‘Manliness,’ an Obsolete Concept? by Ken Gewertz

Ken Gewertz, “'Manliness,' an obsolete concept? Discuss,” Harvard Gazette, April 10, 2003.


A few years back, an editor from Harvard Magazine called Harvey Mansfield and asked if he would contribute a short quote for a profile of a fellow faculty member. Mansfield replied that the quality that had always impressed him about this colleague was his manliness.

“There was a pause,” Mansfield said. “Then the voice on the other end said, ‘Can you think of another word?'”

Mansfield told the story to show that in the opinion of many, manliness is obsolete. Yet he prefers the word to its more up-to-date synonym, “masculinity,” so much so that he is currently writing a book on the concept and its relevance in today’s world.

Mansfield, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government, took part in a “conversation” April 3 on “Teaching About Manhood and Masculinity.” His interlocutor was Nancy Cott, the Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History and director of Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library. The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study sponsored the event.

One of Harvard’s most prominent conservatives, known for his opposition to affirmative action, multiculturalism, feminism, and grade inflation, Mansfield identified the characteristics of manliness as self-confidence, independence, and the ability to exercise authority.

Harvard Gazette