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Moronic Manhood

I grew up in the sort of Catholic circles where “being a man” was, and still is, a really big deal. This entailed all sorts of things, and many of them were salutary on the whole. Others, of course, were not. Since the early days of father and son manhood retreats, I’ve seen several other instances of manhood-focused customs and discourse—and of course the steady stream of popular books on the subject.

As a former Texas high school football player and collegiate rugby player (and coach), jock culture still strikes me as being one the most nuanced instances of manhood. It deserves most of its stereotypes, but has more exceptions and finer details that many may find surprising.

I especially remember priests that were really big into manhood and “being a man.” They seemed to exude the sort of butt-kicking persona that I eventually began to read as personal insecurity. By my college years, I always suspected that Fr. Badass, giving his talk about being a real man in today’s world of wussies, was really projecting, saying something psychoanalytic rather than pastoral.

Then there is the “masculinity studies” approach, which is more of a gender feminist critique of a rather unsophisticated caricature of the construction of Western (and, oftentimes, non-Western) male sexuality, for which the two aforementioned groups, and popular culture at large, supply ample material.

A lot of the manhood stuff, then and now, had less to do with being a man and more to do with not being a gay man. There were the always-awkward vocations retreat talks where Fr. Macho would talk about how much he still likes to look at women, as if to prove a point. Then we’d play touch football.

When it comes to homosexuality, let me be clear: I’ve read Foucault’s History of Sexuality (and First Things’ recent discovery of poststructuralism) and agree with the obvious fact that both hetero- and homo-sexualities are a fairly recent and evolving convention, with disciplinary functions often on display in this sort of manhood talk. Foucault’s perspective on sexuality has some surprising consistency with the philosophical work of John Paul II, however frequently that work is exploited for contrary purposes.

I’ve also read the Greeks and learned about the Ancients, whose conceptions and practices of manhood were often deeply homoerotic. Homoeroticism is, I think, one of the significant cultural traits of the West, and perhaps of the human story in general. Add to this the fact that I have many gay friends who are not politic or predictable about their identity, and frequently reject the (often hyper-sexualized) terms of the discussion that would seem to weigh in their favor, and I find myself deeply allergic to the “don’t be a gay (or girlie) man” implication in certain strands of manhood talk.

If you patronize or practice the fine arts, and even if you don’t, you will find it hard to not admire and cherish the remarkable taste, sass, and verve of a gay southern man. If you like to be treated like a human being, warts and all, there are fewer things more consoling than the humor and embrace of an older lesbian woman. If you don’t know these sorts of people, and how wonderful and precious they are, you should. Not to flies in the face of history and reason, with an anti-intellectual flare especially unbecoming of Roman Catholics; it also offends charity to imply or project that “being a man” fundamentally excludes the feminine or effeminate. Most of all, it does violence to what it is to be a person.

Needless to say, and most of all in Catholic circles, I’ve read and heard thousands of sentences that say something like the following: “There is a crisis among men today; men are not men anymore.” People say this in reaction to almost everything: church attendance, college admissions, social issues, vocations, the decline of the family, and more. Just a few days ago, Michael Voris’ show, The Vortex (a low budget Catholic imitation of The O’Reilly Factor) recorded a stunningly well-done rehearsal of this overall position.

I don’t doubt that some of the problems are in a sense very real and that some of the data makes a certain amount of intuitive sense. But it does not remotely begin to follow that because more men are incarcerated today than women, or church attendance is low among males of all ages, or whatever else one might mention regarding fatherhood or anything else, that any of this is caused because of a sudden and unprecedented decline in a mythic notion of modern manhood.

It is at least equally plausible that manhood itself, of this unrefined sort, has played some part in the “Larry the Cable Guy” and “Joe the Plumber” Americana that has become so toxically attractive in the United States. There is no denying the unwitting progression from the “real man” of Voris and Fr. Badass to the uncultured and boorish caricature of popular culture.

And when, exactly, was there a golden age of manhood? As I recall from Augustine’s Confessions, Monica cut a very familiar figure of a lady who went to church while her husband and wayward son did not.

The fact is that “manhood” has become a seductive moniker, even ironically so. It pastes an intuitive solution onto a range of problems, with interpretive flexibility. Manhood, being a real man, has become a marketing cure-all: it washes surfaces and can enrich uranium. Write about manhood and people will buy and read. (Why else do you think I am writing about it?)

The problem with the manhood business is not only that it is a business; the biggest problem is its self-defeating lack of self-reflection. Is there really some eternal normative or axiomatic quality about being a man beyond what is descriptively obvious? In fact, this clumsy notion of essential manhood is “manly” in all the ways that men are sometimes stereotyped, from the locker room to Everybody Loves Raymond: it is, to put it in an ironically blunt way, stupid.

