Last week, a few days apart from one another, I came across two poems. The first, by former poet laureate Billy Collins, hints at many of the themes in the second, a much-shared video of Lily Myers reciting "Shrinking Women" at a poetry slam.
Myers' poem paints a picture of masculine dominance - how the men in her family are fearless about their presence, their desires, and their size, while the women are constantly shrinking back, both physically and socially.
Collins notes a woman cowering in the presence of an angry man, and wonders if this isn't why Amazon-like women who are discovered on foreign planets in sci-fi films are always so strong, so hostile, and so well-armored.
In the church at large, there's been a lot of talk about masculinity and femininity lately, with folks at one extreme caricaturing the folks at the other, and vice versa. To be sure, I'm a complimentarian. I believe men and women are fearfully equal and wonderfully different before the eyes of God. I believe that the Bible shows a difference in the roles that men and women play in the church and home, and by that admission alone, many will already label me a misogynist.
But I worry about those who live in my camp. Often, there's such a fearful clamor about "the end of manhood" and "the death of masculinity" that it seems like we've totally lost sight of the other gender-related problems in our world. The truth is that heterosexual "manly" men still account for a lot of sin, pain, and heartache in the world. The kind of masculine strength that was given in creation for the purpose of provision and protection is still - in many (if not most) circles of the world – used for dominance. Women still cower under the obnoxious and abusive authority of sinful men.
We simply must do better than this. True masculinity is modeled most purely in Jesus, whose life was spent to make his bride more beautiful, more perfect, more fully and wholly herself. We should ask whether our presence in our wives' and daughters' lives is a blessing or a burden. Are they stronger, more assertive, more fearless in the world because of us? Or are they more shrinking, less trusting, and more fearful?
While some pastors clamor about the need for more "manly" men who drink beer and eschew housework, I wonder if we haven't lost sight of the abundant, powerful and harmful impact of sinful masculine bravado on the women around us.