An interview with Harvey C.
If the idea of an exclusively male organization
disturbs you, then the book Manliness, by Harvey C.
Mansfield, will make you absolutely apoplectic.
It was refreshing to talk with Mansfield, a
Harvard Professor of Government, who has come to
mens work from a unique intellectual
background replete in his knowledge of history,
philosophy and politics. He quotes Tocqueville,
Aristotle, Darwin, Nietzsche, Rousseau, Hobbs,
Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, John Locke and Teddy
hes got ten pages of
bibliography in his book.
I discovered the professor, of all places, on
Comedy Centrals Colbert Report being
interviewed by the host who readily mocked the
notion of manliness as mere John Wayne/macho stuff
The author was good-natured about being on the
show. I was angry at the way he was treated. I
believe the notion of manliness is subjected to
comic derision because our modern society has
utterly failed men in helping them define their
roles. Some may call our matriarchal Western
civilization progress; I dont.
Stephen Colbert is a comedian,
Mansfield said of his TV experience. He told
me before the show started, Im the
professional idiot. His approach was mostly
Yale Press, the books publisher, put the
professor on the program to appeal to a younger
male audience, Mansfield added.
I wouldnt otherwise have done
it, he continued, but I didnt
mind the jibes. Im used to that sort of
thing. Im one of the very few conservatives
at Harvard, so I try not to feel embattled. I have
but over the years Ive
developed a thicker skin.
Well, that sounds like a manly attribute.
Honor is an asserted claim to protect
someone, and the claim to protect is a claim to
rule. How can I protect you properly if I
cant tell you what to do? This is how
manliness leads to patriarchy, a form of rule in
which the rulers behave as if they were protective
fathers. Harvey Mansfield in
In my own studies I discovered that in Hebrew,
the word for father is patriarch. In Greek,
patriarch means father-ruler. In my world,
patriarch means a Good King. And in the days of
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, patriarchy meant a
blessed order of civilization inspired by God.
I believe that fatherhood and patriarchy
can be a blessing in the modern day,
Mansfield explained. As social beings, we
need the exercise of authority we need
fathers. Our youth need to be taught by fathers.
But not everything can be taught rationally, not
even the reasonable can be taught rationally -
especially to the young. Youth
and all of us
need a voice that speaks as from above - a
voice that makes our lives feel as if they are
directed toward some goal that is above
The author said his work was focused less on
anything religious and more on the nature of
I do believe that patriarchy is the
protectiveness of God in the way that it becomes
most visible to us as humans.
The gods are a reminder of the need for
authority in human affairs, of a higher power to
which human beings can point when claiming their
rights. Gods are necessary to manly assertion
because without them assertion is mere assertion,
arbitrary and unsupported. Harvey
Mansfield in Manliness
I asked Mansfield if men were hard-wired toward
Men are hard-wired, and also soft-wired in
the sense that we can affect the way in which men
get routed; every natural inclination is developed
by or perverted by either a social or a human
factor. Manliness is something natural to men,
inherent in the human situation. Obviously there
are different versions or variations, but there is
something that is the same and unvarying. Manliness
I would define as a confidence in a situation of
risk. It can be danger, or a challenge to
ones authority, a competition, or a contest.
Manly men are not only adapted to handle such
situations, they seek them out - they take pleasure
being in charge of whatever group is in
I invited Mansfield to read Robert Moores
Facing The Dragon for the insights around the
manliness of healthy grandiosity. He said he
Manliness has lost its reputation in our
time and society, the professor stated.
In this gender-neutral society you hardly
hear the word anymore. Im trying to bring it
back into circulation; trying to make manliness
serve as a standard or a guide to men, and also to
women, so they can be more tolerant and respectful
when they see it.
Manliness likes to show off and wants to
be appreciated. And it is critical of those who do
not measure up to its high standard. It is generous
but judgmental. Harvey Mansfield in
I asked the author if he was familiar with The
ManKind Project. He said he was.
We need to go back to something like
initiation, he exclaimed. We have the
Boy Scouts, but its done in a modified and
moderate way. They have their ceremonies that make
young men aware of taking important steps, and
passing milestones. Bar Mitzvahs are a kind of
initiation. Every year I see the arrival of the
next years class of students dropped off by
their mommies and daddies in station wagons full of
stuff. Thats a kind of initiation.
