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IN PRAISE OF MEN
Part I: Groundwork

I’ve come to realize that this (now darned-near mythical) blog post I’ve been promising, “In Praise of Men,” is a book, not an essay. And it’s a book I’m not going to write.

So I’ll to try doing what I can in a series of posts.

Today I’ll just state my premises and lay some groundwork. This step has been a stumbling block for me and I need to get it done so I can move ahead.

Let’s get some basics down on pixels.

Premise #1: BIOLOGY

Sex is biological and overwhelmingly binary. Are there exceptions? Of course, and they deserve to be acknowledged and respected. Those exceptions may be intensifying (see below).

But neither cosmetic surgery, hormone treatments, wishful thinking, nor politics can cancel millions of years of evolution or the fact that there are thousands of DNA differences between men and women. Nor can modernity cancel the fact that there are reasons men and women developed so differently, both in body and mind.

Premise #2: TOXICITY

Toxic masculinity is a real thing. So is toxic femininity. We’ve all encountered both.

The controlling spouse, the soul-crushing boss, the brutal thug, the conniving mother, the road-rager, the competitor who doesn’t merely want to “win” but to destroy all opponents, the “helpless” woman who nevertheless manages to rule the roost through manipulation, the person who views his or her partners as mere props for an inflated ego, the sexual predator, the promiscuous user, or a thousand other painful, dangerous, and soul-sucking examples — they’re all variations on the toxic theme. While mavens natter on the Internet about toxic masculinity, the truth is that neither sex and no gender and no individual is immune from having toxic traits.

We’ve all also had the misfortune of being in company with people whose goodwill and good mental health matched our own, but with whom we could simply not forge any happy meeting of minds. Being human is a damned tricky business. Your toxicity may be someone else’s joy and strength.

And the war between the sexes is as eternal as every other kind of war.

Premise #3: HISTORY

Throughout all time, cultural norms and laws have intensified existing disgruntlements between the sexes. Women were artifically kept down for thousands of years — less valuable, less responsible, less able to determine their own fate, but (the lucky ones) more pampered and protected; now the dialectic has begun to swing the other way.

As a result, a lot of modern men are bitter and a lot of women are flexing their new entitlements while still resenting the past. And a lot of boys are being raised to be ashamed of who and what they are.

Premise #4: MODERNITY

We also face the problem (although hardly anybody cares to address it) that boys today are physically less masculine, having about half the testosterone that their grandfathers had. Whether that precipitous drop was triggered by diet, environment, culture, or a combination, it’s an unprecedented alteration of our species.

Very likely, the cause is a combination of things, from plastics that mimic female hormones to drugs to the constant messages boys get about how “bad” masculinity is.

Agree or disagree with my premises (and thank heaven we still do — for the moment — live in a world where people can disagree without dismissing each other as evil morons) they’re the basis on which I begin.

There are also some personal factors that both drive me to want to take on this topic and yet make it hard for me to do so without stumbling over some pretty high barriers.

Interlude: MY PERSONAL HISTORY

Long-time readers know I’m the product of an abusive hellhole of a home. Although my father perpetrated most of the physical brutality and a goodly share of the psychological pain, dysfunction was a family affair.

Part of this dysfunction was a belief — culturally reinforced but intensely personal — that men were superior to women in all ways. Smarter. Stronger. More capable. More responsible with money. Better drivers. Born leaders. Entitled to unquestioning and unstinting obedience from women and children. Little gods on earth, supervising the helpless, foolish, stupid, masochistic, flutterbudgety females of the species and their offspring.

This sucked and it was stupid, to boot. My mother far outstripped my father in common sense, management skills, money handling, and several other vital traits. The only “leadership skill” my father possessed was uncontrolled violence.

The fact that Mom had to carefully diminish herself to attempt to meet female norms and my father lived in perpetual rage because things in the real world didn’t match his grandiose expectations … well, trying to live up to stereotypes made a mess of both of them individually, their marriage, and our family.

There was nothing the slightest bit unusual about that. Rinse and repeat throughout American culture. If you grew up in a loving, respectful, and well-balanced home, know how fortunate — and rare — you are.

My background, naturally, colors everything I have to say.

