>Harvey Mansfield vs. Naomi Wolf

>(REPOST FROM Wednesday, March 22, 2006)

On Book TV this last weekend, Naomi Wolf and Harvey Mansfield faced off over his new book “Manliness”. And boy did she ever rip him a new one.

Mansfield wavered and equivocated throughout the interview, clearly made nervous by Wolf’s capable onslaught. On the one hand he would make prescriptive statements about manliness, asserting the overall positive aspects of the unencumbered, insensitive and power hungry male, as opposed to the “naturally” submissive and non-risk taking female. On the other hand, he would claim to be merely describing manliness, not saying whether it was good or bad. The fact is that by the end of the interview he showed himself to be the classic patriarchal stereotype, finally admitting that manly men do not, and should not, pay much attention to the needs and viewpoints of women because they are given to emotion, enamored of context and intution, rather than reason and abstract thought. Pretty hilarious stuff seeing as how Wolf pointed out his contradictory (he states that he doesn’t tell his male students to see women any certain way, after lecturing them on the thesis of his book) and superficial assessment of men and women, and their relations.

One thing Mansfield says that ought to frighten even the conservative family man who holds down a steady job in, say, insurance sales, is that “manly men don’t like bourgeois values”. That is, the safe and predictable routine of job, family and friends. Manly men are more akin to the soldier in battle, the lone man reliant on only his wits, the hero ready to sacrifice his life for something great – god and country perhaps, in an aggressive war of choice. This sounds eerily similar to some of the intellectual founders of German Nationalism such as Werner Sombart, who made the dichotomy between “merchants” and “heroes”. The former loved the simple, cushy lifestyle and creature comforts of modern life, while the latter longed for action, high stakes sensory stimulation, and the opportunity to stand out above the rest. Mansfield says that manly men don’t negotiate, or barter, or compromise, but take what they want with no apologies and no regrets. Granted, he says that this isn’t always a good thing. For instance, the 9/11 hijackers are BAD manly men in Mansfield’s eyes; however, George W. Bush would represent just the kind of GOOD manly man the world needs more of. Oh shit.

Wolf posits that what the world, in fact, needs more of is the kind of man Mansfield desribes as UN-Manly: the one who considers the needs of women, and especially the needs of those physically and mentally more vulnerable. Considering it takes more courage/cajones/hootzpa to defy the average male mob mentality of anti-intellectuality, impulsive anger, honor obsessed violence and fear of anything out of the ordinary, I would counter Mansfield and say that the truly manly – at least manliness narrowly defined as bravery and risk taking – are the enemies of what too many men are in fact like. I suppose in a way this sounds like the old cliche of “the bigger man walks away from a fight”, but so be it. However, context is everything. Starting a fight with someone who accidentally stepped on your shoes is a far cry from mustering up the courage to resist an imperialist army that is occupying your homeland (hint hint)…

Currently reading : Manliness By Harvey C. Mansfield Release date: By 06 February, 2006


I was trying to think of an intelligent response to this, but I figured it would be much more succinct to say that this Mansfield guy sounds like a tool.
During the discussion–or from what you may know of the book–how does he support his arguments? Or is he just some sort of armchair sociologist? Seriously, though, did he make any strong or compelling points? I’m thinking this guy had to have made some sort of viable argument to get published, but from what you’ve said, it really seems like he’s just talking out of his ass

Hey, Hey, Hey

Well, he’s actually a professor of government, so “armchair” sociologist may not be so off the mark. I mean Wolf (someone an actual feminist is far more familiar with than me) just completely schooled him on feminist history. The only name he drug up was Simone de Beauvoir. If he looked foolish, maybe, perhaps, it was because he’s an older guy that just doesn’t talk as fast as the younger, brasher Wolf, but I don’t think so. He seemed to be out of his league, recycling anti-feminist cliches.
I haven’t read his book to be honest, but it’s at work, so I’ll give it a peek.



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