The manliest of manly men, man

A Harvard prof thinks chicks need to be educated about manliness.


Rebecca Traister
March 14, 2006 1:05AM (UTC)

Oh, was there ever a story in the Boston Globe yesterday! So many readers have forwarded it to Broadsheet that it has taken me all day just to sort through their comments and finally write an item about it.

Here's the story: Conservative Harvard government prof Harvey Mansfield has written a book called "Manliness." (And, yes, all the Harvard-Harvey Manly-Mansfield stuff is positively Dickensian.) In the book, Mansfield argues that the notion that women can and should do whatever men can do is a load of horse puckey. In fact, Mansfield suggests there are tasks that men are designed to do (sticking their neck out for people, chewing tobacco, peeing standing up -- I'm guessing, here, but come on, this sounds right) and that women aren't. And that there are qualities that men exhibit that women do not. And all of us uppity females who disagree just need to sit back, shut up and suck it the hell up. In fact, we need to become more accepting of "manliness" as a quality.

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I have a copy of Mansfield's book on my desk and while I haven't read it, I can report that his preface begins with a rough definition: "Manliness seeks and welcomes drama and prefers times of war, conflict, and risk. Manliness brings change or restores order at moments when routine is not enough, when the plan fails, when the whole idea of rational control by modern science develops leaks."

The Globe's Christopher Shea quotes Mansfield as writing that "men have the highest offices, the leading reputations; they make the discoveries, conceive the theories, win the prizes, start the companies, score the touchdowns." Also, men "disdain women's work."

Mansfield's examples of manliness include Humphrey Bogart, Harry Truman, the police and firemen who risked their lives on Sept. 11 and Margaret Thatcher. (Shh! Do not disturb the manly scholar with questions about why it's cool for a woman to be the manliest when he's arguing that women aren't manly! It probably has something to do with her scary conservatism!) Also, upon skimming, I found this sentence (Page 12): "Women still rather like housework, changing diapers, and manly men" -- though he tells the Globe that he does a downright womanly amount of dishwashing, laundry and bed making in his own home.

But for all you Mansfield fans who were introduced to him yesterday in Boston, I have a special treat: He was the subject of Deborah Solomon's awesome weekly grilling in yesterday's New York Times magazine! Solomon, who is just a great interviewer, asks Mansfield about the manliness quotients of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney ("He hunts. And he curses openly. Lynne Cheney is kind of manly, too") and at one point says to him, "I am beginning to wonder if you have ever spoken to a woman."

It's just brilliant.


Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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