Masculinity Redefined: The Manly Man’s Man

In his New York Times column, David Brooks revisits a great Civil War story juxtaposing perceptions of masculinity that, no doubt uncoincidentally, involved a group that called itself the Independent Order of Trumps. You can’t make this stuff up.

In the middle of the Civil War a colonel named Robert McAllister from the 11th Regiment of New Jersey tried to improve the moral fiber of his men. A Presbyterian railroad contractor in private life, he lobbied and preached against profanity, drinking, prostitution and gambling. Some of the line officers in the regiment, from less genteel backgrounds, rebelled.

They formed an organization called the Independent Order of Trumps. In sort of a mischievous, laddie way, the Trumps championed boozing and whoring, cursing and card-playing.

It is, of course, a loaded story, since the Trumps were vulgar ruffians, while McAllister was a gentleman.

It was a contest between two different ideals of masculinity. McAllister’s was based on gentlemanly chivalry and self-restraint. Trumpian masculinity was based on physical domination and sexual conquest. “Perceptions of manliness were deeply intertwined with perceptions of social status,” Foote writes.

Social status was far more serious then. The upper crust didn’t hobnob with the groundlings, and their snooty behavior distinguished the classes, which is how they liked it.  Today, class distinctions are something to be eradicated rather than admired. Brooks either doesn’t consider this or ignores it.  It doesn’t serve his point.

These days we’re living through another great redefinition of masculinity. Today, both men and women are called upon to live up to the traditional ideals of both genders. So the ideal man, at least in polite society, gracefully achieves a series of balances. He is steady and strong, but also verbal and vulnerable. He is emotionally open and willing to cry, but also restrained and resilient. He is physical, and also intellectual.

Today’s ideal man honors the women in his life in whatever they want to do. He treats them with respect in the workplace and romance in the bedroom. He is successful in the competitive world of the marketplace but enthusiastic in the kitchen and gentle during kids’ bath time.

Says who?  Not that I take issue with Brooks’ redefined masculinity, but who makes these rules as to what constitutes a manly man?  He’s “emotional and open”?  Frankly, that doesn’t sound like most men I know.  It’s not that they aren’t gentlemen, or don’t treat women respectfully, but that means holding doors open for them (and other men as well, since only a jerk lets a door slam in another person’s face).  I don’t know many men who prefer to watch Rom Coms with a box of tissues close at hand.

Are we doing it all wrong?  According to Brooks, we are. But it strikes me that this isn’t so much Brooks’ offering his personal redefinition of manly men, but Brooks’ acquiescing to the demands of outside agitators. This is what comes of spending too much time reading the New York Times and going to parties with the Manhattan elite. You begin to believe that their sensibilities are the right sensibilities, and that any differing sensibilities are, well, those of vulgar ruffians.

One might suspect, if one takes Brooks too seriously, that the options for masculinity range from adopting some version of the feminists’ dream date to today’s Trump’s misogynist. If you don’t want to be a misogynist like Donald Trump, then you have to be “emotional and open.”  This, of course, is utter nonsense, even though this is being taught to students at college as if there are rules of good and evil masculinity.

Are “emotional vulnerability, cooperation, and sensitivity” really “valuable human traits”?  Or are they feminine traits, and therefore deemed valuable because gender correctness wants to force them down guys’ throats?  I hate to be the one to say this, but emotional vulnerability isn’t something I care to possess.

I’m quite pleased with the extent to which I’m in touch with my emotions, and really have no desire to wear them on my sleeve to show my vulnerability.  If some other guy wants to cry, to sit in a circle and discuss his feelings with other people who want to hear them, and share their feelings about his feelings, that’s fine with me.  But I won’t be there. I’ll be watching the game, because that’s what I want to do.

Some have responded to this pressure to adopt the new masculinity, as externally dictated, aggressively, as a force to be attacked as destroying their right to be the sort of men they choose to be. Ironically, this too involves someone else dictating what constitutes masculinity, just from the Independent Order of the Trumps perspective.

This, too, is utter nonsense. If anything, taking man lessons, by definition, misses the point.

Be who you are.  Who gives a damn what someone else tells you to be?  So what if “society” tells you to be more feminine, more sensitive? If you don’t like to eat sushi, don’t eat sushi. Do you really need to study this in college?  Just man up.

There is nothing wrong with liking pink and having a burning desire to do the vacuuming.  If that’s your thing, then that’s what you should do.  And if it’s not, you still have to do the vacuuming, because rooms don’t vacuum themselves. But you don’t have to like it.

These external dictates, whether from McAllister’s gentlemanly perspective, the Trumpian’s debauchery perspective, the feminist perspective or Brooks’ perspective, are meant for people of weak minds and will.  These are for people who suffer internal confusion, and so need someone else to tell them who and what they are. These are for people whose self-esteem is so low that they can’t decide for themselves what they like or don’t, who they are or aren’t. They need someone to tell them. And there are plenty of people who want nothing more than to teach you how to meet their vision of the ideal man. Despite what they say at Everyday Feminism, irrationality is not a virtue. Not for men, women or anything in between.

