April 17, 2006,
Direct from Harvard of all places, Harvey Mansfield presents us with a full-throated defense of manliness in his new book, Manliness (no subtitle!). Mansfield recently took questions from a female fan (NRO Editor Kathryn Lopez).
Kathryn Jean Lopez: Before you mention any man, the name you first mention in Manliness is Margaret Thatcher? How insulting! Why isn't it?
Harvey Mansfield: I am particularly trying to persuade women and wanted to address the first objection they might have. I also wanted to show that this is not to be a mere celebration of manliness.
Lopez: What's your one sentence definition of manliness?
Mansfield: Manliness is confidence and command in a situation of risk.
Lopez: How deeply has feminism wounded manliness? I'd hate to see manliness fall, wimp-like, victim to little old aging bra burners.
Mansfield: Feminism abolished the idea of femininity but only wounded manliness.
It claimed and still claims that women can be as manly as men, but on condition that manliness is redefined in the direction of womanly sensitivity. Manly men did not fight back because they are not in the habit of fighting women, and because we all believe in democratic equality.
Lopez: How can we raise boys to be manly? We want to, right?
Mansfield: We should want to raise boys to be manly. I don't see any other way than to introduce them to the things expected of men as a sex. And to the things to be expected of women. Boys are very aware of their sex, but our education today asks them to ignore it. This serves only to confuse them.
Lopez: Have you ever made Nancy Hopkins faint?
Mansfield: Nancy Hopkins only threatened to swoon. Where was the performance?
Meanwhile, she has male defenders who support feminism with the manly gallantry they consider obsolete.
Lopez: Ae you just a little jealous of Larry Summers (or at least before he got put out of a job)?
Manfield: I am a little envious of the opportunity Larry Summers had to give a new direction to American higher education.
Lopez: Is it really fair to call feminists nihilists?
Manfield Yes. They don't throw bombs but they could not say why they don't. Also, they don't care about collateral damage.
Lopez: Who is your favorite feminist and why?
Manfield: Shulamith Firestone is my favorite. She sees best the main consequence of feminism the abolition of love, known to her as "sex privatization." And she has a wonderful name.
Lopez: Do men seem to like your book more than women? Or vice versa?
Mansfield: Men like my book better, I suppose. Many women are sympathetic, but they are wary of making one-sided concessions to men. It's natural to take the side of your sex. Yet I want to show women that the gender-neutral society is not in their interest.
Lopez: What's the oddest response you've gotten to your book?
Mansfield: A Boston Globe columnist said that I had criticized Larry Summers in order to sell books. Criticizing and selling books two guilty occupations!
Lopez: Who's the most manly politician today?
Mansfield: George W. Bush. Bush is bold and determined, two manly qualities, and his critics consider him over-manly, not unmanly. But don't forget that manliness is not all of virtue.
Lopez: Who's the most manly leading man today? How does he compare to the most manly leading man of yesteryear?
Mansfield: No leading man today is as manly as John Wayne, or if manliness is combined with style, as Cary Grant.
Lopez: Who is the most manly conservative thinker/writer/pundit?
MansfieldL Charles Krauthammer throws the hardest punches.
Lopez: Were you shocked to get a fair shake from Oprah's magazine?
Mansfield: I was surprised. I try not to be shocked at beautiful women who are intelligent. It gets boring for them.
Lopez: Can liberals be manly?
Mansfield: Liberals are often manly, as when they take up the cause of the poor and the weak. But they have sold their souls to the feminists and do not know how to espouse manliness.
Lopez: Are their policy preferences that come with being manly? Can you be for restrictive gun regulations and manly, for instance?
Mansfield: One could be manly and favor gun control. Guns are less manly than swords.
Lopez: What's the most practical manliness advice you have to offer to men or women or both?
Mansfield: Avoid the sensitive male. He will be more sensitive to other women and to himself than to you.