THE MASCULINITY CONSPIRACY

07: Spirituality completed

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Spirituality (and I use the term as a shorthand to include both orthodox organized religions and the spectrum of unorthodox alternatives) is at once a prime site of regulation by the conspiracy and liberation from the conspiracy. For thousands of years spiritualities have perpetuated the conspiracy, whether it be their explicit patriarchal nature that excludes women from positions of influence and power, their encouragement of a militaristic and oppressive masculinity, or their rendering of “new age” products as stereotypically feminine. Yet what else is more appropriate when we are seeking solutions to liberate ourselves from conspiratorial constructions of masculine and feminine than a domain that is simultaneously inherent in but also points beyond constructions of self-identity?

Spirituality, at the very least, provides an extraordinary thinking space for how the self might look. Most people know, for example, that when they refer to God in a traditional bearded-man-on-a-throne way, that image is not literal, rather something that stands in for God, a concept that is far more complex and which may even extend beyond the limits of language and human understanding into the ineffable (that which cannot be articulated). Spirituality, then, is a domain in which we are already used to taking what we know, recognizing its limitations, and then striving to think beyond them.

We can employ this same process with gender. Yes, we have a strong imagine of masculinity as defined by the conspiracy, yet we know this is not literal (remember the “don’t identify too much with the archetype” problem), rather something that stands in for masculinity, a concept that is far more complex and which may even extend beyond the limits of language and human understanding. I don’t say this just for literary effect. I genuinely find the more time I spend with this subject, the more I hit a wall of language and meaning about what gender is all about. Yes, I can identify clearly enough how it is constructed, regulated and even how it should be liberated. But it is a far more elusive task to identify what is real, and what is just some made up consensus, like the value of tulip bulbs in seventeenth century Holland.

Spirituality, then, provides us with a useful way of thinking about the self at the edge of meaning, peering into what may be real or what may be fantasy, but with the knowledge that the eventual answer to this conundrum is less important than the journey, the process of questioning, and the continually unfolding revelations that result. That’s a pretty good model to follow as we leave behind the masculinity conspiracy and begin to both individually and collectively discover who we really are.

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Written by Joseph Gelfer

August 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm

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