Brooks tries to marry his masculinity to social and intellectual class status; it’s a way to simultaneously denigrate the dumb, low class Trump supporters while extolling males who possess the sensitivity that won’t offend women and intellectuals. Who wants to be the misogynistic, low class dumbass?

Masculinity is no more a political weapon than a social construct. Real men vote for whomever they want to vote for. Real men enjoy whatever movies they enjoy. Real men eat bacon or not, as they prefer. Real men don’t look to David Brooks, feminists or academics, to teach them what gender values they should hold. They don’t take orders from the red pill, blue pill or purple pill manly men either. They are what they choose to be. No more, no less. And they vote for whomever they think will be the best, or at least not worst, at the job.

26 thoughts on “Masculinity Redefined: The Manly Man’s Man

  1. Kathleen Casey

    Says who? is right. I turn the page on opinion columns bloviating about “we” doing or thinking anything. And they are as common as dirt have you noticed?

    He has it wrong about “a series of balances. …steady and strong, but also verbal and vulnerable. He is emotionally open and willing to cry, …” That type is a tiresome, whining snowflake. Consistently. Male or female. Here in the hinterlands anyway.

    The Grey Lady straining hard to hose Trump again is what this is and that’s all it is.

    1. Billy Bob

      Real men eat quiche, while smiling and pretending it’s bacon–well cooked.
      Real men don’t complain, they explain (“mansplaining”). They do not spread rumors or gossip, either.
      Would you like some chardonnay with that quiche, Sir?

    2. SHG Post author

      I like quiche. I love bacon. I like quiche with bacon in it, though I fail to see the purpose in putting bacon in quiche when you can enjoy it more by itself.

    3. JAV

      If you don’t make the quiche with a crust, you can call it an “egg bake”. Real men adapt and overcome.

      1. SHG Post author

        So off the edge it goes, into the rabbit hole. Are you trying to give Bill a run for his money on whose crazier?

  2. David MeyerLindenberg

    Brooks is either too stupid or too dishonest to note that for a long, long time, libertines’ clubs were a hallmark of high society. See the Beggar’s Benison and basically most of the Georgian era.

  3. Osama bin Pimpin

    These ideals do not need to be in conflict and are properly complentary. Daddy taught me a gent always holds the door for a lady, as that provides the gent with the best view of the lady’s ass swaying by. Also a gent always plans a proper evening for a lady and picks up the tab for it, as that yields gent best odds of post-date sex.

    FTFY Greenfield and Brooks.

    1. SHG Post author

      Some guys have to pay for sex. Others do not. It’s unclear whether there is a correlation involving online ‘nyms and the need to pay.

        1. SHG Post author

          Married guys pay for children. Nothing is more expensive than children, but sex has nothing to do with it.

  4. John Barleycorn

    Brooks is just jealous he didn’t get the Biden campus tour gig.

    P.S. You really need to work on the complexity and vigor of the furrowed brow within the Gray Lady advice you deliver.

  5. wilbur

    Real men bathe their toddlers with sensitivity.

    Unless you had a tough day at work at the NYT or you’re out of town. Then you just tell the nanny do it.

  6. Nigel Declan

    I thought that Mike Cernovich had already resolved the issue of masculinity. Maybe Brooks is just new to this neck of the woods.

    1. SHG Post author

      Cerno’s views and mine have some commonality, but aren’t exactly the same. I don’t advocate for men to be anything more than they want to be, whatever that is. I do, however, advocate against men being told (or goaded, as Brooks tried to do) what to be, whether by women or other men.

  7. Francois

    In the past each gender had a different role in society so people tended to act in a way that was socially favorable to them. Strong women could put a front of vulnerability to better control men, and weak men would try to seem tougher than they were. Nowadays the feminine trait of ”emotional vulnerability” should be no more useful than the traditional male agressivity. But old habits die hard and professional victims are still very good at playing the vulnerability card.

    It’s also untrue that men were not allowed to express their feeling. The way men were expected to express their feelings were simply unladylike. Donald Trump certainly seems to be more emotionally open than Hillary (and therefore the most feminine of the two).

  8. JD

    I am truly disappointed that you wasted a fine opportunity to post a picture of pajama boy. I suspect pajama boy is so hurt that he is crying softly into his hot chocolate.

  9. John Rew

    Wholeheartedly agree. Just one qualification though. As I see it it is not the ambition of the red pill community to tell you what to be but rather to reveal the true nature of men and women in general , to cut through the B.S that has been spread around. Just like you did in this post. Red pill usually deals with why you are not getting what you want, not so much what you should want. Blue pill describes someone who tries to be sensitive because he thinks it’s what women like or he is morally required to do so.

  10. losingtrader

    You’re off the rails.Have you been riding the subway with the GREAT UNWASHED again?
    Try a few re-runs of Richie Rich.

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