It’s important, though, that despite the brutality and prejudices I suffered as a young girl, I never hated men; on the contrary, I identified more with males than with females when I was young (because who wouldn’t want to be part of the “better” half of the human race?).

Today, a lot of my thought processes and interests seem more traditionally “male” than female, while I’m nevertheless wholely and happily a woman.

To me it’s all about balance — and about being the person you were born to be, regardless of stereotypes.

It took a long time for me to get here.

That said … those stereotypes developed for good reasons. The mistake was (and still is) in expecting diverse individuals either to force themselves to fit rigid stereotypes or pay heavy consequences for diverging from the norm. And that’s true no matter what the particular stereotypes are.

So balance. And freedom. Always important.

Premise #5: PRAISE

“In praise of men” doesn’t mean uncritical acceptance of all that’s masculine. It doesn’t mean that I believe (or that I believe “society” should believe) that men are superior to women. Each sex has its own strengths, as does each individual.

“In praise of men” means recognizing, valuing, reinforcing, and if necessary re-teaching and re-learning traditional masculine qualities that have helped build, sustain, and protect our species and our societies. We, as a society, are actively rejecting crucial traits necessary for the survival of a healthy culture — and the traits being so cavalierly trashcanned are traditionally identified with males of the species.

The increasing rejection of masculinity (along with a myriad other factors) means we’re facing not only a crisis, but the possible dissolution of the only society on earth that ever recognized the primacy of the individual. As things fall apart, those male traits are going to be needed more than ever.

That casual rejection also means we’re raising a generation of boys that’s not only weakened, but made to feel bad about themselves merely for being born. Nobody should be made to feel bad about themselves for some inborn trait, whether it’s sex, skin color or something else.

In the case of what’s being done now to young males, the tragedy of prejudice is especially dangerous. We are going to need those boys someday to be strong, good men. And they need the rest of us right now to stand up for them.

WHY ME?

Despite the efforts of the woke to demonize them or shout them down, there are quite a few men boldly, sometimes eloquently, taking up the cause of manhood. And more power to them.

On the other hand, quite a few of those taking up the cause of males or manhood are doing so in unproductive, even toxic, ways — the whole Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) movement, for instance. It seems well-intentioned, but it’s anger-driven and tragic. Or gods forbid, what about the desperate young men who’ve proudly taken up the flag of being incels?

Those folks are about as unproductive and angry as the feminists who believe all men are rapists.

We don’t need deeper divisions and more bitterness between men and women. We need shared strengths — especially those of us who see cultural chaos coming at us and aim to save what we can.

But I’m female. What do I know about the ideals and struggles of manhood? In “woke” terms, aren’t I merely a “cultural appropriator” when I attempt to speak for the good in men?

Well, maybe. But it turns out that wise women and wise men know quite a lot about each other. From different perspectives, sure. And often through learning hard lessons. And even more often through making big mistakes.

After eons of imbalance, I say let those differences and those hard lessons bring us together. Because after the luxuries of civilization, we may be facing survival mode again and need the best strengths Mother Nature in her evolutionary wisdom chose to bestow upon us.

—–

More to follow. Probably four or five posts worth. We shall see.

31 Comments

  1. MP
    MP October 30, 2020 1:46 pm

    A worthy subject, Claire, and yours–both as a woman and as an astute observer of life–a valuable perspective on it. I would suggest that this statement is a bit more accurate with one change:

    Agree or disagree with my premises (and thank heaven we still do — for the moment — live in a world where some people can disagree without dismissing each other as evil morons) they’re the basis on which I begin.”

    Though I suspect that is what you really meant, anyway. Sadly, far too many cannot disagree without such dismissal.

    I am now conversing with the wife of a close friend of mine whose husband has shown himself to be exactly the kind of hyper-controlling husband you describe. The second good friend of mine to reveal this side of himself. Both did a very credible job of hiding it from outsiders, though in both cases I was close enough to the family to get hints of it ahead of time. It is sad to see two families whom I love as close as family myself falling apart because of this brand of toxic masculinity, but in both cases I think the wives are very right to take steps to address it.

    I wish there were an easy answer to such problems. I look forward to hearing more from you on this!

  2. Comrade X
    Comrade X October 30, 2020 1:56 pm

    +1 to everything my sister from another mother said!

