Manliness, by Harvey C. Mansfield Selected Quotes


Mansfield- Harvey-harvard_aei

Manliness, by Harvey C. Mansfield, from Harvard was published by Yale University Press in 2006.

Harvey C. Mansfield, Ph.D.

Professor Mansfield is best known for awarding two grades at Harvard: The gentleman’s ‘A’ and the actual unrecorded grade earned by the student, which was sometimes, [gasp!] a ‘C.’ I didn’t know his middle initial was really ‘C.’ I thought students called him Harvey ‘C’ Mansfield as an digg on his giving out so many sub-A grades…

Mansfield begins, “Thumos is a quality of spiritness…than induces humans, and especially manly men, to risk their lives to save lives.” p. xi.

“I do not make it my business to lament the decline of the gentleman in our day…If you want to know what a gentleman is, look up Squire Allworthy in Fielding’s Tom Jones.” p. xii.

Mansfield reminds of real gender differences, “that spitting [is done] by male athletes on television (not done by female athletes)…” p. xii.

“The gentleman, as opposed to a cad or a lout, does not take advantage of those weaker than himself, especially women.” p. 5.

“Although he is expected to take the initiative–since in the relations of men and women someone at some point always has to make the risky first move–he allows time for choice or second thoughts by the woman and does not proceed if he is not wanted.” p. 5.

“We now believe it is safer to rely on the law rather than an ideal.” p. 5.

“Betty Friedan, the founder of American feminism, wrote of “the problem that has no name,” by which she meant the boredom of the suburban housewife…But…we have lost the name we used to have for what mainly resists gender neutrality, which is manliness.” p. 9.

“Jane Mansbridge’s classic study, Why We Lost the ERA (1986), concludes that a constitutional amendment was perhaps unnecessary, that its aims could be accomplished through legislative and judicial interpretation–and this seems to have been correct.” p. 10.

“Women on their own are not ruthless enough.” p. 12.

“As the Moor Boadbil was being expelled from Alhambra in Spain, he turned around to gaze at it and heaved one last sigh, whereupon his mother said, “You do well to weep as a woman over what you could not defend as a man.” p. 12.

“Manliness is…Two things,

The confidence of manly men and

Their ability to command.

The confidence of a manly man gives him independence of others. p. 16.

“John Wayne is still every American’s idea of manliness.” p. 17.

“We are attracted to the manly man because he imparts some of his confidence to everyone else.” p. 18.

“The Greek word for manliness, andreia, is also the word the Greeks used for courage, the virtue concerned with controlling fear.” p.18.

“Another view of manliness, more negative than it appears, can be found in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, at the end, in Mark Antony’s tribute to Brutus. The speech ends, “His life was gentle, and the elements so mix’d in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, ‘This was a man.'”” p. 19.

“A manliness, too, that seeks glory in risk and cannot abide the rational life of peace and security” p. 21.

Mansfield quotes a woman, “The problem is that men need to feel important.” “Exactly!” says Mansfield. p. 21.

“The definition of manliness–confidence in the face of risk…” p. 23

“Men seek risk, women security…” p. 23

“Men are still more promiscuous than women, despite what the gender-neutral society says. “I don’t pay them to come over…I pay them to leave,” said the actor regarding the prostitutes he patronizes. p. 28.

Can women ever really act like men? “I can see how a dominating person could make use of the ability to seem caring, but how could a caring person be dominating without ceasing to be caring?” p. 31.

“What does John Wayne or Theodore Roosevelt show us about manliness in its completeness? A manly man is nothing if not an individual, one who sets himself apart, who is concerned with the honor rather than survival of his individual being. Or, better to say, he finds his survival only in his honor.” p. 37.

Is testosterone chemical poisoning?

That male’s willful will, too, is not just a concept, an airy, bodiless wish with nothing behind it. It has been found to have a chemical basis in the hormonal differences between men and women: me have much more testosterone. The political scientist Andrew Sullivan, who suffers from a condition requiring him to inject himself with testosterone, has written a graphic account of the leap in vigorous spiritedness that results. While it lasts he becomes a living, strutting stereotype.

