Complementarity, Not Competition

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There are men who not only destroy themselves but also corrupt others with them and leave behind powers of destruction that drive whole generations into nihilism. If we think of the great seducers of our century, we know how real this is. The negation of the one becomes a contagious disease that carries others away. But, God be praised, this is not only true in the negative. There are people who leave behind so to speak, a surplus of love, of perseverance in suffering, of honor and truth that captures others and sustains them. ~ Pope Benedict XVI (emphasis mine)

There is a corner of the internet known as the "manosphere." In a backlash to perceived cultural bias against men due to the mainstreaming of feminist principles, some men, feeling oppressed and trampled into submission by strong women, are pushing back by schooling one another in masculinity. They write advice blogs on mastering the "Venusian arts" or the art of seducing women, by asserting their authority, physical strength, attractiveness, and intelligence, in order to acquire "Alpha" status in comparison to their male peers.

Some personalities in the manosphere write mainly to other single men, but there are married proponents as well, who suggest that becoming more of an Alpha male will improve their marriage.

I don't disagree. Husbands should know how to lure their wives happily to bed. They should know how to lead a family with authority and respect. They should understand women's hormonal cycles and respond accordingly, or refuse to respond with alarm, as is often the more appropriate course of action. And above all, they should be happy about being men.

The married portion of the manosphere has gained traction among some Christian and Catholic men, who—perhaps raised in broken homes—are looking for male role models as they strive to build a marriage and a family that will last.

So what's the matter with the manosphere?

Like most reactionary philosophies, an undercurrent of anger informs its theories and practices. The manosphere is not just pro-man; it is really mad at women.

One of the primary methods in the seduction "game" is to let women know they are not entitled to their self-regard. Many articles in the manosphere aim to rank women according to their value in the sexual economy, and then to let women know through negative compliments (comments that could be construed as either positive or negative), that they are, for all intents and purposes, average.

The negative compliment is a means of undermining the messages to young women of so many scout leaders, pop divas, presidents' wives, and teachers: that women can do anything, be anything, and get anything they want. Such messages, the manosphere asserts, turn women into entitled princesses who put manhood at risk. In other words, feminism is to blame for the demise of the modern man.

I cannot offer an apology for feminism. I have not been able to align myself with the women's movement because my sexual ethics, which are informed by my Catholic faith, are incompatible with the feminist stance on birth control, extra-marital sex, and abortion.

Neither can I get behind the manosphere. For feminism to have gained a foothold, men had to collude with it, and without doubt, it's been in the interest of men to do so. So the message of the manosphere rings disingenuous. They would like for women to remain sexually available but to kindly shut up.

The anger toward the opposite sex that embitters both parties can only create a swiftly moving pendulum of rancor that never allows men and women to do what they were meant to do from the beginning of time, which is to complement one another.

And yet from the beginning of time, our sexuality has borne the stamp of sin. Eve ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Adam did too. Then they started passing blame (Gen. 3:12)

One of the beauties of the new translation of the Mass is having the opportunity to say these words daily: "Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault."

The Christian blames himself for his failings, and seeks forgiveness from God, which in turn, instigates peace with others. The decree of excluding humanity from the Tree of Life is revoked by Christ. The Cross of Christ is revealed as the Tree of Life, and Christ is the fruit. We eat this fruit and regain Paradise.

Masculinity is a very good thing, but Don Draper is not the right role model. The ultimate role model for a Christian, male or female, must be Christ who lays down his life for unworthy men and unworthy women. If the humanity of Christ is too ephemeral to conceptualize, then we need to go a step further, and consume him, be one with him, and let him animate us. Then surely, we will be who we need to be.

2/2/2012 5:00:00 AM
  • Catholic
  • The Constant Convert
  • Feminism
  • gender
  • Internet
  • Masculinity
  • Sexuality
  • Roman Catholicism
  • Elizabeth Duffy
    About Elizabeth Duffy
    Elizabeth Duffy is a freelance writer and author of the blog, "Betty Duffy." Her writing has appeared online at Faith and Family, the Korrektiv Press Blog, and numerous other venues. She and her husband live in rural Indiana with their five children.