Jun 4, 2014

Critiquing the cult of manliness and/or misogyny

Sam Rocha critiques the cult of manliness that can be found among many conservative Christians in America:
I grew up in the sort of Catholic circles where 'being a man' was, and still is, a really big deal . . .

I especially remember priests that were really big into manhood and 'being a man.' They seemed to exude the sort of butt-kicking persona that I eventually began to read as personal insecurity. By my college years, I always suspected that Fr. Badass, giving his talk about being a real man in today's world of wussies, was really projecting, saying something psychoanalytic rather than pastoral . . .  
A lot of the manhood stuff, then and now, had less to do with being a man and more to do with not being a gay man. There were the always-awkward vocations retreat talks where Fr. Macho would talk about how much he still likes to look at women, as if to prove a point. Then we'd play touch football.
Ross Douthat, himself a Catholic, was also thinking about masculinity, recently. He makes the interesting argument that some factions of the left and right should be able to find some common ground in the critique of misogyny:
It should be possible, in these debates, for the right to offer a nuanced analysis of cultural liberalism's contradictions -- pointing out, for instance, that certain expressions of the male grotesque are just what the left's longed-for liberation actually looks like -- without denying that when it passes judgment on particular grotesqueries, a 'strident' and 'scolding' feminism is often straightforwardly correct. And it should be possible, too, for cultural conservatives to qualify and critique certain left-wing conceits without denying their partial validity. I'm thinking, for instance, of a phrase like 'rape culture,' which when applied to the entirety of American society does, indeed, risk, becoming an impossibly broad indictment that minimizes the evil of actual rapists … but which if applied more narrowly, to particular institutions and atmospheres, starts to look like an idea that conservatives should actively embrace.
One question: the qualifications and nuances that Douthat suggests can be conservatives' contribution to the analysis of the grotesqueries of misogyny -- do they serve to undermine the cult of manliness that Rocha describes, or reenforce it?

See also: The evangelical masculinity of ... Allen Ginsberg?