View Full Version : What Women Think About Modern Manhood

Wednesday, August 13th, 2003, 02:34 AM
What Women Think About Modern Manhood


The American Enterprise recently invited six spirited women to come to our offices to talk about the condition of the male species.

For comparison’s sake, we asked many of the same questions we posed to the male panelists in our previous symposium (see “Men on Men” on pages 24-27). Karina Rollins moderated the discussion.

The participants:

•Mona Charen, nationally syndicated columnist and author of Useful Idiots

• Jessica Gavora, author of Tilting the Playing Field and new mom

• Charlotte Hays, editor of The Women’s Quarterly

• Kate O’Beirne,Washington editor of National Review

• Naomi Schaefer, fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center

• Erica Walter, at-home mom and Catholic writer

KARINA ROLLINS: What is your overall assessment of masculinity today?

KATE O’BEIRNE: Generally positive—as it always has been, despite the efforts of the elites. And September 11 made it more difficult for liberals to criticize traditional male characteristics and virtues.

ERICA WALTER: Manliness has experienced a renaissance for two reasons: The Bush/Cheney administration has set the tone for the political culture. And 9/11, of course. Why did America fall in love with soldiers and firemen and traditional male occupations? Because we realized we’re at risk. The comeback of manliness is here to stay as long as national security is an issue.

JESSICA GAVORA: I am distressed by the degree to which feminism still carries political weight. Even under the current administration there is a continuing belief that groups like the National Organization for Women speak for women. And men are discriminated against in public policy, as in federal legislation like Title IX, the program to bolster female athletics in college. In the private realm we’re in better shape.

MONA CHAREN: Women used to rely on gentlemen to protect them from louts and predators. Then feminists decided that sisterhood will protect women and give them power in the world, and they dumped all men into the “bad” category. That made it much harder for men to perform their traditional role of protectors of women. I was in college when feminism was reaching its apex. In the1970s at Barnard College, the kinds of young men one met there were confused. They had no idea what they were doing or supposed to be doing in regard to women. After college, I went to work at National Review and found that conservative men were not confused.

CHARLOTTE HAYS: The modern-day loss of respect for manliness
is an aberration. Men and their virtues have always been prized. The great epics aren’t about women and their virtues. The post-9/11 love affair with police, firemen, and soldiers is a return of normal relations between men and women. Most people today never needed to be carried out of a burning building. But once they see 3,000 people that need to be rescued, they know it takes men.

O’BEIRNE: We were reminded on 9/11 and again during the military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq that we depend on manly characteristics to keep us safe. Every single one of the dead firemen heroes on 9/11 were men. This was one group where liberals didn’t ask why there wasn’t a more pleasing gender balance. Because the Upper West Side is not fireproof. What happens in combat in some distant field is abstract to Upper West Side liberals, but they can understand the need to have strong, brave, reckless men in their fire department.

WALTER: When it comes to role confusion among men themselves,
though, I believe the damage of the ’60s and ’70s has persisted.
During my first pregnancy, I rode the Washington, D.C. subway every day. I was amazed at the number of men who didn’t offer me their seat, didn’t lift a finger for me. A Marine friend of mine, who is a normal, manly man, got so angry that he rode the subway with me, and in full cars pointedly asked men: “Would you please give up your seat for this young lady?” The request meant: “Will you do what you’re supposed to do?”

GAVORA: Is that actual confusion, or simply what the feminist deal sealed for women? Our “equality” has come at a price. Truly equal standing in society for men and women might require the sacrifice of chivalry. How can men treat women in special, flowery ways, yet walk into a boardroom and face them as hardnosed equals? I’m not sure that’s a balance men are capable of.

ROLLINS: So are traditional manners necessarily linked to some sort of inequality?

HAYS: There are things you simply lose if you have as many women in the workforce as we do.A man’s not going to stand up every time a woman walks into the room at a board meeting.

O’BEIRNE: I don’t think there has to be a trade off. Men will behave however women demand they behave. I don’t spend time with male boors, so I don’t think most American men lack manners.
British men are terribly mannerly, but they’re all wimps. I think well-raised American men have the ability to be thoroughly masculine and mannerly at the same time.

