Is Masculinity a Matter of Money?

by Jack Donovan on November 4, 2011

In a column for National Review, conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager recently identified four legacies of feminism. His legacies are:

  1. The belief that women should have sex like men do, even though it seems to lead to depression and sexual disinterest over the long term.
  2. The belief that women should postpone marriage until they have developed careers.
  3. The belief that women should work outside the home.
  4. The demasculinization of men.

Praeger offered a few reasons for why these legacies were negative, but his assertions were vague and could be expanded substantially.

The postponement of marriage and family is obviously at odds with biological reality. By the time women are financially successful, they have only a short, desperate window to sort through potential mates, build a relationship and have a healthy baby—let alone the two or three children necessary to maintain replacement level population growth.

Feminism valorized careers, but the reality in this global economy is that most jobs suck. For every woman enjoying sex in the city as she pursues an exciting and fulfilling career, there are a bunch of women working the checkout line at Wal Mart or pouring over financial records in some accounting office. Feminism was pushed by a lot of women with designer educations and high career expectations. Betty Sue who stocks shelves at Target would probably rather spend more time at home with her kids, and her kids would probably be better off if she did.

Like Bill Bennett and Kay Hymowitz, Prager was also concerned that men were “demasculinized” because they were no longer interested in working to become husbands. He wrote:

“For all of higher civilization’s recorded history, becoming a man was defined overwhelmingly as taking responsibility for a family. That notion — indeed the notion of masculinity itself — is regarded by feminism as the worst of sins: patriarchy.”

His qualifier “higher” there is interesting, and I wonder what exactly he meant and where the delineation is between higher and lower civilizations. His assertion that masculinity is defined most conspicuously by becoming the head of a household is both Judeo-Christian and bourgeois.

Manliness — as a way of being and behaving — has very little to do with whether or not one has married and produced children.

Praeger associates “demasculinization” with the loss of the male sex role in the context of family, and believes that men “want to be honored in some way.” This is a misuse of the word honor. A better word would have been “valued.” Saying that men want to be honored implies that they want some kind of special treatment, that they are by testicular possession entitled to some sort of special treatment or high esteem.

It would be more accurate and less ridiculous to say that men want to be valued. So do women. Women want to be treated as if they are special and irreplaceable in some way. Basically all recognizable romantic gestures involve a man showing a woman that she is special and irreplaceable to him. Romance is telling a woman “of all the vaginas in the world, yours is most magic.”

(Though, as a direct statement, I doubt that would go over.)

From an evolutionary standpoint, romance is making a woman feel secure in your commitment to help her through the vulnerable periods of pregnancy and child-rearing. Women needed men, and men wanted women.

Now, women don’t need men — at least on paper — because women can work to generate income, because they are protected from other men by police, and because when they fail to generate enough income, the State will invest in their reproductive endeavor. Anthropologist Lionel Tiger refers to State investment in reproduction as “bureaugamy.”

Men know that they are replaceable. An “equal partner” is little more than a co-applicant, a business partner — a domestic partner.  And when women decide to change partners, men can expect to go through the kind of experience W.F. Price recently wrote about, especially if they don’t have a lot of money.

I was talking to a guy the other day who was dating an older, financially successful woman. This young man has been to Africa several times working for humanitarian organizations, he spent seven seasons working on fishing boats, he’s been a newspaper photographer, and is searching for an experience to write his first book about. After several dates, the woman told him he was “unambitious.” He was completely flabbergasted as to how anyone could say he was unambitious.

I said, “Dude, she means money.”

A woman in her late thirties is eyeing up a house in the suburbs and she wants an additional income. She’s not a lesbian, so she can’t very well shack up with a woman. She has to find a man to buy the house and have the kids with her. Sure, it would be nice if the guy was handsome and interesting and good in bed, but  if he’s going to be a successful co-applicant, he’d better bring some chips to the table.

It’s a persistent theme in this fretting about the decline of the male role. Hymowitz and Bennett and Prager are all worried that fewer and fewer men will have enough money to become suitable husbands for the women of tomorrow. They’re concerned that men are too busy hanging out with other men and doing what makes them happy, and too lackadaisical about building careers that will generate sufficient income.

For so many “end of men” writers, masculinity seems to be all about money. For them, “manning up” is about giving up what is best in life to chase dollars and invest in some woman’s dream. They are concerned that men are “emasculated.” The failure of manhood that concerns them, though, is not a loss of virility. It is not a loss of strength or courage.  Their “emasculated” men merely suffer from low net worth.

Is masculinity just a matter of money?

 

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