“Other animal species seek to survive; humans want to survive with honor.” p. 60.

Assertiveness training for women, “aims to teach them to make their own case, a habit one takes for granted in men,”

If that’s so, it’s no wonder that men have dominated business and politics. With or without training in moderation, men were just doing what comes naturally. But if women don’t take steps to reduce their assertiveness deficit, will they succeed as well as men in the formally manly occupations? Perhaps their true policy is to assert themselves as women and not try to become artificial men, but that policy requires a certain distance from manly assertiveness. p. 68.

“Dr. Samuel Johnson…thought it ridiculous for a woman to assert herself [from Boswell’s Life of Johnson] “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” p. 69.

“But “formidable women,” as we call them, do exist. Expelled members of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet might think they had met one of them.” p. 69.

“To get to that seat [of authority] you have to compete, and in a competition there are losers–usually more of them than winners. To assert yourself you must take the risk of losing.” p. 69.

“Today’s women want power, but they are not so eager to accept the risk that goes with seeking power. p. 69.

Today’s woman thinks she can have wisdom and power together: wisdom without modesty, power without risk.” p. 70.

“Facing risk is a feature of manliness that goes with holding power. More than most women, indeed, more than most men, the manly man accepts–nay, welcomes–a risky situation. He is not looking for the life of Riley.” p. 70.

“Each woman wants security, but one finds it in her husband, the other in the government. p. 78.

“The most dramatic statement of manliness would be the one where the man is the source of all meaning, where nothing else has meaning unless the man supplies it. That is the condition of nihilism–a state in which nothing in itself has meaning; meaning has to be furnished by a human being, the sole source of meaning.” p. 82. The Alert Reader is reminded that this is the center of the abortion debate: the unborn child has a ‘right to life’ — not protected in the Founding Documents — but granted at the discretion of the mother.

“Darwin was not a nihilist, but he prepared his generation and later generations for nihilism.”

His theory of evolution not only denied the eternity of the species but also undermined all eternities, all permanence of meaning. And looming behind Darwin was the greater figure of Nietzsche. Nietzsche declared, and spread the news like a counter apostle, “God is dead.” By this he meant all ideals, everything transcendent or spiritual, as well as God in any religion. p. 83.

“Poets do not believe in, or do not offer for belief, an order in the world, a cosmos.” p. 85.

“Since the gods are capricious and human excellence is not rewarded, each of us is thrown back on himself.” p. 85

“Teddy Roosevelt …was not a disciple of William James… [who might be the] “educated men of weak fibre” whom Roosevelt was pleased to excoriate.” p. 91.

“Girls do not need to make an effort to become women. Boys need to wrench themselves from their friends and their gangs, perhaps in a formal rite. The Jewish boy in his Bar Mitzvah says “now I am a man.” p. 92.

Teddy Roosevelt, “invented the phrase “lunatic fringe…”” p 94.

“Manliness wants risk, not comfort and convenience.” p. 94.

Teddy Roosevelt also coined “weasel words.” p. 95.

“The American founders made an executive power strong enough to stand up to popular opinion and to withstand the temptation to seek popularity, but progressives like Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson made the president into a “leader” — that is, on occasion a follower– of public opinion. p.97.

“In real life today manly knowledge enables a man, not to be Tarzan, but to act effectively in an emergency and to fix things and solve problems without professional help.” p. 102.

Mansfield quotes Nietzsche, “The true man wants two things, danger and play. For that reason he wants woman, as the most dangerous plaything.” p. 116.

“When you first hear of Darwin’s theory you might wonder about the moral consequences:

will this mean that human beings, since they are no better than brute, will be encouraged to forget morality and behave like brutes? The answer is worse than you suppose. It is that human beings may think it their moral duty to behave like brutes. Nietzsche foresaw this very when he said, “Man would rather will nothingness than not will.” That is, of course, a statement about human nature and its perverseness. It implies that the low and the high are permanent elements in man and that if the low does not serve the high, the high will serve the low. p. 121.

