I think that Richard Rodriguez is right. The movement to scapegoat gay people is founded in the disintegration of the American family and the insistence by women that they have an existence that extends outside of the kitchen and outside the shadow of men. Women, Rodriguez posits, have a deeper connection to the gay rights movement because the gay rights movement seems analogous to the women’s movement. Although Rodriguez paints a pretty bleak picture of a patriarchal society in decay, I hope that the definition of what a male is can grow and change and improve as our society wrestles with these questions that make many feel uncomfortable. I suspect Rodriguez would agree.
The problem with how males define themselves is that it is founded in a society in which males are trained to exercise power over others. Often, this creeps into sexuality, as witnessed by the continued belief that a man’s prowess is somehow connected to his sexual dominance of women. This cultural weight that we carry around our necks is compounded by our commercial sector; one need not go too far to see advertisements for a number of drugs to cure male sexual dysfunction. Note the looks on the faces of the women in these commercials: grateful. There is something seriously wrong, here.
There is such a thing as masculinity that is distinct from femininity. But our insistence, as a society to place sexuality at the top of the list of differences is just wrong. Maybe it’s wrong to place it on the list at all. Although sexuality is a part of most people’s lives, it should not be the defining element, whether it is spoken or not, of who we are as people. To my mind, maleness begins with, as Richard Rohr insists, spirituality. I am not surprised that Richard Rodriguez can maintain a loving relationship with his partner and with their Catholic parish. He is defining masculinity in a very different way. He sees life as being a lot deeper than the accumulation of power. Rodriguez shows us that it is the true male that lets this go. Position in society, as he seems to take his position as an intellectual and author, is a gift and a responsibility, not a possession. Being a witness has far more value in any society than being a king. If you doubt that, just look at history and how kings have treated witnesses who dared to speak of different beliefs: John the Baptist, William Wallace, and our founding fathers had they lost the war.
Men can define themselves best by being witnesses, by being present. And it is this, really, that makes men in our society so impotent: our failure to be there for our children and our families and only there for women when we get the urge. No wonder women are fed up. And no wonder gays are the scapegoats.
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