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At least Stephen Mansfield's book title doesn't sound cowardly

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) January 27, 2014: Progressives and liberals should be on the look out for any sneaky new initiates by conservative white guys trying to inspire movement conservatism. We don't want to be blind-sided.

I know, I know, conservatives, by definition, tend to favor the old and familiar. Therefore, it may be an oxymoron to speak of new initiatives that might inspire movement conservatism.

So perhaps I should say simply that Stephen Mansfield is trying to inspire and possibly reinvigorate movement conservatism, or at least the conservative white Protestant Evangelicals -- they're the voters that Karl Rove keeps hoping will vote Republicans decisively into office. The way in which Stephen Mansfield is trying to build up these would-be white Republican voters is sneaky. It is so sneaky that it probably never occurred to Karl Rove to try to do this. Of course, sneaky or not, it remains to be seen if Stephen Mansfield will succeed in firing up the conservative white Protestant base in the Republican Party.

In brief, Stephen Mansfield aims to help conservative white Protestant Evangelical boys and men work out a specifically masculine sense of identity. This is a worthy aim. In addition, to his credit, he claims, "There is nothing in this book that diminishes women, dismisses women, or denigrates women" (page 10). Good for him.

QUESTIONS: For Stephen Mansfield's book to work as a proposed remedy, this proposed remedy presupposes a problem that needs a remedy. But what problem, if any, are conservative white Protestant Evangelical boys and men in need to addressing? And why didn't Karl Rove think of this remedy?

Stephen Mansfield says, "Men are in a crisis" (page 15). I agree that men today are experiencing a crisis in masculine identity.

As I will explain momentarily, I am describing the supposed problem that Stephen Mansfield is addressing as the need for boys and men to work out a specifically masculine sense of identity, which they do in relation to other boys and men.

In addition, he stresses that each given boy or man must receive acknowledgment and recognition of his distinctively masculine sense of identity from other men. As a matter of fact, he tells a moving story about how he came to learn about his own need to receive acknowledgment and recognition from other men (pages 3-8). He was 42 years old when he learned this about himself. He learned this about himself in Damascus from the acknowledgment and recognition that he received from certain Arab men. This story alone is worth the price of the book to read. But it is tragic that Stephen Mansfield did not receive such meaningful acknowledgment and recognition before he was 42.

DIGRESSION: For a discussion of the importance of acknowledgment and recognition, see Warwick Wadlington's book Reading Faulknerian Tragedy (Cornell University Press, 1987). END OF DIGRESSION.


From early colonial times onward to about the 1960s, white Anglo-Saxon Protestant males (WASPs) dominated the prestige culture in American culture.

But WASPs tended not to like people who were not white and/or people who were not Anglo-Saxon and/or people who were not Protestants.

For example, Thomas Paine was white and Anglo-Saxon, and he helped inspire the American Revolution with his famous pamphlet Common Sense (1776). But today he is usually not remembered as a Founding Father, because he also criticized Christianity. As everybody knows, some of the Founding Fathers were Deists, not Protestants. Basically, Paine was a Deist. But his talent for writing spirited prose criticizing Christianity won him spirited denunciations from Protestants.

In any event, the 1960s ushered in certain challenges to the admittedly fractious WASP cultural juggernaut that had dominated prestige culture in American culture. In 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy, an Irish-American Catholic who was educated at Harvard, was narrowly elected president of the United States. President Kennedy supported the black civil rights movement led by the eloquent Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an ordained African American Baptist minister, who did his doctoral studies in theology at BostonUniversity.

The women's liberation movement that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s (also known as second-wave feminism) inspired a widespread crisis in masculine identity in American culture generally, not just in WASP males. Second-wave feminism was inspired, in part, by Simone de Beauvoir's book The Second Sex (1949). But second-wave feminism in turn inspired a noisy backlash among certain white conservative Americans such as Rush Limbaugh.

But Stephen Mansfield appears to be writing his book primarily for white Protestant males. (Disclosure: I am not a Protestant. I come from a Roman Catholic background, but for years now I have not been a practicing Catholic. But I am a theistic humanist, as distinct from a secular humanist.)

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)
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To help counter the unfortunate spirit of misandr... by Thomas Farrell on Monday, Jan 27, 2014 at 2:41:16 PM