“In the 1970’s manly nihilism came to American women…Is had come indirectly through Simone de Beuvoir…What interested these women in Nietzsche was the nihilism he proclaimed as fact–God is dead–and the possibility of creating a new order in its place.” p. 122.

“Nihilism…the disappearance of nature…” p. 122.

“What was womanly in the woman’s movement? It was in the manner of this accomplishment…done by “raising consciousness,” a new method of political promotion borrowed from business psychology…Working through language, they just asked men and other women why it is natural to use “he” instead of “she” to refer, for example, to a doctor…This was enough; no heavy argumentation was required.” p. 123.

“In order to be free of men, these women wanted to change morality and deny nature. No longer were women destined through reproduction and child rearing to serve the common good and the future of the species. Women could be as irresponsible as men and leave those vital matters to someone else.” p. 123.

Mansfield quotes American Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “nature has made the mother the guardian of the child.” p. 125.

“Beauvoir is much more radical; she shares the desire but as far as possible rejects all compromise…Her book ends with a quotation from Karl Marx affirming the brotherhood of men and women in the new realm of liberty in the communist utopia.” p. 132.

“Beauvoir argues that women should not esteem motherhood as much as they have…greater sexual liberty…[is] a good thing, and that abortions should not be reluctantly or regretted.” p. 132.

Mansfield quotes Beauvoir, “One is not born, but becomes, a woman.” p. 133.

“The strangest feature of [Beauvoir’s] The Second Sex is its almost complete failure to discuss women’s jobs and its almost total preoccupation with another way of escaping the family–sex.” p. 135.

“Marx admitted [sex roles] would have to go.” p. 137

“Neither Marx nor Nietzsche had any use for morality, especially sexual morality…” p. 138.

“However diverse, all feminism today is looking for ways to keep women independent of men.” p. 140.

“Germaine Greer [The Female Eunuch] sprinkles her text with highlighted quotations from Mary Wollstonecraft, whom she admires, but none of them have to do with the chastity Wollstonecraft so insisted on.” p. 141.

“[Shulamith] Firestone [The Dialectic of Sex], a deep thinker, quotes Beauvoir in order to argue that women’s reproductive biology, and not the social construction of patriarchy, is the cause of women’s oppression.” p. 142.

“Becoming manlike is a strange way of proving you are independent of men (ladylike would seem to be a better way). p. 145.

“This is why I have called feminism “nihilism.” It says that being a woman is nothing definite and that the duty of women is to advance that nothingness as a cause.” p. 147.

Consciousness is a word used by Marx.” p. 150.

“The mightiest woman of our time, Margaret Thatcher, is no model for feminists, partly because of her conservative opinions, of course, but also because her renowned insensitivity makes them uneasy. Feminists prefer to seek out and confer recognition on unnoticed women from the past; they favor obscure authors rather than great names like Jane Austen and Edith Wharton…” p. 152.

Friedan’s [The Feminine Mystique] starts with the “problem with no name.” But it turns out to have a name, boredom.” p. 152.

“Friedan does not dwell on sex. She wants to answer the voice within women that says, “I want something more than my husband and my children and my home.” This “something more” proves to be a job, or rather, “creative work of her own.” Creative work enables a woman to sense her freedom or her, says Friedan…” p. 153.

“Men who want to play with their lives as if they were supermen…have always had to face women as their critics. The trouble with feminist women is that they don’t have wives to teach them sense.” p. 154.

“Naomi Wolf…The Beauty Myth (1991)…developed Friedan’s notion of the feminine mystique. Beauty is a myth foisted on women by men.” p. 154.

“Is it nonsense to think that turmoil in one’s sex life is independence?” p. 156.

