"Be a Man, Take Risks, Win Money and Honor," The American Enterprise, September 2000, pp. 38-39.
Until recently, manliness had been beset by criticism from feminists, who declared it undemocratic because it excludes women. But something new is stirring in feminism: Naomi Wolf has been telling Vice President Gore to be an alpha male, and Susan Faludi, in her new book Stiffed, sympathizes with working men, who she claims have had their manliness betrayed.
For Wolf to tell a man to be more manly is difficult advice. She might as well tell him to be more intelligent than he is. Manliness is a quality easier to temper than to generate or enhance. If you want to be known as manly, it is better to start out as over-manly. Candidates in the race for the presidency want to “look presidential.” They will look presidential if they look manly-calm, confident, and in command. And one can more easily imagine them losing their tempers, as Senator McCain is alleged to do, than trying hard to get angry.
Faludi is the first feminist, so far as I know, to try to understand manliness more or less sympathetically. Other feminists have paid it little attention. Their aim was to include themselves in occupations formerly reserved for men; so they took care not to deny women the more aggressive traits that such occupations seem to reward. Though they insisted the workplace be made more comfortable for women, they assumed it would be easy for men to adjust to the presence of women. The feminists also assumed that manliness could readily be expanded to include women. Their focus, in fact, was not on manliness but on femininity-the “feminine mystique” which they thought men had foisted on women to hinder and oppress them.
Faludi, however, says she wants to know why men are resisting women’s independence. (Let’s pass over the question of how far they are really resisting.) Her answer absolves feminism of any error. She writes instead about working men in manly manufacturing jobs since World War II who have been “stiffed” by losing their jobs in turbulent times. Either the government or the information economy betrayed them by failing to provide them with the security their manliness desired.