I fear that this post is going to be construed as sexist. Let me assure the reader that I love women. Some of my best friends are women. In fact, I’m even married to one (and she is not a pillow). People have noted that the female characters in my Birth Pangs series are really strong, independent ladies. But I think I’m still going to be called a sexist.
I had the misfortune to see the movie Twilight this weekend with my wife. I had heard that it was a chick flick. That’s not the misfortunate part. The misfortune consisted in it being, in my estimation, a poorly made movie. Maybe the book is better. It wasn’t a surprise exactly but after the movie was over I asked my wife what she thought and she liked the movie. I asked why and she said something to the effect of the guy showing complete and utter devotion to the girl in the show.
I’d like to think that before we were married I showed that kind of devotion to my wife. It occurred to me, though, that the hero in Twilight has many advantages that real life doesn’t exhibit. Let’s see… first of all, he only had to be devoted for a month or so, and then the movie ended “happily ever after.” It is easy to be devoted for short time periods. Second of all, he had lots of opportunities to act out his protective nature on her behalf. I mean, I’d hunt down and slay marauding vampires for my wife, too, if only they existed.
I protect my wife in plenty of other ways that don’t seem nearly as romantic. For example, we’re not living in a crime ridden area. Also, I have installed deadbolts. I’m ready enough to defend her further, and woe to the robber who breaks into our house if I’m at home, but honestly what are the odds?
Contemplating these things lately (in large part because book 3 of my aforementioned Birth Pangs series deals with love and a woman is the main character) has led me to this conclusion: what we think as a society about ‘love’ has been determined almost completely by… women.
And this isn’t good.
One reason that it isn’t good that leaps immediately to mind is that it is hopelessly unrealistic. There is a time for ‘knight in shining armor’ romance, but when we get to the ‘happily ever after’ part the way that love is expressed must change, simply by necessity of the change of circumstances. For example, if the knight shows his love for the fair maiden by slaying the last remaining dragon, there are, by definition, no more dragons to slay. How will the knight continue to show his love and devotion? Changing the oil in the car is important, too, but it pales in comparison.
An understanding of love that plays along these lines, I cannot help but think, will tend to breed disappointment. Personally, I believe that a lot of divorces occur because marriages are established on the notion that the men and women ‘love each other’ according to the pattern above. When the warm and fuzzy ‘love’ goes away, men and women alike figure that the basis for their marriage has gone away, too.
Really, do women want to live in a world where there is enough true danger that men have enough opportunities to defend them from real threats? The relative purging of society from highway bandits, wayward beasts, and things like that could very well reflect loving actions that have been institutionalized. Not very romantic, but effective… but it would seem like you can’t have both.
I see the ‘feminization of love’ at work in the Christian church, too. I have had many, many conversations about love in relation to Christianity because it is my view that Christianity’s chief failing at this point is its lovelessness. However, almost always some wise guy will retort, “So, what? We’re supposed to spend our time with warm and fuzzies and dealing with people’s ‘felt needs’?”
I think it is really telling that even manly theologians, when they first hear the word ‘love,’ think of some panzy-ish, wussy, girlie notion of love. I wonder why that is, but my hunch is that ‘love’ has girlie overtones because we’ve basically let girls define it.
A reading of the Scriptures- if that matters to anyone- would reveal a view of love that is hard as rock and as tough as nails. Gentle when need be, but rough and tumble, too. “Love is as strong as death,” Solomon said. “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church- that is, die for her,” said Paul. “There is no greater love than this: that a man dies for his brother,” said Jesus.
This might be just me, but love- Christian love, as well- consists of much more than what we see in dime store romance novels and the like.
What would a manly love look like? Well, it could be argued that conceding my observation really means just acknowledging that women have a notion of love that is valid, but not exhaustive. Likewise, then, whatever we put forward as a more masculine appreciation of love wouldn’t be exhaustive, either, even as it is valid. It might be said, then, that a ‘masculine’ love would be just as skewed as a feminized ‘love’, but with different, but still bad, consequences.
True, perhaps. But we’ll never know until we men step up and add our perspective. So what would a ‘manly’ love look like? How would it be different to the prevailing attitudes about ‘love’? Can anyone think of anyone else making these kinds of observations? Am I right? Or am I just an old fuddy duddy sexist?