CHAREN: Feminists used to agonize over questions like, “Can you be an executive and still wear skirt?”We realize today that, yes, of course you can. You can still be feminine, look pretty, and have
a high-powered job. You can still enjoy the attentions of men and yet be taken seriously. It’s just a matter of maturity on everyone’s part and I don’t see any necessary inconsistency.

GAVORA: Women are perfectly capable of that balance, but are men? After watching the movie Titanic, I was wrenched by the image of all those men dying simply because they were men. The notion of allowing all women and children into the boats first—I think most men today would ask, “Why? Why should I die?”

WALTER: They do ask themselves why, and that’s why the phenomenon of 9/11 heroism was such a revelation, especially to men. There have been recent articles in the press about how the war in Iraq caused many middle-aged men to look at the heroism of young Americans, and ask themselves: “Why didn’t I join the military?” It made them feel quite inadequate. I think that men lost their way.

CHAREN: It’s part of men’s nature to want to take that role—they want to be heroic, to be the saviors, the self-sacrificers. Just as it’s part of women’s nature to want to nurture children. This society has been groping around in the dark, pretending that those basic elemental things aren’t true. But nature doesn’t die.Many men felt guilty for avoiding the draft during Vietnam, felt their manhood had been diminished in some way.

ROLLINS: Can women who are CEOs or helicopter pilots in the military really expect men to treat them differently because they are women, not as one of the guys? Would that even make sense?

HAYS: If I were on the front line, or a helicopter pilot, I would still expect the same politeness I would anywhere. But that’s why women shouldn’t be there: If a woman and a man are in combat together, the man, if he’s been brought up right, will sacrifice his life for the woman. And that’s the way it should be—which is why we have to define roles and keep women out of certain ones.

WALTER: An equality that slips into androgyny, with interchangeable men and women, just doesn’t seem true to human nature. There are certain things that a woman can’t do as well as a man. There are certain things that a man can’t do as well as a woman. Feminism refuses to confront that basic bedrock.

HAYS: In a rich, frivolous, fat society—ours, pre-9/11—you can play around with roles. You can say you want women to do all sorts of male jobs. But when you’re attacked, you don’t want to rely on a woman to rescue you from a burning building.

O’BEIRNE: It’s the difference between the gender makeup of the New York City Fire Department—where out of 11,000 firemen there are fewer than 50 women, because there’s no such thing as peacetime for the fire department—and the gender makeup of the American military, where right after the Cold War it looked like we’d never go to war again, so we could fool around with lowering the physical demands of the military.

ROLLINS: Will modern cushy lifestyles turn us all into wimps?

CHAREN: Not only men but also women have lost some of their fortitude. All of us are part of this more therapeutic, whiny culture where everybody wants to file a lawsuit instead of showing courage in adversity. I read the Little House on the Prairie series to my boys. The books are about frontier life, and you learn that those girls and women were tough as nails. They had to be; it was a matter of survival. Laura Ingalls Wilder describes waking up in the winter to find her blankets covered with snow.

She would get up and crack the ice in the wash bowl. But September 11 showed that we still produce people who are courageous and strong. Ordinary businessmen could pull it together and overwhelm terrorists, despite all the years of cushy life. It’s easy to get soft and the trick is to not forget those virtues and not allow yourself to become a pushover.

WALTER: Modern urban life itself is especially hard on males.

Where in the modern world can men be men? The frontier’s gone. We’re all so alienated from nature. If all people grew up on farms they would know instinctively that there are differences between boys and girls. But modern society, with all its conveniences, makes it very, very easy to deny nature.

O’BEIRNE: Anyone married with children appreciates why children need fathers. The typical mother of a second-grade boy is destroyed if he’s not invited to a certain birthday party. Mothers would wrap sons in cotton. It’s the fathers who instill the sense of risk-taking, of the stiff upper lip.

NAOMI SCHAEFER: But what about daughters? They often need to know how to keep a stiff upper lip, too. Whatever the problems with feminism, I guess I’m sort of glad that it all happened.