Mansfield indirectly references the “heart of stone” that abortion brings to women,

“Control over one’s body” is a phrase often used to claim the right of abortion, an act that frees a woman from the troubles of giving birth and child rearing but does not save her from regret or from the risk of becoming callous if she should get in the habit of preferring her convenience to other, more valuable things. Autonomy sounds good when it is claimed for the sake of nobility, much less so when it is for convenience. To insist on keeping the right of abortion absolutely intact, with no concessions to reasonable doubt, betrays the presence of moralism in those rail against that fault when they confront the other side of the debate. p. 156.

“[Feminism] wants transcendence for the sake of independence, and the trouble is that the two are inconsistent. Independence means that you are satisfied with yourself; transcendence means that you are not…And the gender-neutral society does not know whether to ignore the sexual difference (independence) or abolish it (transcendence). p . 161.

“Americans were ready to give justice for women–the liberal of equality–and did not much care that the advocates for women spoke more of power than justice, more of sex than career, more of autonomy than happiness.” p. 164.

“In liberalism there are love of liberty and desire for security. The two are linked because they are necessary for each other. Nobody wants liberty without security, which is chaos (“the war of all against all,” said Thomas Hobbes), and nobody wants security without liberty, which is slavery.” p. 165.

“Desire for security…might prompt you to settle for slavery as better than death; it is therefore always calculated in terms of self-interest, and it is risk-averse.” p. 166.

“The gender-neutral society is not friendly toward risky activity, even on behalf of liberty, that might give advantage to manly men as risk-takers and thus upset the balance of the sexes…” p. 166

“Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was a kind of liberal, though we would not recognize him as such today because he was opposed to self-government and favored monarchy.” p. 166

“Hobbes has the mentality of a lawyer or an insurance agent, always focused on the unlikely and the unexpected.” p. 169.

“Hobbes deserves the mantle no one has yet awarded him of having created the sensitive male. For the sensitive male is one who follows Hobbes’s advice to lay down his right.p. 173.

Mansfield predates but explains the brilliance and success of the conservative TEA Party movement,

Machiavelli had said that men in society are divided into two “humors,” a princely one that craves domination and a popular one that does not wish to be commanded. [John] Locke selects the popular one that does not wish to be commanded. Locke selects the popular humor to characterize the behavior of a free people. He wants government to be sustained not by the virtues it promotes (as did Plato and Aristotle), nor by principles of subjection (as Hobbes), but by hostility to government. Government is to be obeyed in a spirit of unfriendly regard, the very spirit that makes government difficult to sustain…[W]hy not appeal to a healthy dislike of dominion in order to counter the desire on the part of “princes” to dominate? p.177.

“In the Two Treatises of Government (1690), still the greatest philosophical statement of the liberalism by which we live, Locke lays down constitutional forms…[where] “Slavery is so vile and miserable an Estate of Man, and so directly opposite to the generous Temper and Courage of our Nation; that ’tis hardly to be conceived, that an Englishman, much less a Gentleman, should plead for’t.” p. 178.

“Yet when morality comes to be realized, nature returns to accompany, and nag at, a priori rationality…Women, Kant says, are unfit for citizenship, having be implanted by nature with fearfulness designed to keep the womb safe, so that they need the protection of males. This does not mean women must be submissive, only that they must be modest. With their modesty women can manage the excessive, idealized desire of males in order to govern them.” p. 182.

“The only true humanity, according to Beauvoir, so far exclusively male, is to transcend the given or the natural or the “immanent” in a manner I have called nihilist because it accepts no guide but will to power. In the feminist society there are no social roles. Roles would be replaced by individual identities…that…would pass over to the…temporary desires…” p.192.

“A woman’s “docility” is not meekness but actually her means of conquest. It is actually women’s weakness that compels them to establish an indirect rule of manipulation over men. When women try to resemble men, they will be mastered by men.” p. 195.

Feminists who follow French revolutionary Rousseau, “are caught in suspense between their desire not be women, a sex they consider subordinate, and their desire to promote the advantage of women so as to stop being subordinate.” p. 198.

“A definition of manliness as confidence and competence in the face of risk.” p. 216.

