Harvey C. Mansfield’s 2006 book, Manliness, was a response to the gender-neutral society. Bold, stark, no subtitle: simply Manliness. Seventeen years and several twists in the sexual revolution later, it is time to revisit his argument. Has gender-neutrality become so dominant that we must now banish the word “manliness” from our vocabulary? In keeping with the Harvard government professor’s forthrightness, our theme is how manliness is faring under the contemporary regime of gender-neutrality. The first thing to note is that under is a position that manliness chafes against. It prefers to be over, above, on top, in command.

Curiously, despite the boldness of his title and his many provocations throughout, Mansfield does not call for the restoration of manliness to its former glory. He is, in the end, only a moderate defender of manliness. There are good reasons to doubt the goodness of manliness, prime among them its stubborn resistance to listening to good reasons. There isn’t, moreover, any actual dearth of manliness. Despite the cancelation of the word, Mansfield finds there is plenty of the thing itself among us—too much, in fact. What has happened is that manliness has been refashioned, through gender-neutral language, into “autonomy,” “independence,” and “transcendence”—and thereby brought within range of everyone.


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