A Defense of Manliness

Rachel Wagley writes A Defense of Manliness in the Harvard Crimson.

Here’s an excerpt:

…Manliness is confidence in the face of risk, according to Professor Harvey C. Mansfield ’53 in “Manliness.” It stresses forthrightness, honor, and determination. Admiring the ideals that define manhood affirms the life codes exhibited by many Harvard men. I’ve met many courageous women, but in our quest to prove that women are equal we deny our men parallel recognition and the right to pride.

On Tuesday, Apr. 20, Harvard Men Against Rape invited Michael Kimmel, author of “Guyland,” to explore the “Perilous World Where Boys Become Men.” Ironically, at an event co-sponsored by a final club, fraternities, and the football team, Kimmel opposed men building a group identity. We’ve heard it before: Men are privileged megalomaniacs; male groups are arrogant and purposeless.

A more constructive discussion might acknowledge that the fundamental reason our world is so perilous for young men is our negative conception of manhood. Our culture emasculates men by stripping manhood of its corresponding virtues and reducing manliness to predatory sexuality. Instead of envisioning a gallant standard, Kimmel told the men to always “get consent” before continuing on their merry sexual ways. Consent is a miserable substitute for nobility, a legalistic detour around an incredibly personal situation. It doesn’t necessarily imply mutuality, and in fact, suggests that casual sex is an inherent intrusion where men act upon women.

If men enjoy asserting meaning and power, then give men dignified aspirations, so they don’t assert their power on the dance floor. Affirm male friendships, bonds that serve men by providing forums for respect and codes of honor. When we treat men like sexualized predators, men can cunningly take advantage of this constructed freedom from virtue. Maxims like “Just get consent” and “Follow the rules” are sterile abstractions that lack exhortations to reform character….

…To Harvard men: you are worthy of honor and respect.

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