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    Monday, March 13, 2006

    Of Asshats and Men

    Did y'all read this crap?

    The New York Times, ever the liberal bastion, published a gem of an interview with the lovely Harvey C. Mansfield, conducted with aplomb by Deborah Solomon. Here it is, in its entirety:

    Q: As a staunch neoconservative and the author of a new feminism-bashing book called "Manliness," how are you treated by your fellow government professors at Harvard?

    Look, if I only consorted with conservatives, I would be by myself all the time.

    So your generally left-leaning colleagues are willing to talk to you?

    People listen to me, but they don't pay attention to what I say. I should punch them out, but I don't.

    In your latest book, you bemoan the disappearance of manliness in our "gender neutral" society. How, exactly, would you define manliness?

    My quick definition is confidence in a situation of risk. A manly man has to know what he is doing.

    Hasn't technology lessened the need for risk taking, at least of the physical sort?

    It has. But it hasn't removed it. Technology gives you the instruments, and social sciences give you the rules. But manliness is more a quality of the soul.

    How does someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger stack up?

    I would include him as a manly man.

    But doesn't he exemplify the sort of man whose overdeveloped muscles are intended to mask feelings of insecurity?

    Yes, but then he stepped up to become governor of California. He took a risk with his reputation.

    What about President Bush? He's a risk taker, but wouldn't his penchant for long vacations be a strike against him?

    I wouldn't say industriousness is a sign of manliness. That's sort of wonkish. Experts do that.

    What about Dick Cheney?

    He hunts. And he curses openly. Lynne Cheney is kind of manly, too. I once worked with her on the advisory council of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

    In your book, you say Margaret Thatcher is an ideal woman, but isn't she the manliest of all?

    I was told by someone who visited her that she is very feminine with her husband.

    Why is that so important to you in light of her other achievements?

    We need roles. Roles give us mutual expectations of what is either correct or good behavior. Women are neater than men, they make nests, and all these other stereotypes are mostly true. Wives and mothers correct you; they hold you to a standard; they want to make you better.

    I am beginning to wonder if you have ever spoken to a woman. Your ideas are so Victorian.

    I have a young wife who grew up in the feminist revolution, and even though she is not a feminist, she wants to benefit from it. I wash the dishes, and I make the bed.

    How young is she, exactly?

    She's 60. I'm 73.

    Were you sorry to see Harvard's outgoing president, Lawrence Summers, attacked for saying that men and women may have different mental capacities?

    He was taking seriously the notion that women, innately, have less capacity than men at the highest level of science. I think it's probably true. It's common sense if you just look at who the top scientists are.

    But couldn't that simply reflect the institutional bias against women over the centuries?

    It could, but I don't think it does. We have been going a couple of generations now. There are certain things that haven't changed. For example, in New York City, the doormen are still 98 percent men.

    Yes, but fewer jobs depend on that sort of physical brawn as society becomes more technologically adept. Physical advantages are practically meaningless now that men are no longer hunter-gatherers.

    I disagree with that.

    When was the last time you did something that required physical strength?

    It's true that nothing in my career requires physical strength, but in my relations with women, yes.

    Such as?

    Lifting things, opening things. My wife is quite small.

    What do you lift?

    Furniture. Not every night, but routinely.

    This is, I admit, the sort of thing I really shouldn't bother with. I don't find myself hopping onto O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh because there's really no point and this guy is certainly no more intelligent (yes, I know the moron teaches at Harvard). If he is more intelligent, he's playing some sick prank on society at the level of Fred Phelps, the radical queer.

    I love how Mansfield (actually I'll just call him Harv) feels that manliness is about risk and physicality, yet he admits he can't even bring himself to punch some wimpy liberal Harvard professor.

    Harv also does a great job with Thatcher. He's decided she's the ideal woman because some guy he knew told him that she acted a particular way behind closed doors ... a way she didn't act publicly. We'll just believe random guy and throw out a hugely contradictory public life.

    Next, the idea that there are no social or cultural or political reasons why women might not be well-represented in the highest echelons of science- umm, how about blacks and Latinos? Are they just dumb at math and science too? Or might there be some sort of, I don't know, ... bias?

    One thing I am always fascinated by with anti-feminist men is how often they'll admit that women actually benefit from feminism, as he mentions with his wife here. Gee, we wouldn't want life for any segment of society to be improved, would we?

    And finally, Harv, what if your wife were not "quite small"? Then what? (Let me guess: find someone younger and smaller, as good women should be.)

    Finally, am I the only one who thinks he was disappointed that Solomon asked the age of his wife? He thought he had us picturing some undergrad (and he was right, I was).

    This is one of those times I could go on and on and on. But, again, why bother?


    Blogger damion said...

    i love you.

    3:20 PM  
    Blogger EL said...

    Merci, je t'aime aussi!

    7:06 PM  

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