You have to be a man first

Matt Labash writes on GQ’s “New Masculinity” issue:

John Wayne, that repository of testosterone — now considered an illicit substance in many states — once played a character who said, “You have to be a man first, before you’re a gentleman.” …

I might be tempted to answer Vox’s Liz Plank, one of GQ’s 18 voices, who recently published a book, “For the Love of Men.” While writing it, she went to Washington Square in Manhattan, thoughtfully asking men, “What’s hard about being a man?”

“Having to listen to people who aren’t men, or who are ashamed of manhood, constantly telling me how to be one,” would be my short answer, after I stopped, dropped and rolled for cover.

But for actual guidance — more sage than anything I read in GQ’s masculinity symposium — I’d turn to Edward Abbey, the ornery liberal who enjoyed baiting those on his own team. By most lights, he was a more reliable environmentalist than he was a feminist. (“The feminists have a legitimate grievance,” he said. “But so does everyone else.”) But Mr. Abbey, a former park ranger, did spend a lot of time observing nature up close, and not just the flora and fauna. Of man/woman relations, he wrote, “It is the difference between men and women, not the sameness, that creates the tension and the delight.”

Why keep fuzzing distinctions that for millenniums have resisted fuzzing? Punish the sex criminals and pelvic pinball wizards. Good riddance to them all. But otherwise, let men and women be men and women, however that appropriately breaks, without laboring so hard to fuse them. Maybe our opposites attracting, which the furtherance of our species has depended on, isn’t a design flaw, but its very essence. And maybe the wokerati ought to take their own most oft-repeated cliché to heart: Our diversity is our strength.

I’m working my way through Camille Paglia’s “Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson,” which provides a lot of context for the unfolding culture war between masculinity and whatever is proposed for replacing it.

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