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Manliness. A Response.

November 7, 2007

You won’t do my laundry?! But what about the division of labor? I do the yard work, that doesn’t seem fair! he said incredulously, in a more than slightly raised voice. I’ll do yard work any day; I love getting my hands grimy, having dirt under my finger nails; don’t mind mowing the lawn either, I retorted. He was mystified because his ex wife had, according to him, willingly done his laundry, underwear and all. I wasn’t about to follow suit. I would never expect, nor let anyone else wash my clothes and I certainly didn’t want to do anyone else’s.

This division of labor discussion arose for the second time, after “my intended” had read me a 2006 WSJ interview with Harvey Mansfield, Harvard sage, and author of “Manliness.” Midway through the first paragraph, N suddenly piped up as to how incredulous he felt that I wouldn’t deal with his laundry hamper. Harvey Mansfield’s words were barely out of his mouth, but I got an immediate sense of the affinity he was having with them. Mr. Mansfield is not an ardent admirer of the feminist movement and the resultant less clearly defined gender roles; that the more gender neutral society hasn’t been good for either sex and it was time for men to reassert, and women to appreciate the virtue of manliness. Was that the same as women being subservient (again); a regression to “knowing their place?” Doing laundry? What was I getting myself into.

I’m not saying men and women aren’t different, of course they are, and ignoring the deliciously obvious, there’s the difference in upper body strength, in thought processes, the way relationships are initiated and maintained. The difference in thought processes doesn’t imply a hierarchy of intelligence or lack of ability to achieve one’s goals. Most feminists do not dislike men nor have a need to emulate them. Women in the work place no longer dress in a more masculine style of suit, or assume a “manly” demeanor, but unfortunately the glaring disparity in income, the not yet shattered glass ceiling, is still with us.

We women want to be treated equally and with respect, have help raising children etc, etc. Is that so shocking and unfair. In order for “things to balance out,” do we have to do all the housework, raise the children, prepare meals as well as have a career?

When feminism was in its infancy I worked for an all women organization which turned out to be one of the most unpleasant experiences I’ve had in the workplace. The women were like men in drag. Really mean, nasty men; I couldn’t wait to leave.

I wouldn’t touch Professor Mansfield’s book with a barge pole or if he were to have his way, a Swiffer. If “Real Men don’t Eat Quiche,” as N likes to remind me, then “Real Women don’t do (Someone Else’s) Laundry.”

An excerpt from Psychology Matters states:

Studies show that one’s sex has little or no bearing on personality, cognition and leadership.

A 2005 analysis of 46 meta-analyses that were conducted during the last two decades of the 20th century underscores that men and women are basically alike in terms of personality, cognitive ability and leadership. Psychologist Janet Shibley Hyde, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, discovered that males and females from childhood to adulthood are more alike than different on most psychological variables, resulting in what she calls a gender similarities hypothesis. Using meta-analytical techniques that revolutionized the study of gender differences starting in the 1980s, she analyzed how prior research assessed the impact of gender on many psychological traits and abilities, including cognitive abilities, verbal and nonverbal communication, aggression, leadership, self-esteem, moral reasoning and motor behaviors.

Hyde observed that across the dozens of studies, consistent with the gender similarities hypothesis, gender differences had either no or a very small effect on most of the psychological variables examined. Only a few main differences appeared: Compared with women, men could throw farther, were more physically aggressive, masturbated more, and held more positive attitudes about sex in uncommitted relationships.

I rest my case.

Copyright © 2007

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Abra permalink
    November 8, 2007 7:53 am

    Hmmm. Shel does my laundry, but refuses to work in the garden. I cook for him, but almost never take out the garbage. From each according to: abilities, available time, proclivity, and generosity. Work, whatever its historical sex-linked implications, is better shared equally.

    rise above the
    heap of castoff garments
    and imagine
    the body that wore them
    rejoice in keeping that beloved
    warm and dry

  2. Chuck permalink
    November 8, 2007 7:35 pm

    I’m amazed when I hear a woman say “of course men and women are different”, then proceed to claim they are the same in everything that is important. Studies are like statistics, you can find or create a study that will prove whatever you like. If men and women are different, then of course, most women will be subservient to most men, or most men will be subservient to most women. It’s hard to imagine no men or women being subservient to anyone else. Think about it in terms of daily living.

  3. islandlass permalink*
    November 9, 2007 3:21 pm


    “Work, whatever its historical sex-linked implications, is better shared equally,” sounds good to me. Don’t think I’m quite there yet.

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