The Essence

Acknowledge your male characteristics. Celebrate them. Honor them. Turn them into a manhood that serves the world around you. But do not let them overwhelm you and do not let those who confuse maleness and manhood take your manhood from you. Most of all, do not fall prey to the false belief that mastery and domination are synonymous with manliness.

    Kent Nerburn, U.S. theologian and author. Letters to My Son, ch. 2 (1994).

I'm addressing the subject of men, first of all because I never tire of talking about men and secondly because I want everyone to understand that men are appreciated for being exactly the way they are. It is not necessary to change men only to look beyond their crusty shell to the inner soft tenderness that each of them possess.

This week I witnessed one of the toughest, macho, ex-marine construction foremen I know do a beautiful thing. Our accountant just got married last month. Her wedding was in another state and thus no one from here was invited to the wedding. This man made a point to find out her favorite color and the size of their bed, and ordered some very fine monogrammed linens for her. Yesterday he arrived here with a large cardboard box. He put it on her chair and told her gruffly that someone delivered the box to his address by mistake. After she opened the box, he made a few slightly raunchy jokes about what they were going to do on their new sheets. She was very touched and tried to thank him but he just turned bright red and sloughed off the appreciation. It was obvious to me that this macho man has a very tender, romantic side to him that he is embarrassed to reveal but still will because he has the honor and integrity of a man. I believe that men are like this all the time.

Before my mother died, she was in a nursing home with Alzheimer's. My dad who was an electrical contractor and president of every organization he ever joined is the epitome of macho. He would visit my mother daily. She did not even recognize him and could not carry on a conversation. He would go to the nursing home and sit with her. He'd turn off his hearing aid and just talk to her about what was going on in his life and with all of their 6 children. Then he would paint her finger nails, curl and brush her hair and take her for ice-cream. This went on for several years until she died. I would never have imagined that my dad could have been so tender and sweet, but he was.

I was present at the birth of my first grandchild along with my son-in-law. I watched as my daughter delivered her son and the doctor checked him and then handed him to my son-in-law. Jason was so moved by the birth of his son that as he held him in his hands, tears rolled down his face. I have seen this scene repeated again and again at the many births I have witnessed.

Years ago I saw my husband, champion wrestler, black belted in Judo and Karate, world class wrestling coach and former Green Beret shed a tear when our pet rabbit was mangled by a wild dog.

At my husband's funeral, there were about a thousand men, visibly shaken, some so shook up they could not speak, but those who did spoke of his commitment to them as men and how he had sacrificed to teach them to change their lives from pre-delinquent to upstanding citizen, mayor, school principal, police officer, business owner, fathers and coaches. He accomplished this as a man, actually as a wrestling coach who took the toughest boys he could find on the street and taught them to channel their aggression into an acceptable form where they could become champions and experience success.

What do all of these examples prove?

It proves that men are our heroes, saviours, gladiators and rescuers. They represent honor, integrity and toughness. They fight for what they believe, they are the first to come to the rescue of a damsel, child or animal in distress. They perform these tasks silently, not asking for praise or recognition. They are stoic, often working while in pain or sick, frequently refusing to see a doctor until they are severely ill. They come across as tough guys and are unwilling to show their emotions for fear of being thought a wimp. It is these characteristics that make them our heroes and yet women criticize them harshly for being unemotional, detached and macho.
Susan Sheppard, this week's contributing author



- Susan Sheppard

About the Author

"I work with couples who are craving passion and sacred intimacy in their relationship by inspiring them to comprehend and appreciate each other's uniqueness, so they both can have more fun, more sex and less bickering. I work with women who are craving passion and sacred intimacy in their life by inspiring them to be powerful as well as feminine while asking for exactly what they want, so they can have more fun, more sex and less frustration. I work with men who are seeking passion and sacred intimacy in their life by challenging them to understand and appreciate the mystery of women, so they can have more sex, more love and less stress." Visit Susan and learn more at www.SusanSheppard.com


When a man so far confuses ends and means as to think that fox-hunting, or polo, or foot-ball, or whatever else the sport may be, is to be itself taken as the end, instead of as the mere means of preparation to do work that counts when the time arises, when the occasion calls ó why, that man had better abandon sport altogether.

    Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life, Chapter X - The American Boy. (Published in "St. Nicholas," May, 1900)

Mansfield on Manliness - Harvard's conservative icon speaks out

The greatest problem with feminism today is that it is based upon the flawed notion that there are no essential differences between men and women. So says Harvard's own Kenan Professor of Government Harvey Mansfield. Mansfield, whose next project will be a book entitled Manliness, believes that the feminist movement has done serious damage to society in general and women in particular by insisting that stereotypes are mere social conventions.

