Last Updated on Sunday, 27 October 2013 20:37
Written by David Tacey
According to David Tacey, professor of Jungian and Pscyhoanalytic Studies at La Trobe University, Melbourne, traditional masculinity is suffering from a crisis of confidence and if humanity is to be renewed, masculinity needs a makeover. In this article, Tacey argues on the side of restraint reform, suggesting that there is a New Man in the making, who is a mixture of the best of traditional masculinity and the sensitivity and emotional expressiveness required in today's environment.
Traditional masculinity appears to be suffering from a crisis of confidence, and some are saying it is not before time. Many of the world's most serious problems and illnesses can be traced back to an exaggerated or distorted masculinity. The brutish spirit of "progress" that rides roughshod over nature, women, and indigenous peoples is largely a product of an heroic and conquistadorial masculine style. The fiercely striving, competitive, and exploitative temper that governs First World economics, commerce, and politics is a temper which is based in hegemonic masculinity. And the style of consciousness which is extraverted, outward, confined to rationality and the intellect is a consciousness that is one-sidedly masculine, having little or no room for non-heroic or receptive dimensions of human experience. If humanity is to be renewed, if we are to be saved from the world-conquering aggressive ego and from the heroic complex that drives us to the brink of self-destruction, then clearly masculinity has to be altered in some way. If we are to be saved from the spectre of ecological devastation, and from the push that would subdue the entire physical world in order to further the ego's short-term needs, then clearly traditional masculinity has to be checked and restrained.
Men have to realise that they are, or have been, deeply linked to a patriarchal heritage which now has to be challenged for the sake of life on earth. Men have to wake up from the patriarchal dream, realise what is wrong, and do something to promote a less hazardous and destructive world. However, this will involve men in a good deal of pain, self-questioning, anxiety, and uncertainty about themselves. Patriarchy is not simply an external social system or political authority, but an internal and emotional ideology by which we unconsciously construct our identities. In changing the world to ensure a better future, men will first have to unpack and unravel themselves, to identify the patriarchal and conquistadorial elements of our character, and consciously sacrifice these elements for the sake of the world. This is the hard work, the tough, inner work that must accompany any revolutionary desire to save or change the world. Some people are alarmed at how "internal" or "psychological" the popular revolution in masculinity is, and of course there are those who insist that all this internal work is indulgent or narcissistic. But I think the unpacking and unravelling of ourselves, the questioning and self-criticism, is absolutely essential if there is to be any real or full response to the critical situation that collective masculinity has placed us in.
I take it that men are, or have been, the beneficiaries of an unconscious patriarchal system that has given us status, privileges, and an emotional stability which must all be challenged as society moves forward to discover what a post-patriarchal social system could look like. As society slowly removes itself from the old patriarchal foundations, all of us, but especially men, are going to feel this emotional earthquake at the depths of our lives. In order for society to move ahead, there has to be pain and rupture, wounding and hurting, so that the old structures can be consciously identified and suffered, in the hope that transformation might occur. Coming to consciousness is always a painful activity, and any act of consciousness brings in its wake suffering and some despair. There is no easy way out of this, so that a popular men's movement that offers relief from despair and the removal of this suffering can readily be counted as a backlash against the times. We men have to recognise that we live in stormy times, that the stakes are high, and that the responsibility now rests with men to attempt a real change and to sacrifice some of the privileges of the past for the sake of a future world.
There are, it must be realised, two quite different tasks to be performed at this moment in time. The old, destructive masculinity must be allowed to die, and a new masculinity must be brought to birth. None of this will happen by itself, spontaneously, but it must be aided by consciousness and supported by a progressive culture. Men have to feel within themselves the enormity of the patriarchal heritage and the psychological and social problems to which it has given rise. Then, having identified the difficulty, there has to be a ritual separation from the past, and a mourning for the violations and abuses that have occurred "in the name of the father". After this shock, grief, and mourning, we then have to herald and celebrate a new beginning, get to work on the New Man, and positively explore the rebirth of masculinity - a new masculinity that won't end up in macho-heroics, hegemony, and world-destruction. Collective masculinity is suffering a kind of midlife crisis, and this crisis demands urgent and thorough measures: the old masculine self has to be Unmade, and masculinity has to be Remade, using the best elements from the past, together with new awarenesses from the present and future. This is the age-old pattern of all archetypal human experience: birth, death, and rebirth.
