Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Has the West Become Too Feminine and Cowardly?

OR to what extent is courage primarily a virtue for men? The manly Mansfield observes that women, today, might be more in need of courage than ever. But it’s also true, as his female interlocutor (Ayaan Hiris Ali) adds, that our enemies despise us because they think of us all as being as weak as women.

Discussions - 15 Comments

On this topic I highly recommend this paper, "Manliness And The Constitution", by John Kang.

It addresses the question of what sort of person the Founders thought suited to the system of government they were creating.

And as a bonus, the title will set Scanlons teeth on edge.

No, you'll be lucky to get the most momentary of eye-rolls from me with a title like that. I've been visiting this site too long for things like that to effect me.

It is amusing, though, how much you seem to think about me. Your grammar though, is quite a hell-ride.

I've been visiting this site too long for things like that to effect me.

You do seem to be a far more frequent visitor here than I am.

It is amusing, though, how much you seem to think about me.

Since you don't find it even slightly amusing, what do you think to gain by saying that? Just the usual idiotic lefty pose I assume. Whatever else, one must pretend that one is able to look down and laugh at the rabble. That's the essence of what you are after all - an empty headed poser with delusions of intellectual grandeur.

John, I do find it amusing that you think of me, and refer to me, even in blog-threads in which I have not actually commented. That's why I wrote "It is amusing..."

You're not employed as a projectionist, by chance?

I just finished re-reading Jane Austen's Persuasion and I was struck by the way in which feminine courage is distinguished from masculine courage. Feminine courage has more of the character of endurance (or forbearance) and patience or a deliberative kind of moderation. And, while the more martial male kind of courage is noted and highly esteemed (sailors are heroic in this story) there is a certain element of mistrust that hangs about them until they are tested. The lead characters in this story are both exemplars of the kind of courage thought to be particular to their sex. And yet, somehow, they miss each other at intervals and fail to connect or "persuade" (note the deliberative quality even of the title) each other. In the end, it appears that both characters--while worthy of praise for their respective displays of courage--lacked just enough of the others' kind of courage to facilitate happiness. As they mature, they both deliberate with themselves and come to understand their particular weaknesses. He formerly lacked the empathy required for a true understanding of the heart of his beloved and she formerly lacked the firmness of purpose (or decision) that makes for a fine woman as opposed to a good girl. The story is a kind of examination of the weaknesses that lead all of us--even the best of us--to varying degrees of silliness. The complementary nature of both the virtues and the vices of each is interesting in the context of this discussion. I think we'd all understand each other so much better if only we'd come to understand how utterly incomplete we all are without the other. We men and women are equal in our imperfection and our perfection (or something like it) can only be achieved through the assistance, imitation, and influence of the other.

Julie, great phrase: "the firmness of purpose (or decision) that makes for a fine woman as opposed to a good girl." Right behind it is, "equal in our imperfection and our perfection (or something like that)." You're on a roll!

Thanks for that Paul. But my poor mind could never arrive at such thoughts without the assistance of wise and ingenious Jane Austen.

Julie, on a quick reading, by some trick of the eye, I saw your last line as: "We men and women are equal in our imperfection and our perfection (or something like it) can only be achieved through the assistance, irritation, and influence of the other." which I think might also be true. Yours is a good comment. I agree. After years of hearing legions of wives and "significant others" complaining that "He doesn't understand me, no matter how much I explain myself." It is hard not to roll the eyes, both at the first and again at the second part of the complaint.

I do think the modern world requires a tougher kind of courage of women. Yes as you and Hirsi Ali say, women have always had the courage of endurance, etc. When men are not as strong, honorable and good as women and all of us, need them to be, women have more need of courage. Given what men are, which is too often not what they should be (I am thinking about those Kenyan border patrol rapists in the article and the type of poor young man noted by Franklin[in the Adams post], still ubiquitous, and some of my students and other men I know.) women have no choice but to extend their natural courage into the realm of toughness. Looking at what men are, has a woman got much choice in the matter?

Yes, these days in the West, they do. Lack of marriage was the risk in Austen's day, but marriage is the risk, now.
For the devout Christian woman, for example, who has the option of independence, it takes a heck of a lot of courage to submit to a husband. Maybe in her hopes he is all he should be. (Maybe he is in his hopes, too.) Yet, men, even if not rapists or drunkards or cowards, fail in simple honor, goodness and courage all too often.

