Review of a Review

Harvey Mansfield’s Manliness is reviewed by Christina Hoff Summers in the Weekly Standard. His discussion with Naomi Wolf on last week’s C-Span left me irritated. I assumed the book was not as flimsy as her accusations & his defenses implied. And, indeed, Summers’ grasp is more sure:

But one forgives Mansfield his imprecision and hyperbole because so much of what he says is profoundly true. Not all of contemporary feminism is a playing out of Nietzschean themes, but a great deal of it is. He is also right when he points out that many feminist leaders emulate some of the cruder and unappealing qualities of manliness.

. . .

Mansfield’s analysis of women’s nihilism gives us the lens to understand these developments as caricatures of the feminist will to “empowerment.” It is a form of manly assertiveness unmoderated by Aristotelian ideals. Here we have an example of women imitating masculinity in its lower range. It is the dark side of the “gender neutral society” in which we now live.

(Probably more about this in the summer, but for now, Summers’ summary might interest our readers.)

1 thought on “Review of a Review”

  1. There are two distinct, but certainly interconnected, issues here.

    First, there is the disastrous attempt to replace subservient feminine roles in both public and private life with what amounts to a caricature of masculinity, grafted crudely onto women like a badly fitting, second-hand suit.

    This derivative “mascu-femininity”, especially as showcased in the media, emphasizes physical violence, a la “Laura Croft” or “business tough”, as in the new mother who goes back to work after a few weeks to resume her career, placing the newborn in daycare.

    Meanwhile, masculinity is everywhere suspect, every heterosexual man is a potential, if not virtual, rapist and abuser, boys must be “cleansed” of obsolete ideas and habits, all husbands are oppressors, and any disagreement with any feminist assertion is “sexism”, which renders any meaningful discussion of gender issues impossible.

    The damage being done to both our sons and daughters is hard to calculate. While the rigid roles of the Victorian era, and before, have been discarded with small lament and great advantage, the overly politicized and “correct” new rules have made relations between men and women a cultural minefield.

    Women wonder how and where they fit in to a society which now expects them to be all the best of both sexes, and men wonder how and where they fit into a society which denigrates all that they used to be, without any positive message about what they should become.

    Fortunately for my own piece of mind, I was raised by two independent women, who both liked men to be men, and I happen to be married to a very intelligient and strong woman, who tolerates my old fashioned foolishness when I insist on going to get the car and warm it up before she comes out.

    I just hope my sons are as lucky, and my daughter as tolerant.

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