Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Thank you so much, Mr. Martinez. I'm glad that you feel so validated.

It's always so nice to hear that esponsibility, strength, commitment, courage, dignity, service, fitness, self-reliance, duty, honor, brevity, and respect are all antithetical to the state of being female.


Becca said...

I don't think that's exactly what he was saying, but I did take exception to the portrayal of "feminine traits" as "emotion-drvien," especially in such a denegrating tone. Oh, and my Barbies were war spies, just for the record, though they did change outfits relatively frequently.

The Bard said...

Let me take Becca one step further--your critique is not even close to the point he was making. Read the article again and try to evaluate the ideas rather than levying epithets.

His arguement is not he thinkgs that the aforementioned traits are anthetical to being female. Rather, he is arguing that certain modern femininists (what I call the radical, secular variety) find those traits both antithetical to being female and unwelcome in society. He merely suggests that while those traits have their social costs, they also have their benefits and should not be dismissed outright.

It's also worth noting that he agrees that bringing what one can call "feminist" insights into the workplace (and world at large) has been a good thing, but that those traits should should be valued in addition to, not at the exclusion of, traits that have been traditionally considered more male.

The usefulness of our "traditional" understandings can of what counts as "male" or "female" traits might be up for debate elsewhere. To the extent that Martinez dismisses "emotion-driven" traits as less worthy, he is wrong. But his point is that they are an insufficient, not inferior, as a basis for any social structure.

Again, I suggest you read more carefully. Ask youself whether our goal should be to become balanced and complete people, or to replace one kind of chauvinism with another.

As a footnote, whether you realize it or not, your post implicitly places a value on those traits you accuse Mr. Martinez of saying do not exist in women. And by valuing those traits, you are also a (perhaps unwitting) ally with Mr. Martinez against the radicals he is critiquing.

Monica said...

While I recognize that calling him a pig probably wasn't the most even-handed way to start out the post, I unapologetically stand behind my title. Not only is the man's dismissive tone offensive, but his train of thought is pernicious. So by all means--let's look at exactly what he said in the article.

The biggest bee in his bonnet seems to be that "a gender-neutral society became a gender-neutered society," that "[men] allowed feminists to redefine who we are," that "manliness faded into the background." The unspoken theme driving all of the statements above is that men must somehow be unique from women in order to be men. Manliness must have some unique characteristics that womanliness (or should we say "femininity") doesn't.

But he doesn't content himself with allowing men to be physically unique from women (even though there is definite, undisputable uniqueness there). He takes a list of characteristics, some moral and some pragmatic, and makes them his distinguishing characteristics, unique to men, essential in teaching boys "what it takes to be a man."

This is what makes his thought so pernicious and what makes me so spitting mad. He could have easily written an editorial about how to be good people or constructive citizens or caring and responsible parents, speaking about how to apply all good character traits (regardless of how they are traditionally assigned) to life's situations. Instead, he sets up a list of qualities that everbody should inculcate and appropriates them to the male side of the equation as uniquely male qualities. And there is the crux of the matter--if those qualities are what makes men men, then they of necessity cannot be part of women. How dare he strip away from me things like duty, responsibility, and courage?

Reread what he said about feminism in the workplace: "there was probably too much overt testosterone in the pre-feminism workplace in the form of sexism and sexual harassment." He's talking about the workplace sixty years ago when women weren't paid the equal wages for equal work, and he's only talking about the overt sexism. What about the more covert harassment that goes on now--are we all really expected to believe that the whole problem is solved?

Finally, a comment on your footnote. You said: "whether you realize it or not, your post implicitly places a value on those traits you accuse Mr. Martinez of saying do not exist in women. And by valuing those traits, you are also a (perhaps unwitting) ally with Mr. Martinez against the radicals he is critiquing." I take great exception to that. By recognizing that those traits are of great value to all of humanity as humanity, I recognize them as traits that no sex has the right to strip away from the other. Courage, honor, duty, responsibility--these belong in everybody's life no matter how manly Mr. Martinez is feeling.

Chris said...

Hmm. I think I disagree with all of you (except maybe Becca, who didn't really say enough to disagree with).

