Once a Man, Like the Sea I Raged…


Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

Related Post Roulette

42 Responses

  1. Avatar Austin says:

    Does it make a difference that the author of the article in question is a woman?Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:


      To those who care about such things, I can only presume the insult is worse. The touch of the feminine pollutes.Report

    • Avatar Rachael M. says:

      @Austin, Absolutely Not. She actually has the audacity to say, at the end, something to the effect of “Women hate it [that men aren’t manly enough].” I take exception to that. There is no standard female preference. It runs the gamut, just like male preferences run the gamut. In any event, I don’t know where she’s getting her information, but as twenty-something myself, I personally know plenty of sports-loving, designer-ignorant men.Report

  2. Avatar pmbard says:

    Why do people always use John Wayne and Clint Eastwood as examples of what men used to be? They were actors! Actors!Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      @pmbard, at least they took Mel Gibson off of the list, right?

      Anyway, I happened to read this essay of Ioz’s the other day and thought it made some pretty decent points on this topic (and it came out, like, in 2006!!!).


  3. Well, my generation’s trying to negotiate the spaces for relationships and dating after feminism, and the worries about the 500-Days-of-Summer guys don’t just roll in from the right. So while I don’t think it’s so simple as a pointed “man up,” I’m all for aiming at social norms that discourage passive-aggressive, mopey nice-guyness. But more in the service of decent behavior than some quest for True Manliness.Report

  4. Avatar Aaron W says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone quite so insecure in their masculinity as the men of the sort described in that essay.

    Seriously, it takes some real balls to pull off a ironic hipster mustache.Report

  5. Avatar MFarmer says:

    I just don’t understand why all these complaints like the one above are assigned to conservatives, as if there is a conservative club that endorses these ideas publically as part of their doctrine — this article is this writer’s opinion — Damn, stop the whining and conservative-bashing, man-up!Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:


      The feminazification of America at the hand of liberal weenies is a tenet of movement conservatism. If your point is that movement conservationism has at best a tenuous connection to real conservatism, you’ll get no argument from me.Report

      • Avatar rufus says:

        @Mike Schilling, It seems to me like articles like this one come from all corners. Certainly, I’ve read more than a few essays making mostly the same points on Salon- all part of their current mission to catalog every fleeting thought of overprivileged white women. So, in a sense I agree with Mike Farmer’s point that there are a lot of very common concerns that get called “conservative” or “liberal” for no good reason.

        However, I think Jason was responding more to the fact that the National Review post was pointing to an essay written for a collection of essays about the alleged concerns of young conservatives, which was then responded to by another young conservative, both of whom were discussing to some extent whether or not the supposed masculinity crisis is an especially conservative concern. To the extent that conservatives tend to worry about the unforseen negative consequences of sweeping social changes, I’d imagine it is. But I’d also imagine there are plenty of conservatives who could care less about the idiotic pop cultural nonsense the young lady was fretting over.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:


          I’ve only seen this stuff coming from NRO (like the current example) and other outlets that espouse social-conservatism, either full-time (like Focus on the Family) or when convenient (like NRO). It seems to me to be related to the fear that any letting up on the demonization of homosexuality would result in an entire nation of gay men.

          By the way, I’m a bigger baseball fan than at least 90% of the population, and I don’t know who bats clean-up for the Yankees. Probably A-Rod, but I’d have to look to be sure. But I can explain the infield fly rule.Report

        • Avatar Simon K says:

          @Mike, Isn’t that odd? Social conservatives seem to operate on the premise that homosexuality is so much better that heterosexuality we have to demonise it to make sure there’s a next generation …Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

          It’s not odd when you consider for how many of the strongest demonizers that’s perfectly true.Report

        • Avatar rufus says:

          @Mike, Well, maybe not expressed as a problem with gay rights, but I’ve certainly heard about the supposed “masculinity crisis” from all corners. Usually it’s related to a sense that past avatars of masculinity offered some comforts that have been unnecessarily thrown out with the bathwater of patriarchy. Admittedly, these discussions tend to be a bit self-centered- the essay in question seemed to be saying, “I’m a young woman and sensitive men don’t make me wet, so there’s a crisis here”. But, as Austin was suggesting, there really can be a bit of a problem with most “sensitive” men, in that- in my experience- they tend to be most sensitive towards themselves. Actually, I’ve known more than a few men and women who were “in touch with their feelings” in a way that was pretty destructive to those around them. If we can find ways to be better to each other, I’m all for it.

