Images of men and masculinities within cultural contexts : a pastoral assessment

Van Der Watt, Jacobus Stephan (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2007-12)

Thesis (DTh) -- Stellenbosch University, 2007.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study is an endeavour on the cutting edge of the field of practical theology. It engages in a pastoral assessment of contemporary men and masculinities in their manifold representations and embodiments. An in-depth assessment of current schemata of interpretation (on the issue of masculinity), is done within different cultural contexts, aiming to hermeneutically put this into dialogue with a pastoral-anthropological view on masculinity. This dialogue is initiated in order to gain deeper insight into diverse masculinities and the challenges they face in their search for meaning, intimacy and vitality. The point of the dialogue here is rather to describe than to prescribe. The dissertation analyses ‘masculinities as experienced and enacted’ in life and ‘masculinities as represented’ in the mass media as well as in other forms of pop culture, through a multidisciplinary perspective. It is further aimed at the contextual, theological deconstruction of these cultural representations and the establishment and furthering of meaningful connections between male identity, human dignity and Christian spirituality. The focus in contemporary (sociological and psychological) research on masculinity is on enactment of masculinities or ‘doing’ masculinities rather than ‘being’ masculine. The dominant cultural images of masculinity within a globalising life-order suggest and promote materialistic values such as efficiency, performance, mechanisation and functionality. These images are assessed and the interplay between it (the cultural images) and conceptualisations of God (God-images) are explored. This study asserts that men’s identity, self-understanding and spirituality is shaped in many ways by these images, but that the image of the crucified and risen Christ can indeed serve as a meaningful and normative-critical counter-image to the macho-images portrayed by most postmodern masculinities (which many men presently experience as confusing). This counter-image of Christ can transcend the abuse of power, the focus on performance and the commodification of male embodiment, in men’s lives, as they engage in a spirituality of vulnerable courage. A pastoral-anthropological perspective is employed in order to shift the emphasis on male identity in terms of gender and sexuality, towards a spiritual understanding of male identity in terms of human dignity and human destiny (i.e. the quest for meaning). The important question of the relationship between power, masculinity and male embodiment is addressed. Essentialist ideas about masculinity are deconstructed, and a re-interpretation thereof is introduced within a view of reality that affirms and embraces an earth-centred and embodied spirituality. Masculinity and male identity is in that sense “saved” from a commercial reduction by means of an eschatological and pneumatological perspective. This theological re-interpretation of masculinity presents a critical factor on the cultural notion that manhood is something that must be validated by means of performance (especially on the terrain of sexuality). Masculinity, viewed from an eschatological perspective, is thus more than virility that has to be manifested by doing functions. The culturally-determined understanding of masculinity - in terms of brutal power and control – is in this sense ‘emasculated’ in this study. In the light of Christ’s resurrection, there is new hope for the re-interpretation of masculinity. The postmodern man’s resurrection is therefore not guaranteed by the “Viagra-magic blue pill”, but in actual fact by the resurrection of Christ who daily unleashes and affirms new meaningful dimensions of hope in the globalised life-matrix. The power of masculinity thus lies in embodying vulnerability and mutual relationality, contesting unilateral and hierarchical relations. Within this context manhood is not equal to the size of achievement or success, nor performances or powerful penetration, but it rather denotes the capacity for lovingly hospitable relationships and the measure of the soul’s depth of character, i.e. its capacity to embody and affirm the courage to be.