The Mask (you’d better hope) I Live In

Christina Hoff Summers has a nice little piece on a new flick by Jennifer Newsom called “The Mask You Live in.”

It’s a take-down, to be sure, but it’s a pretty gentle takedown, and I think that’s appropriate.  I’m going to pile on as well, and equally gently – I won’t even put in my usual snarky pictures.

 Newsom, while hewing strongly to the weird anti-science cult of male and female psychological equality, is, I think, a fairly mainstream feminist, unlike an outright manhater like Hanna Rosin or Andrea Dworkin, or any of their ilk.  Unlike the latter crowd, Newsom’s not vicious – her work drips with actual, albeit misplaced, concern for young boys.

I’d like to suggest that Newsom’s work, though, is fundamentally dangerous, and while all reasonable feminists can look at somebody like Rosin and say “okay, that’s getting her grant money but really isn’t helping the conversation,” that what Newsom’s suggesting is not only misplaced, but if achieved would fundamentally overturn both society as we know it, and more importantly in this context, society as feminists would like it to be.

I won’t waste a lot of virtual ink on defending the assertion that men and women are cognitively different.  Any reasonable search through scientific literature demonstrates this — in spades.  I’m going to simply take a single “masculine virtue” — that of emotional restraint  — and lay out why it’s crucial that real feminists accept that what I put in quotes up there need not be heresy.


Let’s talk sex and violence, because they’re big parts of feminist discourse.  Gals:  ever have one of those days when you’re just PINING to get home so you can trip your Significant Other and beat them to the floor, or walking around feeling like a cat in heat wishing you had a significant other to trip and beat to the floor?  Now, you personally may not have — you may have a very mild libido, and there are plenty of gals that do.  But there are plenty of gals who don’t, too.  I went to college with a gal who’d crinkle up her hands like a mock villain and say “LUST” and go hit stuff before grimacing and getting back to her Madam Bovary assignments.  Well, especially around ovulation, gals get those spikes because your testosterone goes up, right?  That’s why kissing is such a thing — your sex drive spikes after good kissing b/c you’re getting testosterone from the dude you’re kissing. 

Multiply that by a factor of not one, not two, not five, but TEN, and you get “the average guy’s average day.”


Testosterone plays a part here, too.  Ever had a day when, to quote the many pictures floating around Facebook, you’re of the assumption that breaking that person’s face open with a stapler or screaming bloody murder at them at minimum sounds like a completely viable option?  When you’re walking around on a hair trigger getting ready to RIP THE HEADS OFF anybody who gets in your way?

Yeah.  Testosterone and its ability to turn you into a white-hot killing machine.

Multiply that by a factor of ten, and you get “the average guy’s average day.”  We’re not even talking ‘roid-rage here, just “business as usual.”

“Masculine Virtue”

  Here’s the part where I try to sell you on the notion that you as a feminist should not only not be offended, but maybe even appreciative of what I just put in quotes (and the implication that its gender-corollary might exist as well).  What do you call a male who gives easy and casual rise to his feelings without restraint?  Well, usually we call him to help him arrange his parole meeting. (We also call him “bad at sports,” but that’s a more trivial issue.)

Violence?  Prison is full of men with a heavy potential for violence and terrible impulse control.  Right or wrong, women often get cut slack for initiating violence that would land a man in jail or in prison.  Part of how that’s right is the fact that men are rocking denser bones and 40% greater skeletal musculature.  Contrary to Hollywood stereotype, there’s nothing physically difficult about an average man hitting another average man with something heavy and then stomping him to death, and if sufficiently angry, the average man is not only capable of killing the average woman with his bare hands, but trivially capable of doing so — the differences in strength and leverage make it a non-issue. Those narrow shoulders and low center of mass may be good for skeeball and hip throws, but make no mistake, a guy’s wide shoudlers and high center of mass means that even an untrained hook packs a lot of “owie.”

But most men never do that. The closest most men get to initiating violence is either defending others as part of military/law-enforcement, or else to swing their kids around by their feet while their mommies cringe and the  little turds cackle maniacally begging “do it again!” like a broken record.

Sexual impulse control?  A man should have the sexual restraint to be able to be so on fire with lust that it physically hurts, and yet behave like a complete gentleman while keeping his hands to himself.  And the vast majority of men do just that.  Now, we agree that women should have such restraint, too. 

If a gal gets to the point of trembling and shaking and hurting with lust and can’t help herself, we don’t freak out.  But we don’t merely encourage that same restraint among men — we MANDATE it. Society frowns on rape, and if you’re that brand of feminist with an expansive definition of rape  who defines “I’m burning with lust but know that if I touch her like X, Y, and Z, she’s won’t be able to help herself and will give in even though it really isn’t what she wants to do” as a form of sexual-assault-by-means-of-psychological-pressure, you also are MANDATING restraint as a masculine virtue (while simultaneously cutting your sisters slack for not having it, and classifying “well, she should have said ‘no’ ” as supportive of ‘rape culture.’).   You’re a feminist, but your differing standard means you’re not being an egalitarian.

Dworkin, Rosin, & Company hate men – they want to burden men with dramatic feelings of guilt for simply having a sex drive and wanting to look at a boob or a butt.  They’re not looking for equality with men — they want to destroy them.  But both society in general and mainstream feminism still agrees that this stuff needs to be controlled.  There are times when my wife will be very sad if I have no interest in looking at her butt…. but for most gals, most of the time, it’s “hey buddy, my eyes are up here” country, right? 

And that’s what Newsom, as part of the anti-science-equal-means-identical cult doesn’t get.

If you as a feminist want a world in which men don’t catcall, and you as a feminist want a world that minimizes boobstare, you need men to exercise and be good at emotional restraint.  If you want a world in which the 3% or whatever it is of men who do rape are as good at keeping their hands to themselves as everybody else is, and a world in which angry, frustrated, suffering men (the same ones who are way more likely to become victims of suicide) don’t haul off and knock the crap out of the women in their lives as an outlet, Male Emotional Restraint is both a Male AND a Feminist Virtue.  And rather than castigate society for how men teach their sons and brothers and male peers to develop it, perhaps a better take would be to find those who lack it, and help them to develop more of it.

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