Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Where Are the Magical Men?

Arthur Rackham illustration. 
Recently on the blog of Theodora Goss there has been a conversation going on about "magical men" -- men who partake in mythic art, writing, music, etc. Men who see the magical, fantastical aspects to life, and attempt to converse with us (the readers, the viewers) through creative mediums about them. More to the point, the conversation is about: where are these men?

Women who write, paint, carve, sing, or communicate in some other way about the mythic or enchanted realities of life are literally everywhere. But where are the men? Some fellows, like Charles de Lint, Charles Vess, Arthur Rackham, Neil Gaiman, and Brian Froud are indeed as magical as they come. But after a few minutes, it becomes harder and harder to think of more examples of magical men.

Is it because men are less likely to be interested in fantasy and art, or are magical men less loud and visible than their female counterparts? As Theodora says, maybe it is because women feel more social acceptance to setting up Etsy shops online, or blogging about poetry. This is true -- a lot of men I know paint in private, write in private, play music in private, but don't make much of a song and dance about it. Unfortunately.

Magical men do exist, and they are everywhere. But men are not like women, in many ways. They are quiet, often humble, often docile. They don't talk about their feelings as often, and are less likely to express their deepest intimacies. When they do, through art or writing, perhaps they are also less likely to share their creativity with the rest of the world?

Never mind the burden that men face in life. I know many female artists and writers, who are able to pursue their creativity more because of the money earned by their partners/husbands. How often is a man allowed the money, time and space (by his spouse or family or society) to pursue his art more full time? Often it's OK for women to be supported financially by their husbands so they can write a novel. How often is the reverse true? It happens, but not often enough.
Arthur Rackham illustration.

Men are raised to think they have to be everything -- they have to earn the money, support their families, become successful and prosperous. I know a lot of men who feel like failures if they can't buy the cars, the houses, the clothes that other men do.

Without question, from childhood, men know they have to support themselves financially, and possibly support a wife and children. More and more women are working full-time while raising children, but for men it is rarely a question, a choice, or an option. Men simply do not feel they have the option to not work.

If you are not working full-time and doing something respectfully difficult, you are a lay-about, lazy, a leech, and possibly a "bad provider".

Is it the fault of women that men do not take part in more art? 

No, the problem is that men have to listen to their own inner drive. If they want to do more art, be more creative, experience more magic, then the voice inside their gut has to become stronger than the voices in their head telling them to be responsible/reasonable/practical. Often those voices are not theirs in origin. Whose voice is it? A mother? A brother? A teacher? A line from an old movie watched 20 years ago?

And is it a voice that loves you? Really loves you?

Let's forget about "men" and "women" and talk about "people". As a person, do you deserve to do what makes you happy? What financial and emotional support do you need, as a person, to do what you want to do?

Arthur Rackham illustration.
As a man who writes, who paints, who believes in magic, I haven't survived and thrived by being more feminine, more sensitive, more airy-fairy if you will. I would say my gifts have been sheer determination, tenacity, and stubbornness. I wanted to prove them wrong -- the voices. The ones that tell me that I can't "pay the bills with poetry". And I did. Sort of.

And so do many other men I know. Men who publish poetry, have art exhibitions, write stories, talk about astrology, and believe in magic. It is an honor to know them.

At the end of the day, only a real man with guts can give himself permission to do something fantastical and beautiful and magical in this world.


  1. Very contemplative writing and creative ~ I don't think it is a case of male/female ~ Somehow each person needs to pursue their talents and let society move on and hopefully evolve ~ thus, opening up opportunities for creative people ~ ^_^

    1. Thanks very much! And I completely agree, it shouldn't be about whether you are "male" or "female" -- it is about what speaks to your heart as an individual human being. In a perfect world, we would all agree on this. :)

  2. This was such a great article to read, I'm so happy to have found your blog through Ms. Goss' post! :).

    1. Welcome, Brittany! Glad you enjoyed the article. :)

  3. I've been pondering this response for a while now... As a woman, I find the airy noodlings on creativity sometimes too full of imaginary fairy wings, but I see magical men in every place I look.
    Creative men perhaps opt for less ethereal expressions than art and poetry, on the whole; baking artisan bread or brewing craft beers, for example. The majority of names scrolling up the screen at the end of films and TV programmes are male; those men are creative, and not just the writers. Those who use their practical skills to build the sets and programme the CGI to give us the magical worlds of Star Trek and Game of Thrones and Avatar are as smitten with fantasy itself as those who watch, enchanted.
    Perhaps our limitations on the perception of what is a magical life, and what is practical, cause us to divide the world into professions along clear lines - lines which ought to be less clear. An artist producing designs for computer games, or an architect designing new structures, or a bricklayer building a house - are these less magical, does the work feel less satisfying, because the finished product is practical? Do we need to see magic in each aspect of what we do, or in the round, or in just one facet?



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