As many readers know, I have been investigating some aspects of masculinity in a way that has alarmed and disturbed some of you. I appreciate your concerns and I am listening and learning. Since the conversation seems to keep returning to that particular subject, I will continue.
Jack Donovan identifies four tactical virtues that define masculinity for men: strength, courage, mastery, honor. Women’s equivalent virtues would be beauty, courage, mastery and fidelity. To be clear, I have created women’s virtues, drawing on Donovan. As far as I know, Donovan could give a rat’s ass about what women consider virtuous. I think Donovan’s core tactical virtues can be deployed in three critical ways: physically, intellectually and artistically.
The warrior, the scholar, the poet.
Each of these men contribute value, and each can, should be and are evaluated as manly by other men. What I, or any other woman thinks, is not important. The warrior is of obvious value to other men, but he is more valuable and more masculine the more he exemplifies the tactical virtues. Being a meathead who can kill, but who has no honor (no matter how twisted) and no courage is not just useless, but dangerous. To other men. Same for the scholar. Understanding chemistry and physics, no matter how rudimentary the knowledge, would clearly be an obvious tactical advantage for the construction of weaponry, fortifications and battlements. But a chemist without honor quickly becomes a purveyor of poison. The poet, too, has his value, to other men. He steels the hearts and minds of men and prepares them for battle, he is instrumental in preserving and communicating masculine traditions and stories, he creates the music that reminds men they are also human.
What fascinates me (of course it fascinates me) is what these roles might be for women. Men value and prize the warrior, the scholar, the poet, for their intrinsic and extrinsic value to other men. What might be the female equivalents? Do men love and value intelligent women? Feminists scream blue murder that men have never valued or prized intelligent women, but this elides two important considerations: firstly, that just as masculinity is defined in relation to what other men think, femininity is defined in relation to what other women think; and secondly, men don’t prize stupid children. Men have always prized intelligence in women and it is completely comical, not to mention preposterous for the feminist philosophy crowd to claim on one hand that men don’t prize intelligence in women and on the other that intelligence is heritable on the female side. Pick one, ladies. And think it through.
PS: intelligence is likely NOT heritable on the female side. It’s a simple problem of diversity. If X = a box of black and white crayons and Y = a box of primary colors, who on average is more likely to produce the Sistine Chapel? Can you make great black and white art? Sure you can. You can’t make Water Lilies though. #SorryFeminists
I digress. The four tactical virtues a la Donovan are expressed in three primary roles: warrior, scholar, poet. What would those roles be for women? Mother is an obvious one. A woman who does not have children is a human being, I think, but she is not a woman. Fatherhood cannot define being a man in the way it defines being a woman, because for most of human history parenthood was only every provisionally true for men, yet absolutely true for women. It’s hard to wonder if the kid you just pushed out your vagina is actually yours.
So mother. Contained in mother is the entire concept of nurturing, loving, caring and providing.
Scholar? Can women be scholars? Absolutely. But just as mastery is in completely different domains, so too will women’s scholarship be. Nursing, cooking, preserving food, caring for the young, the sick, the vulnerable, the old. These things, done well, require intelligence. Running increasingly complex households and farms requires the same skills as running a country, except that when it comes times to defend territory with blood and bones, women are exempted. Women are well suited to run households they depend on others to defend, but once controversy and conflict spills over the threshold, they are not just ill-suited, women are downright dangerous.
And finally? Is there value in women’s artistry? Not really. Women make nice quilts and make pretty cookies and cakes, but we have no Mozart or Van Gogh or Shakespeare. We are not great artists. Except in one important way: lover. The tradition of the muse expresses this most perfectly. Women inspire great art through their sensuality and sexuality. Women’s sexuality is reproductive of all the male roles, even if we have nothing to do with the male virtues. We inspire men to fight, to create, to study, to learn. We also abuse men in these roles horrifically, and then blame men for our cruelty. And let’s be clear – men abuse women horrifically, too because both men and women are human beings and humans beings are assholes, by and large. Neither gender has the market cornered.
Mother, scholar, muse. The ideal woman.
Warrior, scholar, poet. The ideal man.
Women and men unite, most profoundly, at the level of intelligence. Shared understanding. Similar minds. This can be at either very high levels or very low. Why would it matter? We can bond over the the Large Hadron Collider and the definition of verisimilitude, or over eating slugs and shoving grass plugs up our nostrils. As long as we are of shared minds, it doesn’t matter. After that, we want other things. Men want caring and nurturing and children. Women want protection and neat things that make their lives easier. It’s a fair trade, as long as both parties are realistic.
Mother, scholar, muse. I like to think I am all of these things. Beauty, courage, mastery, fidelity. I value and practice all of these things. They are central to my tripartite identity. If I wrote a male character according to the parameters I have set out for men, he would seem ridiculous. A skilled killer who understands physics, chemistry, philosophy and mathematics at a profound level and also a gifted musician who can play any instrument, in any style, and learn any song in mere moments. Shall he kill you, correct your calculations, or entertain you with some improvised Chick Corea?
But if I am not absurd, why should he be?
What if he exists?
Asking for a friend.
Lots of love,