Subject: [artisproactiv] Manhood
Date: Sun, 06 Dec 1998 14:05:56 +0800
From: Gerald Lopez <>

My father got in touch with me recently. I hadn't heard from him in 30
years. When I was 9, he walked out and disappeared from my life. It's a
strange feeling: should I be angry? or should I be glad? should I be cool
and detached? or should I be open and communicative?

The strangest thing is, that it comes at a time when I have been thinking
about his importance in my life. This August I picked up a book called
"Manhood", by Steve Biddulph, which talks about masculine identity, its
present precarious position, and ways we can reestablish it.

Most of my life I have had doubts about myself. I never quite felt an
adult. Until recently, I squirmed when little girls referred to me as "that
man." I often felt I wasn't good enough for women. When my father left, I
made a conscious decision to resist my mother, in order to save my then
developing sense of masculinity. I felt that if I agreed with her, did what
she wanted, and was nice to her, I would lose myself in confused gender.

30 years later, I've realised that you cannot run away from your mother.
Until she releases you there is nowhere on earth you can hide: she is in
your bones and your blood and your mind. I have fought and resisted and
escaped to other countries, but it was no use.

Steve Biddulph says that the first thing you must do to recover your
manhood, is to resolve your relationship with your father. When you accept
your father, you then accept his gift of manhood. It is like an initiation.
Even if he is a jerk, he unconsciously has that gift for you. Even if he is
dead, your acceptance of him will bear the gift.

I have just come to the amazing conclusion that, by accepting my father's
invitation to resolve our relationship - which I always mistakenly believed
didn't exist - I will finally be able to walk away from my mother as a free

There is a growing interest in the identifying of masculinity in a positive
way. The feminist movement to a large extent was a reaction to distorted
masculinity: aggression, materialism, irresponsibility. The New Age put the
feminine qualities of nurturing, receptivity, emotional awareness,
communication, peace, etc on a pedestal; and put masculinity in a corner
with a dunce cap. They even put forward the idea that a world of only
feminine qualities would be an ideal place, and so men started becoming
"feminists" and "househusbands." They became nice, sensitive guys who never
talked back to their women and didn't go to war.

But the Greeks had a positive concept of masculinity; they called it Zeus
energy, which encompasses intelligence, robust health, initiative,
protection, and leadership. This was viewed as positive power when accepted
by the male in the service of the community.

The Native American also understood the concept of male power and
authority; but it also became positive only when exercised for the sake of
the community, and not for personal aggrandisement.

So we can only become men when we can accept responsibility; for with power
and authority, there must be the responsibility to use it for the benefit
of the community.

The so-called men who are our supposed leaders are always citing community
benefit as a justification for their selfish actions. They are now being
shown to be irresponsible boys, who have been given too much power for
their, and our, own good.

The concept of the wise and steadfast elder is one that is important to us,
for our own sense of stability, wellbeing and growth. In the case of modern
Malaysia our elders have betrayed us, and it is obvious to me that the
people are dreadfully hurt, but that is a good thing. As Patanjali said in
the Yoga Sutras several thousand years ago: "Accepting pain as a
purification ...constitutes Yoga in practice." By Yoga he meant reunion
with the Source. On a mundane level the pain wakes us up to our feelings,
shows us where we have been complacent, and, if properly resolved, matures
us and makes us compassionate.

Thinking of my father, I am reminded of these words by James Baldwin: "We
were not like father and son, my father sometimes said, we were like
buddies. I think my father actually believed this. I never did. I did not
want to be his buddy; I wanted to be his son."

I love the Land
I love the People
I love Justice
I love Freedom of Expression.