Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Taking apart a degendered Jensen

These are the thoughts of Robert Jensen, an American professor of journalism, on masculinity:

Masculinity is a bad idea, for everyone, and it's time to get rid of it. Not reform it, but eliminate it ... so long as there is masculinity, we're in trouble.

I attempted in yesterday's post to explain the ideology behind such views. Today I'd like to do something different; I'd like to look at the reply to Jensen by Cinnamon Stillwell, a columnist for the San Fransisco Chronicle.

Cinnamon Stillwell was a liberal for most of her life, but after the shock of 9/11 she started to identify as a conservative. I think she does a fine job in presenting the conservative view of things in her response to Jensen.

She begins her column by noting that gender differences arise naturally. She observes that even the youngest of children show distinctly gendered patterns of play and behaviour; that we recognise important gender differences when in relationships with the opposite sex; and that science has confirmed that there is a biological, and not just a cultural, basis for differences in the behaviour of men and women.

So masculinity is not just a "construct" which we can choose to eliminate; it is something natural to men.

As I pointed out yesterday, Robert Jensen believes that femininity too must be abolished, so that there is only a single, non-gendered human identity remaining.

Cinammon Stillwell responds, first, by criticising the feminist movement for having "all too often confused gender equality with gender sameness".

She then takes aim at some of the degendered portrayals of men and women in the entertainment industry. She shares my own dislike of the prevalence of kick-boxing women in movies and on TV. In her own words:

It has now become far more commonplace to see mere mortal female characters punching people in the face on a moment's notice, beating up or overpowering men and taking the romantic or sexual lead. Far from empowering women in reality, these fantasy scenarios put forward unrealistic expectations and a false sense of security ...

... the leading lady has become the leading man, and a not terribly charming one at that.

Nor do the non-masculine men portrayed in popular culture appeal to her:

TV shows are populated with male characters ... who stand meekly by as their much more confident and assured female counterparts ... lead them by the hand ... When male characters do exhibit masculine traits on TV, they are often made to look like fools in the process ...

Metrosexuality leaves her cold:

While gay men are welcome to be as in touch with their feminine side as they like, straight men would do well to ignore it. For what woman would want a man who cannot go a week without buying beauty products, let alone guard hearth and home? Those who acknowledge gender differences know this instinctively, while those who pretend they are meaningless are affronted when one dares speak the truth.

But most women, on a biological and often conscious level, are looking for a provider and protector in a man, among other things. Yet the metrosexual revolution would have us believe that women are yearning for nothing more in a man than another girlfriend.

In effect, Cinnamon Stillwell is arguing here that those who wish to abolish gender differences are running against normal heterosexual impulses. She no more wishes for men to become effeminate, than the average man wants women to become mannish.

The healthier heterosexual instinct, the one Cinnamon Stillwell ends her article with, is the cry of "Vive la difference!".

Last but not least, Cinnamon Stillwell also directly defends the qualities of masculinity itself. She has little time for the Jensen view of manhood:

Jensen's column provoked an avalanche of laughter and scorn on talk radio and the blogosphere. Not only did Jensen come across as, well, a wimp, but his demonizing of manhood missed the mark.

In equating masculinity with all things violent, Jensen underestimates his own sex. For masculinity is not only about being a warrior. The manly virtues include character, confidence, honor, inner strength, pride, responsibility, loyalty, generosity, industry and dignity.

It's refreshing to read such comments; it's rare for the finer qualities of masculinity to be recognised so openly in modern Western cultures.

Let's hope that the political shifts now underway keep developing and that we have more women like Cinnamon Stillwell speak up for a conservative view of gender.


  1. What professional wimps like Jensen and their feminist cheerleaders (there's an ugly thought) forget is that without masculinity there would be little or no science, invention, political thought, humour, art or music. There would be no providers and protectors for mothers. The man's an idiot.

  2. Julian, he's someone who's intellectual enough to want to follow an intellectual world view, but not someone intelligent enough to reconsider when this world view proves inconsistent with reality.

    The best that he can possibly do is to try to impose a pretence on the way we think about gender.

    In other words, it's possible to persuade men and women to pretend that masculinity is artificial and harmful and should be abolished - but it's not possible to actually try to rigorously live by such an idea.

  3. If you wish to see some more Unmanly behaviour witness this post by John at
    Feminist Mormon Housewives

    The sentence that stood out to me was: "I like talking about relationships and feelings, I knit and shop with my daughter, I indulge in non-sexual man-crushes (right now it’s Johnny Depp), I like tea parties with fancy cups and finger sandwiches, and sex for me is bit too animalistic without some level of emotional intimacy (and my libido is lower than Jana’s.)"

  4. "I like talking about relationships and feelings, I knit and shop with my daughter, I indulge in non-sexual man-crushes (right now it’s Johnny Depp), I like tea parties with fancy cups and finger sandwiches, and sex for me is bit too animalistic without some level of emotional intimacy."

    *Shaking my head in disbelief.*

    Well... all I can say is that most women do not want to be with such men. Through personal experience, social observation, and statistics - most women seem hardwired to find historical 'masculinity' attractive, and NOT a feminist's 're-definition' of masculinity....

    Feminists are still trying to 'force-feed' all of us feces, while telling us it's chocolate. No-one likes the taste, but the feminist corporation will go bankrupt if it doesn't continue to sell it's product.

    And remember; The female shareholders won't like any fall in stocks.


  5. Some of these men are competing and drawing attention to themselves with their conspicuous displays of sissiness. Others are burnishing their liberal credentials, since manliness is just about dead among leftist males (at least in their public remarks). Another possibility which should be kept in mind is that some of them may be masochistic perverts. There are some men who get sexual satisfaction from privately or publicly adopting a stereotypically feminine role. A little appropriate "googling" will reveal the existence of such individuals.

  6. I love hairy men http://collegecandy.com/2008/05/06/in-praise-of-hairy-men/#more-8798