Skye Thomas

Skye Thomas
Writer, Rebel, and Soapbox Ranter

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The death of manliness

Okay, this one really ticked me off... I'll have to write something now.... more later when I'm done fuming.

The death of manliness

By TESSA CUNNINGHAM, Femail 09:26am 6th April 2006
Real men are in danger of extinction. That's the controversial view of Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield, who believes that manliness is a dying virtue — destroyed by feminists. Here, Dr Mansfield, 73, argues his case.

Ask any woman a generation or so ago what she admired in a man and she'd almost certainly have said "manliness".

Women 50 years ago wanted their men to be fearless, chivalrous, honourable and self-confident.

They wanted men who showed a stiff upper lip. Their heroes were ultra-manly Hollywood stars such as Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne. They admired thrill-seeking writers such as Ernest Hemingway.

Their men didn't think they were at death's door every time they got a cold. They didn't check in the mirror for the first grey hair and they certainly didn't read style magazines.

Cashmere, silk boxer shorts and anything at all from Italy were a "no no". (Who'd want to buy clothes from such a soppy country?) In short, women wanted manly men, not wimps.

According to the dictionary, manliness means "having a man's virtues of courage, frankness etc" — but it has become a dirty word. We're in danger of destroying virtues such as bravery, loyalty, restraint and self-sacrifice.

Instead, we risk producing men who are selfish, feckless and unfaithful. They may help with the washing up — but they aren't necessarily going to respect women or show commitment.

That's why I'm appealing to today's educated women to help bring manliness back. Not just for men's sake — but for women's, too.

If men are embarrassed to be men, then women also suffer. Manly men are faithful not just from a sense of love but also honour.

Sensitive, empathetic men may seem attractive; but if they're sensitive to your needs, the chances are they'll be just as sensitive to the needs of every other woman to come their way. Unlike manly men, they're not compelled from a sense of honour to be faithful.

Rise of feminism

I can date the demise of manliness to the beginning of the rise of feminism in the Sixties. As women fought for equality in the workplace, they also battled to prove they were equal in every sense.

Forty years later, for the first time in history, we have a gender neutral society. Your sex — male or female — is irrelevant and doesn't give you rights or duties or tell you your place in society. It has heralded a cataclysmic change.

Women want to behave like men, and men don't know how to behave any more.

Men now are frightened of showing manliness. If they open a door for a woman, or offer her a seat on a crowded train, they risk being snapped at for making her feel inferior.

I'm not, of course, claiming that manliness is exclusively male. I'd suggest that Margaret Thatcher showed manliness in abundance.

But, for the most part, men will always have more manliness than women. Whether we like it or not, there is an innate difference between the sexes.

Some manly qualities are pretty standard. For example, men are inclined to be more confident in risky situations than women. They are more aggressive. They are less likely to cry. They are more forthright in their views.

Greater manliness is shown by those men who are able to achieve wonders simply through the power of their personalities. Honourable and chivalrous, they protect the weak and they risk their lives for a cause. They have the self-confidence and courage to challenge conventions.

I believe American civil rights leader Martin Luther King showed great manliness. He took the issue of injustice and had the courage, strength of character and determination to change the way an entire society behaved.

Sadly, because manliness is no longer respected, it's becoming perverted. Instead of channelling their energy into serious causes, men tend to disappear for bonding weekends, get involved in dangerous sports or, at worst, take out their aggression in fights.

It's also bad for women, because as we downgrade manliness, we also downgrade femininity. I would never suggest we turn back the clock and deny women the chance to work outside the home. But I think it's sad that we are trying to deny natural feminine qualities.

Women are inclined to be better listeners than men, they are more empathetic and sensitive. They are more flexible, more realistic and prudent.

Same standards

Yet, instead of being proud of these differences, they prefer to be judged by the same standards as men: on how well they've done in the office. They're confused.

Women have been encouraged to believe that men lead better lives, so they end up valuing success and status above the virtues of home, security and intimacy which, I believe, are at least as valuable.

Sadly, I know a great many lonely women now in their 40s who are discovering just how much they have lost thanks to feminism.

Feminism may have freed them to choose great careers, but it's robbed them of the chance to settle down because they couldn't find any man 'manly' enough to be prepared to commit. Society no longer rewards men who take responsibility.

Men feel no shame at playing the field. There's been a disincentive for men to get serious, grow up and settle down — all manly qualities. Today's selfish men often don't even see the need to support their families.

I know my views will upset feminists. There were fireworks when I appeared on TV to talk about my book with feminist Naomi Wolf. Naomi was determined to disprove my views that women are naturally modest and non-aggressive by showing she was the exact opposite.

I wasn't surprised that she got so angry. But her behaviour helped prove my point that men and women are different. A man would be more likely to use rational argument than create a scene as she did.

They may not always admit it to themselves, but I think most women admire manliness. They find stars such as George Clooney or Clint Eastwood attractive. They know instinctively that these men are manly in a way that pretty boys such as Jude Law or Leonardo DiCaprio are not.

The simple truth is that manliness and femininity balance each other. We need a change in our thinking so that both men and women can lead fulfilled lives.

Women are better listeners — and that's why I'm appealing to them to save manliness. Before it's too late.

• Manliness by Harvey Mansfield will be published on April 21 by Yale University Press (£18.50).

Skye Thomas
Author & Freelance Writer

Tomorrow's Edge
...inspiring leaps of faith

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