Should We Eradicate Manhood?

For all the ginned-up outrage in the news about a supposed “war on women,” there is a gender assault underway that elicits precious little media attention, much less outrage: a war on men—or more specifically, on masculinity itself.

The notion that manhood in a man’s world is threatened may seem laughable, but condemnations of it and calls for its elimination are plentiful in academic circles and the media, from where it filters out into the real world.

Recently, The Guardian ran an op-ed by Zach Stafford called “It’s time to do away with the concept of ‘manhood’ altogether.” Its premise is that “manhood isn’t IN crisis; it IS the crisis.” It begins from a very common presumption: that masculinity is the root of every evil from war to homophobia to manspreading, so it must be eradicated altogether.

“Men are pretty terrible people,” Stafford begins. They’re more violent than women. They commit more violent crimes, express anger more violently. They murder their transgendered lovers for fear of their masculinity being called into question, according to Stafford. They are behind an epidemic of campus rapes, but their violence is “polluting not just college campuses but the entire world.” And don’t even get him started about war. Men even “take up too much space on public transportation when ‘manspreading,’” Stafford concludes. “I could keep going.”

No need—his point is clear: men are a serious problem. Why is that? Stafford finds the source in men’s violent nature. He cites with approval sociologist Michael Kimmel’s argument that “Violence is often the single most evident marker of manhood. It is the willingness to fight, the desire to fight.” Stafford believes that masculinity is “primarily a rejection of everything feminine, the tool men use to measure and gauge their own self-worth to other men.” And “when they feel that their masculinity is in jeopardy, when they don’t feel man enough,” they turn to violence.

Stafford’s solution?

Instead of constantly putting manhood under perceived threat, we must rethink the concept entirely, and maybe—to be so daring—throw it out. Because we have centuries of war, of pillaging, of violence that show us that manhood was never in crisis, but always was central to this mayhem. So we may need to just rebuild everything with the whole concept of manhood excluded.

To suggest that all we need do is “just rebuild everything” without manhood is a utopian fantasy. Stafford doesn’t have a plan for carrying out this grand design. He doesn’t offer a single idea as to how to “rebuild everything” or how to eradicate manhood. He doesn’t even offer a vision of what a world without manhood would look like, except that presumably it would be a paradise that lacked the scourges of anger, violence, war, and manspreading.

First, manhood is not a “concept,” unless you believe that it is a purely social construction with no biological basis. For those who do believe that, the answer seems simple: if it was socially constructed, it can simply be de-constructed. It’s just a matter of socializing boys to be more like girls (while we socialize girls to be more like boys). This process is already evident everywhere in our culture, but it is doomed to failure, though not without incurring a lot of irreparable damage first.

Second, Stafford never acknowledges that there might be any positive aspects of masculinity, much less that masculinity itself is good and that the bad behaviors he describes are perversions or failures of it. For him, it’s just, “Men do bad things and manhood is the cause, so manhood must go.” His article does not concede that most men are not “terrible people.” Most men never commit an act of violence beyond playing high school football, or going to war to defend the world against evil. Most men, like most women, are decent but flawed human beings who find the criminal behavior Stafford lists to be repulsive and immoral. Most men try to be good fathers and husbands and sons and brothers. You wouldn’t know any of this from reading the Guardian op-ed.

Third, it is true that violence is primarily (but not entirely) the domain of men. But it does not always stem from a wounded male ego, and like all utopians, Stafford doesn’t consider the possibility that violence itself is not necessarily bad. Righteous violence has saved innumerable lives. The key is not to pretend that we can ever achieve a violence-free world, but to channel violence into proper directions, to prepare men to employ it judiciously in defense of the good and the innocent.

The answer to the problematic behavior of men is not to eradicate manhood but to steer men toward their better nature. Foster a culture which doesn’t shun masculinity but celebrates the more honorable aspects of it. Raise boys to be not feminized men but strong, respectful, principled gentlemen. Unlike Zach Stafford’s utopianism, this is a solution that acknowledges human nature, that will bring our culture back into balance, and that is within our power to achieve.


  • Raise boys to be not feminized men but strong, respectful, principled gentlemen.

    When I encountered that sentence, my immediate reaction was “That’s so obvious it shouldn’t even need to be said.” Then I remembered — as I’ve written more than once myself — that obvious really means overlooked.

    That having been said, we should also note that much of the problem lies in the unwillingness of parents to do parenting. We produce offspring, but then we surrender every important element of their upbringing to third parties and their peer groups. Were the results not all around us already, they’d be foolishly easy to predict.

  • John Brave

    To bring recent world events into this subject: Please let’s remove manhood and masculinity from all the western cultures this way making it much easier for hyper-masculine ISIS fighters to take over unresisted.

    • Chuck Pelto

      Don’t you just LOVE it, when a Plan comes together?

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  • Cellec

    Maybe we should just do away with the Guardian and the sycophantic Pajama Boys that get paid to think up self-hating gibberish like the article.

    • Chuck Pelto

      RE: No Need to ‘Do Away’ with Their Ilk

      When the SHTF, they’ll all be Reaver-bait.

      If they [Reavers] take the ship, they’ll rape us to death, eat our flesh, and sew our skins into their clothing – and if we’re very, very lucky, they’ll do it in that order. — Zoe from Firefly describing Reavers

  • surellin

    So half of the population isn’t suitable for society? I’d say that this is a problem for the society, not the men.

  • Steve White

    Did Mr. Stafford agree to give up his manhood? If not, why not? If so, how?

  • Col. Harrumph
  • Fat_Man

    Maybe he should discuss this idea with ISIS.

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  • Larry J

    “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”

    ― C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

  • ReformedTrombonist

    So let’s set a good example for the world and abolish manhood here in the United States. I hope the remaining women in America learn to love their new burqas.

  • BGZ123

    So – this guy finds a ridiculous article by another guy and critiques it as if it is an important current in our culture to which he has the answer – men should be good human beings. Agreed. Next question. . .

  • lfstevens

    Once we get rid of this pesky war thing, or even sooner if the robot stuff pans out, men are done. Women will stop bearing boys. Not worth the trouble. Reproduction will be done by genetically engineering eggs. Many other things will change in ways we wouldn’t necessarily predict during this century.

    • iamcurious

      You can have the wonderful future you envision.

  • Elenor

    The brilliant Kelly Starrett: “Mansplaining Manspreading”

    In a world of industrial design that clearly doesn’t respect a
    Gentleman’s physiology, Man-spreading should be seen for what it really
    is, the body-struggle for life and death. It’s a personal, yet very
    public battle for survival in a world that wasn’t built with humble
    lumberjack-warrior-poet in mind. Man-spreading isn’t just some trendy
    symptom of male obliviousness. It’s not some Orwellian conspiracy to
    take over a man’s resting Junk habitus. On the contrary, Man-spreading
    is an emergent, almost miraculous solution to the dystopia of public
    transportation seating. We should celebrate Man-Spreading and teach it
    to our children, and our children’s children. Man-spreading is the
    body’s calling card of everyday Heroes. It’s the people’s posture, and
    it’s here to stay.