What we find in men's experience at the moment is that this process is not running smoothly, that it is fragmented and divided, and there is a good deal of confusion about what is right and wrong in the field of masculinity. The biggest problem of all is that the majority of men are still asleep. They are in deep, restful, undisturbed sleep, dreaming the patriarchal dreams, secure in their established cocoons, and not wanting to be woken up. Indeed, anyone who dares to disturb their slumber is immediately demonised as a tyrant or social terrorist. Whether the bearer of new tidings happens to be feminists, anxious to deliver a new awareness of gender inequity; or gays, keen to challenge the established norms about sexuality and identity; or ecologists, bringing news about the irreversible destruction to our physical environment: those who try to show that the patriarchal dream has turned into a nightmare are themselves viewed as the agents of destruction by the sleeping majority.
There is a small, but significant, and growing network of men whom I would like to call the Protesters or Criticisers. These men are often writers of protest and revolutionary literature, are often found in universities and colleges, in social work institutions, in ecological forums, in radical political debates, and in new paradigm communities. This group is usually highly educated, and through their education they have woken up from the patriarchal dream, and have profoundly registered the devastation and ruin, the cost of progress, and the terrible legacy of patriarchy. They have registered, and been moved by, the structural inequities between men and women, the brutal treatment of indigenous peoples in all countries, the violence perpetrated by men against society, women, and other men, and the abuse of the earth and its natural resources. Sometimes these men have their roots in Marxism, feminism, socialism, and other liberational movements. They understand that if change is to occur, the problems which surround us have to be identified, publicised, and communicated through the media, writing, education, and that often shock tactics have to be employed to force people to see what is going on. The task of this group is to radicalise the community by pointing to the enormity of the problems and the urgency of the need for action. At a symbolic level, the Criticisers are engaged in the ritual killing and burial of the old-style masculinity. Some outsiders view this activity as purely destructive, as antisocial and negative, but at its best, this work is liberational and vitally important to the larger health of the community.
There is another group of men, much larger than the Protesters, but also newly formed like them, and these I would like to call the Reborn Men, although Tom Morton calls them the Born-Again Blokes. These men eagerly seek new, positive, and clear directions in the development of a new masculinity. This group is much broader and more popular than the Criticisers, usually less educated, less bookishly intellectual, but certainly no less intelligent and no less committed to the Zeitgeist or spirit of the time. This group says: masculinity has taken a battering over recent decades, and has often been represented as villain or crook, but let's try to affirm a true or essential masculinity, one that is life-affirming, life-supporting, life-creating. The Reborn Men are extremely concerned about order, structure, and stability. They say: it is all very well for the Criticisers to tear down the old structures, but we need new structures to live by, new forms to identify with, and new myths to base our identities on. Enter here the so-called mythopoetic men's movement, also known as the spiritual or expressive men's movement. This tradition says that we should focus not on the negatives, but on the positives. How have men changed over recent years? What are we doing about change? How can the male recover pride and dignity? This tradition is hugely informed by pop psychology, the human potential movement, and the personal development movement. It speaks not about analysing and dissecting patriarchy, but about setting men free (which is the subtitle of Steve Biddulph's book Manhood). It speaks not the language of pointed analysis, but the language of rebirth and release, and it believes in a brighter future. It argues that men won't achieve anything at all unless their self-esteem is intact, unless men love themselves as men, unless relationships with other men are healed and nurtured, unless the son can reunite with his father.
