This post was prompted by this abomination of an article that I recently read. (Hat tip: Roosh V)
If one were to read various manosphere and alternative right blogs, one might think that today’s Western Man is uniquely wimpy, unmanly, or to use manosphere lingo, “beta.” Too many years of peace and plenty, combined with cultural marxist programming have rendered today’s men soft and lacking in mettle, so the argument goes. One of the main missions of the manosphere is to inculcate in men more masculine attitudes and beliefs, which men will then use to combat their toxic mainstream programming. Such laments that modern men are weak and pathetic are not the sole domain of 21st century manosphere blogs. The famous Russian novelist and traditionalist, the late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (whose book The Gulag Archipelago I intend to eventually review), decried the West’s lack of courage (ie. manliness) during his 1978 commencement speech at Harvard.
I admit that I have subscribed to such beliefs to an extent, and would frequently envision a golden age of manliness where Western men were dominant in their behavior. However, recent reading has forced me to challenge this notion. As of late, I’ve been reading a book called Arab Historians of the Crusades by Francesco Gabrieli. The book contains primary sources on the Crusades from contemporary Arab and Muslim historians, scholars, and observers. Sooner or later, I will write about the book from more of a historical perspective. However, for now, I find myself fascinated with the observations of Usama ibn Munqidh, the amir of Shaizar and cultured individual who detailed various encounters with European Christians in his memoirs. His thoughts on Western Man’s behavior towards his women are especially fascinating:
“The Franks are without any vestige of a sense of honour and jealousy. If one of them goes along the street with his wife and meets a friend, this man will take the woman’s hand and lead her aside to talk, while the husband stands by waiting until she has finished her conversation. If she takes too long about it he leaves her with the other man and goes on his way.”
In his mind, they were not controlling or protective enough of their women. Usama was particularly astounded by their lack of marital rage, as illustrated by the anecdote of a Frankish wine merchant who caught his wife cheating (bold emphasis mine):
“the man returned home one day and found a man in bed with his wife. ‘What are you dong here with my wife?’ he demanded. ‘I was tired,’ replied the man, ‘and so I came in to rest.’ ‘And how do you come to be in my bed?’ ‘I found the bed made up, and lay down to sleep.’ ‘And this woman slept with you, I suppose?’ ‘The bed,’ he replied, ‘is hers. How could I prevent her getting into her own bed?’ ‘I swear if you do it again I shall take you to court!’ – and this was his only reaction, the height of his outburst of jealousy!”
To drill the point home, Usama describes the experience of a bath attendant named Salim. A Frankish knight, upon having his pubic hair shaved (yes, I know how gay this part of the passage sounds, but bear with me) by Salim, and finding that he enjoyed his newly shaved privates, had the most perplexing of requests:
“‘Salim, you must certainly do the same for my Dama.’ In their language Dama means lady, or wife. He sent his valet to fetch his wife, and when they arrived and the valet had brought her in, she lay down on her back, and he said to me: ‘Do to her what you did to me.’ So I shaved her pubic hair, while her husband stood by watching me. Then he thanked me and paid me for my services.”
The implication, of course, is that no Muslim man in his right mind would ever allow another man, particularly an infidel, to gaze upon his wife’s sexuality, much less touch or handle her privates. To add to Usama’s amazement, he still couldn’t help but respect European courage and prowess, in spite of these odd behaviors:
“You will observe a strange contradiction in their character: they are without jealousy or a sense of honour, and yet at the same time they have the courage that as a rule springs only from the sense of honour and readiness to take offence.”
Such a strange contradiction indeed. These European warriors could hardly be described as weak, unmanly, or “beta.” They fought grueling and intense battles against the military forces of the East, trekked across unforgiving deserts, and breached great cities. They had more courage and fortitude in their fingers than the overwhelming majority of modern Westerners have in their entire bodies. And yet, they displayed behavior that was derided as too indulgent towards women, and lacking in “honor.” What can account for this? Well, for starters, as Dota pointed out in a guest post over at Robert Lindsay’s blog, “honor” carries significantly different meanings in Western and Eastern contexts. Yes, he was specifically discussing South Asia, but such observations can be applied to Arabs and the Middle East as well. Westerners derive honor from ethics, and the Christians of the time most likely summoned their courage from their intense piety and devotion to their faith. This isn’t wild speculation, as Usama also mentioned that he was deeply moved by the passion and dedication of Christian worshippers, and for some time was ashamed of the relative lack of piety and devotion among Muslims.
That aside, this recent reading challenges two hallowed myths of both the manosphere right and feminist left. The Franks demonstrated behavior towards women that might be construed as “beta,” and yet not even the harshest of manosphere writers could question their manly credentials. Such “beta” behavior has always been prevalent among Western men to an extent, and isn’t purely the result of modern corruption. The same applies to feminists, modern liberals, and other critics of Western heritage such as Stephen Walt, who described Christian Europe as practicing “patriarchy of the worst sort.” Are the types of men who behave in the manner described above really capable of inflicting “patriarchy of the worst sort” on women? Most likely not. The kind of tolerance and indulgence towards women as documented by Usama jibes with Kevin MacDonald’s assertion that Western women enjoy relatively high position, in large part because of imposed monogamy on men.
To answer the question of whether or not Western men today are uniquely weak, excessively kind towards women, or simply a continuation of an ancient Western European tradition would require much more time and research. For now, I’m interested in inspiring debate. I personally believe that while today’s West is decadent and culturally corrupted, I also don’t think that all manifestations of modern gender egalitarianism can be attributed to the past four decades or Jewish influence, and recognize that the West has long harbored egalitarian sentiments with regards to gender.
What do you guys think?