“Machiavelli remarks that “very rarely do men know how to be altogether wicked or altogether good.”” p. 225.

“The manly or courageous person…takes responsibility in a risky situation.” p. 226.

“A word of warning, too, should be delivered to the feminists who are too busy with their own careers to have time to criticize manly men and want to give over that task to psychologists with their “anger management.” The many irresponsible thinkers of modern times are divided, roughly, into those who expect too much reform and those who have given up on reform.” p. 226.

“The…test of art [fo balancing conflicting expectations] is producing results.” p. 226.

Professor Mansfield describes, “three ways of transcending sex differences: repressing the difference between male and female…ignoring the difference…and respecting difference.” p. 228.

“Respecting [sex differences] is most in accord with our nature, but then we have seen that nature does not prescribe exactly how she is to be respected.” p. 228.

Mansfield doesn’t really want to give out “pointers on how to live,” but gives us hints anyway, fortunately, “I could tell young women not to disparage motherhood in the hearing of a man they want to attract. If you do, you will make a man think his mother is being disparaged and he will compare you to her–just what you want to avoid.” p. 229.

“I could tell young men that women want to be taken seriously almost as much as they want to be loved. To take women seriously you must first take yourself seriously and after that ask them what they think…” p. 229

Manliness is not a self-help book, Mansfield writes, “My book is for thinkers…to get us to address the problem of manliness.” p. 229

“The actions of the Islamic fascists are proof enough that despite our civilization there remain barbaric cutthroats waiting to assault us…we need not just to imagine the moral equivalent of war but to wage a real war. Here is a useful employment for manliness.” p 230.

“The first modern thinker, Machiavelli, began from the observation that the world in his time suffered from “ambitious idleness.” p. 230.

Mansfield defines the politically liberal mindset, “[Machiavelli] saw correctly that anyone who wants to do good will end up yearning for much more good than is possible in this world [as compared to the next world in eternity].” p. 230.

“Machiavelli tried to simplify manliness so as to make it more effective. Manliness henceforth would be occupied with making humans more powerful rather than making them better. Machiavelli called this “prudence,” but I have to say it was not wisdom. Wisdom lies in recognizing our need for perfection as much as for power.” p. 231.

“Thus we have replaced the manly man with the bourgeois, a character who has several faces, none of them manly. One…professional..[is] gender neutrality. A professional is formed by uniform education and judged by objective criteria, not tested by manly deeds.” p. 232.

“One professional can be substituted for another, and a woman can take the place of a man…Professionals treat each other with “professional courtesy” but never chivalry.” p. 232.

“Politicians who do what they think right are manly; those who do what you think right are unmanly.” P. 233.

“Edmund Burke laments over the imprisonment of Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution, that no one was man enough to avenge her: “But the age of chivalry is gone. That the age of sophisters, economists and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever.”” p. 233.

“Manliness must prove itself and do so before an audience. It seeks to be theatrical, welcomes drama, and wants your attention. Rational control prefers routine and doesn’t like getting excited…Manliness favors war, likes risk, and admires heroes…(no one needs or responds to an incentive to be manly)…Manliness likes to show off and wants to be appreciated…It is generous but judgmental.” p. 234.

“Affirmative action is manly if you do it for yourself, otherwise not. Commerce is unmanly, yet there is manliness in the spirit of commercial enterprise, so that Tocqueville can say that “Americans put a sort of heroism into there manner of doing commerce.” The Yankee clipper ships he was speaking of in 1835 went to China and back in order to sell a pound of tea for one penny less than the competition–heroes and mercenaries at the same time.” p. 234.

“The popularity of sports testify to the inevitability of manliness…” p. 234.

Mansfield’s favor word is “assert.” p. 234.

“Manliness is never selfless…” p. 235.

“Tocqueville feared the gradual construction of a new democratic despotism, an “immense tutelary power” over people that “would take away from them entirely the trouble of thinking and the pain of living.”” p. 235.

