Besides religion and morality, if there’s a cultural “Gibraltar” in our gender-fluid era that’s standing in the way of progressivism’s march to victory, it’s traditional masculinity. The effort to demolish this obstacle once and for all is well underway, and has been for years. From academia to the military, even the word “man” is being systematically erased from daily parlance in favor of “person” (as though “man” were a dirty word). It is unprogressive and unfair to suggest that any quarter in society be exclusive to men. The new language must embrace inclusivity and, by extension, reflect hostility to words like “man”. When you do happen to see the occasional deviation from this trend in our culture, it’s surprising, so take note.
This struck me recently when I saw a commercial for (of all things) Tincup Whiskey. It’s a slick ad that is, surprisingly, overtly masculine. How did this manage to slip through the cracks of gender-neutral, millennial-saturated focus groups? In the 30-second piece, a group of rugged, bearded outdoorsmen scale a mountain, chop firewood, sharpen blades and gather around a blazing campfire. All the while, a husky voice narrates, “Up here, it’s just man and the mountain, and his tin cup.” I couldn’t help thinking, “If they haven’t already, how long until the makers of Tincup Whiskey hear from the feminists on this one?”
Judge for yourself.
Alas, the Tincup Whiskey ad represents a 30 second respite in a long, escalating war of attrition on masculinity in our time. As I mentioned earlier, the military certainly is not immune from the ubiquitous assault on masculinity. Writing about the inroads that feminism has made there, Kate O’Beirne made an excellent point in a 2003 National Review essay.
Overplaying women’s exploits permits proponents of gender-integrated combat to discount the masculine traits that the history of warfare shows to be vital to military success. In an article for the Buffalo Law Review, Wayne State law professor Kingsley R. Browne examines the historic link between masculinity and warfare: “Be a man” was the core value by which combat soldiers judged each other, according to Samuel Stouffer’s classic study of soldiers in WWII; as Browne notes, Northwestern professor Charles Moskos–America’s leading military sociologist–explains that one of the few ways to get men in combat to behave so irrationally as to risk getting killed is to appeal to their masculinity. A study of the Spanish Civil War found that the greatest fear of men facing combat for the first time was that they would turn out to be cowards. Historian S.L.A. Marshall found that a man in combat will overcome his fear and do what’s required because he risks losing “the one thing that he is likely to value more highly than his life–his reputation as a man among other men.” Browne concludes: “If the need to prove one’s manliness is an essential motivator of combat personnel, what motivates women?”
Proponents of gender neutral language have notched some victories in the Church as well. “Altar boy” has been replaced with “server” on bulletins across America. As an anecdote, the Italian word for altar boy is chierichetto which literally means “little cleric”, directly linking the altar boy to the male priesthood. If we were to feminize the term, I guess we’d end up with “little priestess” or something. At many parishes, “men” is edited out of the part of the Creed that reads, “For us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven…”. Before I started attending the Traditional Latin Mass years back, I would regularly hear parishioners delete “man” or “he/him” from the responses during Mass.
One by one, institutions are making concessions and capitulating to placate the feminist/gender neutral-driven narrative of egalitarianism-on-demand, even when the results are counter-productive, misleading and/or embarrassing.
Often the very concept of fighting or battle is caricatured by secular pacifists and (even some Christians) as un-qualifyingly bad, regardless of circumstances. Recent headlines have seen calls for the Church to abandon its just war teaching, and some have even criticized the presence of chaplains serving as commissioned officers in the military.
Boys are often chided for horseplay that takes the form of fighting because it supposedly reinforces violent, latent tendencies that are ill-suited to our “enlightened” era of conflict resolution exercises and sensitivity training. (Remember the controversial and ridiculous Gillette commercial from a couple months ago?) Even using the index finger and thumb to form the shape of a gun to get the “bad guy” at recess can be grounds for severe punishment. Over-reactions of this sort are no doubt tied to the anti-gun fever that has always been a pillar of the secular elitist’s worldview. But I think it also points to an attempt at neutralizing natural masculine instincts that are developing in boys to fight against evil and to protect the defenseless. Of course, it’s important to teach boys how to resolve their problems in a peaceful way. But it is also important that they know that circumstances in life may arise in which he might be called on to fight in order to protect himself, those dear to him, or his country.
When the primal urge to fight is correctly channelled in the spiritual life, greatness follows. In the earliest centuries of the Church, the flight into the desert by the Desert Fathers was seen as an entrance into direct spiritual battle with the devil and the flesh. The capital vice of acedia, about which the Fathers wrote extensively, was understood as a fleeing from spiritual battle, running away from the fight. (Read Dom Jean-Charles Nault’s excellent book, The Noonday Devil: Acedia, the Unnamed Evil of our Times.)
Despite the setbacks, there are signs of resistance and hope beyond a commercial for whiskey. The blog The Catholic Gentleman, by Milwaukee’s Sam Guzman, is a popular site visited by tens of thousands. Well-written articles regularly crop up on the subject. Films that highlight examples of traditional masculine virtues usually do very well, showing that people are nostalgic for examples of this in the real world. Last year in Paris, three brave young Americans neutralized a Muslim terrorist by beating him senseless and tying him up for police (while other men hid in compartments). In one of their many interviews after the incident, the Americans simply said, “We chose to fight”. Other examples occasionally surface in the culture, providing a breath of fresh air. It’s still an uphill battle, but it’s one worth fighting.
* Featured image, “Saint George Slaying the Dragon” by Giorgio Vasari, 1551.