Let me take the father/son relationship as an example of the differences between Popular and Critical approaches. In the popular forum, the emphasis is largely upon "healing" the father/son relationship, in reuniting sons with fathers, in helping sons to overcome their alienation and to feel "at one" with the father. In Australia, movement Steve Biddulph talks about "fixing it" with your father. This may make good personal therapy, but it often makes questionable sociology or politics. A rupture between father and son may not just be an emotional problem that has to be cured at the personal level. This rupture could well represent a cleavage between two different world-views, an old view and a new view. The father might represent, for instance, an old patriarchal style of being, one that could be described nowadays as sexist, chauvinist, and racist, and one that the son cannot agree with. The son's education and learning may make him critical of certain key features of his father's psychology, religion, cultural attitude, and general approach to life. Therefore, to heal this rupture for the sake of therapy is to achieve short-term, personal gain at the cost of long-term, social advancement. There is not enough awareness in our self-help literature or in our feel-good therapy about the larger political and social dimensions of existence. If we are to have social change, it has to bite at the personal level as well, we have to endure some of the shocks of the new, and the insecurity that comes from treading on new ground. The popular men's movement has yet to learn the central lesson of second-wave feminism: namely, that the personal is political, that the two cannot be separated and that suffering exists not only to be cured or got rid of, but also to break open our structures so that the new can be allowed to be born.
So while the Protesters set about to kill the father of tradition, the Reborn Men sometimes appear to be idealising the father, surrounding him in sentiment and a sickly halo that makes the necessary separation from the father almost impossible. While I don't think killing the father is such a good idea - that only gets the son into an Oedipal marriage with the mother - I do think that it is important to outwit, trick, or otherwise free ourselves from our bondage to the father. The father doesn't have to be killed; only our unconscious attachment to the father has to be "killed" or severed, and that loss has to be accepted and mourned.
The popular approach seems to want rebirth without death, sacrifice, or loss, and herein lies the limitation of the popular men's movement. There can be no true rebirth without the death and mourning of the old, and if there is not enough focus on the so-called negative aspects, then the "rebirth" tends to be bogus and suspect, a kind of re-gigged version of the old masculinity. So, for instance, in the popular celebration of the Wild Man in the forest, engaging in rituals of manhood and bonding with the natural elements and with other men: how do we know that any of this is transformative and new? What is the difference between a Wild Man having a profound spiritual experience, and an ordinary old-fashioned bloke in the bush having a redneck experience? In their desire to affirm men and to be upbeat, in the rush for positive experiences and spiritual highs, the important work of criticising the old masculine style is lost sight of, or is denigrated as negative and undermining. As I have indicated, if there is no true death and burial of the old, then the new is not genuine, and may simply be aspects of the old in new dress. To put this in religious language, we could say that there can be no Resurrection without first enduring the horror and the pain of the Crucifixion. The Crucifixion can never be popular, but will remain something that only a very few can directly observe and endure, because it cuts across the life-instinct in all of us. This religious symbolism, however difficult and unpopular, nevertheless speaks to us about a deeper and more profound wisdom. It is not a case of either/or, either death or rebirth, but of both/and; we must accept negativity and destruction before the new can be born.
For a number of years, I involved myself in these two very different discourses about masculinity. My intellect was naturally drawn to the Criticisers, and to the revolutionary and deconstructive project that they were attempting to pursue. My heart, however, was attracted to the Reborn Men, with their promise of spiritual growth and rebirth. In the popular domain, I participated in men's retreats, therapy workshops, and attempted to lead short courses in men's psychology. In this popular area, my discourse was Jungian, therapeutic, cathartic, confessional, and spiritual. In the more intellectual field, I wrote academic papers on masculinity, taught graduate courses on gender and patriarchal society, and engaged in a critical scrutiny of manhood. Here, my work tended to be influenced by feminism, antisexism, critical sociology, and political awareness. Both these worlds were parts of my larger, complex self, but they were not connected in any way. In each field, the people were different, the issues and attitudes were different, and the locations and expectations were different.
