Friday, July 18, 2008

Harvey Mansfield - "A Manly Man"

I'd be interested in any comments readers/listeners might have to how political theorist Harvey Mansfield defines the concept of "manliness." He is the author of a book called Manliness, so I guess his opinion is valid.

One person at Big Think, Jacoline Loewen, posted the following comment:
I asked the manly men in my life what they thinked defined manliness. Maybe because the question was posed by me (a womanly woman) I was told it was being able to cry, stepping up as father and husband, doing challenging outdoor activities, speaking up about tough issues but listening when others spoke and more. What it does come down to is exactly as Harvey Mansfield says - taking risk.

Anon83 asks if this could be learned vs biological - absolutely, no doubt that different societies shape the general nature of women. Most probably, an American woman in Saudi Arabia would be seen as very pushy and not rewarded for that characterisitic. But men do not have babies or estrogen and we now know how much these hormones affect our behaviour and we need to pay more attention to that science.

There was the common comment made by teen males in my small weekend study who believe that being a white manly man is the most criticized identity in North America and that they could not speak with moral authority due to the assumed status and power.
Interesting take on what it is to be manly -- I'm sure there is a bias among many men in talking directly to a woman about this subject. And I find it depressing that teen males feel so persecuted for being white and male (although I suspect being a young black male is much worse in this country).

Here is the introduction to an audio interview (free sample at the site) with Mansfield, conducted by What Is Enlightenment?
“Today the very word manliness seems quaint and obsolete,” writes Harvard University professor Harvey C. Mansfield in his controversial, thought-provoking book Manliness. “We are in the process of making the English language gender-neutral, and manliness, the quality of one gender, or rather, of one sex, seems to describe the essence of the enemy we are attacking, the evil we are eradicating.”

In this week’s feature interview for our issue on men, WIE’s Ross Robertson asks Dr. Mansfield to speak about why he thinks manliness is not as bad as it appears to be. In our research for this issue, Dr. Mansfield was a rare find—an academic who is willing to take seriously many questions about the value and significance of masculinity that are mostly taboo in the contemporary discourse on sex and gender. Here he explores such topics as the virtues and shortcomings of manly men, the complex nature of manliness itself (as it is expressed both by men and women), and the history of our postmodern experiment with a “gender-neutral society.”

As one of his Harvard colleagues has said of him, “Harvey Mansfield is a Harvard treasure, a one-man antidote to liberal complacency. I disagree with almost all of his political views, but his presence enlivens the government department, and Harvard, immeasurably.” We hope you find his ideas enlivening as well.

Find out more about Mansfield at his website.

There's more about Mansfield and by Mansfield on the web, so I'll post some more tomorrow.

1 comment:

Evan said...

Hi William,

I tried to subscribe in google reader but something went wrong.