Martinez strikes me as a chauvenistic old fogey who bemoans the fact that things aren't like they were in yesteryear. His veneration of women (real ones, that is), his heightened sense of honor, his disdain for the effete, his preference for settling disputes via physical violence--it reads like something out of the antebellum south. Real men don't whine--they pummel one another with their fists when they get upset. Builds character.

I also disagree with his characterization of some character traits as distinctly masculine. That list that he went through--they sound like characteristics that I would want all of my friends (or children, or spouse, or employees) to have, regardless of gender. The traits may manifest themselves differently in different genders, but the underlying character traits are important for everyone. Regardless of whether he meant to or not, Martinez implied that things like courage are more important (or more prevalent?) in men than women.

All the same, I think that Martinez does make two valid points. The first is one that everyone knows to be true (even if they won't admit it): men and women are different. Viewed on the macro level, certain characteristics seem to be much more prevalent in one sex than the other. Stereotypes aren't just culturally based--even "liberated" women seem more likely to female things (like cry in public, to mention an obvious one) than men are. Whether or not public policies should account for these differences is another question, but they do exist.

The second valid point that Martinez raises is that society does seem to artificially conflate the genders. Some typically male traits are frowned upon. Yet although I agree with the point, I disagree with the importance and prevalence. Some of those triats really aren't necessary anymore in everyday life. Maybe when government was minimally existent, it was necessary to kill people who looked at you crooked, but we just don't do that now. That's what lawyers are for. Besides, I just don't get the sense that society wants men to be wusses. Watch the NFL--real manliness is still at a premium ;-).

Becca said...

Hear, hear! I buy Chris's line.

I went to a chat about abortion and feminism the other day that really brought the point home. The speaker related Betty Freedan's reason for advocating abortion as "pro-women's rights." She said a man convinced her that it's a man's world out there and it was useless to try to change it (getting people to respect motherhood as an honorable priority, workplace conditions friendly and fair to women, better maternal leave policies, "mommy-work" part-time tracks, etc.). Instead it would be easier to just make women become like men so they can survive better in the man's world that already is. Now that, indeed, is a tragic sell-out of feminism.

Ben said...

To follow up on what Chris said, I think Martinez hit some things on the head. Feminists were - and continue to be - entirely right about many things. Both about the overt sexism of years past (and sometimes present now *cough*lacross*cough*) and the covert sexism of nowadays. But, like Martinez, I do think there are some differences between men and women beyond the physical.

To say that restraint, consensus-seeking, etc. are "feminine virtues" and courage, duty, responsibilitly are "manly virtues" is not to say that such virtues are, or should be, exclusive to one gender. I think Monica misinterprets what Martinez is saying on that front. I think it's a matter of emphasis.....which virtues should be emphasized in training young girls what it means to be a woman and young boys what it means to be a man? (Certainly, I'm NOT saying young girls should be trained to be docile and young boys to be overly aggressive.) Should young girls and young boys be taught a different set of virtues? That's a valid question.

Look at it this way. East Asian cultures like Japan and China emphasize restraint and probidity as cultural virtues. American culture emphasizes self-reliance. Does that mean Japanese culture actively devalues self-reliance....or simply that its emphasis is elsewhere? Does American culture think probidity is a bad thing (stereotypes of Americans aside) or does it simply not emphasize it?

I did take exception to Martinez's dismissive attitude toward "emotion-driven" traits and his suggestion that part of manliness is settling things with violence. I think a young man should be trained in leadership and initiative (though not trained to consider such traits the exclusive province of his gender) but NOT in violence. There's a huge difference between manliness and the traditional cultural image/stereotype of men.

The Bard said...

After re-reading the article, I must say that Chris has the better reading of Martinez's article. Someone who refers to female characteristics as per se "infections" has problems. Big problems. I also agree with the substance of what Chris, Ben, & Becca say.

That said, I continue to argue that Monica has completely misunderstood Martinez's argument (even though it comes from a flawed source) and has directly responded to my arguement. As I read her, she is articulating a view of the sexes that I find deeply troubling and at odds with both Scripture and common sense. I hope Monica will correct me if I am misrepresenting her views.