After some time in this schizophrenic mode, living on the one hand as Brother David, and on the other as Dr. Tacey, I decided I had to attempt to build some bridges between these opposite and competing worlds. I wanted to introduce some popular, "wetter", or "moist" considerations into my dry academic critique, and I wanted to introduce some feminist and gender-political concerns into the popular debates. At first I could not see that I was also attempting to introduce the life of my head to the life of my heart, and vice versa, and to attempt to move toward a personal wholeness that had been eluding me. I could see that the critical and popular debates needed to be leavened or complemented by elements from the opposite side: the academic work needed more heart, and the popular discussions needed a sharper and clearer intellectual focus.
Much Protest or Critical discourse betrays an appalling lack of human feeling. Academic discourse, which often smells a rat behind every masculine attribute, needs more affirmation, more concern about the human dimension of our experience, and a more heartfelt attempt to offer men some clues about where they can go from here, and how they can live. Academic analysis of masculinity can get so caught up in asking questions and in pointed analysis that it forgets that it has any responsibility to the ordinary human domain. It loses itself in abstractions and polemics, and its often dismal or depressing tone can become habitual and obsessive. The trouble with the Critical debate is that it fails to become self-critical, and its protest against masculinity can be unrelenting and even paranoid. If this happens, masculinity is blamed for ever imaginable evil, the penis becomes a symbol of rape and conquest, muscles mean the abuse of power, the father becomes a demonic patriarch, and all men become sinners, abusers, violators, and destroyers. In this kind of analysis, the old-style puritanical shaming discourse that we once associated with hardline religion has come home to roost in social analysis. I don't want to let masculinity or patriarchy off the hook, but I have read far too much literature in this extremist and exaggerated mode. What this extremism tells me is that the critical mind has not been tempered by the human heart, that the politics of suspicion have run wild, and that the usually humourless author has failed to turn his ironic gaze toward his own methodology and language. Let me confess here, however, that some of my own writing has been in this very mode, humourless, vindictive, judgemental, controversial, and often underpinned by a politics of guilt. Excuse me, but I'm a guilty, white, middle-class male, and my discourse is sometimes tinged with self-loathing. All of us who work in masculinity research know about this trap, realise how easy it is to fall into it, and we must surely by now recognise that it is one of the hazards of the trade.
The Popular approach suffers from different kinds of excess. This approach is generally not interested in the voluminous and growing critical literature on masculinity, since has its separate, quite different literature, made up of books that offer programmes and schedules about how to become a better man, how to develop a true masculinity, how to fix it with your father, your partner, your children, and especially your sons. The politics of affirmation and therapy, if taken too far and divorced from any critical sense, can actually start believing in its own publicity, can start seeing the world in terms of lists and catalogues, diagrams and models. Popular discourse often ends up in how-to manuals and books that provide mind-crushingly simple recipes for change and rebirth. Popular affirmation moves quickly into answers and ready-made solutions; whereas academic suspicion is constantly hanging back from this domain, always asking questions and more questions, trying to muddy the waters with more complexity, more irony and contradiction. It was Edward Said who said that the role of the modern intellectual is not to come up with answers, but to ask the right questions.
The Popular forum needs to tone itself down, to promise less to its readers, to start questioning its simple categories, and to open up more to the complexity of masculine experience. The popular writings display an optimism about masculinity that I often find shallow and glib. They seem to think that, with a little bit of fine tuning and a large dose of good intentions, masculinity is set to bounce back with great confidence and pride. This new tradition announces "good news" to its readers, and usually lists five, eight, or ten steps to follow, so that a man can achieve a truly satisfying manhood. However, commercial reasons often prevent the popular writing from getting beyond cliches, moving into greater detail and depth, and going beyond a crass optimism. I know for a fact that publishers tell the popular writers to keep it simple, stick to eight dot-points, and promise the readers the world. The more simple, straightforward, and stridently positive a book is, the more it is assured of massive sales. In times of social change and gender instability, the appetite for security and certainty is enormous, and anyone who confidently asserts that he knows how men should behave is instantly converted into a public celebrity.