  3. Claire
    Claire October 30, 2020 2:41 pm

    Thank you, wonderful Comrade X and MP. MP, I hope those women solve their problem, but yeah, nothing about this is easy.

    And I apologize for typos or unclear passages. I forced myself to go ahead and post, knowing that the alternative was another day or two of putzing with the text. Then I walked away for an hour. I’ve fixed a few glitches since returning, but if anybody spots any more, please point them out — and be merciful.

  4. Cube64
    Cube64 October 30, 2020 3:38 pm

    “boys today are physically less masculine, having about half the testosterone that their grandfathers had. “

    That’s an amazing and scary factoid, considering what it could mean for the future of the human race.

    “ …that causual rejection means we’re raising a generation of boys that’s not only weakened, but made to feel bad about themselves merely for being born. Nobody should be made to feel bad about themselves for some inborn trait, whether it’s sex, skin color or something else.”

    Do you think it’s really that bad? During my lifetime, I’ve certainly observed people being made to feel ashamed of their skin color or their sexual preference. But I can’t think of instances where I could say I’ve witnessed them being made to feel bad because they were born male or female, even though I’m sure it’s happened in isolated instances. Do you think it’s more widespread than that?

  5. Claire
    Claire October 30, 2020 5:10 pm

    “Do you think it’s more widespread than that?”

    I know it’s more widespread than that.

    Do I see it in ordinary interactions, here in Rural Town, USA? Nope. I hope I never do.

    But it’s institutional — from boys being drugged because they don’t sit still in class to the persistent drive (in Europe; not sure about the U.S.) to get men and boys to sit down to pee (because standing to pee is “male dominance”) to the hysteria over guns to sending boys to therapists because they draw artwork depicting monsters or bloody battles to the constant talk-talk-talk in academia about toxic masculinity (but never about toxic femininity).

    There’s a pattern of teachers grading girls more generously than boys to “encourage” the girls — even as girls are already higher academic achievers. https://mitili.mit.edu/sites/default/files/project-documents/SEII-Discussion-Paper-2016.07-Terrier.pdf

    Almost everything in education is biased against boys these days, with a common belief being that boys don’t try or boys can’t learn. Boys are now being patronized similarly to how girls were patronized decades ago. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/apr/23/school-guilty-bias-against-boys-gender-gap-education

    STEM education is being changed to emphasize things like teamwork and gender equality over the hard, logical thinking that’s been a male strength. That devalues the skills where boys actually have an advantage over girls.

    And can you spend an hour on an online news cruise without hearing or reading something about the evils of patriarchy or rape-culture? If a young woman accuses a young man (or men) of rape on a college campus, does he get an impartial hearing? Why is there outrage merely because Betsy DeVos wants to see guys get due process?

    How about “woke” parents trying to force their boy children to love pink and play with dolls — and actually being distressed enough to write to advice columns when junior continues to favor playing with trucks and soldiers and (heaven forbid) toy guns?

    I’m barely touching the surface here. But even if nobody ever sits a boy down and says, “You horrible little person; you should be ashamed of having a penis,” the constant overwhelming message from authority figures is that boys are lesser beings and that their natural aggressive/competitive urges don’t just need to be productively channeled, but are downright BAD.

    As one older male friend put it, boys are basically being educated and socialized to perceive themselves as defective females — very much as girls were taught to see themselves for generations as physically, emotionally, and mentally deficient when compared with boys.

  6. MP
    MP October 30, 2020 6:53 pm

    Speaking of typos, a system hiccup on my end caused some issues with my comment. I had inserted the word “some” before people in the quote of your post, but it was lost in translation… I hope that makes it a bit less incoherent.

  7. StevefromMA
    StevefromMA October 30, 2020 7:08 pm

    We went from Father Knows Best to sitcoms with men as stupid, bumbling idiots. That gradually morphed into “political correctness” and now “wokeness”. I think the feminine Left would like us to apologize for having a penis. Worse, now we have “non-binary” weirdos and those who hilariously refer to themselves by three pronouns. The denial of biology. I’m glad I’m old and lived most of my life through more rational times. Sic transit gloria America.

    i look forward to reading your thoughts.

