Friday, June 18, 2010

David Tacey - Finding the Truth in Men's Experience: Masculinity, Change and Healing

This is an intriguing article on creating the "new" masculinity - from the CG Jung Page, where once-upon-a-time I published an article. In this article, David Tacey suggests we need to preserve what is best about traditional masculinity even as we seek to create an evolved masculinity that is both strong and gentle, powerful and compassionate, fierce and tender.

There is a lot I agree with in this article, particularly this passage:
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 think part of what the Male Studies folks are rebelling against is this element of the Men's Studies tradition that has been shaped by feminism - the faction that sees ALL masculinity as patriarchy, as destructive. In my experience, this is not true of all Men's Studies folks, but there are enough who do this (for example) that they can make this argument and a lot of men will follow them into a more essentialist, traditionalist view of men and masculinity.

Being a Jungian, Tacey seems to seek an inner union of masculine and feminine (for men, integrating the anima) into a form of psychology androgyny - I don't really see this as the solution. Certainly, men need to find and own/integrate the feminine aspect of themselves, but I don't see androgyny as the solution - not as long as we have bodies that are sexed as male.

Anyway, here is the article.
Finding the Truth in Men's Experience: Masculinity, Change and Healing
Written by David Tacey
Wednesday, 31 January 2007

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.

Read the whole article.

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