          The larger argument, which you’re right probably does come more from conservatives, is that this supposed crisis in masculinity arose from the gains of feminism. I tend to reject this because I don’t think of femininity and masculinity as two metaphysical forces competing in a zero-sum game. I am attracted to very strong women, but it’s because I’m very willful myself and the combination works well together. In other words, I interact well with liberated women without being “feminized” by it, or whatever it is that’s supposed to happen.

          As for homosexuality, I agree with you. There does seem to be a fear that the gains of gays will erase the fragile masculinity of these endangered straight men. Actually, it’s always seemed funny to me because gay men are so into masculinity and so often super masculine. On some level, embracing and celebrating masculinity means seeing something majestic in an erect cock, so it’s pretty ridiculous to think that gay men are at odds with masculinity. Go to a leather bar and tell me if they have a problem with machismo.

          It all reminds me of a friend whose older brother used to give her grief in the 70s for listening to records by that “fag” David Bowie. His idea of a real macho manly band that she should listen to instead? The Village People.Report

        • Avatar rufus says:

          @rufus, Uh, make that William who I was agreeing with.Report

  6. Avatar Brian M says:

    Is anyone claiming that conservatism per se is making this claim?

    Nonetheless, reinforcement of “traditional” gender rules is typically…not universally (I mean, who would ever have accused William F. Buckley of excess “manliness”) of concern to self-described “conservatives.”Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      @Brian M,

      Is anyone claiming that conservatism per se is making this claim?

      Conservatism is an ideology. It doesn’t do things. It doesn’t have volition.

      “Conservatives” — the word I actually used — is a plural noun, and the agents included in it most certainly can do things, either singly or jointly.


      If your claim is that ideologies aren’t actors, you’re barking up the wrong tree. I never said they were.

      If your claim is that these folks didn’t do what they appear to be doing, you need to explain yourself.

      And, if your claim is that the National Review is not staffed by conservatives, I’m just plain puzzled.Report

  7. Avatar E.C. Gach says:

    Except both the writer of that article and the follow up response from her fellow columnist talk specifically about conservatism.Report

  8. Avatar Katherine says:

    Well, she can speak for herself, but most of the guys I like are geeks, and I couldn’t care less who bats fourth for the Yankees because baseball is boring.

    (Besides, everyone knows hockey is the real man’s sport. 😉 )Report

  9. Avatar rufus says:

    I love Clint Eastwood movies and John Wayne movies too. But certainly there were pathological aspects of traditional masculinity. I remember my grandfather admonishing me to “buck up” because I was crying at my grandmother’s funeral, and it just seemed weird that he was at his wife’s funeral worrying about his grandkids crying. He certainly never mourned openly and, instead, raged at the world like King Lear for the last few years of his life.

    Another thing was that that sort of masculinity was often pathetically dependent on women. I have male relatives who don’t know how to make a sandwich because they’ve never fed themselves. It’s not that rugged and individualistic to my mind. Besides, males of my generation have, generally, waited until they were older to settle down. If you’re not going to get married until the cusp of 30, you’d better know how to eat well and clothe yourself.

    Besides, I think what’s so painfully insipid about articles like this one is their insistence that “masculinity” and “femininity” be defined by numerous consumer choices. Certainly, I have great respect for genuine masculinity and femininity, and think that I’m pretty masculine and my wife is pretty feminine. But, for the love of Clint Eastwood, that hasn’t got a damn thing to do with the fact that I can do car maintenance and she likes to eat salads.Report

  10. Avatar MFarmer says:

    Is this what liberals are worried about these days — Conservatives worried about submissive weenies?Report

    • Avatar Simon K says:

      @MFarmer, No. We just like to mock their obvious insecurity.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer says:

        @Simon K,
        Good God, man, liberals are the most insecure neurotics around. They’re even afraid mom and pop businesses are colluding with furiners to steal democracy. Hell, all I’m worried about is the Falcons next game — they’re on a roll, ya know. Of course, I don’t want to accuse ALL liberals of being insecure neurotics, just the ones who vote for Democrats.Report

        • Avatar gregiank says:

          @MFarmer, way to build that strawman.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer says:

