The title of Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen's new book, My Brother's Keeper: What The Social Sciences Do (And Don't) Tell Us About Masculinity (InterVarsity), is a little misleading.
It is not a book about what the social sciences do or do not tell us about masculinity. It is a book about "the general state of males in the Western world after the advent of second-wave feminism," seen through the eyes of an intrepid feminist professor of psychology in the Reformed tradition.
In its introduction its author writes of having "made the case" in an earlier volume "for mutuality rather than hierarchy in gender relations and for flexibility rather than rigidity in gender roles"—and this is what she seeks to do here as well, the difference being that here her focus is on masculinity: how to study it as a Christian; its cultural setting in the early church; what several scientific disciplines have to say on this subject; masculinity's changing place in religion; the impact of feminism; and finally, how men are faring so far as marriage, parenting, sexuality and work are concerned.
Her underlying thesis is that masculinity, like ethnicity, is an ongoing cultural production, "not something that just happens to us by reason of biology or socialization, though … these too are important." "'Doing gender'," she writes, "is a responsible cultural activity whose mixed blessings need to be critically examined, not least from the standpoint of a Christian worldview." The worldview she refers to is one in which "postfall man is continually tempted to turn the legitimate, God-imaging dominion of Genesis 1:28 into domination, and to impose it in illegitimate ways on the earth and on other men, but also on woman … In complementary fashion, womanhood as ...1
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