Those who object to Mansfield's approach label him an "essentialist" and argue that differences between the sexes are the result of historical social arrangements. Those in this "social construction" camp see little value, then, in stereotypical ideas about what makes a man, a man and what makes a woman, a woman. Mansfield recognizes the limitations of stereotypes. "They are often presented as universals, when they're true only generally." Nonetheless, Mansfield believes "there is more truth in stereotypes than in ideologically driven Žstudies,' and that our age needs to reduce the reputation of social science and restore that of common sense." Social science has convinced too many, he claims, that it is possible to live without stereotypes, an idea he sees as absurd.

What is a "manly man," according to Mansfield? Manliness has two components, which are constantly in tension: confidence and command. Confidence is the willingness to take risks, to step up and take charge when others will not, and to be courageous. This manly trait, however, has a dark side. Often it leads to disdain for others who fail to be confident and thus leads to the desire to be independent. This anti-social pressure exists in tension with the other manly trait, command. A manly man must be commanding, possessing authority. He must be available to others when things are difficult.

The difficulty for men, Mansfield argues, has always been to reconcile this conflict. Traditionally, women have been of some assistance. Women often have the ability to domesticate men and in so doing help make manliness into something more admirable and responsible. When men become fathers, they are no longer independent and must fulfill certain obligations to those requiring protection.

Feminism, however, is an assault on manliness. In this liberal age, Mansfield says, choice is emphasized to an unhealthy extreme. Women now want to be able to choose to be manly. To Mansfield, such a choice is impossible. He argues that when one sex tries to adopt the style of the other, the result is undesirable. Men, when trying to become feminine, become indecisive; women, in trying to be manly, become shrill.

But in addition to the problem of practicality, Mansfield questions even the desirability of crossing-over between the styles of men and women. "Women cry too much and men boast too much," he says. Manly men and womanly women compliment the other's style and both sexes are better off. Today's emphasis on choice has led to women attempting to be men, but in addition it has led to men choosing not to provide benefits to women. Mansfield believes that feminists never considered the effect that feminism would have on men - or if they did, they didn't understand it. Noting the numbers of absent fathers and sexual crimes, Mansfield thinks manliness has "run wild" because women, in trying to be men, no longer act like women.

Traditionally, Mansfield notes, it was appropriate for men to treat women like ladies, to compliment women and to encourage them. Today, such "sexist" attitudes are frowned upon and women have been left without something they once had and still need. Mansfield speculates this may explain the rise of eating disorders among women and the proliferation of "support groups."

What about the idea of androgyny? What if we could encourage men and women to cultivate masculine and feminine traits and get them to act manly, when appropriate, and womanly, when appropriate. Mansfield is somewhat sympathetic to the idea, but doesn't believe this approach would work. He argues that men need to know what their role is and women need to know what their role is; the idea is to specialize in certain tasks, according to nature. "Everyone wants to transcend their sex; it's good for men to be sensitive; it's just not fully possible. We must each recognize that our sex lacks something."

Women in the workforce present a problem, then. While Mansfield recognizes that, in a free society, once women demand the right to vote and seek paid employment they cannot be justly refused, he questions whether these choices were wise "for society or for women themselves." In addition to furthering the attack on manliness, women often lose out. "In the competition to be manly, men are going to excel and women aren't," he says.

And women lose out in the bedroom as well as in the boardroom. With everyone trying to be manly, promiscuity remains unchecked and women are often taken advantage of. Respect for women has declined, Mansfield says, now that sexual freedom and independence are so highly valued. Finding commitment is hard for women in a culture full of men now able to focus solely on pleasing themselves.

Obviously it is impossible to return to the 1950s. Even if we agreed it would be better to restore the traditional ways, women are not going to return to the home nor are they about to give up their political rights. Nonetheless, Mansfield's arguments need to be taken seriously. Even if we ultimately disagree in part or in whole with his analysis of feminism and the social effects of the liberal assault on manliness, feminists have advanced their "social constructionism" without challenge long enough.

Mansfield is justified in pointing out the inherent difficulties of a society that tries to base itself on nothing more than choice. He is right to question an ideology committed to denying the evident differences between the sexes. And he is correct to suggest that before we congratulate ourselves on successfully fighting the injustice of the "patriarchy," we take note of just what we have gained - and what we have lost.
David Campbell, this week's guest author



- David Campbell, Harvard Staff Writer

About the Author

David is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Government at Harvard University. He is Visiting Fellow for the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton University. His research has been featured in the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and by the Canadian Broadcasting Company. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, he has served his ward in the Bishopric. He has received a number of awards for his work, including Best Paper on Religion and Politics at the 2000 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association. David, his wife Kirsten and their children Katie and Soren live in a wonderful place called Somerville, near Boston.


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