Beginning with the footnote. She writes that she "recognizes that those traits are of value to all of humanity as humanity" and that "no sex has the right to strip away from the other." I can agree with that. But it is Martinez's targets, not Martinez, who want to do the stripping. Martinez is attacking those who think those traits have no place in humanity at all. That is his point, and that is the point under discussion. It is no more right, and no more wise, to declare traits traditionally associated with men inferior and unwelcome than it is to do the same with traits traditionally associated with women.

On tradition, my point arguement is empirical. In agreement with Ben and Chris, I believe there are strengths and differences between men and women that gone beyond physical characteristics. Exceptions about, but the general rule remains, and no amount of social reengineering will change that.

As to stripping, saying that certain traits are more characteristic of men that women (or vice versa) in no way denies the other sex the right or ability to display those characteristics. Nor does it deny that individuals within the sexes can, and do, diverge from the general rule. Surely we know men who have much more compassion than most women, or women who have a greater devotion to duty than most men.

Besides failing to understand this distinction, I believe that Monica creates a false dichotomy by saying that is certain traits are what makes men men, they cannot be part of women. Wrong. Putting the shoe on the other foot, and taking "consensus-building" as an example, I can associate that virtue with women, yet know that I should have place a greater value on consensus than I do, try to adopt that virtue, and yet in no way lose any distinct masculinity.

In short, I submit that the best view of the sexes recognizes the differences between the sexes (and the exceptions) but then treats those differences as a "both/and" situation for society. Without both, any person or institution suffers. The role of feminsim, at least the Christian kind, should be, and is to some, pointing out how and where the "both/and" has become, overtly or covertly, male dominance rather than true compatibility.

In contrast, modern feminism, of the kind that Monica appears to at least in part accept, adopts an "either/or" view that makes one of two errors. On one side, it blurs the sexes. One result is to make women men and leads to the tragedies to which Becca alludes. On the other, it seeks to eradicate "male" characteristics and that leads to many of the social problems we have today. After all, if "male" characteristics aren't needed, then kids don't need fathers. That has been the cry of some feminists. Look at the inner cities and see how well it has worked out.

I care (obviously) about this topic because I think mess-up thinking here has led, and will lead, to personal and societal disaster. If the either/or crowd is right, the sexes cannot learn from eachother without losing their identiy. If the either/or crowd is right, the sexes, might not have anything to learn from eachother.

Is that the world we want?

Anonymous said...

How poignant. A female--in response to being called "emotional"--responds by calling the man a "pig."

Case and point I guess.

No one said the afore mentioned traits were antithetical to being female. The author only insists that men return to the traits.

Monica said...

This thread has gotten long enough that I think we're starting to tangle together different people's viewpoints.

To clarify, let me state unequivocally that I do not and have never advocated the complete removal from society of the virtues that Martinez includes in "manliness" (with the possible exception to the legitimacy of duking it out in the street). I only want him to recognize that courage and leadership are not unique to manliness, that women can be and are good leaders and responsible citizens. As for whether or not "Martinez's targets" desire to strip particular characteristics out of society altogether, I'm not sure to whom or to what David is referring. As far as I know, even the most radical feminists don't have anything against leadership, courage, and responsibility.

Both Ben and David have said that they think I misinterpreted Martinez's view of manliness as including certain characteristics. Their argument is that including those things in a list of manly virtues does not necessarily remove them from a list of womanly virtues. Quite frankly, I agree. But that's not what the whole of Martinez's article is saying. He's making an argument against a society where men and women are the same, without distinction, as he puts it "gender-neutered." In the course of that argument, he lists off what things make men men. If he's arguing against sameness and simultaneously listing off factors as making one side unique from another, you can't come to any other conclusion than that he is taking those characteristics out of the common pool where they belong and pulling them up onto the male side of the equation. If A is male because of B, and A does not equal C, then C cannot be female because of B. I may have set that up incorrectly, but I think you get my gist. Everybody ought to be taugh to be a leader, to be courageous, to be responsible, to be honorable; and everybody should also be taught to be patient, to be gentle, to seek consensus.

