Monday, April 2, 2018

The Decline of American Manliness

In the time leading up to the last presidential election I often remarked on the manliness factor. Clearly, Donald Trump promoted himself as more manly than the other candidates. He certainly presented himself as more manly than Hillary Clinton… though, in the end, it was a close call. Trump by a nose… so to speak.

As I noted, Trump’s vulgar, bare-knuckled version of manliness was certainly not the only kind. Trump was not Eisenhower or MacArthur.

Yet, as president, however, Trump has surrounded himself with many traditionally manly men, from John Kelly to James Mattis. We would add Rex Tillerson and H. R. McMaster, men of unimpeachable manliness, but who seemed, nonetheless, not to have been up to their jobs.

Harvard Prof. Harvey Mansfield explains in a Wall Street Journal interview that there are several kinds of manliness. Among them are the gentleman. By definition, the gentleman is proper and courteous, genteel and respectful. He is neither a bully nor a thug. He did not take his marching orders from Friedrich Nietzsche.

And yet, Mansfield continues, no one embodied aristocratic gentility more than the Bushes, father and son. Unfortunately, the first went back on his sacred vow not to raise taxes. And if anything denotes manliness, it is the willingness to keep one’s word, come what may.

Bush the younger seemed to be too much the frat boy and not enough the grown up. He seemed too conciliatory and even weak when faced with the onslaught of Democratic criticism. You might say that the Golden Rule precluded his fighting back against the attacks, but still, he appeared more to be a punching bag than a fearless leader. In so doing he discredited WASP gentility.

One might say that Barack Obama was genteel, at least in his own way, but he consistently projected weakness on the world stage. And, when the time came to stand tall and proud, to represent America in the world stage, to be our fearless champion, he walked away. He did not want to compete as the alpha male, but to exercise what he would have called moral leadership. He wanted to plant his flag on the moral high ground. He talked American down, apologized for a nation of war criminals and manifested a patriotism deficiency.

People around the world cheered. Yet, world leaders, considerably more savvy about these matters, saw that occupying the moral high ground merely made you a target. And they saw that Obama’s weakness left the role of alpha male open, up for the taking. Around the world today we are seeing different male leaders, from Vladimir Putin to Xi Jinping, even including Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Narendra Modi… vying to occupy the empty place of the world’s alpha male.

Clearly, Donald Trump understands the competition and is engaging it.

His detractors vacillate between hysterical rants about how he is going to provoke a nuclear war and equally hysterical rants about how he is not being tough enough on Russia. Even today, when Trump is acting far more forcefully against Russian interests than Obama did, the commentariat is seriously whining that his words are not sufficiently insulting.

You will note that, when it comes to the competition to be alpha male, Western European leaders are not in the game. Theresa May and Angela Merkel have shown themselves to be weak leaders. Emmanuel Macron seems to be doing a good job for France, but he exudes youth… and besides, he married his mother. Scandinavian nations are completely feminized, run by feminists, overrun by invading Muslim refugees. They are sitting on the sidelines watching the competition for alpha maledom.

Mansfield offers a succinct and on-point analysis of the Obama attitude toward manliness:

In Mr. Mansfield’s view, Mr. Trump’s success wasn’t a racial reaction to President Obama as much as a backlash in favor of masculinity. Mr. Obama “had the scolding demeanor of a schoolmarm—very much, I think, following the temper of today’s feminists. It’s all a matter of correcting the behavior of misbehaving juveniles, and of condescension.” Here, he checks himself, allowing that this observation “is a little unfair to Obama, because some of his speeches were pretty good, and he did have a vision of America and the way America ought to be.” But it was not an America that “throws its weight around. That’s precisely what he wanted to avoid. So, in his foreign policy, and in his domestic role as condescender-in-chief, he showed his hostility to manliness.”

Obama ceded worldly leadership to more manly men, so his supporters are up in arms against Trump’s more vulgar version of manliness. Mansfield believes that Trump is a reaction to the gender neutering that has been going on in America for lo these many years.

He agrees that there’s a connection between the campaign for gender-neutrality in the U.S.—seeking, as he sees it, to erase all differences between the sexes—and the “hunger” that made Mr. Trump’s political rise possible.

I would offer a slightly different analysis here. America’s schools, from elementary schools to universities, have set about to diminish manliness, to beat down boys and men in favor of girls and women. While they are in school the males can do nothing more than acquiesce. When they are out of school many of them rebel against their feminist schoolmarms by harassing and abusing women. The current wave of sexual harassment did not come from the moon. It is a reaction to the attitude toward boys and men that has been on the march in school.

