Friday, September 01, 2006

Conan the Ovarian

As most of you know it often takes me a long time to get around to doing things, and a post along these lines is no exception. My sister-in-law sent me an email several months ago as part of research into the latest book she is writing, ‘She’s Not the Man I Married.’, asking questions about relationships and gender. I never got around to responding to it, mainly because the questions were deserving of well-thought-out answers, and I didn’t have many of them:

1) Why do people pursue long-term companionship? (marriage, commitment, partnership - whatever you call it in your universe.)

2) Why, specifically, did you (if you did)?

2b) If you didn't, why didn't you?

3) How close is what you intended/imagined it to be to what it actually is?

4) Do you "feel like" a man or a woman (depending on which you are, or not)?

5) What is it that makes you feel that way? Something internal or external? Abstract or concrete?

6) How do you imagine your life would change (or if it would) if you woke up the opposite of what you are, tomorrow?

7) How much do you think your being a man or a woman has to do with the kind of relationship you prefer to be in (whether you're in one or not, whether the one you're in is the type you'd prefer to be in or not)?

Quite truthfully, most of these questions I could only answer, ‘I don’t know,’ which is unfortunate. I have been mulling them over in my mind for the summer and haven’t made much progress. Why did I get married? Because I couldn’t imagine it any other way. Why? Ultimately, it beats me. I can list all sorts of pragmatic and non-pragmatic emotional reasons, but adding them up doesn’t yield much. Too much is unobservable, sort of like the dark matter comprising the majority of substance in the Universe.

Why am I a man? Well, that’s easy – As I replied to her earlier, I have an average-sized Mr Happy between my legs. Beyond that it’s all externally defined. Why do I consider myself a man, and what makes me a man (other than the basic hardware) are the better questions, and more along what she was interested in.

Seriously, in most of this country I wouldn’t be considered much of one. I collect fabulous neckties, art deco dishware, and routinely shave my head. I have just about zero interest in watching sports, although I have enjoyed playing them. Lately I’ve been a voracious reader of religious and political history. This is not exactly ‘driving my enemies forward and hearing the lamentations of their women.’

Of course all those things are mostly fluff – the above listed affectations and their counterparts (NASCAR, John Wayne, Steak) are used more in making assumptions of someone’s sexual orientation instead of gender, though they are obviously linked, if only rhetorically. ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ are more often referred to by attitude instead of affectation – Sort of like that Justice/Mercy dichotomy popularized a couple of decades ago.

What actually prompted me to finally write this post is what made the internets today. A complete wanker, David Warren, whom I wasn’t familiar with until today, wrote an idiotic column about the release of the Fox News reporters from captivity (Note: Fox News reporters – It’s always fun to watch conservatives eat their own):

And the two Fox journalists, whom I will not stoop to name, begged for their lives even though, in retrospect, their lives probably weren't in danger. . . . Men without chests, men without character, men who don't think twice.

I don’t want this post to get to crazy long, so I will instead link to Glenn Greenwald’s definitive smackdown, but you should go through TBogg’s link first. Also essential reading is Greenwald’s earlier post which he links to as well. In these posts, Greenwald covers male identity more eloquently than I ever could. Here’s a preview:

Warren has a biography page on his website. In telling us about himself, Warren complains that "the thumb on (his) right hand still hurts sometimes from when it was broken in a dodgeball game," tells us that his favorite sport is cricket, talks of his love for Ella Fitzgerald and Jane Austen, touts his devout Catholicism, confesses that he has "been estranged [from his wife of 18 years] for going on four years," and says he is "fascinated by seeds, small shells, tiny fishes, & insects."

I also read Mr. Warren’s biography page – he does a hundred bullet points describing himself, and it is a laughable list. My eyes lit on #12:

My favourite Epistle, which I incidentally think genuinely by St. Paul, is the one to the Ephesians.

What a pompous twit. How ‘erudite,’ that little aside. Of course, most scholars agree that not only did the Apostle Paul not write Ephesians, almost certainly the Epistle wasn’t originally even written to the Ephesians. The writing style is wrong, and more importantly the author of Ephesians contradicts many of Paul’s earlier writings in important theological points. Also, the earliest copies of the letter don’t mention Ephesus in the first verse. Actually the earliest copy of the complete New Testament that we have, The Codex Sinaiticus, has the words ‘In Ephesus’ written in the margins of the epistle’s text.

The reasons for Mr. Warren’s love of the Epistle are pretty clear. It is the Epistle with the famous verse:

Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their husbands in everything.

-Ephesians 5:22-24

Can’t argue with the Lord, as they say. Of course, I doubt that Mr. Warren has read that Epistle lately, or at least shortly before writing his vile screed. Here are some other edifying quotes for him to chew on before questioning the ‘masculinity’ of people held at gunpoint:

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:1-3

Wherefore, putting away falsehood, speak ye truth each one with his neighbor: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil.

Ephesians 4:25-27

Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:29-32

Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, even as Christ also loved you…

Ephesians 5:1-2

The Apostle Paul (and those who wrote letters in his name) had definitive ideas of what it means to be a Christian. Descriptive words include ‘love,’ ‘child,’ ‘sacrifice,’ ‘mercy,’ and, of course, ‘forgive.’

Actually the word 'Mercy' is used over three times as often as 'Justice' in the New Testament. Clearly Christ was a man without a chest, without character...