Friday, November 9, 2012

Hooks on the Worth of Men: The Ability to Love and be Loved

This weeks chapter "Work: What's Love Got to do With it?" really hit home, I feel in regards to challenges in rural Alaska. Bell hooks in her book The Will to Change addresses the relationship between patriarchy and capitalism.
Hooks claims that the patriarchy in our country has defined male success, male worthiness, as earning money. She defines the patriarchal message: "If a man stops working, he loses his reason for living." Citing Victor Seidler in Rediscovering Masculinity: "This is the only identity that can still prove our masculinity by showing we do not need anything from others."
Throughout reading this chapter I am brought back to the NANA Region. Our region is facing high rates of suicide, and young men are the most frequent victims. This statistic represents our challege, from an article in ADN published this summer: "Alaska Native males between the ages of 20 and 29 had the highest suicide rate, at 155.3 per 100,000 people."
The numbers are astounding, and in conversations with community leaders like Reggie Joule and Martha Whiting I have heard the sentiment that men no longer know purpose, or fulfillment in a transition from providing through subsistence hunting to earning pay checks. Reggie, as we chatted this summer said, our men need to find their purpose.
Bell hooks claims that men need to focus on their ability to love and be loved: "In actuality individual men are engaged  in the work of emotional recovery every day, but the work is not easy because they have no support systems within the patriarchal culture." At the end of the chapter she calls on the Elders in our country provide guidance: "The elders who can speak to younger generations of men, debunking the patriarchal myth of work; those voices need to be heard. They are the voices that tell younger men, 'Don't wait until your life is near it's end to find your feeling, to folow your heart. Don't wait until it's too late."

I am compelled by her argument. As men find their way in modern rural Alaska, what if they are allowed to love? What if they are celebrated for their ability to love? Can we rethink what it is to be a man, from ability to provide to ability to love and be loved?

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