Earlier this week, I came across John Beckett’s 2015 article on Patheos, titled “I Don’t Get Men’s Mysteries”. I found myself upset by it, because it sounded totally belittling of men’s work.
Beckett writes: “I get women’s mysteries, or at least I intellectually understand the desire for them. Menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, lactation – those are more than biological functions. There’s something mysterious about them, in the sense that you have to experience them to understand them (which is one of the reasons I can’t). Women still face gender bias, discrimination, and violence in ways most men will never know – I get the need for safe spaces and mutual support groups. But is there a male equivalent?”
Obviously, Beckett doesn’t seem to think there is, which is strange. Men may not become pregnant and lactate, but they do father children (both literally and metaphorically) and provide for them in various ways, including risking their physical lives for them. They also experience various forms of discrimination, they can and do both inflict and suffer violence, etc. Do I really need to mention the plight of men who love men, or men with minority racial or ethnic background? I don’t know how blind one has to be not to recognize any of that.
But even more problematic is the notion that both men’s and women’s mysteries are essentially a form of a support group and nothing more than that. They can certainly have that aspect (as they should, preferably), but is the author entirely oblivious of the dimension of mystery, awe, worshipful acknowledgement of the sacredness of masculinity and femininity?
While respectful of other paths, in my personal practice I have found little use of almost anything outside men’s mysteries. To me they represent the wholesome framework within which I can experience my own embodied spirituality. Perhaps a lot of it has to do with the fact that I remain a solitary practitioner whose starting point for ritual and meditation is the experience of drawing inward, to the core of who I actually happen to be.
I suppose this is a form of gender essentialism, but regardless of what contemporary theory has to say on the subject, it rings true to me.