What Makes a Man a Sissy?

December 21, 2009

Most of us have a pretty good idea of what is meant by the term a lady’s man.  The same could be said for a man’s man.  But what about a man that is more effeminate?  Since the mid-1800’s the term sissy has been used.  It is a variation of the word sister.  The word was used to imply that a man acted more like what his sister should act like.  It was not a compliment.

We still use the word today, but we don’t always agree as to what defines a sissy.  Part of the difficulty in defining the term is that masculinity has also become a fuzzy term.  Men speak of being in touch with their feminine side.  The problem with that is that a feminine side doesn’t exist in the masculine gender.  This doesn’t mean that men should be afraid to cry or talk about something.  It does mean that these things may be a part of their masculinity.

So what about a sissy?  Denny Burk, the Dean of Boyce College, created some conversation today by commenting on this subject.  I agree with the Burk’s calling men to be men, but was disappointed in how he went about it.  His opening line is

Have you ever seen a guy carrying a man-purse or wearing “guy-liner” make-up?

Here is my question.  What criteria determines a sissy?  To Burk, it at least involves a man-purse and guy-liner.  Guy-liner is eye liner for men.  Where does he get this?  From his cultural background.  His southern, baptistic culture would not connect masculinity with a man-purse or guy-liner.  But Burk is a Christian professor.  The standard of judgment should be biblical teaching rather than cultural norm.

A man-purse is also called a murse or a European man bag.  In some cultures it is a very manly thing or at least gender neutral.  In others it is not.  For a Christian it should not be equated with being a sissy.  (You can get a stylish one for $159 by clicking on the picture to the left.)  Let me provide some other examples.

I have owned and worn a pink dress shirt in the past.  I don’t have one now because my wife thinks it is unmanly.  I think she is wrong, but I don’t want to appear unmanly to my wife.

I own and have worn a French beret.  Some of my family think it is unmanly.  My wife and I disagree (as do most people in France), so I am comfortable wearing it.

I remember as a child when church members were shocked that a woman wore slacks to church.  That’s not an issue for most churches today.  What changed?  Cultural norms changed.  Biblical teaching did not.  The problem comes when people try to read culture back into the Bible.  The Bible does have passages that relate to men and women wearing clothing or appearing like their own gender.  No where does it indicate that this relates to slacks.  There are pieces of clothing that are particular to a gender and should not be exchanged.  Jock straps and bras are examples of this.

So, men need to be men.  Let’s just be careful how we define manliness and who we call a sissy.

Frank Gantz

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A Christian who is a member of FirstBoynton in Boynton Beach, FL. A husband, father & grandfather.

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