This month sees the publication of Created in God’s Image: From Hegemony to Partnership, a training manual about men and masculinity published by the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the World Council of Churches.
Created in God’s Image: From Hegemony to Partnership is based on the understanding that gender includes both men and women and any attempt to transform gender relations must be inclusive of both. It takes into consideration the fact that patriarchy also stereotypes and marginalizes men, and is a barrier that prevents men from living life in fullness. Men are placed at the top on the pyramid of human relationships and are systematically encouraged to view power as dominating and controlling. Men, like women, have been socialized with deeply-held beliefs and values which form the basis of how gender is constructed. They also carry the weight of societal expectations of being masculine, which in many cases requires that they show bravery, virility, aggressiveness, dominance, competitiveness, insensitivity and emotional repression. Men are generally socialized into not dealing with their sense of self, especially their emotions, fears, and vulnerabilities. Often, they exercise violence against women so as to maintain their gender privileges of male authority.
The manual does a good job of separating sex and gender, discussing power and patriarchy, and even how traditional readings of the bible are biased towards men, empire and so on.
But there’s something about it that feels like it is addressing people (men) with learning difficulties. Maybe this is inevitable as these messages are simple enough to communicate to school children, yet clearly have not been getting through. However, I can imagine that some men are not going to respond well to this tone, or the fact that the manual has a rather “developing world” feel about (it is largely written by African and Indian authors, echoed in the cover art).
That said, anything that complements the usual dreck that passes for resources in Christian men’s ministries is welcome.