I’ll Make a Man out of You

 A prohibition on coffee… Sounds AWFUL.

Did you know that there was once a push in England in 1674 to outlaw coffee?

There is no substance in the world outside of coffee that I would care if it were banned. For coffee, I would jump into action. I would look like Batman showing up just at the right moment to fight back on the side of justice. Or better, I would look like Jordan in the 98 Finals over Bryon Russell

Jordan over Russell

Bang! Game over! Coffee saved! Bulls win!

Interestingly enough, the argument made in this document had absolutely nothing to do with coffee and everything to do with the coffee-house life turning the men of the day “effeminate” because their time was spent, “talking, reading, and pursuing their business” rather than, “carousing, drinking, and whoring.”

Nope. I wrote that wrong. It is the other way around. They wanted their men “talking, reading, and pursuing their business.”

Wait…

On a second look, I had it right. These acts, in 1674, made men weak and womanly. What Arnold called “Girly men” at one point.

I am confounded by this. How is that the argument to ban coffee?

“My husband keeps coming home sober, engaged, and faithful to me… this coffee life has to STOP!”

Maybe some women are considering a shift?

I am confounded mainly because of what made the men “effeminate” in that day are now traits commonly applied to our 21st-century version of “masculinity.” I was taught in my conservative, evangelical, southern life that a “man” does three main things, “Provides, Protects, and Procreates.” Of course, these are done faithfully in a “one-man, one-woman” scenario. The shift in masculinity from 1674 to today is important to look at.

The introduction of coffee (apparently) moved men from boozing and whoring toward work and conversation. Maybe these men were just better husbands completely hammered. That is probably it… or maybe not?

For me, the proof is in the pudding. We hate change. We assume our version of reality is the final one, or our translation of an idea is the only one. We will fight back against anything that causes a change to our status-quo. That is what the argument made in 1674 is. It is a desire to maintain what is because what is not (yet) is frightening.

This trend has continued today. Especially in the same area of discussion from this Petition essentially saying, “Our men are no longer men.” I hear these types of phrases in my small context. Whether it is men afraid of women who work, or women afraid of women who work, or men afraid of men who willingly support their wives who work. Whatever the case, we still wrestle with this fear of being “effeminate” as men.

I would ask that you consider one idea, “Masculinity is a product of societal pressure.” So, the “Provide, Protect, Procreate” way of manliness I was taught is, in reality, a creation of the Southern, Evangelical, American society in which I live. In 1674, they would have viewed such a teaching of masculinity as weak, yet radical.

There is a hilarious quote in the Women’s Petition (which can be read here: Women’s Petition Full ) They say, “Our gallants have been Frenchified.” They continue to make the argument that their men are not fulfilling them in the bedroom. This was because the belief of the day was that coffee inhibited a man’s ability in that realm.

But come on, “Frenchified” that is hilarious. I grew up hearing similar platitudes about the French to the point where I genuinely thought the entire country of France was weak and effeminate.

Of course, this is a ridiculous claim. It holds no water. The French, just like every other country, has its own version of masculinity.

I do find it problematic that when writing this I continually start to equate masculinity with power. I do not think it is problematic that men can be powerful. I do find it problematic when you are only a man if you are powerful. Now, however you define “powerful” probably works here, and the truism holds its ground.

I think what bothers me about this truism “that to be a man one must be powerful” is that it is part of the root teaching that perpetuates the rape culture we see on college campuses and especially on athletic teams. These young men are yelled at that they must be powerful, and that if they are not then they are a wuss (and the coaches almost certainly use a much more degrading word to women here).

Therefore, our “Provide, Protect, Procreate” axiom must add one more “P” to the phrase. You must, “Provide, Protect, Procreate, and be Powerful” to be a man in the 21st-Century. These are teachings that ultimately perpetuate the Rape Culture found in our world. These young men are taught (remember masculinity is a “product of societal pressure”) that they must dominate anyone who will not give them what they want or stands in their way from getting what they want. This teaching carries over from their athletic facilities into everyday lives.

So, what can we teach? What does it mean to be a man? How can I exist in the world if I am not allowed to act how I was created?

First, I must mention that those who hold power always feel that something unfair is happening when that power starts slipping away. It is not unfair. In fact, when one person is willing to give up their power it leads to the betterment of everyone in the community. I think this is why Deuteronomy 15 commanded the people to forgive every debt every 7th year. This reversal of the trends of power was intended to let the entire community thrive. Please note that the people almost never followed through on this part of the law.

I believe this teaching lends itself to critique our version of masculinity and American Greed. We tend to ensure we “get while the getting is good” or attain as much power, money, and land as possible. Usually under the guise of “Providing and Protecting those whom I have Procreated, and thus I feel Powerful.”

What if masculinity has everything to do with sacrificial love and nothing to do with my desire to feel powerful? Because ultimately being a man is all about being the best human being possible. And, OF COURSE, I want to feel powerful. So does every man and woman ever. We all want to feel empowered. Stop acting like that is a man-only thing. Also, it seems to me that it is an entirely tangible goal to shift the “societal pressure” put on young men. It starts simply by not talking down to or about women, and instead lifting women up in our communities. Then, shifting the goals we set for ourselves and our young people. A shift from greed, power, and arrogance toward kindness, bravery, and love.

**I wrote absolutely nothing about being a woman because I can only speak to one side of this conversation. Plus, there are enough white men out there trying telling women what to do and how to live as it is.**

All of that to say, I really hope there is never a prohibition on coffee… if there is be prepared to see a gangly looking, freckle-faced MJ hit that metaphorical pull-back J to save the day.

I hope you have a blessed day.

Grace and Peace,

Reid

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