The Counterintuitive Cure for What Offends Feminine Sensibilities

It's time to talk to guys about sexual harassment," declared Andrea Stanley in Seventeen magazine's Love & Life section. Writing in the wake of the #MeToo moment and the by-then nearly ubiquitous charges of sexual misconduct in the media, Ms. Stanley called "#TimesUp on harassment!" and gave girls "starting points to take the convo to the next level."

They should share with their guy friends, for example, the advice of Wendy Davis. "Think about a hookup like this," the former Texas state senator says. "As you're proceeding, you need to make sure you have permission along the way." Only "yes" means yes. "You need to hear yes in some form." And when it comes to paying a girl a compliment, if she feels uncomfortable in any way, you must listen and understand her perspective. Because "life is different when you live in the skin of a woman." (Yes, this is the woman who famously staged a 13-hour filibuster to protect abortion, outfitted in pink sneakers, back brace, and a urinary catheter.)

To round out the article, Ms. Stanley invited boys to comment, and it appears that, by and large, they had already gotten the memo: The entire male sex is summarily guilty. "I felt guilt that came from not doing enough," said Isaac, age 18. Aiden, 17, said, "You see people tweeting that men are trash, but it's justifiable," although to his credit, he did add that not all men are like that.

The red-letter self-criticism came from Ziad. "#TIMESUP doesn't just mean time's up for Harvey Weinstein, but it means time's up for the normalization, commodification, and perpetuation of our own misogyny," the 19-year-old from Princeton, New Jersey, said. "We must challenge the problematic behavior that we exhibit as a result of our male privilege. It is not a slight against our 'masculinity' to follow the lead of women as we dismantle the patriarchy—it is our responsibility."

I'm willing to grant that Ziad means well, but I beg to differ with his mea culpa. It does inflict injury to his masculinity to follow the lead of angry women who paint him guilty just because he's male.

Calling All Men

Women are right to be angry when men mistreat them, but real reform of male behavior will never come about through feminist lecturing or mass media man-shaming. Those are more likely to send a man to his cave—or to provoke a fight, which is probably worse. For LeRoy Wagner, heading for the cave was his default reaction, a move he now considers tantamount to desertion.

It was a miserable, relationship-deadening pattern, he relates in Men Who Love Fierce Women: The Power of Servant Leadership in Your Marriage, co-written with his wife Kim. Whenever he would retreat, she would step up the pressure, trying to get him to respond to her need. It wasn't that he didn't care. He did, but her escalating intensity overwhelmed him and left him feeling like he couldn't do anything right. The cave might have been lonely and lifeless, but it was safe—or at least it felt safe. LeRoy and Kim call this the Fierce Woman/Fearful Man cycle, and they only started to break out of it when LeRoy started owning his "man card" in the home.

"Passivity is repulsive to women," he tells men. "No matter how strong your woman is, no matter how much she may grab the reins of leadership, the truth is—women want their men to lead." It may feel like Mission Impossible, he says, but the way out of this pit is to "walk out of our cave of protection and pick up our mantle of leadership." To which women who understand what he means will say, Yes!

Protection, Provision & Patriarchy

"Manhood at its best sacrifices in order to protect others," Wagner writes, using the acronym "PROTECTION" as a ten-point outline for coaching men into Christlike warriorhood—not warring in the home, but contending with the perils of the world for the sake of those they love in the home. Since I'm not male, I won't try to relate his man-to-man counsel here. For that, you will have to read his book (and I hope you will). I will only note that "P" stands for "Pray like a warrior" and "R" stands for "Run to the cross" and then encourage you to take it from there.

Many a fierce woman has put on a warrior front because she's been mistreated by a man—or has been convinced that without it, she will be. But this is not a problem of patriarchy. This is what happens when men fail to live out the masculine commission of the Prime Patriarch. Rightly understood, patriarchy involves selfless leadership under the fatherhood of God.

The feminist movement went terribly wrong when it recast the meaning of patriarchy in terms of Marxist power structures. If we really believed the Bible, said Mallory Millet, sister of second wave feminist militant Kate Millet, we would see from its opening pages that women already innately wield great power. "When women go wrong, men go right after them," she said, quoting Mae West and noting that Adam followed Eve against a direct command from God.

Innate power notwithstanding, women crave love and safety under the protection of a strong and trustworthy leader, someone with a heart of flesh and a spine of steel who will position himself between the perils of the world and the people he loves. And mothers and children thrive best within the shelter of a father who would sooner die than violate the sacred trust of being their provider and protector. This is not rocket science. Sensible people intuitively know these things.

Into the Breach

About the time Ms. Stanley was dispensing her feminist reeducation convo tips, Catholic Archbishop Charles J. Chaput was delivering a most unfeminist message at the "Into the Breach" conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The conference might have sent Wendy Davis and her ilk into fits, but it contained chemotherapy for the cancer that offends their feminine sensibilities.

"'Into the Breach' is a men's conference in the most thoroughly binary sense," Chaput began. "We're here to recover what it means to be men, and especially how to live as Christian men of substance and virtue." He discussed knighthood in its best medieval manifestations: "a new order of new Christian men, skilled at arms, living as brothers, committed to prayer, austerity, and chastity, and devoting themselves radically to serving the Church and her people, especially the weak." Yes, he noted, the ideal was often ignored or betrayed, but at its best, it was about men living out challenges, testing and proving their worth in service to a purpose higher than themselves. "Every father shapes the soul of the next generation," Chaput said. He will either shape them with his love, self-mastery, and courage, or he will misshape them out of his lack. C. S. Lewis described Christianity as a "fighting religion," the archbishop noted, and living it out involves a very real kind of warfare—a struggle against the evil in ourselves and in the world around us.

Yes, there is evil in men and in the world, and it has exacted exorbitant tolls on women. But here's the convo that needs to be taken to the next level: Seventeen readers should be calling #TimesUp on male passivity. Men were meant to follow the leadership of God, not women, and they do not need women's permission to do so. Neither do they need women to grant them absolution for their guilt. That's what the cross was for.

Speaking of the cross, men should also call #Times-Up on feminist imperialism and look to the cross themselves for their own #MeToo moment.

is a freelance writer and blogger on apologetics and matters of faith.
This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #45, Winter 2018 Copyright © 2019 Salvo |