I don't really want to talk about macro-level statistics about what "women have in common" or what "men have in common." I'm not really convinced that nailing down traits as typically accompanying one sex or another is of much value. There are too many exceptions. I would answer Ben's question by saying that it seems that it would be a much better use of time simply to teach all children what it takes to be a decent person without loading them down with all kinds of baggage of specious validity about what their sex typically does.

Down towards the end of his post, David begins to talk about a "both/and" world. With this I have no disagreement, although I believe he has misrepresented what I've been pushing for. Far from advocating an "either/or" alternative, I've been trying to hit against the "either/or" that Martinez set up and work toward the "both/and" that David articulates, where both sexes profitably learn from the other.

Monica said...

Let me also add that out of respect for free speech I published the eighth comment.

I positively revel in using the full range of my emotions, and will not apologize for that.

Luke and Trisha said...

That sounds fair to me! :)

It's good to know you are doing so well. You may not even remember me, but I used to be on debate team with you (my senior year). Unfortunately I didn't have the time to give it everything I wanted to give, but I sure learned a lot!

I didn't mean to forgo my signature on the last post :) I was the radical anonymous post that laughed over the term "pig." But you are validated.

I found your blog because I'm addicted to Camille's :) I couldn't help but jump in on this conversation.

Please say "hi" to Chris for me.

Trisha (White) Priebe

Monica said...

Trish! Of course I remember you. :-) Welcome. It's good to hear from you again, and I'm glad to know that you were the anonymous poster. It gives me a little more context. :-) Feel free to stop by any time, and I will tell Chris you said hi.

Luke and Trisha said...

Fooey. Who needs context?! Knowing context takes all the fun out of a really exciting argument!


The Bard said...

Monica, thanks for the clarification. I find your view less objectionable, but I am still not entirely on board. More later, but I'll make three points now.

I find your refusal to admit differences between the sexes little more than a denial of reality. Perhaps within the narrow fundementalist world one might take that viewpoint just to counteract the wrong views in the other direction on the inferiority of women. But in the world at large, we should recognize the differences.

Second, I argue that recognition of the differences is essential to something you say you value, which is both sexes learning from eachother. If there is no overall difference, what is there to learn? And where do we go to learn? The most you can argue is that where the sexes may share characteristics, they are manifest different ways. For example, even if most men are overall as compassionate as women, or women as courageous as men, those traits are definitely shown in different ways. Learning, after all, requires new information/new experience. The whole point of learning from the other sex is because they have something your own sex does not.

Finally, who is the "they" to whom I refer. I refer to the radical feminists who get most of the play in the popular thought. The Kate Michaelmans and Pat Schroeders of the world. The ones who decry everything male as evil, say fathers are not necessary, and male aggression is responsible for the world's problems (you know, just be compassionate to the terrorists and they will do the same) and yet somehow insist that women can do everything men can do (an Army is a bad thing, but if we have to have one, well, we better let women fight in the trenches with men).

Monica said...

Less objectionable?! What am I, a literary element? :-)

You may be right that I've been reactionary with my words to counteract a particular viewpoint, but while I don't deny some difference, I just don't think that men and women are as extremely different as they are often presented. To roughly quote Camille, we're not from Mars and Venus, just from different sides of the couch. He's over there with the TiVo and the Playstation (or my case, law books), but we're not really that far apart. But even if, for the sake of argument, there are big differences, why is it so important that we talk about them all the time? Why must we always divide ourselves from each other?

Now, your answer may be so that we can learn from each other, but recognizing macro differences (if they exist) between the sexes isn't essential to learning from each other. I can learn stuff from Becca, and she can learn from me. I can learn stuff from you, and you can learn from me. I can learn stuff from Chris, and he can learn to me. We learn from people, not from some esoteric macro view of the sexes.

Unfortunately, there are women who advocate the elimination of the male sex and everything associate with it. Check out the S.C.U.M Manifesto (WARNING--not for the faint of heart)which is sad, but actually rather funny. *giggle* And there are others that want the same thing but just don't take it as far. That being said, there's no evidence to suggest that that reflects the views of most women, and it doesn't have any bearing on the ability to learn from one another without promulgating stereotypes.