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie is ‘n navorsingsreis op die snykant van die veld van praktiese teologie. Dit neem deel aan ’n pastorale ondersoek van hedendaagse mans en manlikhede in die verskeie opsigte waarop hul verteenwoordig en beliggaam word. ’n In-diepte assessering van huidige interpretasie-skemas - oor die onderwerp van manlikheid - word gedoen binne verskillende kulturele kontekste, met die doel om dit hermeneuties in dialoog te bring met ’n pastoraal-antropologiese perspektief op manlikheid. Hierdie dialoog word geïnisieër ten einde dieper insig te verkry in diverse manlikhede en die uitdagings wat hulle die hoof moet bied in hul soeke na sin, intimiteit en vitaliteit. Die punt van hierdie dialoog is eerder om te beskryf as om voor te skryf. Die dissertasie analiseer – deur ’n multi-dissiplinêre invalshoek - ‘manlikhede soos dit ervaar en uitgeleef word’ in die lewe asook ‘manlikhede soos dit verteenwoordig word’ in die massa media sowel as in ander vorme van populêre kultuur. Dit is verder gemik op die kontekstuele, teologiese dekonstruksie van hierdie kulturele verteenwoordigings, asook die tot stand bring en bevordering van betekenisvolle verbande tussen manlike identiteit, menswaardigheid en Christelike spiritualiteit. Die fokus in hedendaagse (sosiologiese en sielkundige) navorsing oor manlikheid val op die uitleef van manlikhede oftewel die ‘doen’ van manlikhede, eerder as om manlik te ‘wees’. Die dominante kulturele beelde van manlikheid binne ’n geglobaliseerde lewensbestel suggereer en bevorder materialistiese waardes soos effektiwiteit, prestasie, meganisasie en funksionaliteit. Hierdie beelde word ge-evalueer en die interaksie tussen dit (die kulturele beelde) en moontlike konseptualiserings van God (Godsbeelde) word verken. Hierdie studie voer aan dat mans se identiteit, selfverstaan en spiritualiteit op velerlei maniere gevorm word deur hierdie beelde, maar dat die beeld van die gekruisigde en opgestane Christus inderdaad kan dien as ’n betekenisvolle en normatief-kritiese kontra-beeld tot die “macho”-beelde wat deur meeste postmoderne manlikhede versinnebeeld word (maar wat baie mans huidiglik as verwarrend ervaar). Hierdie kontra-beeld van Christus kan die misbruik van mag, asook die fokus op prestasie en die kommodifisering van manlike beliggaming oorstyg in mans se lewens – deurdat hulle deelneem aan ’n spiritualiteit van weerlose moed. ‘n Pastoraal-antropologiese perspektief word dus hier benut ten einde die klem op manlike identiteit in terme van gender en seksualiteit te verskuif, in die rigting van ‘n spirituele verstaan van manlike identiteit in terme van menswaardigheid en menslike bestemming (d.i. die soeke na sin). Die belangrike vraagstuk van die verhouding tussen mag, manlikheid en manlike beliggaming word aangeraak. Essentialistiese idees oor manlikheid word gedekonstrueer, en ’n herinterpretasie daarvan word voorgestel binne ’n werklikheidsverstaan wat ’n aards-gesentreerde en beliggaamde spiritualiteit bevestig en waardeer. Manlikheid en manlike identiteit word in hierdie opsig “gered” van ’n kommersiële verskraling deur middel van ’n eskatologiese en pneumatologiese perspektief. Hierdie teologiese herinterpretasie van manlikheid bied ’n kritiese faktor op die kulturele opvatting dat manwees iets is wat gevalideer moet word deur middel van prestasie (veral op die gebied van seksualiteit). Manwees, gesien vanuit ‘n eskatologiese perspektief, is dus meer as viriliteit wat gemanifesteer moet word deur doen-funksies. Die kultureel-bepaalde verstaan van manlikheid – in terme van brutale mag en beheer - word in hierdie opsig ‘ontman’ binne hierdie navorsingstuk. In die lig van Christus se opstanding is daar nuwe hoop vir die herinterpretasie van manlikheid. Die postmoderne man se opstanding word daarom nie gewaarborg deur die “Viagra tower blou pil” nie, maar eintlik deur die opstanding van Christus, wat daagliks nuwe sinvolle dimensies van hoop in die geglobaliseerde lewensmatriks vrystel en bevestig. Die krag van manlikheid lê dus in die beliggaming van weerloosheid en wederkerige relasionaliteit, tesame met die weerstand bied teen unilaterale en hiërargiese verhoudings. Binne hierdie konteks is manwees nie gelyk aan die grootte van doelwitte wat bereik is of sukses, prestasie of kragtige penetrasie nie. Nee, manwees omvat eerder die kapasiteit vir liefdevolle, gasvrye verhoudings asook die afmeting van die siel se diepte van karakter, d.i. die kapasiteit daarvan om die ‘moed om te wees’ te beliggaam.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/19742
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