From the introduction to the “Manhood, Now” podcast produced by Anna Sale for WNYC Studios:
“We’re in a moment where what it means to be a man is shifting—and to some men, it feels like there are a lot of mixed messages floating around. As one man put it to us, “there’s a very unclear set of expectations as far as how a man should behave.” But while we’ve heard a lot of talk about men in this moment, we’ve heard fewer conversations with men. So we asked you: what’s the most confusing thing about being a man today?”
For me right now I wouldn’t say that it is “confusing” how to be a man today, instead it is difficult, very very difficult, to be a man today. It is difficult because society and culture and even law actively works to undermine and attack and disempower men; to prevent men from becoming the men that men should be.
A man who is “confused” regarding what it means to be a man is listening to the culture too much. The wider culture definitely has confusing and contradictory messages that it gives to men regarding how men should behave as men but one should not get their ideas of how to be a man from the culture, instead one should seek objective truth regarding what ones duties and roles as a man are.
Objective truth doesn’t change, objective truth isn’t confusing. Objective truth is difficult to figure out and more difficult to implement but it is not “shifting” or “confusing.”
I would say before converting to patriarchy in my mid-20s manhood or what it meant to be a man was confusing; more specifically how to be attractive to girls was confusing. How to be attractive to girls is the only reason why the subject of manhood or masculinity was important to me to begin with back then so the issue was not so much “what does it mean to be a man?,” instead the issue was “what do girls want from me?” So the question of how to be a man was really the question of how should I treat women.
My struggle to build a masculine identity for myself was centered around the moral question of how I should treat women and the practical question of how to romantically appeal to women. The masculine identity I would develop should serve me morally, be a part of being a good person, and it should serve me romantically, enable me to become attractive to and desirable to women.
I first tried to become a gender bending “sensitive” male feminist. This gave me social approval from women but no sexual attraction from women. It served the purpose of being “good” (as far as social affirmation goes) but it most decidedly did not serve the purpose of making me attractive. In my mind approval from women and attraction from women should go together; that logically if I am a “good” man that should at least move me in the direction of becoming a more attractive man to. As far as me being feminist and a “sensitive male” however my supposed “goodness” was actually making me less attractive to women.
I was quite sure I lost the woman I wanted the most in high school because I was too weak, unable to function well in giving to her. In my later gender bending “sensitive male” persona I figured I was again displaying weakness and passivity and so was repeating my error with the girl from high school continuing to show weakness and an inability and unwillingness to contribute to women in a significant way thereby making myself uninteresting and undesirable to women.
The idea that women were not interested in me because I was too weak and therefore could not / would not contribute to them enabled me to join my attractiveness as a man and my morality as a man together; that it was both good morally and attractive romantically to be strong and contribute importantly to a woman’s life.
This is what led me to be anti-feminist. Feminism told me it was moral for me to be weak and then the feminist women rejected me because I was weak. My interpretation of this is that it was moral and good and reasonable for a woman to reject me because I am weak because it is immoral for me to be weak and I am not meeting a woman’s legitimate needs by being weak. Feminism however was morally wrong to tell me to be weak in the first place since me being weak led me to sin against women by not giving to women what women needed from me.
I then decided that the persona I should take on is the 1950s breadwinner man who financially supported his wife while the wife stayed at home to raise the children. This was a man who was strong, who contributed to a woman’s life in a meaningful and important way, and who was attractive to and very successful with women. Also by contributing to the woman the man was also contributing to the well being of his children who now had a full-time mother to look after them instead of being put in daycare with strangers.
Patriarchy therefore became my model of masculinity, the 1950s breadwinner man being the masculine ideal to emulate. Patriarchy being the objective truth of the right way, the best way, the moral way to be a man.
It is clear to me now the right way to be a man, what it means to be a man, the problem is the difficulty of functioning morally as a man in an environment hostile to men, hostile to men seeking to fulfill their role and purpose as men, their natural God given role and purpose as men. A man not only gives to women, he controls and dominates women as well. This is the part feminists don’t like. Feminists want a man who gives to women but who at the same time doesn’t tell women what to do. Feminists want support from men and independence from men at the same time. This however is abusive towards men, not something men will go along with. Under patriarchy men support women and claim dominance over women both.
In Anna Sale’s “Manhood, Now” podcast there is this theme of it being difficult to be a man, confusing to be a man because of the mixed messages men get regarding how to be men. There is this freedom idea that men should be allowed to chose for themselves how to be men, that freedom and acceptance of men’s self-chosen paths of how to be men is the ideal, a homosexual man and a transgender man (born as a female, later transitioned to male) are included in the stories of different experiences of ways to be men with no negative judgments implied of homosexuality or transgenderism being wrong or disordered or strange. There is even an attack against radical feminists unfairly stigmatizing men in the story as well as a favorable portrayal of a traditional gender roles breadwinner man included. So it is a bit hard to characterize the “Manhood, Now” podcast as simply being male bashing. You could say the podcast is sympathetic to men’s experiences and men’s difficulties in modern culture and it does present the traditional way of being a man as a legitimate option for a man to pursue.
There is one thing completely missing from the “Manhood, Now” podcast however; that being the concept that manhood or masculinity involves dominance or power over women. There are some elements of masculinity presented that imply a man being powerful such as a man wanting to be the provider for his family or wanting to protect his family but the more direct point of a man having power over a woman as an expression of his masculinity or even as a consequence of his masculinity is never mentioned in the show at all. This I imagine is the greatest taboo; a man being dominant over a woman is the greatest taboo.
In my vision of masculinity I take care of and control a woman, controlling a woman being part of taking care of the woman. Dominance over the woman being intended as part of the overall package of my service and benefit and contribution to the woman. Dominance serving an administrative function and a decision making function and a planning function; being a contribution to her in its own right. Dominance also making me safe with her, making the relationship predictable and stable, and producing an environment where I can then take care of her needs as a woman fully without worrying that she will abuse me or take advantage of me in the process.
Dominance over women is absolutely integral and vital to my concept of what it means to be masculine, what it means to be a man. If I am not dominant over women then I am definitely failing as a man, then I am definitely not serving the role and the purpose of what I am supposed to be doing as a man.
So I am very against the fantasy promoted in the “Manhood, Now” podcast that the ideal should be men doing what they want having the freedom to define masculinity for themselves. Masculinity is determined by God or the natural order of things; it is not whatever a man wants it to be.
Masculinity should serve the man’s morality and the man’s attractiveness both. What is moral is an objective truth, not whatever you claim it to be or whatever you want it to be. A man’s attractiveness is also an objective truth; women are either attracted to you or they are not. A man wishing to be liked by girls or wanting to be liked by girls or thinking that some kind of behavior should get him liked by girls is not enough; the man has to deal with the reality of whether what he is doing is actually attractive to women or not.
These are external constraints the real world imposes upon a man; the objective duty to do what is right, to be moral, to act in a way consistent with the natural order of things, and the need to give to women what they want so that the man will be romantically accepted by women instead of rejected.
Patriarchy is the natural order of how society should be run and what the purpose of a man is. To take care of women, to provide for and protect women, from a position of dominance over women, is the masculine ideal one should strive to achieve.