Masculinity – are men in Crisis ?

A favourite slur by feminists – but who hears the counter point ?

by Robert Whiston, FRSA, The Ill Eagle, May 1999

Part 1

Reports are still coming in about the recent Conference of Fatherhood (in San Francisco May 28th – June 1st 1999). Some accounts say it focussed on the experience of young black men, the ‘fatherhood vision’ and that Baptist ministers were there in force.

For the conference we were asked to define “Masculinity” and ‘Positive Masculinity’.

‘Masculinity’ cannot be as easily defined as, say Feminism. Seeking a definition of ‘masculinity’ implies the seeking an ideology that can be compared and contrasted to Feminism. However, feminism essentially revolves around the assertion of rights peculiar to one sex. Feminism implies an unrelenting ideology while ‘femininity’ implies variability of values, virtues and deportment

It would therefore be equally difficult for a feminist to answer, “What is the definition of Femininity versus Positive Femininity”, or masculinity come to that ? In practical terms the implementation of feminism requires the dismissing, or diminishing, of the rights of one sex in order to assert or boost the other because of alleged or perceived disadvantages.

It assumes that all men have the same advantages (and to the same degree) over women and that they collude to share these advantages between each other – but never with women. In this, it is seen as uniformly rigid, if not monolithic. It also assumes that all women are downtrodden, oppressed and crying out for their shackles to be broken. Well, we all saw what that meant to men and women when the same ideology was called Marxism. The only gainers were the State and the aparatchiks. The individual’s rights and her right for self-expression and dissension became subservient to ‘the cause’.

The loss of the individual’s rights could be made tolerable if there were substantive gains in material well being. But these patently failed to materialise in the Soviet regime. Similarly with Feminism. Feminism fatally falls foul of its own rhetoric. It assumes it can ad infinitum ‘dole out’ rights, benefits and privileges. It fails to take the view that there are only a finite number of acceptable ‘rights’ and to award new ones or introduce bias in old ones automatically impacts and compromises existing ‘civil rights’ of the other sex.

There is no male equivalent to Feminist ideology that can readily or rationally be call to mind – other than Marxism. Patriarchy, which is apparently anathema to most feminists, is woefully misunderstood by them – if at all. Patriarchy actually relates to whosoever is head of the family and only by common usage has it meant men. To function properly the tenure of patriarch involves the foregoing and deferment of one’s own self-interests and gratification for the sake of the general family or greater good (originally ‘The Church’, pastors and flock etc).

Patrician (which unfortunately has also got jumbled up in all this misunderstanding) refers to a regime, which sometimes called for self-sacrifice in the governmence of nations and city-states e.g. Greece and later Rome. By degrees the Plebeians were allowed to take control of the levers of power and it is perhaps here that Feminists see themselves in a parallel role. However, there is all the difference in the world between the more mature way in which Plebeian power emerged and the way Feminists have sought to interpret and then ‘shut out’ the rest of society in their ‘evolution’ to power.

If a parallel does exist it is more accurately the extension of the franchise to the Plebeian Coal Miner and his wife and family over the last 150 years, rather than their university educated daughter.

Access to the levers of power when given to the coal miner give many results, i.e. for the common good of his family and for the next generation being better educated irrespective of gender. ‘Masculine’ implies of the male sex (which Feminists seem to insist on calling ‘gender’) or that gender that has, or causes to have, mannish mannerisms and habits. It also implies things that are peculiar to, appropriate for and unique to, the male sex. Masculinity, therefore, leads to the development of these tendencies. Some radical feminists give very specific meaning to “Sex” and to “Gender” but these are not well understood or sympathised with outside their “magic circle”. There may be good reason why ‘radical feminists’ distinguish between sex and gender but even if comprehended it may be immaterial here.

Although Masculinity is derived from the Latin so too is ‘vir’ which means ‘man’. Proceeding in this vein by a series of declensions we arrive at ‘virtu’ means manly or manlike. [*] ‘Virtu’ also describes the various ‘virtuous manly qualities’.

Bernard Crick writing in the early 1970’s, i.e. before Feminism shows with tracts from the 1560’s how little values have really changed.

Part 2 – Concluding article

For Crick, “Virtu”, that is to say what is proper to a man, has the following attributes; “Courage, fortitude, audacity, skill and civic spirit – in fact a whole classical and renaissance theory of man….” The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary includes “valour” as an essential.

Renaissance writers asked; “Does a state have ‘virtu’ among its citizens or not? Are they, in a word, citizens ?” [Citizen here meaning a Plebeian, male or female, with ‘virtu’]. They held the view that if a State had too few of citizens with virtu, then it was doomed to a tyrannical personal rule; but if they were many citizens with virtue, then a Republic could flourish, and would prove – the by now familiar argument – the stronger form of state.” [**]

Crick, writing in the 1970’s then cites the Arabs and the Israelis – the Israelis dominate because the Arab nationss lack citizens with ‘Virtu’.