Women can be hard to find throughout the canon of the historical record, so it is at least imaginable why notions of womanhood often fall prey to gross oversimplification and abuse. But men are literally everywhere in human history and offer countless counter-memories, inversions, exception, and digressions. I don’t buy the sex/gender binary distinction in toto, but I am also not willing to reduce things into an equally infantile dialectic between two fantasies of masculinity and femininity.

God created Adam and Eve, yes, but he didn’t program them into ahistorical robots.

The human person is a vast and toothy creature, with enough complexity and contradiction to keep the most advanced super computer fully at bay. Our history has been short by comparison to other forms of life, but quite long when compared to our favorite analog: ourselves. We’ve invented and reinvented each other across time and place and are likely to have forgotten more than we remember. None of this scares me as a man, a Catholic, or a human person, nor should it scare you—and I am getting sick and tired of hearing why it should.

The manly manhood alternatives out there are sometimes well intended, albeit metaphysically naïve, and can be effective in positive ways, teaching lessons that create and preserve culture. Fashion and style, for instance, has a strikingly aesthetic notion of physical manhood, reminiscent of the Greeks. But too often the tail wags the dog and, before you know it, “being a man” starts its loopy, and often comical, self-parody parade. I relish the irony, sometimes; but that gets old, too.

Yes, I want to become a better father, son, husband, and friend, to man and woman alike, as the man that I am, but I’m not sure that I need to watch Braveheart on repeat to do it or keep up with the latest motivational self-help being sold as an antidote. I sometimes wonder if being a “real man” is simply a matter of reading and retreating a lot about it. I certainly don’t need to watch Michael Voris or read Matt Walsh as they wax at head-nodding fans, feeding them as one might feed ducks in a park, showing their strongest and most visible virtues: smug certainty and preachy self-confidence.

Jesus was a man, of this there is no doubt, but I am not so sure that he was all that much more stoic or resilient (or other “manly” qualities) than his mother was. A critic might reply that he was, after all, the Son of God. But it is at least a philosophical mistake to equate the manliness of Christ’s humanity with his divinity. If Christ “humbled himself to take on our humanity” then it follows to see the masculinity of Jesus of Nazareth as different in quality than the glory of his divine being and personhood. In other words, while the divinity of Christ and his masculine humanity is a whole and irreducible mystery, it seems that any essential burden lies with his divinity.

Truth be told, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were pretty weird individually and as a (holy) family, long before we think of them as men or a woman. For instance, a woman in the style of Mary at the Annunciation is today called an unwed pregnant teenager—a social construction if there ever was one. I doubt you could cut a blueprint for masculinity, femininity, or anything else too hard and fast, from the saints. That is in part precisely why they are such inspirations: sanctity is enigmatic. It is also deeply personal.

When the imitation is easy and cheap, the source is often found to be lacking. When it is hard and elusive, and takes a lifetime to emulate, then you can trust that there might be something there worthwhile to begin with. Jesus doesn’t need to have muscles and a six-pack to be our Savior. He can take the form of bread and wine.

I think it’s worthwhile to do whatever you can to live a real life, to be holy, to pursue beauty and love. That manhood has something to do with this I have little doubt, but let’s also be humane enough to be slightly rational about it and not sound and act like morons in the process of being and becoming (wo)men. Men and women, I think, should imitate the best qualities of anything that deserves it, without condition or pretense, and rejoice that grace perfects nature.


Readers are invited to discuss essays in argumentative and fraternal charity, and are asked to help build up the community of thought and pursuit of truth that Ethika Politika strives to accomplish, which includes correction when necessary. The editors reserve the right to remove comments that do not meet these criteria and/or do not pertain to the subject of the essay.

  • RaymondNicholas

    You want to imitate something? Imitate Christ, not your friends. And do not turn a blind eye to sin. Practice the Spiritual Works as well the Corporal Works. Grow in the Sacraments.

    One day you will be tested in your Faith, and you will know then if you are a man or not (that is, if you have the courage to stand by your Faith). This is the true measure of a man, not all the psychobabble mentioned in your article.

    • Dan S.

      Raymond: Run along and let the adults talk.

      • RaymondNicholas

        And said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

        • magic mom

          we REALLY don’t have to convert in order to be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven …. we just have to be GOOD folks, Raymond! do you really believe that only Christians go to heaven?! not according to the Catholics in our “mixed blessing” family!

          • RaymondNicholas

            Do not take my comment out of context, it was in direct response to this disrespectful Dan S. fellow, nothing more, and refers to what a manly man should be.
            A real manly man does not need labels, promptings, salutations, and psychoanalysis of what others believe he should be. He needs only to imitate Christ in all his thoughts, words, and deeds. That takes a lot of courage in this day and age.
            As to your interpretation of the words of Christ, perhaps you should pick up a New Testament Commentary. If it is a good commentary, it will have references going all the way back to the Patristic Fathers, then forward to modern times. It can all be found on the internet.