In a matriarchal culture like the school system, a gentlemanly approach to manliness seems weak. Thus, men resort to more dramatic, more overt, even more vulgar versions of masculinity, the better to repudiate the posture of weakness they were forced to assume in school.

Mansfield points out that in America’s universities, manliness has become taboo. These schools are in the business of producing what Arnold Schwarznegger famously called “girly men.” Mansfield adds that America’s bureaucracy, its deep state is filled with such girly men… and that Trump is trying to expunge them. Consider James Comey, Andrew McCabe and Peter Strzok … where would you locate them on the manliness scale.

Now in Washington there has been “a replacement of the people who reflect the values of American universities, where manliness is taboo.”

Of course the deep state and progressive Democrats are fighting back against Trump’s vulgar manliness. And yet, unmanly leaders who happily served one of our least manly presidents want to assert their manliness by overthrowing America’s current alpha male. While they denounce Trump as a vulgar hater, they manifest complete vulgarity and uncontrollable hatred.

Mansfield sees it in the #MeToo movement:

The movement “represents a particular critique of Trump for his sexual harassment, or at least his lamentable sexual reputation. It’s against the aggressive male, the presumptuous male, the male who hasn’t had his ‘consciousness raised’ sufficiently. That’s Trump, and the #MeToo campaign sees him as the embodiment of everything male they don’t like, and want to oppose.”

Currently, the war against men also manifests itself as a children’s crusade against guns. It’s like the anti-war movement—which was the precipitant for the anti-male bias.

You know, as I know, that the fault for the Parkland shooting lay with government agencies. From the FBI to the local sheriff to state authorities to the Obama administration policy of trying to keep disruptive children in school… put them all together and you produce Nikolas Cruz. A minimal intervention, a couple of days of involuntary commitment, would have prevented him from buying a gun.

And yet, all of the government officials were displaying empathy. They were doing exactly what our man-hating therapy culture prescribed. They were making nice to a boy who was out-of-control and who was threatening violence. Like Barack Obama’s approach to Islamist terrorism—look weak and apologetic, blame ourselves— government officials chose not intervene forcefully to prevent the massacre.

When it was over none of them took responsibility for their failures. They blamed the NRA.

Now, bands of junior Red Guards have joined forces to declare war on guns… and of course on toxic masculinity. They have learned their lessons well. They are a new vanguard in the war on men and boys.

After all, guns are a guy thing. They are a quintessentially guy thing. In a culture that admires and supports military power, taking guns away signifies an effort to weaken the nation. These children are making a dramatic display of impotent rage.


sestamibi said...

Actually, the term "girly man" was first coined by Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon in their "Pumping Up With Hans & Franz" skits on Saturday Night Live. Awnuld just picked up on it afterward, since it was clear that D & K were caricaturing him.

Anonymous said...

Stuart - you could elaborate , perhaps, that the kindergarten to university matriarchy seems not to comprehend honor or traditional character: the inability to accept responsibility and admit error (the gov't agencies liabilities in FL )...the quickness to blame an abstraction or system ( the,in my opionion, astro-turfed and pre-fabbed "Childrens' Crusade").

I recall reading Obama was distinctly uncomfortable in the company of career military men in the course of his tour of duty in the White House.

There are several psych profile books on Obama.
One suggested Obama Jr. discovered Obama Sr.had argued extensively with Stanley Ann Dunham regarding his preference that the child be aborted.

The most important man in his life was almost entirely absent.

Valerie Jarrett applied for and accepted the job.


Walt said...

I agree with everything you say here but just wonder what you mean by this : "It’s like the anti-war movement—which was the precipitant for the anti-male bias." The anti Vietnam War movement was, I think, very different from the later anti Afghan/Iraq war movements which seemed to be led mainly by women wearing pink who protested, not so much the politics of those wars as the very idea fighting itself (as though everything could be nicely settled over tea). OTOH, yes, there was the post-Nam Kerry, talking of men --almost in general-- as brutal Genghis Kahns, but that still didn't seem to precipitate the contemporary widespread notion of "toxic masculinity." Anyway, to repeat: what did you have in mind by that?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Anti-war was anti-men... being as war is a distinctly male activity. During the Vietnam era only men fought in wars. The anti-war movement promoted feminine values, peace and love, drugs and music. Once the ended badly and once we seemed to have lost to a bunch of pajama-clad guerrillas american manliness took a near-fatal hit.

Ares Olympus said...
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Ares Olympus said...
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Ares Olympus said...
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Ares Olympus said...
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Ares Olympus said...
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Ares Olympus said...
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Ares Olympus said...

Lesson here: Maybe? 3-strikes-you're out, even if you keep swinging?