I think women would be softer if they had the option, which they do not. I am especially thinking of a young friend, for whom I think the giving of herself in marriage takes more courage or courage of a different sort, than being given in marriage once did. That's the difference between the female courage of Austen and that of today.

Would men? Maybe so, but don't we all know men who cannot help their courage? Not only would they not be softer if they could, they could not be softer, not like a woman could. Whatever the West becomes, courage is in the nature of some men, whether nurtured in them or demanded of them or not.

We shall find out who has courage soon. Will backwoods rednecks shoot it out with para military groups sent to compinscate their guns? Will yuppies allow the feds to take guns and search their homes in the name of national security? Would the USA government squash a popular uprising with weapons of mass destruction? Will the corporate controlled media black out the gun compinscation and murders that go along with it? Will the states boldly leave the union? Will Obama force them back? Will the criminals running the show hang from overpasses or will Americans board trains for a vacation at Camp FEMA? Stay tuned to find out. Speek for youslef about courage, I still believe in the second amendment and you can take my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers. I'm sure that's an accpetable proposition to the fine men and women of blackwater USA or even my own local Federalized police if it came to that.

Courage is doing what is right even if it's not popular. A willingness to face ruin in order to stand up for what you beleive in. The leadership of the west lacks this on the surface, but probably has it in spaids on the interior if we are to believe that they seek to enslave us all just like every other powerful group throughout history. If they get caught before they win out then their crimes are so great a firing squad could not do them justice. Their are a lot of courageous Americans left, but their are a lot of yuppies who would strip naked and walk like a duck if only their 401k would come back. I would push the idea of self flagellation if I was not certain that people would actually do it. I fear I could make a killing by starting a church that promissed to return wealth by physically torturing the body in order to appease God.

Interesting post Kate. But think of the character Charlotte in Pride and Prejudice. She was certainly every bit as worthy and wonderful a character as was Elizabeth Bennett. But either she lacked a certain element of the erotic (especially as it regarded herself--amore prope) or she lacked the good fortune of being attractive enough to turn the head of another Mr. Darcy. That, or she knew that there was likely only one Mr. Darcy within striking distance. She had to settle--as most women (and men) of every generation must. Elizabeth was critical of Charlotte for accepting Mr. Collins knowing, as she certainly did, the full measure of his silliness. But I wonder if Elizabeth had a right to be so critical. Charlotte was serene about her fate and tried to make the most happiness she could out of her situation. She had the courage to forbear and to find higher joy in other things--as you seem to imply is now required of more women than in former times. I think that this is more of an eternal problem than you seem to suggest and I think that our real problem today is either an inability or an unwillingness to accept it. We have all become too romantic--in the bad sense. Everyone wants a Mr. Darcy--believes she has a RIGHT to a Mr. Darcy (and what mother would not want her daughter to continue to believe that throughout her life and to watch it actualized). But, on the other hand, not everyone works equally hard at becoming an Elizabeth Bennett and, even when they do, they often forget to account for the role of accident (or fortune) in happiness and also for the force of bad practical judgment (and, unfortunately, this is frequently a special talent of otherwise intelligent women who are used to thinking of courting rituals and feminine chatter about men as lacking in seriousness). Elizabeth seemed to suggest that Charlotte did not love herself enough to wait. That may be true (I don't think Austen settles the question one way or the other) but it also may be true that Charlotte correctly calculated that Mr. Collins was the best prospect to be expected and that his vices were tolerable. We only see Charlotte again after a year or so of marriage. It would have been interesting to see her again after 10 or 15 . . . or, perhaps, it would have been painful. But it would only be painful if one pinned all her hopes in this world on the fulfillment offered by in a perfect erotic attachment. Charlotte, I'd submit, did not seem like that type of woman.

Charlotte was not a beauty, though she did have a charming wit. Yes, Charlotte did admit to making a settling choice, but wasn't that choice based on a fear of the risk to herself if she did not marry when she could? What was her future alone? She indicated that it was going to be a poor one, because of the legality of entail. Mr. Collins was not only her best prospect, but perhaps her only prospect, because she was not the vivacious glory that Elizabeth was, nor did she have a fortune. Elizabeth did not have the right to be critical, which I think she accepted after her visit with Charlotte and her Mr. Collins.

