August 4, 2022 Wayne Northey

Thoughts on: Opinion | Josh Hawley’s problem with masculinity

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Columnist| August 3, 2022

image above: The House Jan. 6 committee shows a photo of Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, during a hearing. (Al Drago/Bloomberg)

WN: Esther, my wife, and I have had the privilege of running two 15-week men’s groups (called “Home Improvement”) a year for the past five years. It’s been a rare privilege to journey with men who have harmed partners, etc., and for the most part really want to change for the better.

We look in part a lot at what North American culture generally promotes about manhood, and why much of it is toxic. Based on that experience, I came up with a little aphorism:

In many cultures it takes a real man to not act like “a real man” according to those cultures.

You may read and view videos about our program, and the overseeing work done by British Columbia | Mennonite Central Committee Canada, here:

One of the things that stands out is the oft-repeated comment, that men wish this had been taught in school. Some men in our program return 3, 4 times and more for a kind of top-up/maintenance challenge. We return home each evening, invariably commenting on how privileged we feel in doing this work. Most men in our experience genuinely want to change. Many do, exploding the myth that abusive men cannot change. Like Mark Twain once wrote about infant baptism:

We believe men can change. Hell, we’ve seen it!

Then there are the Josh Hawley‘s; the deceased Rush Limbaugh‘s; the Alex Jones‘ of this world who cannot themselves live up to the manhood values they espouse; who fumble and mumble in court when they’re getting sued; who run from the January 6 mob just further incited by them: in short–they have no clue of what decent, bona fide, real manhood looks like.

Yet, they make/influence their millions; dupe their acolytes into relationship-destroying engagements with partners and family members; and generally spew and promote hatred, are hugely fearful of, and sickeningly malevolent towards, the “other.”

And so much of this is cloaked in the garb of “Christianity.” It is in quotation marks because, baldly, they are profoundly anti-Christ, embracing to varying degrees the utter oxymoron: Christian Nationalism.

There is much on this website about such a grand betrayal and travesty of Jesus’ teachings and example. Besides clicking on the highlighted in the last sentence, there is much to chew on in:

All those named above would immensely benefit from our Home Improvement Program. They (except Mr. Limbaugh) are hereby invited to sign up for one of our sessions. 😉  I fear though they will demur. For they present as hollow men, with all kinds of bluster to be sure, but as insubstantial as wind-blown chaff. They chafe alright. But they present along the lines of Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a ringing gong or a clanging cymbal.

Theirs is indeed an empty gong show, full of soul- and humanity-destroying “cymbalism,” signifying nothing good . . . They in fact personify the famous Shakespearean soliloquy‘s last lines:

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow

Life’s but a  . . . tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

Idiots all indeed, the above specimens of a sick humanity who live only in a forever-disappeared yesterday, yesterday, yesterday. (“And all [their] yesterdays have lighted fools/The way to dusty death.“) May all they stand for come back to haunt them enough to induce change of their wicked ways, and may their ideologies die a decisive dusty death . . .

So you men, please sign up for our course. The only beginning of the road to true freedom there is, awaits. As I have written elsewhere:

Christian faith offers the grand privilege of sidestepping one’s grasping Ego in favour of a True Self. This alone yields the only ultimate liberty worth embracing.

The above contains the wisdom of the very best in all spiritualities; an offer not to miss . . .

All the above in another way expressed:

Just grow up, you guys! (I dare you . . .)

excerpts:

Ever since the Jan. 6 committee showed that video of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) running from the insurrectionist mob he’d earlier encouraged with a fist in the air, we’ve all had a good laugh at his expense. I mean, who doesn’t like a manhood-obsessed hypocrite getting a well-deserved public comeuppance?

But as clownish as Hawley comes across, we dismiss him at our own risk. He is selling a vision of masculinity to White America that has much more to do with prejudice than manliness. It’s an old story — but a successful one, and one that’s poised to catch on. Stopping that from happening will require offering an alternative, with better examples of what being a man really means.

This vision of masculinity is as much about being White as it is about being a man.

During a recent interview, Jason Kander, an Afghanistan War veteran who in 2018 stepped away from rising success in the Democratic Party to tend to his mental health, broke down his fellow Missourian’s plan. Hawley, he said, “is positioning himself, and therefore his movement — his far-right, White-guy movement — as, ‘If you’re a man, then you believe in these things.’” These things, you could probably guess, are archconservative values such as the patriarchy, opposition to women’s bodily autonomy, support exclusively for heterosexual marriage, an aversion to labor organizing. In other words, as Kander told me via email later, Hawley is “making manhood synonymous with conservatism.”

This vision of masculinity is as much about being White as it is about being a man.

Jonathan Metzl, author of “Dying of Whiteness,” says Hawley’s harping on masculinity is a new version of an old game.

There has been a crisis of White masculinity since the ’50s, and every decade it gets rearticulated through similar themes. This crisis casts White men as victims against competition by women and non-White men in the labor market, Metzl wrote in an email. But Trump, the NRA, Tucker Carlson, Jordan Peterson and others have brought White male anxiety into the mainstream with the message that we are going to fight back as aggressively as possible. And, of course, casting yourself as a victim then obviates recognition of how you are in many cases the aggressor.

Kander’s memoir isn’t meant to be a manhood manual. Yet in writing openly about dealing with the trauma that had him contemplating suicide, and giving space to his wife, Diana, to write about how everything affected her, Kander incidentally presents a refreshing version of masculinity, one that views vulnerability as a virtue on the endless journey to being the best man one can be for one’s family and community.

This is the opposite of what Hawley hawks. He has bemoaned what he calls “the left’s assault on the masculine virtues” and how this “crisis for men … [is] a crisis for the republic.” These wrongheaded themes will no doubt be the foundation of his forthcoming book, “Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs.”

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