Our culture's notions of masculinity and femininity are currently confused. This article focuses on the need to build a culture of more harmonious and beautiful relations between men and women.
We Have A Problem
When surveying the present scene in the 'state of the sexes' generally in Western culture there is clearly a lot amiss. And I'm sure all who are reading this can readily call to mind examples of tragedy and sadness in this realm of life, including some who have, quite literally, not even survived the 'battle' of the sexes.
It is easy to feel a certain helplessness about such situations, but there are already many people working to try and reduce the incidence of such things. There are those on the front lines of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and health issues relating to sexuality. This includes those working to address the issue of suicide, which is often closely related to relationship problems.
There are also those working in the area of marriage counselling, guidance, education and enrichment. There are those presenting to young people a better vision of what love, sex and relationships can be. There are those trying to combat 'sexualisation' in the media and the 'pornification' of culture.
And of course there are large numbers of ordinary people struggling to help relatives and friends cope with marriage and relationship problems and breakdown.
Yet I think all these people would readily admit how much more needs to be done. Not only is more needed in urgent and remedial situations but a great deal seems to be missing from what it would take to prevent these things in the first place by having more timely and wholesome personal and community development.
A Positive Vision
However, the prevalence of the problems could lead us to see the extra effort required primarily through the lens of prevention. More fundamental though is our vision of what the good society would be in itself, the positive and happy community, the beautiful culture.
"Man+Woman" Magazine is about this positive vision.
It is about building a better world by helping men and women to grow in what it is to be masculine and feminine, and how we can become more through our differences, not in spite of them.
What would our families and communities look like if we could achieve this? What would be different from what we have now?
How would we accompany our children to adulthood with a positive experience of being masculine and feminine that gives them real hope for a happy life?
How would married couples learn more of what is involved in understanding each other and developing deeper intimacy?
How could our ways of celebrating and affirming masculinity and femininity become public and whole-hearted, well understood and effectively fostered?
"Man+Woman" Magazine aims to address these questions both theoretically and practically, to promote deeper understanding and to propose practical strategies for implementation. Its focus is not on critique but on building.
It is usually easier to identify things we see and don't like. We can usually come up fairly quickly with a list of things we would like to see less of. It can be harder to picture what it is we want more of.
Things That Won't Look After Themselves
It can seem as though we already have what we need, if only all those other people would just stop doing what they're doing. If that happened we think the rest would look after itself.
Take the case of an individual marriage. It can seem to the spouses that if only the conflicts between them would stop then everything would be OK. But the conflicts arise mainly because of what is missing, what hasn't yet been developed in each of them. This is why the conflicts keep coming up.
Yet we tend to think of marriage as a kind of background thing that will take care of itself while we're doing other things.
It is not so common to think of it as a thing in itself, with its own life. It is not just two individuals. In a manner of speaking it is a third thing. It is not identical with either of them, but is not outside each of them either.
We need to start thinking of the marriage as having a life of its own, not reducible to each of the individuals. This shift in mindset can then lead to building that which is still only potential.
Our society and culture present us with the same kind of challenge. I suggest that we do not already have what we need, but rather, a great work of building lies ahead of us. Just as a relationship has a life of its own, so too does a community and a culture. They are not things that look after themselves while you're doing something else. They require intentional effort. And that requires understanding.
A Communal Project
"Man+Woman" Magazine then is not only about individuals, or couples. It is about an intentional effort to build community and culture. It relies on deeper understanding but requires common action, and envisages a synthesis of many different elements.
I encourage you to spend some time reading and thinking seriously about the sorts of things put forward here. It might be small beginnings, but who knows where it will lead?
I love this picture. A couple dances in a ruined building, perhaps a dance hall or a theatre. So much around them has fallen into ruin, but they are undaunted. They simply ignore it, and focus on the beauty they already have.
They don't dress down to fit into the existing environment - they dress up.
Soon we might imagine they ask some others to join them. Or perhaps some others see them and are intrigued. Maybe they just watch for a while. But then they join in. After a while someone says, "Why don't we clear away some of this rubbish, and put a lick of paint on the place?" Then someone else says, "Let's get a band!" Bit by bit something beautiful is built from out of the ruins.