2018-11-15

Is There Anything About Manliness Worth Saving?


I came across this long essay about a man who wonders what it means to be a man. The piece is quite sad, overall. The poor guy hasn’t figured it out.

To wit, it never seems to occur to him that the actions of a man does need not impugn women, or comment on them in any way at all, really. The author criticizes the slaying of dragons or the fighting-off of purse-snatchers. But if I slay a dragon or fight off a purse-snatcher, I'm doing that because that’s what I think ought to be done by me, not because I don’t think women should do any of those things. If I save a drowning baby, it’s not because I think other people are weak and incapable, it’s simply because there is a baby that needs saving, and I’m an able-bodied potential savior.

This modern pathos has infected absolutely everything. People are petrified of declaring their morals or their beliefs, for fear of accidentally implying that this sets them asunder. It’s not true, of course. That we all agree that lying is wrong does not imply that “people who aren’t like us lie all the time.” If I tell my sister that I enjoyed the apple pie she baked me, I’m not insulting my wife’s apple pie. If I spend $20 on a new book, I’m not implying that anyone who spends their $20 any other way is somehow less of a person.

My values are not declarations about your values. This is pefectly obvious to everyone with a brain.

All we really learned from the piece is that its writer isn't any good at being a man, and so he has begun to wonder whether there is anything about "being a man" that is worth salvaging. The correct answer -- "Of course there is, you dolt!" -- never seems to occur to him.

All you have to do to find out what's great about manliness is to ask men what they admire most about other men. It's that simple. If you ask women what they admire most about women, you know what answer you'll get: They love that their friends are cute, witty, charming, and sociable; they love that their sisters are big-hearted and conscientious, and they love that their mothers and grandmothers could suffer through great emotional hardship even across generations that diminished women's abilities. I’m not saying that these are the qualities I think make a woman great. I’m saying that these are the qualities that women tell me are great about women. I can only conclude that they see these qualities as womanly ideals.

But, maybe not. It’s not for me to say. What defines a woman is a conversation to be had among women. I know what I like in a woman, but I make no claim that this set of attributes should be extended to all women as an ideal type. It’s just, you know, my type.

Well, what do men admire about other men, anyway? We admire when men can endure physical pain and hardship nonchalantly. We admire when men can win a contest. We admire when a man can best his fellows when we’re all telling jokes. We admire when a man assumes an important responsibility and carries it through. We admire when a man completes great feats of strength or ability. We admire when men humbly accept their lifelong responsibilities without complaint.

Thus manliness, according to men who admire other men, is physical strength and endurance, humility, merriment, responsibility, skill, and a reluctance to complain. None of this indicates that women can’t or shouldn’t do any of these things. This isn’t an implication about women. This has nothing whatsoever to do with women. Remember, this is what men appreciate about other men.