Saturday, March 25, 2006
Manliness can be heroic. But it can also be vainly boastful, prone to meaningless scuffling, and unfriendly. It jeers at those who do not seem to measure up, and asks men to continually prove themselves. It defines turf and fights for it--sometimes to defend precious rights, sometimes for no good reason. Manliness has always been under a cloud of doubt--raised by men who may not have the time or taste for it.
Boastful, scuffling, unfriendly, jeering, turf fights - these are not the sole province of manliness, or men. Spend an afternoon in the company of women and you will see the feminine face of these characteristics. They are often lumped into one term - "bitchiness."
Later in the essay, he gets more to the point. It is, in a way, an answer to the Maureen Dowds of the world who bemoan the dearth of men worthy of them:
Of course, women are still women. While they want men to be sensitive to women, they don't necessarily want them to be sensitive in general. That's why the traditional manly male--who is protective of women, but a sorry flop when it comes to sensitivity--is far from a disappearing species.
Manliness offers gallantry to women. But is gallantry fundamentally insincere because it always contains an element of disdain? The man who opens a door for a woman makes a show of being stronger than she, one could say. At the same time, the woman does go first. Manly men are romantic about women; unmanly men are sympathetic. Which is better for women?
The "sensitive male" who mimics many female emotions and interests, while discarding the small favors men have traditionally done for women, is mostly just a creation of contemporary feminists who are irritated with the ways of men, no longer tolerant of their foibles, and demanding new behavior that would pave the way for ambitious women. Feminists insist that men must work harder to appreciate women. Yet they never ask women to be more understanding of men.
There is something unmanly about those "sensitive" men as defined by Mansfield. But the reason they seem unmanly isn't that they've adopted female emotions and interests. It's that they so often come across as being "pseudo-sensitive" - adopting those emotions and interests because they think it's what others want or expect of them. Because it's the fashionable thing to do.
Consider a tale of two men. One man is in a traditional marriage. he works full time while his wife stays home with the children. On his lunch hour he does the grocery shopping at the behest of his wife. At the stroke of 5PM, he drops everything and heads home. If he doesn't, he can expect a call from his wife reminding him that it's time to come home, regardless of how much work there may remain to be done. He does the dishes every night on his own, not because he thinks he should, but because his wife demands it. He bathes the children and generally takes over their management so his wife can have a respite. If he doesn't, he runs the risk of being accused of not caring enough. Of being a bad husband. He's constantly working hard to prove his worth to his family.
The other man works from home while his wife spends her days in an office. He cares for the children, makes dinner, and generally keeps the family functioning smoothly. He does this because he wants to, not because it's expected of him. He gets flak from time to time from other men for his non-traditional role, but he's able to ignore it. He takes care of his children not because his wife expects it, but because he's their father and that's what fathers do. He makes dinner every night not because someone nags him to do it, or expects him to do it, but because his family depends on him to do it. He does it because it's the right thing to do. He's confident of his worth to his family.
Which is the manlier man?
That's why Mansfield veers off base when he tries to credit manliness to biology, but then steers back to the true essence:
Do men and women have different natures that justify different social roles? Or are these natures just "socially constructed"? If women can conclude that their roles have been designed artificially by society, then they are free to remake themselves without constraint. But the latest science suggests that being a man or a woman is much more than having certain bodily equipment.... Perhaps men and women are characterized more by how they think than by their sexual organs.
While maleness is partly just a fact of biology, in humans it is linked to thinking and reason in ways that make manliness something much more than mere aggression. In humans, masculinity is more than just defense of one's own; it has been extended to require noble sacrifice for a cause beyond oneself.
If noble sacrifice for a cause beyond oneself is the definition of manliness, then manliness is a quality that not only transcends traditional gender roles, but transcends sex and biology as well. We should want our daughters to aspire to manliness as well as our sons. What a wonderful world it would be if we could all achieve Kipling's manliness.
posted by Sydney on 3/25/2006 11:15:00 PM 3 comments
Maybe we should just stop worrying about being manly or feminine and concentrate on being PEOPLE.. We in this day and age, we still our stuck on defining our actions and emotions by the type of sexual organs we may or may not possess is beyond me.. I have raised 5 children, with the help of a husband who stayed at home due to disability, and have some of both gender. They are each unique individuals. I didnt try to even begin to raise them within the boundries of their "sex". I let them be who they were.
By 7:53 AM, at
You gave me an interesting idea. Thx.
CALLING ALL MOMS! IS YOUR HOUSE RUN BY TESTOSTERONE? DOES YOUR HUSBAND WEAR THE PANTS OR DO YOUR SONS FORGET YOUR A WOMAN? ALSO, DO YOUR CHILDREN TAKE PART IN CONTACT SPORTS?