Almost everywhere we go, masculinity and violence tend to be conflated. This violence is toward oneself, in so far as “manly” often means shutting oneself off from one’s emotional awareness, violence to other creatures, as in the so-called “sports” of hunting or even the violence to the environment that’s caused by materialism and the exploitation of earth’s resources. Of course it includes violence toward others as in gun murders and other forms of physical violence that seem to be going out of control in the United States, not to mention war, still mostly run by men who do enormous violence to other people in other lands, often only in order to get rich. If we are to change the story of violence, we need to change the story of what it means to be not only a man, but a human being in general. Could nonviolence provide a way forward for us even here? You bet. As Gandhi said, “human nature will only find itself when it fully realizes that to be human, it has to cease to be brutal.”
Those around Gandhi did not tend to look at him as either male or female. In his search for the full realization of his human nature he became a balanced blend of both masculine and feminine qualities. In fact, one of his nieces, Manubhen, wrote a short book about her time with her famous uncle called, “Bapu, My Mother” ‘Bapu,’ interestingly enough, means ‘father;’ but he was less like a father or an uncle to her than a nurturing parent, embodying both Father and Mother. It’s an interesting fact, too, that in the Hindu tradition there is a form of God known as Ardhanarishvara, who is both male and female. Nonviolence can bring this out of us.
Imagine if our definition of what it means to be manly were to lose the connotation of violence; if our definition of what it means to be human involved a harmonious blend of masculinity and femininity. Human: neither passive nor aggressive, but nonviolent.
What did you learn about masculinity growing up and how did it affect the way you understood violence and nonviolence? How has it changed since you started practicing nonviolence?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 email@example.com