I explained that The New Warrior Training
Adventure was an intense weekend for men designed
for them to explore their own life with the
ultimate goal of reclaiming the sacred
Thats sounds interesting, he
retorted, mulling over my statement.
reclaiming the sacred masculine
I think men
arent going to be men unless they examine
what it is to be a man. The results of their
personal work will be a standard or a guide for
them. We need to recover not only what a man is,
but what a man does particularly around
Manliness is the willingness to challenge
nature combined with the confidence, inspired by
the knowledge, that one can succeed. In praising
warriors Nietzsche says, And if you cannot be
saints of knowledge, at least be its
warriors. Warrior are the companions
and forerunners of the saints.
Harvey Mansfield in Manliness
Mansfield said he makes a distinction between
the masculine all men share in traits closer
to the body vs. manliness and the
quality of the soul.
This whole topic is very interesting
because it does connect the body and the soul. It
certainly raises the old question of how the body
affects the soul and visa versa. Manliness,
perhaps, is not exclusively male but very close to
it. The question is there: what is it about
the male body that makes men behave and think
differently than women?
I asked the profession if he thought manliness
was simply a heterosexual construct.
I think that its
not simply a construct because manliness is found
in all human societies. For those of us who have
children, we see the differences in the genders.
Boys are more naturally aggressive than girls who
tend to show more caution and moderation. You can
go on to say that aggression causes trouble, and
thats true, but theres no way to
counter it except with another aggression on the
side of the just and the good. The call for a world
without manliness is a form of impossible passivism
that supposes well never have any dangers or
risks and we wont need people capable of
handling such situations.
Even within mens groups, there is a still
a certain reluctance to avoid conflict, right?
Some of my harshest critics are full of
aggression and manliness even as they attack the
idea of it, even as they attack me. A lot of
pacifists really like conflict, even as they
denounce it in the streets showing how tough they
are. The sensitive male has no self knowledge of
his aggressiveness. They can be very cruel because
they cant see it in themselves, and they
dont tolerate it in others. Not recognizing
it, they dont accept or counter it with
virtuous aggression. They only react to
Manliness is responsible for our
individuality. And because individuality must be
asserted to, and against, other people, its
creation is essentially a political act.
Harvey Mansfield in Manliness
If for no other reason, this book is worth the
read for the history lesson in the evolution of
modern feminism, going back to the writings of
Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, and more
currently Naomi Wolf. As well discover, all
of these women borrowed from Frederick Nietzsche
for their manly approach to the womens
I told the professor that it seemed to me that
so many feminists were simply reading
from a common script. I asked him why there
werent more original thinkers on the natures
of men and women. (In his book he referred to
unoriginal thinkers as lazy social
Theres this thing called political
correctness, he said, with a chuckle.
The feminist made their way in the world, not
by argument, but by demonstration
perverted moral authority. They clucked their
tongues, tsch, tsch and waggled their
finger at you and this was called raising
consciousness. There was only one way to look at
the controversial issue and any one who didnt
do it their way simply had bad manners, and bad
morals combined. Their way of thinking became
dictatorial. It didnt exactly order you, but
it made you feel silly if you thought otherwise.
They used a more feminine way of getting authority,
not through overt force, but by making you feel
embarrassed until you agreed.
when the focus of pity shifts from
others to oneself and ones class as victims,
pity can be transformed into hard cruelty against
the alleged oppressors. Manliness is the remedy for
both softness and hardness as it enables one to
resist self-pity and at the same time to be
protective of those who are in ones
Harvey Mansfield in Manliness
According to Mansfield, feminists began with the
idea that manliness is not an innate force, and
therefore does not have to be confined to men.
They believed manliness was attributed to
men through historical oppression, and that it was
their turn to define and create themselves. This
theoretical view came from Nietzsche who believed
in creating identity instead of merely accepting
it. Now, for the women, there was no inherent
reason for authority to be confined to men. Women
could define and create themselves. They were told
you must not accept who you are a woman
you can be a man as much as a man can.