  8. Claire
    Claire October 30, 2020 7:15 pm

    Ah, yeah, that makes more sense, MP. Fixed (both your system hiccup and my punctuation error).

  9. brew
    brew October 30, 2020 8:53 pm

    You asked for typo spotting, so I found this:

    “Rince and repeat thoughout American culture” has a couple in there…

    An excellent scribe, as usual…. and I leave you for now with this:

    “Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.” ― G. Michael Hopf, Those Who Remain

  10. Claire
    Claire October 31, 2020 7:34 am

    Thank you for saving me from myself, brew. (A writer’s secret: at lot of us tend not to spell or use punctuation as well as we should. And I for one am a sucky proofreader. Editors and eagle-eyed readers are a blessing.)

    Good quote, too.

  11. kentmcmanigal
    kentmcmanigal October 31, 2020 8:26 am

    Thank you for this, Claire.

  12. Comrade X
    Comrade X October 31, 2020 8:52 am

    Hey brew man, give me a holler when ya get a chance.

  13. Cube64
    Cube64 October 31, 2020 9:27 am

    Claire,

    Thanks for taking the time to address my question so thoroughly. Although I already knew a lot of what you said, your premises make better sense to me after reading your elaboration and clarification.

  14. Claire
    Claire October 31, 2020 10:06 am

    I was pretty sure you already knew everything in my reply, Cube64. But I did and do need to make my point more explicitly. So I owe you for questioning my premise.

  15. Claire
    Claire October 31, 2020 10:09 am

    Thank you, Kent. And for everybody else’s benefit, here are links to two of your relevant writings. I especially appreciate the more recent one. It very much reflects my own view — the good old classical liberal/libertarian notion of how best to get along in the world with maximum individual freedom and minimum coercion.

    https://blog.kentforliberty.com/2017/07/dont-believe-in-gender-grab-bag.html

    https://blog.kentforliberty.com/2020/09/opposite-sex-cosplay.html

  16. larryarnold
    larryarnold October 31, 2020 10:36 am

    Good beginning.

    What often gets lost in gender discussions is the difference between “average” and “individual.”

    Average men, because they were raised on testosterone, are stronger and faster than average women, raised on estrogen. This has to do with a complex of physical factors ranging from aggression to the shape of the pelvis. Female Olympic athletes, however, who are way down on the end of the bell curve, are stronger and faster than almost all men.

    We need to celebrate individuality (an anathema to the woke folk) while realizing that averages make a difference. The person raised on testosterone who “identifies” as a woman and physically competes in sports against persons raised on estrogen isn’t winning, as much as cheating. A profession that excludes women because they aren’t as strong as men are missing out on individual women who are as strong as most men.

    Can’t wait for the continuing saga.

  17. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 31, 2020 4:45 pm

    That’s an impressive amount of political-incorrectness in one place; next you’ll tell me that HotColdWetDry is a hoax, and the flu isn’t as bad a Swine flu was in 2009 with a liberal president.

    Throughout all time, cultural norms and laws have intensified existing disgruntlements between the sexes.

    Divide and conquer and destruction of contentedness, especially sexual contentedness, are major goals of government. In some times and places government has called itself the church.

    It’s been too long since I read Hardyville. Did the more-libertarian society members choose to tolerate the society members who will not, cannot, be reformed from attempting to hire armed men to force their church’s rules onto innocent others? This is a destructive form of tolerance. Recidivist voters must be ejected from freedom space.

  18. Claire
    Claire October 31, 2020 5:54 pm

    larryarnold — I was trying to think of how to state the difference between average and individual. Now all I have to do is steal from you once again. 🙂

  19. Claire
    Claire October 31, 2020 6:00 pm

    Anonymous — The native Hardyvillians created a rapprochement with those of the newcomers that they could while others among the statist, taxing, other-peoples-business-minding newbies either fled or were driven out.

    I don’t know about “recidivist v*ters must be ejected from the freedom space.” I see why you might want to — but then the “freedom space” wouldn’t be much of a freedom space. How about skipping the whole “v*ter” dynamic and finding a way for people to create their own peaceable societies without anybody forcing anybody to obey anybody else?

