Concerns about “Authentic Masculinity”

Over the past decade or so, there has been an explosion of books, sermons, classes and other materials dedicated to teaching “Authentic Masculinity.” Exactly what this means is hard to say, but the common element is a desire to reintroduce a “masculine” element to their churches.

I have a couple of concerns about this: First, whether these materials tend to teach a true theological anthropology; Second, a pragmatic concern about whether they can even work.

Theological concern

There is an open question regarding the degree to which “masculine” and “feminine” categories are universal and the degree to which they are cultural. I don’t intend to take a firm position on the subject.

What I will note is that huge parts of Christian history consist of teaching “masculine” culture the “feminine” virtues of Christianity. We see this even in the lives of individual saints like Ignatius of Loyola and Francis of Assisi.

While it is true that “Authentic Masculinity” materials tend to denounce machoism, they also promote the idea that an “authentic man” always takes the initiative, and is “wild at heart.” These are, at the least, questionable ways of representing Christ, the perfection of humankind both masculine and feminine. For I am meek and humble of heart.

Pragmatic concern

Then, of course, there is the question of whether it works at all to try teaching masculinity. I can only cite my own experience. But I’ve found that it was precisely when I stopped caring about fitting into the “authentically masculine” mold that I found myself acting in a way that was both masculine and characteristically myself.

That’s not to say that I’m now a “real man.” It is to say (repurposing Lewis):

No man who bothers about masculinity will ever be masculine: whereas if you simply try to do the right thing (without caring twopence how whether it is the masculine thing to do) he will, nine times out of ten, be masculine without ever having noticed it.

And I’m pretty sure that the same thing is true of “authentic femininity” as well.

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About Joshua Michael

Writer. Catholic. Fan of John Henry Newman and the Inklings.
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One Response to Concerns about “Authentic Masculinity”

  1. Preston says:

    This is a great post, Josh!

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