All it takes is assertiveness an essential
male quality. Women were told they could transcend
their nature. However, I think the short of it is,
that women decided to define themselves by
imitating men. They became like men, similar, but
not entirely, because women still carried their own
The author said he sees assertive women but they
cannot be as boastful, pushy, or as aggressive as
They like to think they are
Hollywoood makes movies with gangster themes and a
lovely actresses plays the role of a hit man.
Its not convincing, but its the
aspiration of the feminist world.
Manliness is not mere aggression; it is
aggression that develops an assertion, a cause it
espouses. A sense of honor is the source of the
protectiveness so characteristic of
manliness. Harvey Mansfield in
The meaning in a mans life
isnt obvious, Mansfield said.
Its contested. Every society disagrees
on its meaning. The meaning that most societies
have is directed against another society: Athens
vs. Sparta, Greeks vs. Barbarians, etc. So that
kind of meaning is not simply writing on a
blackboard or writing a book
making a statement that you have to make good
by make good, I mean defend. An assertive
statement is one you are willing to stand up for,
to fight, or to defend.
The professor referenced the last line of the
American Declaration of Independence.
And for the support of this Declaration,
with a firm reliance on the protection of divine
Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our
Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Mansfield called the men who signed this
document, manly, because they were staking
their most precious things on what they
People have a natural admiration for others,
even ones enemies, who perform great deeds,
There is a natural inclination to
recognize, respect, and to follow a noble justice.
Though it varies, this virtue is not something
which depends on any particular society to
construct it - its inherent in the human way
of life. We admire courage.
In his book, Mansfield describes the opposite of
risk taking, or courage, as an unhealthy obsession
When Socrates asks Laches to define
courage, Laches comes up with steadfastness of
soul, a virtue that applies not merely to war, he
agrees, but to such things as fighting desires and
pleasures. Courage in holding fast, it appears, is
a virtue to be found in all virtue.
The courage of men and the modesty of women are
virtues that set limits on the other, the author
Each virtue sets limits on the other and
in that way defines the other. If there were no
moderation, courage would be unrelenting hardness;
and if there were no courage, the moderate person
would not resist any temptation and moderation
would be softness.
Our modern world perpetuates a gender-neutral
society that confuses the relationships between the
genders, he added.
That is why I have called feminism
nihilism. It says that being a woman is
nothing definite and that the duty of women is to
advance that nothingness as a cause.
Harvey Mansfield in Manliness
Partly out of guilt, partly out of
gallantry, men have abdicated their position in
society without a fight, he continued.
Rousseau argues that the sexes are not just
different but strictly complementary, and that
treating them so is vital to the harmony and
integrity of human life. The woman has more
wit, the man more genius, the woman observes and
the man reasons, claims Rousseau.
According to the author, modern feminism is not
serving women very well.
The trouble with feminist women is that
they dont have wives to teach them sense.
Their autonomy is not a substitute, much less a
recipe for moderation. Autonomy sounds good when it
is claimed for the sake of nobility, much less so
when it is for convenience. The desire to be
independent of men leaves women still in the grip
of men. This will show them! Well
refuse to be women. In response one may say
that women and men have this in common they
are happier and more attractive when they live for
the sake of something above themselves
something like making a family together.
How does this manliness play out in
Mansfields real life?
My wife tolerates it with some
irony, he confessed. Fortunately, my
wife likes a manly man.
The professor has two grown sons, and five
I spent time with my children and
theyve grown up very well. They went through
a difficult era in high school where their peers
were using drugs. They refused to participate in
it. I cant take too much credit for them
they had a lot of their own good
I asked the author if he had any parting
thoughts for us.
If you dont have your Good King
actively working in your life, youll most
definitely have your Tyrant.
© 2006, Reid Baer
Reid Baer, an
award-winning playwright for A Lyons
Tale is also a newspaper journalist, a poet
with more than 100 poems in magazines world wide,
and a novelist with his first book released this
month entitled Kill
The Story. Baer has been
a member of The ManKind Project since 1995 and
currently edits The New Warrior Journal for
The ManKind Project www.mkp.org
He resides in Reidsville, N.C. with his wife
Patricia. He can be reached at E-Mail.
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