CHAREN: It would be wrong not to give feminism some credit for improving women’s place in the world. But I believe many of these changes would have happened organically anyway—with rising prosperity, labor-saving devices in the home, and widespread education. You didn’t need a bunch of bra-burners for that.

GAVORA: My main complaint against feminists is that in the name of choice, they have taken away so many choices. They have demonized motherhood and traditional masculinity.

ROLLINS: Why are there so many wimpy male journalists?

CHAREN: Because they’re liberals. Not to say there aren’t some conservative wimps. But conservatives never really bought into the notion of androgyny or into feminism, and so conservative men never felt the need to abandon their manliness. Liberal men, on the other hand, thought that was being enlightened. So, since most journalists are liberal, a lot of them are wimpy.

O’BEIRNE: It goes back to how these journalists spent their high school years, which I assume was being stuffed into lockers by other males. This also explains the whole media love affair with John McCain. He created a fighter pilot ready-room in the back of his bus and told off-color jokes and brought these former high school nerds into the circle of the cool guy. They were so thrilled that one of the jocks was finally paying attention to them that they just swooned.

ROLLINS: Are today’s parents raising warriors or wimps?

SCHAEFER: When men aren’t inculcated with manly virtues they don’t become wimps, they become hoodlums. Recently I found myself walking around Manhattan in the aftermath of the Puerto Rican Day Parade: hordes of post-adolescent men wandering around, leering at women, making rude comments. That’s what happens when you don’t have fathers. It’s not that boys become gay and effeminate and go work for the New York Times.

O’BEIRNE: Pat Moynihan warned us about predatory males being raised by single moms.

ROLLINS: What is your definition of virility? Does it have a role in political leadership?

WALTER: It’s a nebulous quality for a political leader. Bill Clinton was virile—in a very sleazy way. There’s also the sex appeal of someone like Don Rumsfeld. President Bush possesses this intangible something—you really saw it on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. Testosterone and camaraderie—many people responded to it. In George W. Bush, people see a contained, channeled virility. They see a man who does what he says, whose every speech and act is not calculated. Bill Clinton showed a lot of outward empathy and he was very articulate but I don’t think many of us would have trusted him with our daughters.

GAVORA: If virility equates with strength, then there is no question that Bill Clinton lacked it completely. Bush has shown that he has it. His willingness to go after terrorism root and branch despite the widespread opposition among our European allies and even some at home, and to withstand that pressure, is strength. Bill Clinton made surface gestures. He refused to go against the media, popular opinion, the pinstriped boys at the State Department, because he lacked that strength.

HAYS: The most masculine man I ever knew was my grandfather, who supported seven children and never failed to stand when a woman came into the room. Bill Clinton is virile, but he’s not masculine or mature. He never became a grown man.

O’BEIRNE: When I heard that he grew up jumping rope with the girls in his neighborhood, I knew everything I needed to know about Bill Clinton. There’s no contest between Clinton and Bush on masculinity. Bill Clinton couldn’t credibly wear jogging shorts, and look at George Bush in that flight suit.

ROLLINS: But why do so many American women love Bill Clinton?

SCHAEFER: You can learn a lot jumping rope with girls. It won’t make you sexually attractive, but it will make you a more effective, patient listener.

O’BEIRNE: Bill Clinton did understand, from the matriarchy he grew up in, how to appeal to women in that modern way.

HAYS: Clinton could feel your pain like one of your girlfriends.
But he could never make a decision like Bush has had to make.
He would still be trying to negotiate with the terrorists. The use of force, which until recently was passé, has come back. Clinton couldn’t use force except in a motel room.

ROLLINS: Who has been hurt more by the confusion of sex roles?

HAYS: Men. Women now predominate on college campuses. Women are moving into men’s jobs. Masculinity is under attack. It’s men who are being shoved out and hurt more.

WALTER: Men, definitely. In the 1960s, equality rolled over America like a steamroller. That was terrible for men. It was bad for women too, but women gained a lot: equality in the workplace, a place at the table, especially women who didn’t want to have babies or get married. But men lost. Men got the right to become louts, to prey on the new promiscuity of feminists who where touting sexual liberation.

