Ideas for Renewing American Prosperity: Rediscover Men’s And Women’s Differences

"Rediscover Men's And Women's Differences" in "Ideas for Renewing American Prosperity," Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2014.

Rediscover Men’s And Women’s Differences
By Harvey Mansfield

Amid the damage caused by bad ideas in our time, let us not overlook that done by the scourge of feminism—together with the male timidity and misplaced male gallantry that suffer it to proceed unopposed. Feminism has established the rule of gender neutrality in our society, a conclusion drawn from its doctrine that the sexes have no essential differences and are interchangeable. In practice, no one consistently follows this preposterous idea, endorsed neither by science nor by common sense. Only the minority of feminist women assert it (even while demanding special treatment for women). But it is a powerful minority that has been taught at our finest, and our average, institutions of so-called education.

Gender neutrality presents itself in plausible guise as the way to avoid sex discrimination, so as to give women a fair shake in the competition for jobs. But it goes far beyond this reasonable goal to an attempt to erase sex differences. The two sexes are to imitate each other, and each to follow the worst in the other: Women are to imitate predatory and aggressive males, men to imitate passive and submissive females.

The result of gender neutrality is to justify women in more extreme partisanship for their sex than they ever encountered in faltering male chauvinism. It is also to encourage them in the game of charmless, loveless sex that feminists offer in place of romance. The change we need is to rediscover our sexes and to make both of them more assertive of their differences, so that their attraction to each other becomes more interesting (and more fruitful) than under the grim domination of feminism. We may then find that men and women make couples, each sex making its contribution, rather than uneasy partners in selfish pleasure.

Mr. Mansfield is a professor of government at Harvard and a senior fellow of Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

This essay is part of a Wall Street Journal forum by leading contributors on how to reinvigorate America, on the occasion of the paper’s 125th anniversary. Also includes contributions from Charles Murray, Heather MacDonald, Arthur Brooks, Paul Ryan, and more.

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