          • Hezekiah Garrett

            That is the meaning of “convert” in that passage. A change of heart in which one grows in longing for spiritual and moral goods, even at great cost, rather than falling prey to the easy solutions offered by our (any) culture.

            If you can just “be” good, more power to you. We humans, however, are forever tormented by fear and temptation, and it takes something numinous and transcendant, something beyond us to really turn our hearts.

            Pray for me!

      • Montague

        He is running after the adults, who have set him a good example.

        What Raymond said is more rational than what you said, on the simple grounds that it is at least a clearly states set of theses upon which there can be debate or example. Your response, Mr. Dan, is based on a slightly cryptic analogy; and if it is meant to be a counter-argument, it has failed – for in that case, it is only an implied insult, not a reason.

  • Bill Maniotis


    I always enjoy your essays…but…there is always an idea or two you leave on the table that I want to know your answer to! For instance, you say, “I don’t buy the sex/gender binary distinction in toto, but I am also not willing to reduce things into an equally infantile dialectic between two fantasies of masculinity and femininity.” I’m with you here, but I want to know in which ways you “don’t buy the sex/gender distinction.” Like you, I have mixed feelings about the prevailing wisdom in the Academy. I would also recommend this book (if you haven’t read it already). Mansfield explores the topic of “manliness” in a unique and refreshing way:

    • SamRocha

      I should write about sex/gender soon. Thanks for asking.

  • craphat


  • Mack Faamausili

    Good points, Mr. Rocha. I’m not Catholic, but I like the EP page and its commentary and articles. That said, I wanted to comment that I think you have a false premise. The men’s movement isn’t predicated on a ‘naive’ notion of masculinity in this day and age, nor is it a simple reactionary impulse gruff and intolerant to any lesser displays of testosterone fueled superiority, it’s a cry for recognition. Apart from a very intelligent and well-meaning religious ground (heck, I read the George, Anderson and Girgis book), the secular world is awash in an undeniable misandry that spans media and policy alike. Sure, Foucalt is a great name to bandy, but so is Hemingway, Pollock, Jefferson and Bukowski, for that matter. It’s obvious men are feeling stifled and they’re reacting. Sometimes it gets messy but the message still holds true. It’s a reverse feminism if you can see that. Anyway, good article. Just wanted to comment. Thanks!

    • Brendan J. Denil

      I agree that it is a very good article! And agree with Mack on a lot too but see it more as an issue of proliferation that causes there to be so many differences in this movement towards manhood, but even in that proliferation I think we see, first and foremost the need for affirmation in men and also men wrestling with the question: “what is authentic manhood?”

      I believe Sam is pointing out some of the flaws in how many answer that question. He is expressing the need to widen the focus so to speak but is also showing that a few of the popular thoughts on the matter are misguided. That does not negate the need. I think a lot of things including gender roles became even more confused with this whole “sexual revolution” thing and I think Feminism became confused on some things along the way too.

      I believe, and I think Sam would agree with me, that where there is sin there is distortion of truth… the distortion of the truth about authentic manhood and womanhood.

      The best answer to this question of masculinity and femininity is, as Sam seems to posit, becoming Saints, which will look differently for all of us but cannot include a lot of chest pounding and posing. It can only be expressed by fully embracing the Gospel.

      As long as everyone is recamending books may I suggest:
      The Theology of the Body by John Paul II
      Wild at Heart by Eldredge
      The Decline of Males
      By Lionel Tiger

      • Mack Faamausili

        Totally. I like C.S. Lewis’, ‘Surprised by Joy’. I don’t know, it’s all very convoluted, but walk into any neuroscience lab or biology class and yes, there are indisputable differences between men and women. It’s hardwired. We can talk about it til the cows come home, but at the end of the day there is man, and there is woman. It’s a fact. I’ll check out the Tiger book. Thanks!

  • magic mom

    as a female jew (married to, and the mother of, faithful Catholics), i would simply inquire, why can we not just each BE ? …… and “can’t we just all get along?!”

  • Alex

    This article started out very well, but devolved into some strangely sympathetic feminist take on maleness; one that I hear throughout not only our current culture, but also in academia’s philosophy department. “Homoeroticism is, I think, one of the significant cultural traits of the West, and perhaps of the human story in general.” In other words, we need to read human history, and especially the history of the West, in the narrative terms of the homoerotic narrative that feminists espouse. What a bunch of garbage.

    Ohhh brother. What a lame article from Ethika Politka. Congratulations on offering a contemporary feminist viewpoint on maleness and femaleness Dr. Rocha; you are truly offering a different take on our culture’s moronic masculinity – yours is just the take of moronic feminism.