  20. Anonyous
    Anonyous October 31, 2020 9:34 pm

    The native Hardyvillians created a /rapprochement/ with those of the newcomers that they could while others among the statist, taxing, other-peoples-business-minding newbies either fled or were driven out.

    I understand “rapprochement” to mean the fraction of voters who were reeducatable swore off trying to make humans into slaves, and in return the innocent victims forgave them their trespasses. But exactly as you say, recidivist slavers must be ejected.

    I don’t know about “recidivist v*ters must be ejected from the freedom space.” I see why you might want to – but then the “freedom space” wouldn’t be much of a freedom space.

    If a freedom space permits destruction of freedom, then five minutes later Hillary will declare herself queen and it will no longer be a freedom space. Would you tolerate recidivist murderers, rapists, or armed robbers predating upon you? Then why tolerate recidivist slavers? (Answer: because you are nice and sweet and good and want voters to reform and change their minds of their own free will. But historically they won’t.)

  21. RickB
    RickB November 1, 2020 5:06 am

    Claire, that’s a good summary of the complexity of the subject.

    If I might add a few thoughts:

    As Jordan Peterson has pointed out, there is a problem with our current perception of male and female roles in history. The vast majority were oppressed by the struggle for survival. They knew that every tomorrow could bring a major setback: war, crop failure, disease, death.

    Back in the “good old days” when men lived “in harmony with nature,” every member of the family needed to pull together to survive, perhaps even to have a bit of leisure. They practiced a division of labor that maximized their chances. Both dad and mom were equally important (though different). This does not mean that there weren’t men who ruled by violence or harridans who crushed their husbands’ sprits; I suspect these unhappy, self-destructive people were in a minority. Otherwise we would not be here.

    After the industrial revolution began, life became easier. Even so, reading historically recent records of the lives of average people can be eye-opening. I suggest Laura Ingalls Wilders’ books and James Herriot’s tales of English farmers in the 1930s.

    Most existing historical records were written by and for the wealthiest 1%. Dostoyevsky wrote perceptively about how a life of leisure often leads to self-destructive behaviors. For marvelous examples of such, watch “Downton Abbey.”

    Today in the U.S., almost everyone lives a more secure life than the medieval 1%. Our intellectuals, journalists, and politicians have power, wealth, and security that would make an Emperor green with envy. Something to think about.

  22. Anonymous
    Anonymous November 1, 2020 9:52 am

    As an older man, sitting down to take a leak is almost a non-choice, at
    least some of the time. Heck, I don’t even have to turn on the bathroom
    light at 3AM, and I’ve learned to embrace the benefits. Geez, every damn
    thing has to be a societal issue these days.

  23. larryarnold
    larryarnold November 1, 2020 11:41 am

    Today in the U.S., almost everyone lives a more secure life than the medieval 1%.
    Word.
    And the U.S. welfare class lives much better than 18th Century middle class.

    It’s interesting to hear folks say that the U.S. is so horribly racist, sexist, and unequal, and ought to be run more like other countries. Then they call for open borders so people from all those other countries can come here, where immigrants still see a land of opportunity.

    Of course I’m sensitive about that, with the “Turn Texas Blue” crowd telling us how bad a job the Legislature is doing, in a state which is on track to double in population over the next 30 years.

    Saw an article in the last couple of days saying how San Francisco is finally solving it’s high cost of housing problem. Turns out one in five residents is either considering leaving or already in the process of doing so.

