In Search of Manliness: The Feminized Male
- Monday, April 13, 2009
Young single women today often say to me, “Where are all the ‘manly’ men?”
The relational reluctance among single guys drives them crazy. Many married women express the same kind of frustration over a husband who is ill inclined towards leadership at home or moving intentionally towards them. And mothers are watching their boys grow up in a world woefully lacking in healthy male role models.
So what happened?
Manliness came under heavy assault in three consecutive waves, each crashing one upon the other in a monumental tsunami of change. The first great wave was the industrial revolution, which removed fathers from a young son’s world and distanced him from his needed male template.
The second was the feminist revolution (or second wave feminism, a movement taking root in the 1950s and 60s), which degraded manliness and insisted on androgyny—or sameness—between men and women.
And the third was the sexual revolution, which destroyed moral boundaries in sex and led to the culture of divorce.
With that culture came the postmodern mindset, which imposed passivity and denounced the drawing of moral judgments and boundaries. It took a healthy environment in which right and wrong, sin and morality, and good and evil were readily recognized and addressed, and replaced it with an environment in which godly manhood became seen as “uncool,” “imposing,” “harsh” and “insensitive.” Men were no longer emboldened to rise up and counter the evil around them. In reality, postmodernism neutered manliness and turned it to putty.
It is impossible to describe the devastating implications of this last wave upon our men. Not only did the boys of divorced homes grow up wounded and confused, but their template became a predominantly feminine one. The preponderance of their generation of boys found themselves not only surrounded by postmodern thinking, but they were now being reared in a female-dominated world.
The result has been the rise of the feminized male.
Hang in here with me while I briefly explain. If you get this, it will shed light on the guys you date, the men you are married to, and the sons you are raising.
Dr. Steven Clark, in his masterful classic, Man and Woman in Christ, was one of the first to observe this recent loss of manliness, referring to it as “feminization.” Feminization, he explains, is not to be confused with “femininity” or “effeminacy.”
[Pause. As we enter into this discussion, we must allow for certain generalizations. We are not speaking here of temperament. There is much variety arising from temperaments. But normal and healthy masculinity (or femininity) can be characterized by certain overriding tendencies, recognized for centuries and now underscored by modern research. And while these tendencies may show up in different degrees among individuals, they are nonetheless generally true. Back to Clark.]
Clark defines “femininity”: Femininity is a natural womanly quality. A woman is ‘feminine’ when she has an appropriate womanly personality, when her strength, assertiveness, and interests are expressed in a womanly way.6
By womanly personality, Clark is referring to a woman’s natural God-given proclivity towards nurture, sensitivity to people, and gentleness. It is womanly to be more of a responder by nature, to tend towards being more verbally expressive, more driven towards intimacy and connection. And all of these innate traits contribute to our ability to fulfill our natural calling as wives and mothers. It is also womanly to possess a healthy strength and assertiveness, and when these are expressed in the context of genuine femininity, they are a wonderful thing.
Effeminacy is a condition in which a man not only emulates a woman but actually prefers to be one; he is also usually fearful that he cannot successfully be part of a group of men. This is a developmental condition (which we will not take the time to tackle in this book). For now, we only need to know that feminization is not effeminacy.
Feminized men don’t reject being men. In fact, they desire to be manly and respect those who are.
So if feminization is not femininity or effeminacy, what is it? In short, it is an inner worldview propagated by growing up in a woman’s world. Clark explains,
"Feminization is an inward prism, or worldview, in which a man sees things more from a womanly perspective. And it tends to come out most clearly in relationships. It occurs when a boy’s father is absent during the formative years of his life and he is surrounded, influenced, reared, trained, and educated by women who either intentionally or unintentionally shape him into their mold. In such an environment of female domination, a boy’s natural masculine instincts (the drive to be physical and aggressive, to overcome fears, play rough, take risks, and step into confrontation) are either squelched or left to languish. More feminine traits like kindness, sensitivity, gentleness, concern with what others are thinking and feeling (all good traits, in and of themselves) are elevated and become his primary template. As a result, a boy learns to value womanly traits over manly ones and to see and react to the world as a woman tends to see and react to it" (italics mine).
Marion J. Levy, Jr., a sociologist who has studied extensively the effects of this phenomenon on our modern world writes, “Our young are the first people of whom the following can be said: if they are males, they and their fathers and their brothers and sons and all the males they know are overwhelmingly likely to have been reared under the direct domination and supervision of females from birth to maturity. No less important is the fact that their mothers and their sisters and their girl friends and their wives and all of the ladies with whom they have to do, have had to do only with males so reared.
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