The Boy Scouts of America’s recent decision to remove “Boy” from the organization’s name is only the latest in the ongoing attempt to purge masculinity from our culture. The task our society is in for when it comes to issues of sex will be something like untangling strings of Christmas lights sufficient to adorn a thousand trees the size of one suitable for Rockefeller Plaza. Acknowledging and coming to terms with differences between men and women is only one part of the bigger picture. Once we begin to unravel these tangled strings, it becomes evident that the attack on masculinity is really an attack on American identity.
Not Just Individuals, But a People
American identity may seem elusive because its particulars emerged from many sources: “E Pluribus Unum,” or, out of many, one. Centered as they are on universals, America’s founding principles appear to be focused mainly on individual freedom. Because of this, America is a diverse country. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. America is also a country born in a revolution that required people coming together to recognize their unique status in the world not just as individuals but as “a people.” Over time, Americans have been overcome with a desire to express particular images and symbols, which cut to the core of what it means to be American.
Given the geographical diversity of the United States as well as the liberty and individualism at its center, it’s not surprising that we encounter a special kind of wandering and uprootedness. The American wanders not like a refugee searching to replace what he has lost, but rather contains within himself a spirit of movement rooted in individual choice. In a sense, he feels entitled to make himself. He is not bound by his father’s occupation or that of the generations that have gone before him. He is what his talents and energies may bring him.
This is an inherently masculine identity.
What Film Teaches About American Manhood
Some of these images are of open roads, rebelliousness, desolation—even smoking. We have seen them in countless American movies. Think of Humphrey Bogart in “The Big Sleep” (1946). When Lauren Bacall’s Vivian tells Bogart’s Marlowe that she doesn’t like his manners, he tells her point blank, “And I’m not crazy about yours. I didn’t ask to see you. I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners, I don’t like them myself. They are pretty bad. . . . But don’t waste your time trying to cross-examine me.”
Consider even the more comical masculinity of Burt Reynolds in “Smokey and the Bandit” (1977), in which Reynolds’ character Bo Darville and his buddy trucker Cletus Snow decide to bootleg a truckload of beer to settle a bet. When asked by Cletus why they should do it, Reynolds responds, “For the good ol’ American life. For the money, for the glory, and for the fun—mostly for the money.”
These represent an aesthetic, which may be exaggerated in order to fulfill certain purposes, but they are born in a truth about America that is undeniable. To be American is to be your own person, to not yield your will to someone else, to innovate, to wander, and yes, even to be a bit stubborn. All of these qualities are masculine. In order for them to be realized and executed, a “thrust” into the world is required. Imagine then how twisted and confusing our American identity will become, when both figurative and literal masculinity, is not only suppressed but also deemed inadequate, wrong, and worthy of annihilation.
Beyond Nostalgia or Social Constructs
Today, many of us who lament the loss of fundamental American characteristics are accused of nostalgia. But there is a reason we keep going back to the aesthetic expressions of American grit—there are hardly any today. Currently, the images of men created by feminists and other proponents of a cultural Marxism-imbued identity politics are poor renderings of emasculated men who are supposedly happy to give up their manhood. Those who rightly refuse this enslavement to a lie are labeled misogynistic, sexist, and hateful.
The problem is masculinity and femininity are treated and defined only as social constructs—especially if the social construct advances leftist ideological points. Nature, biology, and a man’s interior life are swept conveniently under the rug. As Camille Paglia writes in Sexual Personae (1990), “Feminists grossly oversimplify the problem of sex when they reduce it to a matter of social convention: readjust society, eliminate sexual inequality, purify sex roles, and happiness and harmony will reign.” Feminists want to create a utopia as long as it suits them and gives them the upper hand. One needn’t seek a man to help fulfill one’s dreams if one can take out the competition from men by taking them down a peg.
Another mark of masculinity or manliness is in having firmness in one’s identity. This, of course, need not exclude women. In other words, a woman might be masculine in the embrace of her female identity. Harvard political scientist Harvey Mansfield in Manliness (2006) called Margaret Thatcher “manly.” The older approach to sexual identity permitted more subtlety than we allow today. The globalist principle of “sexual fluidity” dictates there should be no acknowledged differences between men and women, particularly if those differences seem to privilege men. But it doesn’t stop there.
If the difference suggests an advantage for women, that’s viewed as only fair. Men are to be submerged into an existential category that neuters the essence of masculinity. As Mansfield points out, “The sensitive male is above all sensitive to the desire of women to be like men (though also, in a lesser degree, to their desire to remain women and to combine this with the main desire).” What an awful contradiction! A man can only be a man if he is subdued, safe, soft, and gives a fictional indication that he might behave in a masculine way from time to time in order to keep up the charade of the feminist construct of male-female relationships.
The foundation of America depends on it having been created and governed like a sovereign, independent nation that will “assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.” To be free and independent requires decisions and movement into the world as it actually is not into an abyss of self-loathing and doubt about basic biological reality. This is true for both men and women. But it is a more evident problem in men because men by nature are not designed to retreat and disappear. This is directly translated into individual sovereignty. Every time masculinity and the sovereign self is attacked, so is the sovereignty of America.