          Thanks, coming from a Master Builder, this means a lot to me. But you are not so hot on the concept of deep play.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          @MFarmer, I thought you were a libertarian Mike? Why the furious defense of conservative hobby horses?Report

        • Avatar MFarmer says:

          Oh, North, I will have to meet you one day so you can understand me. I will say this — I like to defend anyone or anything that’s being beaten with sticks by mind-melded mobs. I also play around a lot, but I think it should be obvious when I’m deadly serious, but maybe not.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          @MFarmer, Mike, you always come across as deadly serious. Seriously.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer says:

          Always? Even when I’m silly? Seriously silly, I guess.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer says:

          I think that the left’s constant criticism of conservative is blinding them to the mote in their own eyes. A large faction on the right criticized Bush and the Republican performance when in power — they are now saying that Republicans who support the status quo are not worthy of office. I think this is a healthy development, but they aren’t given credit. If the left will leave the conservatives alone long enough to clean out Reid, Pelosi, Frank and the other professional politicians, I will be more impressed. Liberals have criticized Obama, but until I see them take actions to shake up the Democrat Party, it will all be show talk for the sake of appearing independent and objective. Actions speak louder than words. I don’t defend a lot of the conservative positions, but the attacks on conservatives from the left appear to be a diversion from their own serious probems, and many conservatives are at least shaking up the Republican Party. The insistence that the new conservative, limited government movement is actually a cultural reaction doesn’t stand up to investigation. All Americans should support limiting the power of authority and the demand to stop wasting our money. 58% of the public are against the war, and many of these are conservatives, and yet the narrative is that conservatives are war-mongers. Everyone is operating off old partisan playbooks among the political class when in real life changes are going on in the private sector unnoticed.Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

            MFarmer —

            Please stop characterizing me as a part of the left. I hold both parties in roughly equal disdain. You are right that it’s a healthy development when Republicans start to realize that current spending projections can’t be sustained. But they have offered no serious proposals to do anything about the problem, so it only goes so far.

            As to this…

            58% of the public are against the war, and many of these are conservatives, and yet the narrative is that conservatives are war-mongers.

            I find it disingenuous in the extreme. There are at least two very obvious problems here. First, the 42% of people who favor continued war are concentrated among the conservatives. And second, both parties are warmongers. The one just talks a bit more dovish. Other than that, there’s essentially no difference.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer says:

          @MFarmer, regardless how you see yourself politically, I consider you left-libertarian based on your posts.

          If the majority of the country considers themselves conservatives, then many conservatives have to be in that 58% statistic, especially when many on the left support Obama in Afghanistan.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer says:

          Plus, it’s not all about you — I was talking about the left in general — I consider David Frum left of center when you get past his pretensions.Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:


            I suppose I am in arbitrary enough company, then, that I ought not to be worried about the categorization. I wouldn’t have said personally that being on the left wing of the libertarian movement makes me part of the mainstream American left, but to each his own.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer says:

          Well, if you consider the left to be a monolithic group, then I guess you are not like those who are all the same on the left, just left on the libertarian line, which has always amused me — I don’t know what it means, really — everyone has muddied the labels so much it makes visibility difficult.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer says:

        @Simon K,
        another point — conservatives have made proposals to cut spending, but first you have to limit government, or spending cuts will do no good — to limit government, enough lmited government candidates have to be elected to office. Calling for specifics right now is a red herring to justify your anger at conservatives — it’s obvious your emotions based on past experience are clouding your objectivity.Report

  11. Avatar RTod says:

    OK, not sure what to do here.

    Want to give Jason props for simultaneously capturing the right spirit, AND quoting Peter Gabriel, AND throwing in the odd Homeric allusion – all in just the post’s title –

    but realize doing so will mean I have officially nixed my chances to ever have manly,quiet, missionary sex with Katherine Miller.Report

  12. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Manly men understand the infield fly rule? Come on, George Will understands the infield fly rule. I don’t get the infield fly rule, but I have season tickets to my college’s hockey games.

    If we want to get silly about manliness, I’d press that line of thought for hours, and I bet I could out-manly the NRO dweebs. Wilderness canoe-camping, home repair projects, flying coach class, etc.

    But if that’s all they’re worried about, instead of men being decent honorable beings, then they’re pretty damn pathetic.Report