For over half a century feminists have attempted to redefine manhood and masculinity by characterizing traits that they consider to be predominantly masculine as destructive, and then attempting to replace them with traits they believe to be more acceptable. These attempts have met with utter failure.
At the same time, feminists have successfully managed to redefine womanhood. There are many ways to look at the reasons why they have been so successful on the one hand, while being complete failures on the other. One way is to examine the changing relative value to society of both men and women.
Historically, the value of men as a group has been relatively equal to the value of women as a group, while the value of the individual woman has been higher when compared to the individual man. Men have been the providers and protectors, while women have been the nurturers and child bearers. The superior size and strength of the male has made him better suited for his role while reproductive biology has made the female better suited for hers.
The frequency and risk associated with reproduction has added value to the individual female, while subtracting value from the individual male. Coupled with the risk to women from pregnancy and childbirth, a society could hardly afford to add the additional risk of the role of provider and protector. A society might be able to survive the loss of a substantial number of men for a generation, it would be far less likely to survive the loss of a substantial number of its women due to the length of time it would take to replenish the population after such a loss. This meant that the individual man was more expendable than the individual woman, all of which made the man the logical choice for the role of provider and protector.
Women have limited reproductive ability and reproduce slowly. This was once a high risk endeavor. It is no longer. Technological advancement has significantly reduced the risk. Larger numbers of women surviving childbirth (and lower infant mortality) have reduced the need for quantity of reproduction among individual women. This has allowed individual women more opportunity for other pursuits, such as assuming the role of provider and protector. The assumption of this role has increased the relative value of the individual woman and women as a whole. Thus the rise of feminism and the demand to be permitted into areas of society once reserved for men.
The entry of women into these areas has made women less dependent on men for survival. Combined with technological advancements that have reduced the risk for men (fewer men dying as a result of war, work, and disease), there are more men than ever before in competition for fewer women, as many women have removed themselves from the reproductive marketplace. This phenomenon has created an excess of unnecessary men who hold little value to society and rendered men as a whole to be of less value, and therefore more expendable than ever. Thus, the relative value of women, both individually and as a group, has risen compared to men.
The solution to this problem can come in one of two ways.
Many second wave feminists proposed a culling of the herd. They saw little value or need for men beyond their reproductive necessity, as women would prove to be as good as, if not better than, men at everything men used to do. They also examined the negative qualities of men and viewed them as a violent threat. The population of men, according to the second wave feminist, had to be reduced and controlled. Valerie Solanas was not the only feminist to propose this. Her SCUM Manifesto was simply the most extreme and most widely known. Aside from the feminist proposal, a major war or plague might accomplish the same thing, i.e. eliminating a large percentage of the male population, thereby returning value to the individual man.
The second potential solution would be to find value for these unnecessary men by redefining manhood and masculinity. This has resulted in many attempts to redefine men from a feminist perspective. None have succeeded. This failure could be attributed to two factors. Men are what they are, and what they are not is feminine. Attempts to redefine masculinity in terms that the feminine would find acceptable are bound to fail. The second factor is that feminist attempts to redefine masculinity have rarely included value for these unnecessary men without diminishing the value of other men. The requisite for any feminist redefinition of manhood is the statement that there is something wrong with manhood and it needs to be fixed.
What the feminist perspective ignores are the very factors that allowed women to redefine themselves. First, technological advancement added value to women and allowed them to break out of their traditional roles. Pregnancy, childbirth, and child rearing became safer and less time consuming, allowing women to expand their role in society, making them more valuable. The new definition of womanhood includes the old definition. Attempts to exclude it met with utter failure. The housewife remains a viable option for women and single motherhood is also now an option, as is the non-mother, career woman.
The inclusion of the old definition with the new is what allowed feminism to gain the almost universal acceptance of women. The persistent attempt to redefine manhood by rejecting the old definition rather than incorporating it into a new definition is doomed to fail just as the exclusion of the old definition failed in the attempt to redefine womanhood. One cannot simply point to a few characteristically male traits, determine that they are unacceptable, then eliminate them from the equation as if they never existed. Feminists demand that men become something they aren’t.
A second factor in the failure of feminist redefinitions of manhood is that they have subtracted value from masculinity rather than adding value to it. What made the redefinition of womanhood appeal to women is that they added value to womanhood. They turned womanhood into something more than it was before. Instead of using this same successful strategy with masculinity, they have done the opposite. They have attempted to discard the old definition and have subtracted value with the new ones.
It is why they have failed.
Any attempt to redefine manhood and masculinity, in order to be successful, must include the value of the old definition and add value by expanding the definition rather than contracting it. By doing this, it would return the balance between men and women to its natural state. Men as a group must be of equal value to women as a group, even if the individual woman holds more value to society than the individual man. Men must be permitted to be men and their role must increase their value. A feminist definition of manhood will never accomplish this.
If manhood is to be redefined, men must redefine themselves and they must do it on their own terms.