But there is generally no hint of irony in the Popular approach, no awareness that the achievement of authentic masculinity in a post-patriarchal context is in fact problematical, complex, and remarkably difficult. Moreover, there is considerable resistance in this field to linking up feeling with thinking, or to introducing historical perspectives on men's experience. When men are engaged wholly with their newly-discovered feeling, there is little or no tolerance for discussion about society as a whole, the political situation, or the history of patriarchy. When I venture to suggest that masculinity is at least partly a product of society, an often unconscious ideology that we enact but rarely see for what it is, some men can quite abruptly tell me to stop the intellectual wanking, stop defending against what we are feeling. This is when I too can get angry. Why is it that the heart is seen as real, but the intellect is seen as unreal? And if the men's movement participants claim to be so concerned about the heart, why is it that this heart is so obsessively personal, me weeping because of a bad connection with my dad, or because of a failed relationship years ago, and not me weeping because my masculinity is intimately tied up with the mess that the whole world is in? The heart of the popular discourses is alarmingly narrow, constricted, personalistic, and not reaching out to the pathos in society and the world.
The resistance that many men feel toward acknowledging the bleak legacy of collective masculinity is at least in part analogous with the resistance that some Australians feel to apologising for the mistreatment of Aboriginal people at the hands of white settlers. The popular conservatives in debates about gender and race say this: Look, it isn't my fault that the Aborigines were poorly treated, it isn't my fault that patriarchy has oppressed women and abused the land and its resources; therefore, let's get over this guilt trip we are laying on ourselves and get on with a bright future. Some resist what has been called the "black arm-band" view of Australian history, and many in the popular men's movement are similarly resisting the "black arm-band" view of masculinity. There is, in both gender and race debates, an expression of what Freud would call a "refusal to mourn". Freud argued that a refusal to mourn is a sign of immaturity and infantilism. The infant refuses to mourn because he or she refuses to accept change, the passing of time, and the passing of a significant other. To mourn is to accept that one is part of an ongoing process, that one is vulnerable and in the flux of time, and eventually one's own passing will have to be mourned by others.
It is not true that an appropriate mourning will cripple society or stifle progress. It is not true that an appropriate acceptance of shame or guilt will damage us, that we will be crushed by what we are forced to admit. Atonement, apology, mourning for the wrongs of the past - all these are redemptive experiences if we allow ourselves to face them honestly and directly. These are crucial elements of the Crucifixion, without which no Resurrection becomes possible. If the talk about rebirth is appropriately linked up with the realities of death or loss, these realities won't abolish the optimism of rebirth, but it will ground that optimism in the soil of actual experience. Optimism will be tempered, toned down, but not destroyed, by the realities of history, time, and society. I believe there can be no real progress without revisiting the past, and facing the dark side in both gender and race debates. and then moving ahead from our woundedness with a desire to seek a new kind of development in gender or race. To deny this history is to deny rupture, to gloss over the travails of the past, and to betray the social revolutions of the 1960s and 70s. It is fashionable at the moment to go back to the 1950s and beyond, but I for one want to keep the lessons of the 60s and 70s firmly in our minds, and to build a new social awareness which does not betray our own revolutionary ruptures. I would like to think that the popular focus on men's healing and well-being might actually come together with, learn from, and be transformed by, the critical focus on the history of masculinity, men's power, and the politics of patriarchy. When thinking and feeling finally come together in men, we may actually end up with a men's movement we can be proud of, rather than one that most scholars and thinkers are merely embarrassed by.
