Manliness reviewed

Fair is fair:  women have their “motherhood debate,” now men can begin a rumble — better yet, a barroom brawl — about their manliness.  Over at Claremont, Diana Schaub reviews Manliness, a book whose author is the improbably named Harvey Mansfield.

Why write a book about manliness?  Why review it?  The Claremont piece answers neither of these pressing questions, but does put forward the idea that manliness has been stolen from males and somehow appropriated by feminists.

Mansfield, if that really is his name, apparently advocates acknowledging differences between the sexes in private but not in public life.  Schaub, for her part, professes to be “charmed but not altogether persuaded by this conclusion.”  She wants differences all over the place.  She is described as “chairman of the department of political science at Loyola College,” but she seems to believe that women prefer staying at home and being mothers.  Is Schaub unhappy being chairman of the department of political science at Loyola?  Is she more manly than Mansfield?

Here is a sexual difference worth stating up front, in public:  whereas men are what they are because of body chemicals, women must make difficult choices between mutually exclusive versions of the good life.  The motherhood debate is a real debate, with pain and loss for those who get it wrong.  Intellectualizing about manliness is, at best, gas-bagging, and at worst the kind of academic prating and posturing that makes one want to smack the author in the nose.

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