Ideas about men and manhood have been evolving for more than 50 years, but Sen. Josh Hawley has not gotten the message. Like so many others working to protect white male supremacy (see Carlson, Tucker; McCarthy, Kevin), he’s driving a gas-guzzling Cadillac on a road increasingly filled with EVs.
Just as women are vigorously resisting returning to a pre-Roe v. Wade America, men aren’t going back either. Tone deaf to shifts in the culture, Hawley published a book about men this week, perhaps as a ploy to revive his presidential ambitions.
Manhood: Finding Purpose in Faith, Family, and Country is a call for American men to “stand up and embrace their God-given responsibility as husbands, fathers, and citizens,” according to Regency, Hawley’s far-right publisher. If you want to know what not to embrace in considering American manhood, it’s all in the 256 pages of this book. Claiming that our country’s all-male founders believed that the US “depends” on certain masculine virtues, ignores the realities of today.
There is much to appreciate about men; still, we’d be much better off if we talked about positive changes—embracing gender equality and rejecting white male supremacy. Calling men out as unemployed whiners, and trash-talking women while playing video games and watching pornography, misses the mark. Examples of new expressions of masculinity abound, from stay-at-home dads to younger men becoming curious about feminism.
Hawley’s thesis—that men are in crisis—does have a kernel of truth; there are men floundering, but that is not where the majority of younger men are headed. More and more men are abandoning expressions of masculine culture based on oppressing anyone not white or male. Sure, we still have a ways to go, but support among younger men for women’s reproductive rights, for gay and trans rights, for voting rights, is on the rise.
There are organizations around the country and across the globe promoting gender equality, challenging men’s violence, encouraging involved fatherhood, while rejecting men as top dog at home, work, and houses of worship.
Danger does exist; just not what Hawley is concerned about. It’s in young men enamored of gun culture, sucked into social media echo chambers of hate. To see how out of touch Hawley is, there’s nothing in his book about perpetrators of mass shooting massacres—primarily young men.
“Ever since the January 6 committee showed the video of Sen. Hawley running from the insurrectionist mob he’d earlier encouraged with a fist in the air, we’ve all had a good laugh at his expense,” Jonathan Capehart wrote in the Washington Post.
Although caricatured as a “manhood-obsessed hypocrite,” make no mistake: Hawley is dangerous precisely because, as Capehart noted, “He is selling a vision of masculinity to White America that has much more to do with prejudice than manliness.”
His message may still resonate with older white men, but younger men, even those who may enjoy watching Ultimate Fighting, are generally tolerant, accepting of their gay and trans coworkers, and are supportive of colleagues who have had an abortion.
The future is not white male supremacy, in part because patriarchy is dangerous for men.
In a March 31, 1776 letter, Abigail Adams, future First Lady to our second president, wrote her husband John, urging the Continental Congress to remember women’s interests as they prepared to fight for independence from Great Britain. “[I]n the new code of laws… I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors…” adding,
“Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
There have been “profeminist” men since at least the 18th century. While Abigail Adams may not have mentioned men, they were allies-in-waiting then, and are growing in numbers today. What is different now is that we’re stepping forward to say so. Fifty years ago, Josh Hawley may have sold a lot of books. Today, I’m betting they’ll be remaindered by the Fourth of July.
Rob Okun ([email protected]), syndicated by PeaceVoice, writes about politics and culture. He is editor-publisher of Voice Male magazine, chronicling the antisexist men’s movement for more than three decades.