The future, to Charlotte, was about living comfortably: house and children and a man with tolerable vices. I would suggest that in ten years, she would be immersed in her comfortable home, happy with her children and content with her place in the community. In another twenty years she would live in the Bennetts' house and if her husband stayed home all the time, like Mr. Bennett had, she might get a bit crazed. Unless, perhaps, she had maneuvered Mr. Collins into a career that either kept him from home or forced him to be less of a bore.

Charlotte was wise, but I do not know about courageous.

I don't know that all women today are looking for Mr. Darcy. My students seem to settle for quite a bit less. Maybe I and they just have different visions of what constitutes a Mr. Darcy. On the other hand, none of them are expecting to be kept. That is becoming increasingly rare, both the expectation and the fact.

I say it takes courage for modern women to take on men in marriage, because of the statistical likelihood of divorce. These days a good or just a lasting marriage is a triumph of hope. I have a future niece-in-law who is taking on our nephew who has vices that I would find far from tolerable; she focuses on the wedding. She is also continuing with her career. Girls get educations and take on careers, because, they say, "You never know what will happen." which I find achingly sad. They are planning for failure. Of course, many men do not commit themselves, being cowards. Maybe they are cowards in the face of their woman's independence. I don't really know where to shift the blame.

Anyway, a modern Charlotte could enjoy house and children, supplementing the income from her career with child support payments. No. It is not the same as in Austen's day. Yet today's Charlotte does not have to marry nor to remain married and put up with Mr. Collins vices if she chooses not to find those tolerable. I say all of this requires a certain toughness, that women would not have if they did not have to.

Another possibility for a modern Charlotte--and perhaps a better one--would be to focus on a career or some other form of mental employment once her children were more or less grown and her Mr. Collins was more or less retired. What I mean to suggest is that one reason for the very high rates of divorce today (though they really are not as high as 50%) may be because people tend to look for more out of marriage than most marriages are likely or capable of giving. People forget that in order to get everything out of a marriage that an Elizabeth and Darcy probably got (though we don't actually know) then people have to be similar in character and in good fortune to them. Most people have something less than that on both scores. Women, especially, tend to rely too much on the joys of marriage for personal fulfillment and then they get indignant when they are not happy. One should not spurn the joys of marriage and children, I agree. But one has to have others.

Yet, men, even if not rapists or drunkards or cowards, fail in simple honor, goodness and courage all too often.

I see that women continue to cling to their delusion of moral superiority, and to be baffled at the results of said attitude. Glenn Reynolds wife, Dr Helen, has a blog which offers a useful antidote to such bigotry.

John, I understand your complaint and agree with you that women today (and, maybe, always) tend to be too prone to blame men for their problems. But I think this has to do with a tendency in us to look more toward private things for the bulk of our happiness. The tendency of most men is exactly the reverse. In general, that's a good difference in us and it gives a home balance. But when we are unhappy, it is generally because we have allowed our natural tendencies too much weight or we have denied them. To correct this (once we have acknowledged the difference)it is best to cut against the grain. But I do not think it is fair to suggest that Kate is given to a delusion of female moral superiority by taking one comment of hers and construing it in that way. I don't think the bulk of her good humored and sensible comments these many years at all suggest what you imply.

John, you really miss the point. If men would have dependent women, then men have to be dependable. Does Dr. Helen claim they are? Then I would argue with her. I find it just as silly for conservatives to blame women for trouble between the sexes as for liberals to blame men. You do take my sentence out of context, which was referential.

Even isolated, as it is in your comment, I will defend it. Can you honestly look at the world around us and say that men are always good to women? What I was saying was that women have become more independent in self-defense. If men desire women to be a weaker vessel, they must allow women to be so. Is that incorrect? If you would say that men are always manly in the best sense of the word, then I would have to disagree with you.

Maybe you are the truer conservative, John. After all, your attitude is as old as Adam's. When confronted with his own wrong-doing (After all, God told Adam not to eat the apple. He did not tell Eve.) Adam blamed the woman. What good did it do him? They were both put out of the garden.

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