Mens’ Quest For Wholeness: Conselling Needs Of Pakeha Males

Mens’ Quest For Wholeness:
Conselling Needs Of Pakeha Males

Philip Culbertson

In this chapter I will claim that one of the most significant factors explaining the high levels of domestic and public violence in New Zealand is the definition of masculinity that Pakeha men have inherited and the risks and demands for men who attempt to achieve it. In order to comprehend the extreme stress which the Pakeha definition of masculinity places on
men, we need to begin by understanding how culture-specific every definition of masculinity (and femininity) is. Next we need to review how this Pakeha definition developed as a result of the history of European settlers and settlements in this country, leading to a summary composite of “manliness” in Pakeha tradition. Finally, this chapter will address some therapeutic methodologies which counselors might employ to support Pakeha men in their struggle toward a more holistic identity which refuses to take the traditional expectations of Pakeha masculinity at face value.

“It is very hard for a Kiwi to admit that he is half woman” (Baxter, 1990, 199)

New Zealand statistics suggest that our men are in trouble:

  • 80% of alcohol sold is consumed by men.
  • Six times more young men than young women commit suicide (Shenon, 1995; see also “Boys have …”, 1995).
  • 94% of drunk drivers are males.
  • The country has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world.
  • 86% of all violent offenders are males.
  • Of the 71 homicides in New Zealand in 1995, 60 were committed by men.

In spite of the domestic violence statistics, 76% of admissions to hospital resulting from assault are males, almost always the victims of other men. Wholeness and integration seem to elude men in New Zealand, and the counselor is challenged to take gender issues in the counselling relationship seriously.

The Construction of Gender

When I first arrived in New Zealand to teach at tertiary level, I included in my syllabus two books which I had written in America on some psychological and spiritual issues for men (Culbertson, 1992, 1994). A number of male students responded that while they had learned a great deal from reading the books, the fit between my theories and their experience of being men in New Zealand was not always a successful one. The problem was that the American definition of masculinity and its resultant issues was not identical with the Pakeha definition of masculinity and its resultant issues.

To begin, a distinction must be made between “sex” and “gender”. According to sociologists Candace West and Don Zimmerman: “Sex is a determination made through the application of socially agreed upon biological criteria for classifying persons as females or males” (West and Zimmerman, 1991, 14). Ordinarily such classification is assigned to babies immediately at birth (“It’s a boy!”), based on whether the baby has a vagina or a penis. Gender has been more difficult to define, but is generally agreed to be primarily a socially- or culturally-determined artifice, or as West and Zimmerman define, “a socially scripted dramatization of the cultural idealization of feminine and masculine natures” (1991, 17; see also Novitz, 1990). James K. Baxter uses the term “civil fiction” to define the same artifice (Jensen, 1996, 114).

In addition to social and cultural determinations, I believe we need also to recognize historical determinations/definitions of gender which are based on the cumulative heritage of how men and women had to learn to behave in order to cope with a variety of sequential historical conditions. Whether gender is defined socially, culturally, or historically, its definitions are systemically inherited from one generation to the next, and each
generation must decide whether to adopt or adapt what it has received. One may be born a male, but manliness and masculinity have to be achieved, or even earned (Mailer, 1968, 25). Whether one has achieved masculinity is based on a whole series of standards and definitions which are quite culture-specific, though not usually spelled out systematically.

The standards of definition are for the most part unique to the culture in which the male is living. The lack of congruence between one’s assigned biological sex (male) and one’s nature, characteristics, and behaviours (manliness, masculinity) usually results in a significant degree of interpersonal and internalized shaming. For example, during the 1981 Springboks Tour demonstrations, men who supported the tour attempted to shame men who opposed the tour by calling them “pansies” or “poofters” – a traditional expression of the feared incongruity between a person’s maleness and his success at achieving masculinity (Phillips, 1996, 262).

Many anthropologists claim there is an essentialist definition of masculinity which is pan-cultural. For example, David Gilmore claims that in every culture, men are expected to carry out the roles of Protector, Provider, and Procreator (Gilmore, 1990). Such a pan-cultural definition might be termed “the mythic masculine” and functions in the same manner as a Jungian archetype. But archetypes also have culture-specific incarnations-for example, the Trickster archetype is incarnate in classical Greek culture as Pan and in traditional Maori culture as Maui. Pan and Maui are not identical, yet both are cultural embodiments of the Trickster. Similarly, in one culture Man as Protector might be defined as going off to fight far-away wars, while in another culture it might be defined as protecting the immediate boundaries of the home. In one culture, Man as Provider might be defined as a nomadic hunter, in another culture as a settled gatherer of grain, and in a third culture as the man who works in an office and brings home a paycheck. Each specific incarnation is a product of the history and cultural heritage of a specific location and period in which it is acted out (Culbertson, 1993).

