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Bernhard Grom SJ {*}

New Man, what now?

 

From: Stimmen der Zeit, 7/2010, P. 433 et sequ.
webmaster's own, not authorized translation

 

Ten years ago the "International Men's Day" has been declared. It originally drew the attention to the more frequent occupational diseases and the shorter life expectancy of the allegedly "stronger sex" and called for more commitment to medical care for men. In the meantime also in other areas discrimination of men have been identified, as e.g. less support of boys in school, the compulsory military service (only) for men, the unfavourable treatment of fathers in cases of divorce as regards custody and visitation rights, or discrimination as a problem - all this with the accusation that equality policy, gender studies, and public discourse neglected male emergencies and role conflicts.

That's why at that time the desire was expressed that the demands and ideas of the still relatively weak movements for the rights of men and fathers, as e.g. the "New Man" and similar movements should be bundled up to a powerful men's movement, which complements the established feminism and brings its prerogative of interpreting the role of men to an end. But only few people doubt that the struggle against the discrimination of women needs to be continued in many fields.

What will the future bring to males? The sociological research on males - especially the studies "Sinus Sociovision: Rollen im Wandel Strukturen im Aufbau" (2007) und "Männer in Bewegung. Zehn Jahre Männerentwicklung in Deutschland" (2009) could help to see their situation in a differentiating way and without forming factions.

According to this study, the majority of men holds neither a rigidly traditional nor a radically modern view of the roles of men and women; in view of changed conditions just over half of them is rather in search. Either they combine traditional and modern ideas or they reject the traditional roles, but feel insecure yet. The number of those with a rather traditional view remained admittedly stable in recent years, but they assess the employment of women and its impact on the children more favourably than before. Of the total population only (or, at least?) 16 per cent prefer a family in which the husband earns the money and the wife takes care of the household and children without gainful employment. But 34 per cent wish that the wife 'makes some extra money', and 35 per cent wish that husband and wife are at about the same amount working and taking care of household and children. A strong majority therefore accepts, to varying degrees, the employment of women - whether on grounds of gender equality or because one income is not sufficient.

However, it is still the husband who has primarily to ensure the income, whereas the wife has to care for the children. Only one per cent of the population wants the pure househusband, who cares for household and children and does not earn money.

 


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Only a quarter of the men think it is an "unreasonable demand" to take parental leave in order to care for a young child, but many men regard this (as well as working part-time) as harmful for their career, and they think also that care at home was not their task, for there were nursery schools and nursing homes. But what do women say about it?

The new male finds his fulfilment and his identity not only in work but also in partnership and family. 70 per cent of the men regard a stable relationship with children as their 'ideal form of life'; only five per cent want 'short partner relations'. It seems that the grown self-assurance of women gradually belongs to the species-appropriate dealing with each other, because almost half of the men say that they are looking together with their partners for a solution to relationship difficulties. Just as many say that the men rather accepted different opinions, and expressed more emotions than they did years ago. The equal number of males think that it is difficult for males to find access to their feelings. 43 per cent admit that they have difficulties in talking about sexuality with their partner. Is intense emotional communication an ideal of women who have to decide alone how love has to be expressed? And is the assertion true that the emotional life of males was impoverished by their external orientation? What of the remaining differences in interests and behaviour patterns is genetically determined and what is merely owed to socialization and in need of change? Are men to become more feminine? And why do today more males than before (60 per cent) consider the issue "males should not allow to be oppressed by women" as important?

The outstanding issues cannot be solved by a gender war, but ideally by negotiations and co-evolution: in the public debate on gender, in the educational work, and in private. The churches can make a considerable contribution, because their institutions, associations and movements provide a large assortment of counseling, training of and working with males, as no other institution - and this in a friendly neighbourhood to the work with women.

31 per cent of males admittedly wish that the Church supports the preservation of the traditional relationship between men and women. Surprisingly, however, almost as many expect "a contribution to the reshaping of the male role" from her. The churches are not allowed to commit themselves in a fundamentalist way to the historically conditioned, patriarchal context of biblical texts and to derive from them immutable essential properties of man and woman. They should rather openly accompany the further appropriate organisation of the gender roles, and inspire them with the vision that in Christian faith the sexes are, in (self-determined) difference, of the same value and have therefore the same rights of access to opportunities in life. For God created man in the image of himself, male and female he created them (cf. Gen 1:27).

 

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