Are men equal?

Some of you may be interested in this.  Justin has found and quoted an interesting argument from A Voice for Men attacking the masculine protector role because it implies that men are not equal to (i.e. inferior to) women.  In the comments, I defend the patriarchal position:  men and women are not “equal”; they have distinct roles.  Since two orthospheric writers responded so oppositely to the same article, it may be worth further discussion.  See The Truth Shall Set You Free for details.

23 Responses

  1. Obviously, taunting some poor fellow into being a “good man” is very often manipulative, and countless men have been turned into cannon fodder or wage slaves because they were trying to be good men, but none of this means that manhood has no substance. To shift the terminology slightly, consider this. Talk of my “duty” is often bogus and manipulative, but that doesn’t mean that I have no real duties. On the contrary, my primary duty is to discover my real duty and reject all the bogus “duties” that are proposed by manipulative people.

    The notion that the virtues of men and women are the same is true, but only in a trivial sense. Courage, for instance, is a virtue in men as well as women, but a woman satisfies the requirement for courage with a much lower level of courage. It is not true that male virtues are female vices, or the other way round, but the level required to meet the standard of “good man” or “good woman” is different.

  2. I liked Bonald’s reply and Justin seems to be justly wildly wrong here.

    Saying why briefly is a problem – ecause it is a deep error – but I think it is due to conflating well-being in this world with salvation – conflating expedience with The Good.

    It is an important mistake, because Justin is complaining that modern society does not reward Good behaviour (true, very true – it punishes good behavior) but then concluding that this means we *ought* to behave expediently.

    The situation is excruciatingly painful for Christians, as it is intended to be – however the corruptions of this world are not supposed to excuse us from doing what is right. At any rate we should not *advocate* doing what is wrong (ie behaving selfishy and short termistly).

  3. Bruce, let me ask you a question which I think focuses the issue down to essentials: Is self-sacrifice in a lifeboat scenario more incumbant upon the Christian male than the Christian female?

  4. The proper response, I think, is that self-sacrifice for women and children is the duty of a man, and for children the duty of a woman.

  5. As noted by commenters above, this is a painfully difficult issue.

    I agree that men are indeed created for the role of protector, and the roles of the sexes are not the same. In that, Paul Elam is wrong. We as Christians can indeed define differences between a Good Man vs a Good Woman.

    However, I do see P.E.’s article as useful to free us from the false ideology of Male Disposibility. Bonald, I would ask you the same question I asked Bruce above. I don’t see “women and children first” as a Christian duty. I will admit I am unfamiliar with any works on Christian ethics in lifeboat scenarios. Are we to say that the proper ethic for ALL Christians is “all others before me” ??? I can fully understand that, but why the prioritization of women over men, as a blanket rule?

    Falling back on the role of “protector” will not do the ethical living, for a man may be better able to fulfill his role as protector by being saved on that lifeboat, for example, if he has a family to support, or if he is a soldier or policeman, or even as a manufacturer or scientist contributing to his nation’s Defense.

  6. woops, “ethical lifting”, not “living” as above….

  7. Proph, correct me if I am mistake, but I thought we are called to self-sacrifice for the sake of the Lord alone. I do not see from where you are deducing your formula.

    The only context in which I can see your statement to be true would be in the case of marriage, then your formula is perfectly True and Right. Outside of that freely chosen relationship, on what basis does your formula stand?

  8. Hi Justin,

    First of all, I really didn’t mean to hijack your discussion. I mostly wanted to object to Elam’s principles, which I think could be applied in more objectionable ways. A man’s duty to random women is certainly not the same as his duty to his wife, although even for strangers gender does inform how we relate to each other. I’m not sure about the lifeboat scenario, Dalrock makes a good argument that a general policy of women and children first means more people dead. That is certainly an important consideration, although it could be overridden if honor demands it, and there I’m not sure. I certainly think that a man living because a woman sacrificed herself would feel emasculated in a way that a woman living because a man sacrificed himself would not feel defeminized. That’s just a feeling, and your question deserves more than that. When I come up with something better, I’ll send it to your original blog post.

  9. There may very well be an alternative moral calculus with which a Christian could in good conscience decide who gets a seat in the lifeboat, but I can’t imagine one that could be worked out to universal satisfaction in the circumstances of a sinking ship. If we are to have a moral allocation of scarce seats in such frantic circumstances, and not one based purely on ruthless physical strength, the privileged categories must be (a) known beforehand and (b) indisputable. Age and sex satisfy the bill. Some worthless women will be spared, and some worthy men lost, but these men will at least avoid spending their final minutes on earth in a murderous melee that may imperil their souls.

    Looking at the particular case of the Costa Concordia, it seems to me disgraceful that any able-bodied person availed himself of a lifeboat seat. The shore doesn’t appear to be more than a hundred yards away. Men were being asked to take a risk, not consign themselves to certain death. That nautical men like the captain and crew did not swim to shore beggars belief.

  10. Sure, but he who clothes the poor clothes God. It follows that he who gives up his life for another gives up his life for God.

    My formula stands on a basic consideration about human nature, which is rationalized and ennobled by virtue of our participation in an order of being headed by an omnibenevolent God. Like it or not, men biologically *are* dispensible in a way women are not.

  11. Ha, I get to be the first to put up everybody’s favorite Edmund Burke quote. It never gets old:

    “Little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of honour and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult.

    “But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. That unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone! It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honour, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness.”

