempt to prove our masculinity.
The cry of this blog is for men to come to rest in their relationship with Jesus, as they receive the healing word of their heavenly Father, affirming their unique, God-given masculine souls. Rather then striving and overcompensating as men of God we are called to deny ourselves, that is, give up all of our self improvement projects, allowing the Spirit of God to transform us from the inside out.
Jesus tells us, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matt 16:24-25). Remember men, it is by descent, that is, denying ourselves that we find our true masculine strength. Ascent, depending in our self improvement projects, only reinforces a insecure and defensive view of our masculinity.
As a 75 year old male, I refuse to become defensive about my masculinity. I desire to be more and more formed in the image of Christ, not into some cultural stereotype. Jesus reassures me, “My grace is enough: it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness” (II Cor 12:8 – Message).