  24. Jolly
    Jolly November 1, 2020 12:55 pm

    Boy, where to begin. Or – how to constrain myself without writing a novella. How about I just report on a pet peeve of mine?
    The old saying ( undoubtedly a “wives’ tale” ) – “Men work from sun-to-sun, but a woman’s work is never done.”
    Hmm, ok. That may have been relevant 200 years ago, but today that has been replaced with the “Honey-Do” list.
    You know, that list of CHORES the wife nags her husband about? When the girls get together and have their social interactions they snicker and banter-about and the various husbands are graded? Sure, they’re graded on their jobs and how much bacon they bring home, but in a group of largely similar – say suburban – housewives, the only real differentiating factor seems to be how the husband performs – and checks-off – the honey-do list.
    It’s not enough that the father brings-in the lion’s-share of income. Or that the husband has to be gone from the home most of the waking hours to get that pay check. Nope. It’s how many chores the wife has waiting for him at home. If, god-forbid, a piece of dry wall got punched-out by a child’s temper tantrum, the husband is required to fix it.
    Trash? ALWAYS the man’s job. If the trash actually makes it to the can, inevitably the man is required to get up early on his day-off to take the can to the curb, until the male child is big enough to reluctantly take over.
    Outside work – the man. Lawn mowing, tree trimming, leaf-raking, car washing. Oh, and car repairs – you’re not a man if you can’t do most of them yourself.
    Meanwhile – in the last 200 years, the stove has gone from a pot in the fireplace, to a wood-stove in the kitchen, to a kerosene stove, to an electric stove. No more tending actual fires to cook food. Indoor plumbing means no more hauling buckets from the stream or well, and doing the freaking dishes is trivial with automatic dish washers. Clothes! No more trucking down to the stream or lake with a scraper and hand washing anything. Get a little Tide, and a little Downey and you probably don’t have to iron. Ironing? What’s THAT?
    Gardens are for dilettantes, and even that is easy with greenhouses and hydroponics.
    Does anybody remember soap operas? So-named because they were sponsored by companies that sold cleaning supplies? Well, since at LEAST the 1950s, a large portion of stay-at-home women could sit on their couches for hours-at-a-time and watch television. Late afternoon, the kids may – or may not – come home from external day care – and then the mother could sit them down to watch television, too.
    I could go on, but the main point here is that while EVERYBODY’s life got easier in the recent past, the woman’s life has become MUCH easier than a man’s. ( In my opinion ), yet men are STILL blamed for everything and still expected to do chores around the house, and if they don’t do them quickly enough, they’re mocked and ridiculed.
    It’s tiring.

  25. Claire
    Claire November 1, 2020 4:44 pm

    I could go on, but the main point here is that while EVERYBODY’s life got easier in the recent past, the woman’s life has become MUCH easier than a man’s. ( In my opinion ), yet men are STILL blamed for everything and still expected to do chores around the house, and if they don’t do them quickly enough, they’re mocked and ridiculed.
    It’s tiring.

    Dealing with a nagging, judgmental, non-contributing woman must be very frustrating. I hope you can get and stay far away from that kind of person.

    OTOH, things look quite different from the perspective of a woman who worked full time, paid half the household bills, and still ended up doing 90% of the housework, as well as some of the traditional men’s work. (And this even when the man had agreed at the outset of the relationship that specific household responsibilities were his.)

    I’m sure things look even more different from the perspective of a woman who owns her own business (outside the home), provides 100% of the income for her household, and has a house-husband who never lifts a finger to do any housework while using her money to buy himself motorcycles and other fancy toys.

    I assure you, Jolly, there are plenty of pet peeves to go around.

  26. Claire
    Claire November 1, 2020 4:47 pm

    Good observations, RickB. “Equally important but different.” Indeed. And we sure see before us how destructive “lives of leisure” are our alleged intelligentsia.

  27. Marda Keith
    Marda Keith November 2, 2020 10:58 am

    My husband and I had a method of sharing work—I mowed half the yard since I loved it and he hated it. I did laundry while he vacuumed—again one skipped what he/she hated and the other was neutral. He had a higher salary than I did but I handled the money since I was better at it. I went to antique auto events which bored me and excited him. He went to antique shops with me since I enjoyed looking if not buying. My friends were horrified that I managed money rather than living it to the “superior” gender. Some of his friends were downright envious. Basically we were equal partners. Since he has been disabled, I may do more but we share decisions.

  28. larryarnold
    larryarnold November 2, 2020 10:47 pm

    My friends were horrified that I managed money rather than living it to the “superior” gender.

    Completely don’t understand the “men should always manage finances” theory. If an artist marries a CPA, who should run the checkbook?

  29. Val E. Forge
    Val E. Forge November 6, 2020 2:10 pm

    Great start Claire.

  30. david
    david November 12, 2020 5:52 pm

    Claire, I have faith in you. Write those individual posts, and keep writing all that are necessary in your estimation. They will become a book for you. And for me, and many others. If anyone can write a book on this complicated and sensitive subject – it’s you. Put me down for a copy.

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