CHAREN: You could argue that women who were highly career-oriented and did not want to have children gained. But women who wanted to be wives and mothers and were looking for a man to marry them and provide a home and stability, they lost really badly. I have enjoyed having a career as well as being a mother, and I actually think the ideal situation for most women is to have both. But the fact that men were freed from all traditional responsibilities has hurt women and children extremely badly.

ROLLINS: How open do you think today’s young people are to the concept that identities are linked to sex?

O’BEIRNE: They have been sternly told that that’s not the case ever since they can remember, despite all the evidence and common experience from the playground on up. But when these weird education efforts so conflict with human experience and nature, they typically are not successful. The Soviets found that out.

CHAREN: Why are people so afraid of reality? All the studies of girls’ and boys’ academic performance show that the boys’ curve is more shallow and longer; there are more at the very bottom and more at the very top. Girls have a steeper bell curve, they are more clustered in the middle. There will be more geniuses and more idiots among men than among women. Good or bad, it’s a fact.

ROLLINS: Is the popularity of reality shows like “Survivor,”which include a lot of physical survival skills, evidence of a desire to see masculine traits in action?

HAYS: “Survivor” isn’t really about male survival traits.

O’BEIRNE: It’s about interpersonal relationships, which makes me think it’s got a female audience. Men are bored with that stuff.

HAYS: It’s basically a gossip thing: Who are we going to vote off now? And the guys who’ve won have been light in the loafers.

ROLLINS: What’s behind men’s interest in guns, truck racing, wrestling, etc.? Are these positive masculine traits, or just gross?

WALTER: They are truly masculine things and a mystery to me.

GAVORA: These interests show up in tiny little boys.When my little brother was a baby and could barely sit up, he loved nothing better than to sit on my dad’s tractor.

CHAREN: As a mother of three sons, I have learned to accept and go with the flow. I no longer shudder at the sight of a snake. I say “boys come and see the nice snake.”I’ve even learned to love trucks.

O’BEIRNE: The same interests find expression in men’s aggression, their risk-taking, their respect for power. It’s all those same characteristics that make them good husbands, providers, fathers, soldiers, and firemen. I don’t see anything wrong with liking monster truck racing. My husband once brought our boys to one of those events and I held my breath the whole time they were gone.

I was so afraid there would be an accident and for the rest of my life I’d have to explain to people that I lost the three of them in a monster truck rally. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. Look at the guy with the Mercedes,with the zillion-horsepower engine—it holds the same appeal to power and speed.

ROLLINS: Is there anything people can do to get the male-female relationship back into balance? How do we keep the post-9/11 rebound of traditional manliness going?

CHAREN: The uniqueness of men and their contribution to the world needs to be recognized and celebrated. Men need to be reminded that their most important functions in life are within the family, not in the marketplace. As fathers, they teach girls what it means to have a man treat them well. Girls who grow up without fathers tend to get abused badly because they have no model for a man being nice to them. Fathers teach boys to be gentlemen. Sons learn from how the father treats the mother.

WALTER: Encourage marriage among young people. One of the worst demographic trends in this country is the marriage rate, which has been plunging for decades. I also really hope that the renewed interest among men in serving in the military will continue. Armed service allows men to test themselves. It gives them worthy ideals and lets them emulate honorable, strong men. The military is also one of the only places left for men to be in an almost exclusively male atmosphere. Women need female friends and men need male camaraderie. It brings out the best in both.

And there is one arena in which men can still be men, and still find lots of opportunities to exhibit heroism—fatherhood.

HAYS: Masculinity will come back from its recent eclipse for two reasons: We live in a more dangerous world where we need strong men. And most of all: biology. It simply can’t be denied.

SCHAEFER: I think there’s a role for religion to play. Men’s involvement in churches over the last few decades has decreased. At most religious colleges, the environment is much more tipped in favor of women. I wonder whether churches couldn’t do more to encourage manly virtues.

O’BEIRNE: I’m pessimistic about the role of religion given that most of the mainline churches have been so feminized.

