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Monday, March 13, 2006

Manliness

Here's a hilarious interview in The New York Times Magazine with Harvey Mansfield, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Government at Harvard University. Mansfield is the conservative icon who has just written a book titled Manliness. (No doubt it will strike a chord with Times readers.) Part of why this brief exchange is so entertaining is because it reads as if interviewer Deborah Solomon suspects Mansfield of being transported across the centuries to offer his archaic view of gender. Here's a sample:

Solomon: I am beginning to wonder if you have ever spoken to a woman. Your ideas are so Victorian.

Mansfield: I have a young wife who grew up in the feminist revolution, and even though she is not a feminist, she wants to benefit from it. I wash the dishes, and I make the bed.

Solomon: How young is she, exactly?

Mansfield: She's 60. I'm 73.

And a little further down...

Solomon: When was the last time you did something that required physical strength?

Mansfield: It's true that nothing in my career requires physical strength, but in my relations with women, yes.

Solomon: Such as?

Mansfield: Lifting things, opening things. My wife is quite small.

Solomon: What do you lift?

Mansfield: Furniture. Not every night, but routinely.


It will take you a shorter amount of time to read this brief interview than my blog post about it. But I bring it to your attention because Mansfield, protected by tenure, is able to suggest what many people quietly suspect: gender isn't just a construct. Deep in our guts, we know we're different. We have inclinations, abilities, and desires that appear unique to our being a woman or a man. There is plenty of murky territory here, to be sure. There is also the reality that this claim has been misused to exploit and discriminate against women.

Hey, I don't have it all figured out. We're just different, and those differences aren't all made up. In the meantime, I'm off to take risks and move furniture.

(Let's face it, I just wanted to blog about this in order to show this Mansfield photo from the Times. )

Hat Tip: Andrew Sullivan

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