For most of human history, we lived in male cultures. Men hunted and warred, women raised children, cooked, and gathered or cultivated food. Roles such as these are inscribed into the psyche of many nations and are almost universally codified in sacred texts.
Today, we are living in a feminine world -- we in the West are, at least. Men have begun to take over the role of caregivers. Men and women largely share the same jobs and functions. "Breadwinner" is no longer a purely male epithet. Equality has arrived in bursts and bouts, even though it will be a long struggle before the sharing is truly equal. (Women, for example, still earn less for the same jobs and duties. A glass ceiling still exists in many professions.)
Equality is one aspect of the feminization of our culture. The process has been going on for centuries. Madonna at the Super Bowl was a recent highlight, but the signs are everywhere: from the evolution of Barbie's boyfriend Ken to the emergence of male beauty contests, from the end of war to the increased concern for animal welfare, we have largely become a more caring, feminine world.
That is not a bad thing at all. Male societies have failed. The last time we let male societies flourish in the West, they brought us Hitler and Mussolini. Russia is currently in the grip of male thinking, with disastrous, dehumanizing consequences. Contemporary male societies in which women only have extrinsic value as seed receptacles and possessions of men are almost universally economically backwards, highly repressive, excessively religious, and desperately needing the creative, innovative spirit marked by comparatively female societies.
Feminization brings with it a diminished importance of such unnecessary values as "shame" or "honor" (which only make sense in a war context) and brings out the caring face of society. In male societies men have valor and honor, but women only function. They may be revered and respected, as Islamic clerics trying to convince us of their values often insist, but they are so only in the context of their functions as mothers and wives.
Every mainstream development has its backlash, or at least countermovement. I believe that the renewed emergence of beards, with all their trimmings, is a phenomenon in part deemed to reassert some measure of maleness in men who have been largely emasculated in our technological society. But beards don't bother me -- quite the contrary. What is deeply worrying is the rise (or rather, continued strength) of fundamentalist religion in America and elsewhere. This is an attempt to reverse the feminization of the world. Diatribes against female emancipation, alternative lifestyles, and -- rather comically, but no less absurd -- anal intercourse in particular are being unleashed by American preachers and Islamic clerics alike. Compare the recently removed YouTube videos calling for the killing of sodomites. The Arab world and parts of Africa are full of pamphlets against the softening (i.e., feminizing) influence of the West. In Pakistan's religious schools, young boys are routinely corporeally punished for exhibiting "effeminate" traits. Despite being declared illegal, Malaysia still runs government-sanctioned camps do butch up young boys and make them "impenetrable to homosexuality."
Fundamentalist religion restores women to their biblical functions as child bearers and carers. The main impetus behind the movement is a desire by men to reclaim their traditional power positions. Some of the recent comments by conservatives about the role of women are frighteningly reprobate and show that many men cannot cope with a feminized world. Of course, only female societies can be truly comfortable with anal intercourse between men. Male societies see it as a subversion of power and the traditional concept of man=seeder=active=dominant, woman=seeded=passive=subservient. Male societies have no room for the subservient, passive, effeminate, metrosexual male.
America is undoubtedly the most advanced of the feminized nations. How do we know that? Because a feminization of the mainstream brings with it a fetishizing of the male body and traditional male qualities that have no more room in a feminine society. America fetishizes the most brutal sports in the world, from wrestling to football, and the men who play these sports, which America calls "heroes." At halftime at the Super Bowl, Madonna brought her slaves into the stadium. In a feminine world, the woman is goddess, not sex symbol, while the man's body becomes an idealized fetish, and male qualities, such as power, aggression, and valor, belong on the sports ground, not on the battlefield. It's all good. We have muscle-packed avatars who bash each other's heads in so that we don't need to do it ourselves.
We now have the first generation of men who do not learn that their male traits are undesirable later in life but have adapted from the very beginning. Guys who are now 20 and 30 years old have never known a world in which purely male qualities are desirable. Straight men discussing prostate stimulation or "massage" (Google it, it's a fad!), the emergence of an almost asexual nerd culture, specialized shopping experiences for men, male grooming, etc. are all part of the feminization these guys don't have a problem with.
At the same time, the feminization process has allowed the male body to be fetishized in a way that was formerly limited to clandestine gay worlds. Imagery of muscle-hunks are now ubiquitous, we concluded, not because gays are more accepted but because a more feminine world can cope with, or even demand, the stylized fetish of the hard male body. In other words, whereas at the beginning of the last century, we lived in male worlds, suffered male wars, and idolized soft-singing women, we now live in a feminine world, in which dialog, joint dish washing, and equality are the norm. So the muscled firefighter, or the French rugby hunks from the Dieux du Stade calendar, become the fetish that our soft and flabby but essentially peaceful world lacks.
There are a few desirable male qualities that seem to have been thrown out with the bathwater. Male societies had bonding rituals, a system or trust and honesty, unspoken rules of conduct that built character and made the members of such groups upright, honest men. Do we miss them? We certainly miss the more subliminally erotic aspects of yesterday's male culture. But ultimately, "all for one and one for all" only ever mattered in a group, a small group -- which fought another group, and another group, which led to war, and the uniform fetish and the martial culture of the military.
In a feminine world, these values are redundant. A feminine culture favors respect, dialog, and peaceful conflict resolution, not war. It favors education and social care for the weak, not biblical clan thinking and a dog-eat-dog form of capitalism.
So let's welcome a feminine world. Let's welcome it with the peace, the care, the nurturing, educating environment it brings. And while we're at it, let's enjoy the muscle hunks on Madonna's leash a bit longer.
Marten Weber is a human rights activists working on LGBT issues in various countries and an award-winning writer, best known for his historical portrait of Casanova's gay brother Benedetto, and for the critically acclaimed novel Gabriel. Follow Marten Weber on Facebook.