“All aspects of male culture have been called in to question,” Adams said. “Whether it’s gathering around on a Sunday afternoon to watch the football with a few friends, whether it is going to the range and shooting some guns, whether it is just being a male has now been really made suspect — and that is a very dangerous thing. We see it coming from all levels of society. We see it coming from the government; we see it coming from the feminists.”
He went on to argue that if a male culture doesn't survive then America will decline.
He's right, for reasons I want to draw out in this post (Adams himself is a neocon right-liberal rather than a traditionalist: he sees America as being a proposition nation and believes America has a mission to export itself to the world).
Let me say, that this issue is not one that is easily proved or disproved scientifically. It has to do more with what someone has discerned of the masculine over time. And what I have discerned is that there is a higher kind of masculine spirit through which virtue and a life of the spirit is most actively and self-consciously organised within a society.
This is not to say that all men are to be regarded as virtuous, or that masculinity doesn't have a potentially negative side, or that femininity is not, in its essence, the equal of masculinity. It's more that effeminate men are not likely to act together to animate a society in the same way that a group of men who combine masculinity with finer feeling are.
The view of the ancients was most certainly that there was a positive connection between masculinity and virtue.
I was intrigued to read in a comment at Sunshine Mary the following Bible quote from St Paul:
"...Be not deceived: neither the whoremongers/promiscuous [pornoi], nor idolaters [eidOlolatrai], nor adulterers [moikhoi], nor sissies/effeminates [malakoi], nor male-bedders [arsenokoitai], nor thieves [kleptai], nor the covetous/envious/greedy [pleonektai], nor drunkards, nor revilers/trash talkers [loidoroi], nor extortioners [harpeges], shall inherit the kingdom of God."
St Paul is warning (the Corinthians I believe) that the malakoi (meaning the effeminate men or sissies) will not inherit the kingdom of God.
St Paul was drawing on an understanding in the ancient world in which softness, luxury and moral weakness were often associated.
As an aside, this might help to explain the sense of what Jesus meant when he said that it was hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. The sense that is most likely to occur to a modern reader is that a rich man is overly devoted to the material things of the world - and maybe that is exactly what is meant. But in the ancient world it was thought too that luxury and finery drew one to softness and effeminacy and to a lack of moral restraint. Perhaps it was not the having of money itself, but an unwillingness to rough it - a lack of "belly" - that made the prospects for the rich man so bleak.
This suggestion is supported by a quote from Albert Barnes, a Bible commentator, who wrote of a usage of the word "malakos" in Matthew (11:8) as follows:
“Clothed in soft raiment. The kind of raiment here denoted was the light, thin clothing worn by effeminate persons...This kind of clothing was an emblem of riches, splendour, effeminacy, feebleness of character."
There is some dispute amongst Bible scholars as to whether St Paul in using the term malakoi was referring to effeminate men or to men who were the passive recipients of homosexual sex. It's possible, though, that both were meant, as in ancient Nordic cultures there was a term, "ergi," which referred to both things.
Ergi meant unmanliness and cowardice and was considered a grave insult. Ergi (and the associated term nið) seem remarkably closely related to the Ancient Greek term malakia:
Malakia was a particular type of cowardice, associated with effeminacy in men, that was widely condemned in ancient Greek society.
...To the Greeks, men could be made either manly or effeminate. The Socrates character in Plato's The Republic observed that "too much music effeminizes the male," ...."when a man abandons himself to music to play upon him and pour into his soul as it were through the funnel of his ears those sweet, soft (malakos), and dirge-like airs of which we were just now speaking..." Music softens the high spirit of a man but too much 'melts and liquifies' that spirit making him into a feeble warrior.
Aristotle writes that "Of the dispositions described above, the deliberate avoidance of pain is rather a kind of softness (malakia); the deliberate pursuit of pleasure is profligacy in the strict sense."; "One who is deficient in resistance to pains that most men withstand with success, is soft (malakos) or luxurious, for luxury is a kind of softness (malakia); such a man lets his cloak trail on the ground to escape the fatigue and trouble of lifting it, or feigns sickness, not seeing that to counterfeit misery is to be miserable."
A writer of the peripatetic school (c. 1st century BC or AD) elaborated a little more on Aristotle by labeling effeminacy as a vice. He writes that "Cowardice is accompanied by softness (malakia), unmanliness, faint-heartedness." It was also a concomitant of uncontrol: "The concomitants of uncontrol are softness (malakia) and negligence." It had educational implications for the Greek paideia. Pericles in his famous Funeral Oration said that the Athenians "cultivate… knowledge without effeminacy (malakia)". This statement and idea of education without effeminacy was visible in the educational philosophies of Victorian England and 19th century America.
Plato did not want to melt the high spirit of a man - he associated a man's high spirit with his masculinity. In this the ancient world agreed.
What is more, it was understood that masculinity preserved a society from servility to foreign powers.
Effeminacy in Ancient Greece had political implications as well. The presence or absence of this character in man and his society determined if his society was free or slavish.
Herodotus recounted an incident that happened in Asia Minor. This was an appeal from King Croesus, the king of Lydia to the Persian King. The Persian king wanted to kill all the males to keep them from revolting and what the defeated king proposed was to inculturate softness in order to make the people docile and servile; effeminacy was seen as the mark of a slave. These men are to be softened.
But let the Lydians be pardoned; and lay on them this command, that they may not revolt or be dangerous to you; then, I say, and forbid them to possess weapons of war, and command them to wear tunics under their cloaks and buskins on their feet, and to teach their sons lyre-playing and song and dance and huckstering (the word "retail" in one translation). Then, O King, you will soon see them turned to women instead of men; and thus you need not fear lest they revolt.
Finally, consider the words of an early Church father:
"A true man must have no mark of effeminacy visible on his face, or any other part of his body. Let no blot on his manliness, then, ever be found either in his movements or habits." St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.289.
The modern view is opposite to the ancient one: moderns are more likely to associate masculinity with vice (violence, oppression, privilege) and femininity with virtue (e.g. I once criticised Pope Benedict for suggesting that it is through the feminine that we arrive at human values).
It shows how careful we have to be in making these formulations. My own view is that there are virtues that are more closely associated with the feminine ideal (e.g. to be gentle and caring, graceful and beautiful, immediately present for others etc.); that these represent a softer side to the human personality in a very positive sense; and that the feminine ideal is powerful enough to draw the love and protection of men and to be at the centre of the emotional life of families and perhaps too the everyday life of local communities.
However, it is through the masculine that a society is brought in a more organised, self-aware and self-disciplined way to a moral order and that this requires a society to cultivate a masculine spirit in its men - or to be lost.
This post has not been a tightly argued one - I need to learn to express some of this better. The main point I want to make is that in the ancient world, including in the early Church, there was a tremendous emphasis on keeping men masculine and that this was associated with the pursuit of the good, both personal and communal.