To comprehend the incarnation of the mythic masculine in Pakeha society, we must analyze the history of European settlement in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Historical Construct of Pakeha Masculinity James and Saville-Smith (1994, 12) comment upon how many Commonwealth societies organize themselves around race, class, or gender. An example of the first would be South Africa, and of the second, Britain. They claim that New Zealand is organized around unusually strict gender roles. [1]

The strong dichotomy between masculine and feminine gender roles can be interpreted as a product of the history of white settlement in this far-away nation. The majority of Europeans who came to this country from the 1830s to the 1880s were single men or men who had left their families behind (Phillips, 1996, 6-7; Belich, 1996, 278, 334, 391). [2]

The first half of the puzzle is how a single man, halfway around the world from his culture of origin, plays out the traditional roles of Protector, Provider, and Procreator? Does this not leave some sort of vacuum which must be filled with another definition of masculinity?

The second half of the puzzle is who these men were and what wounding caused them to go so far from home? Generally they were men who couldn’t find their place in their family of origin, or in the economic and class structure of their society. But what was so bad that their best option seemed to be to risk their life on a boat to go so far away that they were almost out of communication’s reach?[3]

Now these men came only 150 years ago or less. This is within the reach of my students who do family genograms. They keep running into secrets, a further confirmation of the wounding or shame which caused these men to leave England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Dalmatia, the US, Germany, Scandinavia, and Australia.[4]

Among these were also the “remittance men,” the black sheep of ‘good’ families, for whom special opportunities were created as long as they stayed away (Belich, 1996, 326).

So we have a vacuum of Provider, Protector, Procreator, and we have family-of-origin wounds. But the variety of personal wounds seems to have coalesced here to form three primal wounds, wounds so common that they became a gender-corporate founding trauma (“The Search …”, 1996; Belich, 1996, 337). These three primal wounds dictated new definitions of masculinity designed to give single men who could not be Providers, Protectors, and Procreators, something to be. The new society of single Pakeha men would not organize itself around class: that was one curse they left back home (Belich, 1996, 321). Evidence suggests that it did not organize strictly around race, for among other things, some of the white men married Maori women.[5]

This leaves only gender, particularly because of the huge imbalance between the numbers of men and women.

As the growing number of single men here produced a demand for commodities, farmers growing food and middle class merchants with goods to sell and trade-began to arrive, often bringing families with them. They needed land and a settled lifestyle. For a time, this produced some tension between the minority settled colonists and the majority itinerant males.[6]

The males who had no families provided the foundation for a new definition of masculinity, contradictory to Protector, Provider and Procreator: The Man Alone.[7]

At the same time, the growing economy began to produce jobs away from home that were more lucrative, and the settled colonial households began to break apart by the 1860s (James and Saville-Smith, 1994, 27; Belich, 1996, 379-80). These new jobs, plus the jobs which brought single men to the country, often couldn’t be done alone, so men began to work cooperatively with mates (Belich, 1996, 393).

Large groups of unsettled, untamed, uncontrolled men roaming the country. They, plus the victims created by this male rootlessness-the elderly, the destitute, and the abandoned-formed a serious threat to any orderly form of government.[8]

The Depression which began in the 1880s caused great upheaval, and some of those who could afford it fled the country. Perhaps in response, the 1890s saw the rise of a conscious governmental policy to promote the Cult of Domesticity, chiefly through propaganda and through legislation such as the Factories Act of 1894 (Phillips, 1996, 49-52).[9]

Belich attributes this sharp turn in policy to “moral panic” over the continually increasing vagrancy of the 1870s and 80s (Belich, 1996, 326). Gender relations were reframed and new roles overlaid upon the old. The cooperative association of masculine and feminine gender roles was promoted as necessary for the national interest, the public good, and the maintenance of law and order. Women now had two roles: The Dependent Woman, and The Moral Redemptress, Purifier and Guardian of the Domestic Order (James and Saville-Smith, 1994, 55).[10]

Women’s suffrage gave women further power over the home as well as an anticipated “civilizing” influence within the rowdy sphere of national politics. In response, men were expected to become The Family Man.[11]

But men already had a firmly entrenched role of Man Alone, with his mates. While the two roles for women could be fairly easily reconciled, men now felt caught between their two roles, one old, one new. This tension seems to have been resolved by men imaging themselves as Family Man, but continuing to behave as Man Alone (Donnelly, 1978, 92). Along the way, all other forms of masculinity had to be subordinated.[12]

Family Man was accepted as part of the stable national order. Man Alone was romanticized, and continued to be the primary draw and principle area within which masculinity was achieved or failed.



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