The key to the truth of men's experience, as to so much else in life, is paradox. We need to be aware of the past and the present at one and the same time. We need to be alert to man's external, political reality, and to his internal, spiritual reality at the same time. We also have to Unmake and Remake men at the same time; the Crucifixion and the Resurrection are happening simultaneously in the complexity of our experience, there is no clear moment where the one ends and the other takes over, and this leads to the awareness of life as a complex and multi-dimensional thing. On the one hand our Humpty Dumpty, our egg-headed masculinity, has fallen off the wall; on the other hand Humpty Dumpty has to be put together again. Only here is the rub: in putting-together-again, we have to do this in a completely different way. The New Masculinity must be decidedly new, otherwise we are just repackaging the old and making a farce of turmoil and change.
I don't have a grand plan or a programme for making the new male, but I do have an intuition that the new male must experience his masculinity in a new way, not based on the old oppositional formula, and not in opposition to femininity. Femininity must not merely be projected upon women, but also internalised and "owned" as a new, perhaps foreign, but nonetheless accessible dimension of the male psyche. Instead of defining itself in opposition to femininity, I am interested in how masculine and feminine can, as psychological principles, come together in the one man, producing a kind of psychological androgyny. This is what I call the "revolution in masculinity", not how to turn us all into towering figures of strength, not how to turn the sensitive male into Iron John or John Wayne, but how to break down the old masculinity that refuses femininity, and to get it into intimate and transformative dialogue with the feminine.
The Australian Stereotype of Masculinity
In Australia, we have an especially large amount of work to do, because here masculinity has been based on a wilful contradiction of what has been perceived as "feminine" qualities. Until fairly recently, the worst insult that could be levelled against a man in this country was that he was behaving "like a girl", that he was as "moody" or as "changeable" as "a woman", that he was "feminine", or worse, "effeminate". In the late nineteenth century, the social ideal of masculinity was personified by Henry Lawson's pioneer Bushman. The Bushman was laconic (he didn't say much), stoical (never complained, little expression of feeling), and had manly endurance (completed a project without concern about personal well-being). These traits were undoubtedly useful and important in the context of nineteenth-century pioneering Australia, when we were building a society in a continent often perceived to be hostile or at least indifferent to human habitation. The "manly man" was an ideal of a progressive and materialist society, a society which placed little value on introspection, self-development, or the ethics of psychological wholeness.
Over recent years, the stereotype of the manly man has been collapsing, as our society has changed from a pioneering outpost of European civilisation to a post-industrial society dominated by computers, electronic offices, and service industries. The entire economic and social basis of society has changed, and with it there has been a change in the construction and identity of masculinity. Today, for instance, we are more likely to place value upon the expression of emotion and feeling, rather than to expect emotions to be controlled or limited by a manly will. Working from a new "therapeutic" ethic that we have probably inherited from the United States and from European psychoanalysis, we no longer idealise the character traits that were at the cornerstone of traditional masculinity. Laconicism is likely to be viewed today as self-imposed alienation, stoicism as paranoid self-reliance, and manly endurance as over-achievement linked to poor self-esteem. The new ethic demands that men break out of the iron-clad Ned Kelly mask and open their hearts to life.
But also, since the advent of 1970s feminism, women have rightly refused to be burdened by the emotional projections of men, now that women themselves are playing an increasing role in the social-political sphere and in paid employment, and can no longer afford to carry the 'other half' of men's lives. Men are, consequently, being thrown back upon themselves. We are being introduced to a realm of emotion and feeling that, as a gender, we have not been prepared for, neither by our fathers nor by social history.
In Australia, the popular men's forum is hugely concerned with the exploration of men's pain, and this is an historic departure in its own right, since traditionally the male has not embraced the realm of feeling, let alone publicly grieved for a series of bad, hurtful, or disappointing relationships. There is so much pain in the male psyche that it is high time that men took this pain seriously, before it destroys us. Some men who glimpse their pain are incapacitated, lost, depressed, and some find the emotional chaos so overwhelming that they commit suicide. Australia has one of the highest rates of male suicide and depressive illness in the world - we are just behind New Zealand and Norway in this alarming statistic. The high rate of suicide, which actually increases as we leave the big cities and move into the country, where models of masculinity are more limited and macho, indicates to me that the masculine mystique, and the magic glow of mateship, is over, and men can no longer live from outworn stereotypes and repress their emotional and spiritual lives in the usual way.
