In Search of Manliness: The Feminized Male
- 2009 21 Apr
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.
Most of us have not even noticed this change, nor do we have any realization of its radicality…To put the matter as dramatically as possible, we do not even know whether viable human beings can over any long period of time be reared in such a fashion" (italics mine).
This is a stunning observation. Never has there been a generation of men with so little direct influence from their childhood by a strong and healthy male template. And once a generation of men is raised in this female-controlled environment, the sequential male template is marred. The next generation of fathers pass down this feminized template to their sons and the problem is compounded.
Now a healthy man always possesses soft traits (Jesus certainly did), just as a healthy woman always possesses a certain assertiveness and strength. But soft traits in a man are only desirable when you find them in the context of manliness (just as assertiveness in a woman is only desirable in the context of true femininity).
Jesus was the ultimate man’s man, though he possessed the softest of traits. Joseph, who wept with his brothers, had all the traits of godly manhood. Jonathan, the tender-hearted friend of David, was every bit the man his father was not.
Softness in a strong man is a wonderful thing. But when a man takes on these softer traits as his primary modus operandi, things get turned upside down.
Earmarks of Feminization
What are some of the earmarks of feminization (which can be seen in varying degrees in different men)? According to Clark:
- Compared to men who have not been feminized, a feminized man will place an unbalanced emphasis on how he feels (and how other people feel), in turn becoming highly visceral in his personal thinking and reactions.
- He will be much more gentle and handle situations in a “soft” way.
- He will be much more subject to the approval of the group, and thus significantly affected by how others feel and react towards him.
- Sometimes he will relate by preference to women or other feminized men, and will have a more difficult time with an all-male group.
- He will tend to fear women’s emotions; in his family and at work he will be more easily controlled by a woman’s emotional reaction.
- He will tend to idealize women, and if he is religious, he will see women as ideal
Christians and identify Christian virtue with feminine characteristics" (italics mine).
Feminization is not about persona or personality. A macho personality may hide a feminized inner worldview, while the most sensitive and poetic personality can carry a very manly inner worldview. Jacob, for example, was the sensitive, family-connected twin brother of the rugged outdoorsman, Esau. Yet it was Esau who turned to jelly at the aroma of a bowl of soup. While of Jacob we learn that “in the womb he took his brother by the heel, and in his manhood he strove with God. He strove with the angel and prevailed; he wept and sought his favor” (Hosea 12:3-4).
Another example is Saul, the good-looking, masculine first king of Israel. Yet beneath lay a hidden feminization. Saul was overly concerned with the feelings and approval of people. “I feared the people and listened to their voice,” said Saul when he disobeyed God (1 Samuel 15:24), and he lost God’s anointing because of it.
Yet hidden away in Saul’s courts was an unimpressive, poet-musician who possessed a surprisingly strong inner core of manliness. It was of this man, David, that Samuel spoke when he said, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
External appearance and personality are not the determining factors. It’s how a man interacts with his world—and his God—that counts.
The good news is that feminization is easily remedied. It is not some kind of complex psychosis that needs years of counseling. It only requires (1) the permission/encouragement to be manly, and (2) a template, or masculine mentor—a man who visibly models healthy biblical masculinity.
Men want to be manly. It resonates with their innate design. And they can learn manliness quickly if they are given the model and live in an environment that encourages the expression of it. While men can learn manliness from reading a good book on the subject, it is far better for them to see it fleshed out.
What is a woman to do when a man has feminized tendencies? Right off the top, let me say there is one thing she must never do, and that is to accuse him of being feminized. If it were possible, I would underscore and put this in red. This chapter was written to give insight into what our men are up against, not to be used as a tool of chastisement. The last thing any man needs is to be told that he is not manly. It could well bury him. So don’t do it. Period.
Next week: How Women Can Encourage Manliness
Published April 21, 2009.
Mary Farrar holds a master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and is the author of the bestselling book, Choices: For Women Who Long to Discover Life’s Best. Mary and her husband, Steve often speak together at couples’ conferences around the nation. Steve Farrar is the bestselling author of ten books, most notably Point Man: How a Man Can Lead His Family (Multnomah, 1994), which currently has more than 500,000 copies in print. Mary is currently working on her next book, aimed at helping men understand women. The Farrars reside in north Dallas, and have three grown children. Learn more at www.readingyourmale.com.