19 February 2013

Masculinity, Part One

Some time ago, I gave a talk in a European country on the topic of masculinity. I described what I see as the problem of radical feminism in the USA, particularly in the churches. During and after that talk several of the men told me that they have the same problem in their country. What’s the problem?

It’s true that men now have problems figuring out their role in society, in the family, and in the church. The obvious place to look for reasons for this problem is to the Women’s Movement, specifically Radical Feminism. Now this does not mean that our society didn’t need change in the area of gender equality. But the radicals of this movement so turned the world upside down that even innocent acts of kindness and courtesy were turned into offenses against women.

Thankfully, at least that extreme seems to have died away in most quarters, but the damage has been done. Men are unsure of themselves. They don’t want to be “Male Chauvinist Pigs;” they need to be sensitive men. There’s nothing wrong with sensitivity unless it wipes out such outstanding male tendencies as protectiveness and provision for their families. I submit that there are simply too many “House Husbands in America.” The major flaw with the most radical of the feminist attacks on men, and society in general, is that it leaves not only bewildered men in its wake, but confused, misled, ill-served women, as well. Consider this telling quote from Harvey Mansfield, a Distinguished Professor of Government at Harvard:

The feminist movement in America began with Betty Friedan's book, The Feminine Mystique (1963). That book is an attack on femininity, not on manliness. It blames men for foisting the feminine mystique on women, for getting them to believe that it is better to seem frail, dumb, and submissive. The implication is that in truth it is better to be strong, smart, and aggressive--like men. The feminists' first complaint against men was that they were Male Chauvinist Pigs. This did not mean that they were messy creatures, but that they were greedy pigs, hogging all the good things in life for themselves. In other words, it's better to be a man. Manly qualities that make one want to be a man are better than womanly qualities that might make one hold back. (From a transcript of a speech given in October, 1997.)

In other words, The Friedan brand of Feminism, rather than building women up, sells them short. But let’s move on to another aspect of this Role Confusion.

American society, as well as several other so-called “advanced societies,” is trying to make itself “gender-neutral.” (see this recent article on neutralizing language). To some people, myself included, this tendency is not neutralizing, but neutering, at great cost to civilization. Again, I quote Mansfield:

Today the very word "manliness" seems quaint and obsolete. We are in the process of making the English language gender neutral, and manliness, the quality of one gender, or rather, of one sex, seems to describe the essence of the enemy we are attacking, the evil we are eradicating. Recently I had a call from the Harvard alumni magazine asking me to comment on a former professor of mine now being honored. Responding too quickly, I said: "What impressed all of us about him was his manliness." There was a silence at the other end of the line, and finally the female voice said: "Could you think of another word?" (Ibid.)

Our frenzy and our fear of masculine domination has taken on such urgency that we even tinker with the words of the Bible to make them more gender neutral – at the cost of accuracy. This is tantamount to having a massive case of agoraphobia. We are so frightened of things that can happen to us when we go out that we miss the wondrous things that may just await us.

NEXT INSTALLMENT: Is there a non-radical feminine understanding of this issue?

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