In one sense we could say that Australian men are united by their unshed tears. There are a lot of tears to be shed by men, not just for the injustices perpetrated by patriarchy upon women, children, nature, and indigenous cultures, but also for the injustices perpetrated on the so-called "feminine" side of men's own psychological characters. This feminine side Jung has called the "anima", which is the Latin word for "soul", and men need to win back not only their own feminine side, but also their capacity to relate to the women in their lives. However, the men who are still asleep will look upon this new caring and sensitive imperative as utmost stupidity. Patriarchal men, or what Robert Bly calls "1950s" men, will continue to see the expression of emotion as weakness, or as "unmanly". The academic boys would disapprove for different reasons: with their relentless focus on social and political problems, they would probably read any real attempt to come to terms with feeling as emotional self-indulgence, too "wet" for their dry tastes. Of course, there is also the response of the so-called SNAG, or Sensitive New Age Guy, who has not so much "integrated" the feminine dimension, as he has been overwhelmed by it.
The SNAG is the man who has stripped off the Ned Kelly armour, who has responded to the changed demands and tastes of the age, yet who has lost touch with his masculinity in the process. He stands naked and forlorn, and today no-one wants to own him, let alone love him. He doesn't manage his emotions well, but often wallows in them, and he can never decide what to wear, how to feel, or who to be.
The SNAG will sometimes say in his defence: "But I have done what women have asked for". "In recent years, women have pleaded with men to become more sensitive, more expressive of our feelings; now they turn around and say we are not attractive to them any more because we have lost our masculinity". "Our newly discovered sensitivity is described as wimpishness".
Some men have mistakenly assumed that they must replace the old-style masculinity with pure sensitivity. They have moved from one extreme to another, which is just as undesirable. However, the real task is not to throw out masculinity altogether, but to sift through the masculinity of the past, rejecting those aspects that are domineering, overpowering, or exaggerated, while maintaining and redeeming the positive elements of the old ideal, including resourcefulness, courage, independence, reliability, and moral sinew. To these redeemed or reconstructed elements, the modern man has to add sensitivity and emotional expressiveness. This is perhaps a tall order, but it is the way ahead.
The popular men's movement, with its emphasis on the Wild Man within and on what Robert Bly calls the "deep male", has made a concerted effort at retrieving or winning back the positive masculine attributes of the past. Bly has felt that sensitive new men have become suspicious even of the positive dimensions of maleness, and that they have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. This may in fact be the case, but the subtleties and complexities of this process have still to be worked out. I do not think that Robert Bly's Iron John represents the New Man, simply because he represents an archaic remnant of the pre-modern psyche, and the New Man has to be complex, containing both past and present, masculinism and feminism, the crucified hero and the resurrected spirit.
I think there is a New Man in the making, and this New Man is a mixture of the best of traditional masculinity, plus the sensitivity and emotional expressiveness that is being demanded in today's environment. The SNAG is a kind of weak parody of the "femininity" that the New Man must have, just as Iron John is a shocking parody of the "masculinity" that must be mustered in order to produce change. One we overcome our tendency to split a paradox into two warring halves, to convert paradox into contradiction, we will be on our way to recovery and wholeness. But the New Man will be closely scrutinised, carefully watched, and he will have more than his fair share of critics. This is to be expected, since masculinity is now 'the problem', and many of the world's political and environmental ills are being attributed to an unrepentant and conquistadorial masculinity. The manly thing to do, in the current situation, is to experiment with new varieties of masculinity, not to be too thin-skinned about the inevitable criticism, and to aim for a wholeness of character in which the virtues of the past are brought together with the demands of the present.