Of all the attributes it is perhaps ‘civic spirit’ that is the least expected of the classical masculine attributes. It is not, at first sight, manly, or sex related. Nevertheless it is seen by all writers as an essentially male-only trait.

To make more sense of “Civic spirit”, one has to read it as Middle English or that used in the King James’s Bible and Shakespeare. In the context of 20th century English one might say “for the common good”, but that is a rather lack-lustre translation.

To test whether civic spirit is an aberrant component more befitting the Classical and Renaissance age and its associated value systems, enquiries were recently made in the US, asking for definitions of masculinity. The responses from young men of university age were interesting. Despite their country’s lack of classical or renaissance history, and an absence of a countryside dotted with thought provoking monuments to an earlier Golden Age, their replies re: male-female difference make interesting reading:-

“.. tell them that men are altruistic, honourable, just, and fair-minded. That’s the difference between us and them…”

“…..I think that if the truth be known, men are honourable, generous, and fair people. (E.g., how many rich women do you know who have married a man who had no career or significant income ? Now reverse the genders and do the same tally)”.

“…. I think that women, especially feminists (male ones too) are less honest and altruistic, being more interested in themselves than in others.”

“…… in the political arena, women seem to do what’s best for themselves first, then come others, and then maybe, way down the list, they’ll do what’s right for men, as long as it also benefits them, or at the very least, doesn’t hurt them”.

“.. as for Amneus, I think that while his ideas are sound and valid, his methods will not work in current American society. Women run things here, despite what feminists say, and his methods are too alienating to women for them to work. You have to allow women to save face (pride is another big issue) and his methods don’t do that. Feminists may have shamed men into co-operating, but I also think that men are basically really fair and just people; I don’t feel that women will act like men in this regard, so a different approach is needed, one that allows for excuses, copping out, and saving face. Unsavoury though that might be, it’s the only way to get any co-operation from the (female) powers that be”.

The above comments could come from any man in any country in the Western world. They are universal and archetypal.

If that is true, then one immediately sees why Angela Philips (who gave a keynote speech to a Home Office seminar) is so dreadfully wrong and dangerous in her approach to ‘Macho’. Her idea that school boys should “talk about the hidden agenda of educational failure” cuts across all natural laws of masculine cultural norms. Her recipe for “bolstering boy’s self-esteem” is to ensure boys are able “to shine” through “music, drama and dance”. This proposed remedy can only be damaging to the male psyche, which instinctively pushes in the opposite direction. Young men aspiring to attain ‘virtu’ in the Classical, Renaissance and Modern age cannot identify with “music, drama and dance” [or nursery education, see Burgess,] as their primary outlet.

‘Macho’ is an essential element of male identity. Even in the negative scenario of U.S. city gangs it contains all the ingredients politicians need to hold a nation-state together; honour, defence of turf, duty and loyalty. Macho implies knowingly taking risks and accepting those risks. Risk-taking makes boys into men. Ms. Phillips tells us that we should shy away from “macho attitudes” and reject “outmoded stereotypes of masculinity”. But in the 1960’s that Angela Phillips and other feminists refer to, Macho was not a pejorative term. Spanish dictionaries show it in a positive and praiseworthy light. In contrast the Shorter Oxford Dictionary of 1975 as well as the 1980 edition doesn’t even list macho or machismo.

It is therefore a term added to our lexicon by ideologues in recent years.

Angela Philips, having never been a boy, is unaware or forgets that young boys find their initial identify simply by seeing themselves as ‘not girls’.

Boys inevitably see themselves as young men; younger men have always seen themselves as young adults and have sought this acceptance and approval by older men. Young men have thus always needed a ‘rite of passage’ in some form. This is crucial if we are to attain a caring, balanced society, but this rite has been undermined and, indeed, tossed away in our modern thinking.

Historically, jobs, apprenticeships and even wars served as rites of passage. The average age of our fighting ‘men’ (from Agincourt to D-Day to the Tet Offensive) has consistently been 19 years of age.

Today, with no wars and no jobs, what answers have the Social Engineers ? How are they going to create ‘men’ ? Historically, good hunting, good harvests and good prospects have always ensured a bumper harvest of brides.

For the past 15 years the situation has deteriorated and young men have been denied their basic human rights. Disenfranchised and de-constructed young men face the prospect of being created and moulded according to feminist dogma.

New government initiatives see society on the brink of launching itself into another 15 year term of social re-engineering. Engineering aimed yet again at reducing lone motherhood, teenage pregnancies and soaring young male suicides.

The question that has to be asked is whether, after this second 15 year term, we will have learnt enough about our mistakes to throw away the manuals and acknowledge human rights for both sexes, and so return to men their confiscated Human Rights and Civil Liberties ?

[*] Latin: Vir masculine noun man, Pater masculine noun father, Femina feminine noun woman, Anus feminine noun grand mother, Soror feminine noun sister, Frater masculine noun brother.
[**] See also Machiavelli (1469-1527), “The Prince “ and “The Discourses”.


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