“Can it be an accident that the first atheist regimes in human history were the first totalitarian regimes?” p. 237.

“So if you were to ask Tocqueville…to what he attributes the prosperity and force of the American people, he would answer that “it is the superiority of its women.” p. 237.

“The gender-neutral society… was accomplished by feminism…What should we think of feminism? Feminism is the culmination of rational control by abolishing the sex differences, facilitating the management of human beings by removing the grand source of irrational insistence, manliness. Women are of course liberated but so are men. Women lose their hindrances, men their inhibitions…” p. 238.

Mansfield quotes Plato’s Laws, “The Athenian Stranger makes a passing reference to “bitter, women’s raging” that differs from men’s anger in its implied recognition of vulnerability.” p. 240.

Professor Mansfield discusses feminism,

Women are misled by feminism into mistaking themselves. They are told they have no weaknesses because they have no essence, no definition; hence they have no limitations. Women can do anything, young women are foolishly assured. They are also told to see their strength as weakness. To be prudent, cautious, modest, persuasive, undemanding, unselfish is unworthy of…what? An assertive male? An autonomous entity? Feminism has no understanding of womanhood; it leaves women without a guide and even tries to convince them that they need no guide.” p. 240 emphasis added.

What womanhood should be in our society I leave to a new feminism less fascinated with manliness than the feminism we have had. The radical feminism I have discussed is not what most women believe or practice, but it is the only feminism there is. Another better feminism might begin from the idea that women, as many of them say, “want it all.” They want a career and they want to be women too. They don’t want to be defined, and they do. The challenge to a new feminism is to make sense of those two desires and unite them.” p. 241

Professor Mansfield closes, “To protect women’s careers we need a gender-neutral state…

but the gender-neutral society gives no respect to the liberal distinction between state and society or between public and private…It makes women think that they are unfaithful to the cause of women if they do not behave like men...Women should be free to enter on careers but no compelled–yet they should also be expected to be women. And men should be expected, not merely free, to be manly. A free society cannot survive if we are so free that nothing is expected of us. emphasis added p. 244



“For women holding office, the gender gap in political opinion in much wider than in the electorate. Successful ambition in women makes them more womanish in the sense of representing women’s views.” p. 254.

Mansfield cites Democracy in America, “Tocqueville’s American woman is both knowing and modest, however; “she has pure morals rather than a chaste mind.” p. 259.

“Charlotte Gilman’s Herland, which is a community held together by a religion of motherhood. To a male visitor, a woman of Herland asks with honor: “Destroy the unborn–!’ she said in a hard whisper. ‘Do men do that in your country?” Gilman, Herland, 66, 69-70.” p. 259.

“Beauvoir’s chapter “The Mother” begins with nine pages on abortion (Second Sex, 484-93); later she says provocatively, “When woman suffocates in a dull gynaeceum–brothel or middle-class home” (603); and the reader comes upon nothing about women’s responsibility for morality but rather finds remarks like this: “marriage is directly correlated with prostitution” (555).” p. 260.

“In Donald Symon’s words: “Among all peoples, copulation is considered to be essentially a service or favor that women render to men, and not vice versa.” This is the last of the seven sex differences that he finds in all societies. Evolution of Human Sexuality, 27-28.” p. 261.

“Greer, Female Eunuch, 156-57; Greer in her saucy way hopes that in the future “children might grow up without the burden of gratitude for the gift of life which they never asked for.” In her own case, she says that as children, “we could see that our mothers blackmailed us with self-sacrifice” (249, 157). But don’t we owe gratitude for gifts we don’t ask for? For the gift of life that makes it possible to ask for things?” p. 261.

“In cases of sexual encounter women are liable (1) to become pregnant, (2) to suffer more from sexually transmitted disease, and (3) to feel more emotional hurt afterwards.” p. 262.

“All men by nature desire to know” is the opening sentence of Aristotle’s Metaphysics.” p. 263.


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Thank you (foot)notes,

See Margaret Sanger


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