HAYS: Religion is always under attack from feminizers, and too many of today’s religious leaders don’t have the guts to stand up and talk about how men and women are really different.

SCHAEFER: Churches could be a plus if run the right way.

O’BEIRNE: Right. But I don’t think that groups like Promise Keepers are very helpful. I’m not encouraged when I see a stadium filled with men hugging each other. Just go home and be a man.

ROLLINS: Do today’s women really not want more modern, equality-minded, sensitive men?

O’BEIRNE: No.Women don’t want a guy to feel their pain, they want a guy to clean the gutters.

WALTER: God save us from modern men.

Saturday, August 16th, 2003, 05:00 PM
They've got the right idea, generally. The problem is, advocating men to join the army means advocating men to fight and die for Zionism :(

Taras Bulba
Thursday, April 22nd, 2004, 05:44 PM
American society is about as feminized and anti-masculine as ever! 9/11 didnt change anything! :eyes

Wednesday, April 28th, 2004, 11:18 PM
Being Irish I can only tell you about my own country.

In Ireland the traditional roles of genders is becoming a thing of the past, and this I do believe is leading to a lot of confusion.
The confusion is among both males and females, Im not saying I think that wemon should "know their Place" and return to the kitchen but our birthrate is falling drastically and from what I can see bi-sexuality is at an all time high!
I think that Feminism was a great and very necessary thing but has just gone out of hand!

Equality is one thing, but males are becoming second class citizens.
as we're stripped of our masculine role were also expected to remain chivilrous?
It's fucking Crazy.
I pride myself on being a gentleman but the whole thing is fucked up!
Can men not just be happy being male and the same for females?

Thursday, April 29th, 2004, 12:31 AM
Being Irish I can only tell you about my own country.

In Ireland the traditional roles of genders is becoming a thing of the past, and this I do believe is leading to a lot of confusion.
The confusion is among both males and females, Im not saying I think that wemon should "know their Place" and return to the kitchen but our birthrate is falling drastically and from what I can see bi-sexuality is at an all time high!
I think that Feminism was a great and very necessary thing but has just gone out of hand!

Equality is one thing, but males are becoming second class citizens.
as we're stripped of our masculine role were also expected to remain chivilrous?
It's fucking Crazy.
I pride myself on being a gentleman but the whole thing is fucked up!
Can men not just be happy being male and the same for females?

Women have the freedom to say and do anything they want... people have the freedom to race mix their country into oblivion. Don't you love being free and democratic?

Thursday, April 29th, 2004, 12:33 AM
I'm really glad to have read this. It's difficult being a man on this American campus. If I'm a femminized wimp the women hate me, If I be my manly self the women hate me. It's ridiculous that I should have to be ashamed of myself to make complete strangers feel comfortable when I know for a fact they would NOT do the same for me.

I am a man and proud to be a man!


Thursday, April 29th, 2004, 12:36 AM
American society is about as feminized and anti-masculine as ever! 9/11 didnt change anything! :eyes

I think the men have been feminized and the women masculinized.

Thursday, April 29th, 2004, 06:56 AM
I'm really glad to have read this. It's difficult being a man on this American campus. If I'm a femminized wimp the women hate me, If I be my manly self the women hate me. It's ridiculous that I should have to be ashamed of myself to make complete strangers feel comfortable when I know for a fact they would NOT do the same for me.


Most married men know from experience that women can think three contradictory things at the same time. Not that men never do this, but rather women do it far more often. Also many women only look at things from their personal perspective or on an emotional level - constantly comparing themselves to other women or people they perceive have more more than them. Never mind all the people who have less.

Also for a women to want a sensitive, wimpish man, while still wanting a self-assured man is no contradition in their mind. For example, I have noticed how easily women can have a rapport with queer men. They can sit around and discuss all the things women like, but that normal men have no interest in. But will they actually try to be romantically involved with a queer? No, they want a different kind of man for that, a man who has little interest in their small talk and typical womanly interests.

I have discovered through the years that a man cannot understand women by any kind of objective logic, but only by getting to know how women think and that can be very confusing.