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The Gift of Masculinity | Mary Beth Bonacci | IgnatiusInsight.com

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I've never understood why John Paul II spent so much time talking about the feminine genius, and paid no real attention to the "masculine genius."

Don't get me wrong--I'm not about to argue with a bona fide, certain-to-be-canonized saint. I'm sure he had his reasons. But I for one would love to have heard his insights into masculinity and the male "nature."

I hope it goes without saying that I am a big fan of men. I have been very blessed to have some particularly wonderful men in my life--my father and my brothers, as well as a multitude of really terrific friends and co-workers. But even beyond that, I (like most women, I suppose) am intrigued by "guys." I like their straightforwardness. I like their strength. I like that they're so very, very different from me.

All of which leads to my pet peeve, and the subject of this column: the de-valuing of manhood and masculinity in our culture.

It seems to me that, a couple of generations ago, we had a society that respected male-ness. The men of "The Greatest Generation" fought World War II. They supported their families. They watched John Wayne movies. I don't know if they talked about their feelings very much. Maybe they should have. But they saved civilization from tyranny, and that should count for something.

But then things changed. Some of those things had to change. Opportunities that should have been available to women were closed to them. Vestiges of a society that saw females as second-class citizens needed to be purged. John Paul II wrote frequently about the need for both the masculine and feminine gifts in public life. The feminine half of that equation was still lacking.

But many of those mid-century feminists made a serious philosophical mistake. They concluded not that women and men have differing gifts and that society needs all of those gifts, but rather that there was no such thing as distinctive "male" and "female" gifts at all. Gender differences were considered incidental and insignificant.

And so, women became in many ways like men--or rather, like the worst stereotypes of men. They became career-obsessed, vulgar and promiscuous.

And men became "sensitive."

By the 1970's, there was a serious push for men to "get in touch with their feelings." Alan Alda, not John Wayne, became the role model for American manhood. Many apparently believed this was progress.

But it wasn't progress. At least among the women I know, there is an overwhelming consensus that a man who emphasizes his sensitivity and feminine side over his natural masculinity has seriously compromised his attractiveness to us.

Look, I have nothing against a man being "in touch with his feelings." It's nice. I suppose it could be a bonus in a relationship, as long as it didn't go too far. (Witness the scene in the movie Bedazzled where Brendan Frasier wishes to become a "sensitive" man, and then finds himself unable to sing the song he wrote for his girlfriend because he keeps crying every time he looks at the sunset.)

Personally, I'm interested in the larger picture. To me the primary question isn't so much whether a man is in touch with his feelings as it is the overall context that particular trait appears in. If a man is really comfortable being a man, if his masculine gifts of strength, protectiveness and calm are intact--then sure, he can go ahead and get in touch with his feelings.

I think the best way to describe this is to see it from the other side. What about a woman who can change a car's oil? It's a handy skill to have, I suppose. But I'm guessing most men would say they don't so much care whether a woman can change the oil as they do how she looks while she's changing it. A feminine woman who just happens to be able to work on a car would probably be appealing to them. A woman who at first glance could be mistaken for a man -- well, not so appealing.

Men and women's natural gifts are, of course, vulnerable to being twisted in this world of sin. That's where women's natural relational gifts can be reduced to manipulation, and men's natural strength can be reduced to domination and control. We need the Holy Spirit to purify our hearts, and to lead our inclinations in the right direction.

But there's a big difference between purifying and controlling those gifts and denying their existence. Harvey Mansfield, author of Manliness, says that "A gentleman is a man who is gentle out of policy, not weakness." Strength voluntarily withheld is completely different than strength denied or abandoned.

I like men's natural gifts. I like their strength. I like their confidence. I like how their gifts complement my own. I like the thought of being with someone who would be capable of protecting me if I were really, truly threatened.

So sure, it's nice when a man is deeply in touch with his feelings. But given a choice between that man and a man who could confidently throw a punch if a situation truly called for it, I'll take the guy who can throw the punch any day.

It's part of the masculine gift.


• This article originally appeared on RealLove.net on August 10, 2006.



Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles:

• Male and Female He Created Them ... | Cardinal Estevez
• Behold the Man! | An interview with Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers
• The Meaning and Necessity of Spiritual Fatherhood | Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers
• Discovering the Fatherhood of God in a Gender-Neutral Society | Mary Anastasia
• God and Woman | Rev. Louis Bouyer

Other IgnatiusInsight.com Articles by Mary Beth Bonacci:

Lust in the Workplace: It's Not Always About You Know What
The Love Behind the Rules
The Horrible "H" Word
Teens, Sex, and Real Love | Interview with Mary Beth Bonacci
There's More to Prayer Than "Saying Our Prayers"
Was Pope John Paul II Anti-Woman?
JPII, Why Did We Love You?
A Hero Goes to His Reward
Some Atrocities are Worse than Others
Parents Love the Chastity Girl
The Attack on Abstinence



Mary Beth Bonacci is internationally known for her talks and writings about love, chastity, and sexuality. Since 1986 she has spoken to tens of thousands of young people, including 75,000 people in 1993 at World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado. She appears frequently on radio and television programs, including several appearances on MTV.

Mary Beth has written two books, We're on a Mission from God and Real Love, and also writes a regular, syndicated column for various publications. She has developed numerous videos, including her brand-newest video series, also entitled Real Love. Her video Sex and Love: What's a Teenager to Do? was awarded the 1996 Crown Award for Best Youth Curriculum.

Mary Beth holds a bachelor's degree in Organizational Communication from the University of San Francisco, and a master's degree in Theology of Marriage and Family from the John Paul II Institute at Lateran University. She was also awarded an honorary doctorate in Communications from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and is listed in Outstanding Young Women of America for 1997. Her apostolate, Real Love Incorporated is dedicated to presenting the truth about the Church's teaching about sexuality, chastity, and marriage.



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