  12. When the Titanic went down the smell of death was already in the air for the West. The same societies that said, “Women and children first” on the Titanic were soon to send millions of young men to death in a grim trench slaughter, flinging solid masses of men into hails of machine gun bullets.

  13. Proph, “he who clothes the poor clothes God” is a good point, but again, it is no way prioritizes one sex.

    And I would dispute your claim that women are more biologically indispensible than men. That is an oft-repeated saying, but totally without foundation.

  14. But it isn’t without foundation. Take two hypothetical societies devastated by some catastrophe (say a genetic plague): one loses 95% of its men, the other 95% of its women. The former society may face some difficulties from having lost its surfeit of strong labor, but it will bounce back, as even one man can impregnate ten thousand women easily. Within a generation, it will recover. The latter society will be crippled and may well perish altogether, not only because it will have a hard time replacing those lost women but because women civilize and pacify men. If you want an idea of what such a society would look like, check out Frank Herbert’s “The White Plague.”

    This is simply coded in our natures whether we like it or not — and the fact that it is part of our natures means it’s significant, endowed with meaning and value. It’s the reason, for instance, women have historically been “kept in the kitchen” while men do hard and dangerous work, such as going off to war or fighting in the gladiatorial arena.

  15. @Justin – sorry about the delay in answering this. ;The problem is that you have framed the question in a way which assumes that rules are the primary reality. I find this is the commonest problem with devout Christians. But the situation is not symmetrical. Rules can be no more than a partial summary of The Good. Deliberate breaking of the rules – and especially advocacy of rule-breaking – is usually an evil. On the other hand, adherence to the rules is (as such) not a Good. This seems to be what Christ (and St Paul) said over and over again; and displayed in behaviour. Christ broke The Law (for the sake of higher Law) but never advocated Law-breaking.

    So debates of this kind are highly prone to distort and mislead – we must take a step back.

  16. Aside from the question of chivalry in our day, I thought Justin had some very good objections to the idea of men being more biologically disposable than women, posted on his blog recently. Biological considerations aren’t confined only to a question of how much generative potential resides in a single male or female.

  17. even one man can impregnate ten thousand women easily

    That’s two impregnations a day for more than 13 and a half years. I quail before your manliness.

  18. wrt to men as the disposable sex – this is standard evolutionary psychology (which I teach) for what this is worth.

    Indeed, there is a strong sexual selection theory which states that it is the biological *function* of males (not just men) to be over-produced and mostly non-reproductive, as a way of purging the genome of harmful genetic mutations (which would otherwise accumulate) .

    From a *totally secular-hedonic perspective*, I would recommend Steve Moxon’s The Woman Racket (which I had a hand in editing) as a clear, ‘robust’ and enjoyable exposition of these ideas. He argues that women are ‘always’ (I can think of a big exception – still ‘always in the West’ would be true enough) the privileged sex – and special concern for women is built into us.

    Men just are, in practice, treated as disposable. Moxon sees this as pretty much inevitable to some degree (‘hardwired’), but hideously amplified by modern society where the privileged group are treated as if the victims of oppression. This he documents very convincingly.

  19. Thanks, bgc, I read The Woman Racket a year or so ago and found the book helpful in many ways, shedding much light in dark areas. I don’t recall whether Moxon specifically attempted to relate evolutionary psych to the practice of chivalry, it seems not. The mixing of the two seems implausible, almost repulsive to me. Chivalry, if properly practiced by a man, must be a work in which he is conscious of his particular relation to Christ as a man, and an imitation of Christ to which men are specially called. I don’t think a non-Christian can really practice chivalry because the non-Christian is not truly conscious of Christ.

    At any rate, never in my mind does a man truly practice chivalry because he considers his life of less biological or economic value than a woman’s or child’s, aside from the question of whether a life can even be assigned these sorts of values.

  20. “At any rate, never in my mind does a man truly practice chivalry because he considers his life of less biological or economic value than a woman’s or child’s, aside from the question of whether a life can even be assigned these sorts of values.”

    Well, of course. We have been talking so far of the “is,” not the “ought.” The two are intimately related but it’s impossible for the most part to leap from the former straight to the latter.

    A simple case for that leap I made above. The fact of male biological disposability is built into our natures. Our nature is the mode of our participation in the order of being, an order of being headed by an omnibenevolent God. Faith requires that you trust in His design as made manifest by His nature: if He is all-good, then this aspect of our nature must serve some good end (specifically, it is an opportunity to exercise a great virtue, perhaps the characteristic virtue of the Christian faith: self-sacrifice). In other words, our biological disposability is a thing of great theological significance and moral value. It is something to be acknowledged, embraced, and celebrated because it points to something that is good in its own right.

  21. Proph,

    Good explanation, especially your second paragraph. I ought to have known that you had such considerations in your mind already, but with the frenetic emphasis on evolutionary psychology as the explanation of everything so commonly encountered in the blogosphere, I tend to become frenetic myself in countering it as a universal explanation. Here it appears I did it to a fault.

  22. Clever ding, Bill!

    Buckyinky, no problem. I’m just a little surprised the discussion came up in the first place, given that Paul Elam is (or at least I thought he was) an atheist. Obviously he’s approaching the issue from a much different perspective than we are. What we ought to experience as an opportunity to do good, he naturally experiences as an unjust infringement on his sovereign will by a nature he didn’t choose for himself.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: