Masculinity Is Not About Women

I can see why, in a discussion led by Paglia and Althouse, women would be the focus. I don't object to women being the focus of a discussion between women. I just think this is the wrong way to think about the problem they're interested in thinking about.

Paglia: "[M]asculinity is constantly being eroded, diminished, and dissolved on university campuses because it allows women to be weak."

Althouse: "In my way of looking at it, "allows" is the wrong word. I think we need to consider whether masculinity is constantly being eroded because it serves the purpose of making women weak."

So, here's the problem with both of these statements: masculinity has nothing to do with whether or not women are weak. It can enable weakness in women. It can also enable and support strength in women. Or women can become strong on their own, or not.

Let me give you an example. Last week I was out riding my motorcycle, and I came across a bull calf who was out in the road. Naturally, I stopped and chased him out of the road -- loose cattle are a danger to cars as well as motorcycles, and I felt it was my civic duty to help resolve a danger to the community.

Protecting the community from a danger is only part of my duty in a case like this, though. There is also a 'Golden Rule' duty to try to help the livestock owner recover the animal. I would certainly want someone to help me if I had livestock who got out on the road, so I ought to help others.

So, I went to the nearest farmhouse and knocked on the door. A woman of about 85 appeared, and I explained the situation. She got her daughter -- a woman in her mid to late fifties, I should think -- and the two of them agreed it was certainly their young bull and that they needed to deal with it. Neither of them had any idea how.

"My husband's gone to Mississippi," the younger woman explained. "He won't be back until Friday."

Now, this is cattle country in rural Georgia. There's plenty of masculinity in the men who work livestock. Here are two women, though, who had allowed the men in their lives to do the hard work of dealing with the cattle to such a degree that they honestly didn't know how to move an animal in the direction they wanted it to go. If they had any rope, they didn't know where it was. It took an hour and a half to push that bull calf back into its fence with the rest of it herd, while trying to keep the herd from coming out through an open gate.

This is not necessary. Had my wife been there, she could have helped me move the animal and we'd have done it in a few minutes.

What's the point of this story? The strength of the man has little enough to do with the strength of the woman. I don't doubt that the cattlemen who were off in Mississippi are manly enough. But their manliness if anything supported the women not learning to do this sort of work, even though they were part-owners of a herd of cattle. They never developed the muscles or the skills because they never had to: their husbands did that sort of thing.

Would you get stronger women if you made the men weaker? I doubt it. Nor is strong masculinity a bar to strong women, as my wife proves. She was a tough girl when I met her, and our years riding along together have not weakened her any.

What I think is that the business of making strong women has nothing to do with men or masculinity one way or the other. A weak man might mean that a woman had to be stronger in order to carry the weight he wasn't carrying. Or it could do what Althouse and Paglia both think it does, which is allow for (or usefully produce) weak women.

But it's not really a question about the men. There's not necessarily a close relationship between masculinity and the strength of women. Masculinity is about the strength of men, which is a good in itself. It's worth pursuing even if it does nothing for women at all. Nor does attaining it excuse women from developing their own character, skills, and capacities. Strong women are not, as these two ladies argue, functions of the strength of the men. Strong women have to be built independently. For the most part, they have to decide to build themselves. Providing them with the right kind of man is not going to do any part of the work.


MikeD said...

The problem is, most people see life as a zero sum game. For someone to gain, someone else must lose. It's the source of the argument that all trade is unfair trade, because someone has to lose for you to profit. But that's errant nonsense. If you trade me raw materials for 5 baskets and I pay you for them with a basket I made, have you been cheated somehow? Or did you trade me something of lesser value to you for something of greater value? Does that mean you cheated me? Of course not. We traded for mutual benefit. I can now make five more baskets and trade them for other goods or services.

But in the zero sum world, one of us lost. So with that worldview, for men to be strong requires women to be made weak. Or for women to be strong, men must be made weak. It's equally foolish, but that is how some see the world.

Grim said...

Well, except that Althouse and Paglia are arguing the other way: that the point of making men weak is to make women weak too. They only differ on whether (as Paglia has it) women want to be weak, and thus need to crush masculine strength so they don't have to become strong to stand up to it; or (as Althouse has it) whether masculinity is being crushed so that women can be made weak more easily.

In Paglia's case, women are at least getting something they want out of the exchange. In Althouse's, whoever is benefiting is not in the picture.

E Hines said...

Well, except that Althouse and Paglia are arguing the other way: that the point of making men weak is to make women weak too.

But that's part of the nature of a zero-sum game. If one can gain only through the other's loss, both lose: one directly, and the other by reducing his future through reducing the ability of the other to trade in future.

Althouse and Paglia are illustrating Mike's point, with which I agree, from the back side of the argument.

Eric Hines

Eric Blair said...

I think Mike has a point, but I certainly agree with Grim's analysis. Very interesting, and not talked about enough. I saw something similar in the first Gulf war where some wives of deployed soldiers literally didn't know how write a check, or access the money in the bank, or drive a car, and the Army had to deal with it. (I really scratched my head at that, but I don't think the Army Times was making it up).

E Hines said...

...some wives of deployed soldiers literally didn't know how....

The closest I came to that was with a couple of three-stripers, one an admin type who worked for me at our Wing, and the other a sky cop on base. Both were about junior high school-aged (or so it seemed), and one of them kited a check. Fortunately for them, it was the admin's, and it came to me.

Obviously both knew how to write a check, but--they were newly weds, and they hadn't figured out how to operate out of just one check register. They were able to fix that problem in very short order, and that's the lower limit of ignorance I've encountered.

Although I did have a female officer come TDY to my squadron not knowing how to drive--she'd grown up in NYC and never needed a car. The first vehicle she ever drove in her life was one of our deuce-and-halfs. Our squadron required everyone who was TDY to us for a minimum period to get checked out on one of our vehicles. Her ignorance, though, was a lack of need, not a lack of need.

Eric Hines

Ymar Sakar said...

Mike's point is very on target. And Althouse and company have been dealing with enough Leftists by now that their automatic response is dealing with envy and assuming that's the status quo. Probably because it is the status quo, zero sum belief.

Masculinity and femininity doesn't work on the weak/strong scale. It's closer to how hunting goes with gathering food.

If people are making women weak, it's to better control them, that's who benefits, whoever controls femininity and women. If women could produce their own value and network of femininity, without being affected by masculinity even indirectly, then women would become resistant to outside control.

If women want to be weak, then they have contaminated femininity with masculinity, they have adopted the strong/weak beliefs which enable envy. Even though that's not the goal of masculinity or femininity. Like hunting and gathering, the goal is survival, it is not to win a zero sum game or win emotional/social points. If women want to be weak, that's the fault of society for enabling weakness=survival.