    For those who don’t know what I’m referring to, just take a peek in your university’s feminist studies department. If you want to find a counter view – one that says that maleness and femaleness are not just ‘social constructs’ – you will have to look outside of academia. Philosophers are more content to wonder about the existence of whether or not rocks exist than whether or not our bodies inform us of moral obligations and/or behaviors.

    In short, our bodies can, and do, inform us of how to act, and from here, maleness and femaleness are understood as not being arbitrary; the personal experience of being a man and being a woman in some ways “overlaps”, but cannot be identical, since a part of what it means to be a man and to be a woman is defined in the experience and use of our bodies; and these bodies are not “arbitrary.”

    For a reason why I reject some of the feminist claptrap in here, you make take a look at my blog and this article in particular:

    Mr. Rocha, get your head out of the darkness. Use some common sense – this should be the first thing, and most valuable thing, that a philosopher uses.

    • SamRocha

      If you found this to be an example of gender feminism, you really ought to read bell hooks or Judith Butler to get your gender comparisons in order. And if you find it easy to scoff at homoeroticism, I’d suggest adding Homer and Plato to the reading list, too. Or you could read what I wrote here. Like this opening passage: “I don’t buy the sex/gender binary distinction in toto…” What that means is that I am opposed to the simple and outrightly false narrative of gender feminism, despite understanding (while disagreeing) where they build their theory from.

      • Alex

        Mr. Rocha,

        Thank you for the reply – your article still reeks of silliness, however. Plato and Homer, having been products of their own culture and time, do not necessarily convey all of Western History. What an absurdly myopic viewpoint. And thanks! but I have read them.

        Here, again, is your quote:

        “Homoeroticism is, I think, one of the significant cultural traits of the West, and perhaps of the human story in general.” Plain as day, this suggests that the human story is to be implicitly understood in terms of gay attraction. This is so much rubbish that I do not think that you want to get into an argument on here about this claim. These themes are most certainly in feminist literature – including gender feminism; What on earth are you reading? is my question to you.

        Also, your sentence “What that means is that I am opposed to the outrightly false narrative of gender feminism, despite understanding (while disagreeing) where they build their theory from.”

        Well, if you are opposed to gender feminism, then I certainly did not pick that up from this article. To say something is one thing; to then give evidence that you actually don’t believe what you have just said is another. Throughout this article theme of psychoanalysis through a feminist lens of “me macho man; you girly (and gay) man” is interpreted. I will be charitable to a fellow Catholic, however, and I will attempt to take what you say as being what you actually mean rather than what I think you mean; instead of using the vaguely Freudian psychoanalytical notions that seem to be, in large part, of the justification of this apparent “homoeroticism” that you have employed. Why would I feel that while you might be saying that you were against feminism (at least of the gender type), but personally feel as though you actually were not? Probably because you say things like this:

        “The problem with the manhood business is not only that it is a business; the biggest problem is its self-defeating lack of self-reflection. Is there really some eternal normative or axiomatic quality about being a man beyond what is descriptively obvious?” Throughout the rest of your article, you then call into question this “mythic masculinity” that you seem to view as arbitrary. Come on Professor; really? You do not think that these two sentences – one which affirms that you do not believe in gender feminism, and the other that states that you doubt in some ‘eternal normative or axiomatic quality about being man’ are compatible? Are you being completely *serious* here? Who, upon reading your first statement, and then reading this one, would not have some of his own self-reflection and think that the two are contradictory?

        These are the themes that I get from your post – and I’m sure than many folks on here would as well:

        1) Masculinity of the typical current American type is lame, dumb, and boorish.

        2) Gender distinctions are arbitrary.

        3) We are not in a crisis of masculinity.

        4) Homoeroticism is not only a fundamental narrative of Western culture, but also likely of the entire human story as well.

        I think that (1) is correct, but the other three are absolutely ridiculous. For those that are confused as to where Dr. Rocha is getting these ideas from, take a quick survey of the literature in your university’s women studies and gender studies department. It is in the place where you will find silly musings like “maleness and femaleness is arbitrary and does not confer legitimate expectations on behavior or moral obligations”….. while speaking of the moral plight of women (not men; they cannot have children) as they cannot find taxpayer money for abortions.

        Dr. Rocha, thank you for the reply, again. At the risk of being smarmy again, I must counter reply (perhaps it is my arbitrary masculinity kicking in) that if I did not read your article, it would be rather hard for me to give a quote from it in the seventh paragraph.

        Masculinity is in crisis in the United States – for all of the reasons that you say that it “doesn’t even remotely” follow. The problem with current masculinity is either one of too much (what you have critiqued) or none at all (which you seem to be implicitly agreeing with).

        *sigh*. Come now come now! This article is absurd. If you wish to reply back to me, state your argument.

        • SamRocha

          I think you are over-reading my my use of the term ‘psychoanalytic’ (one need not be a double-barreled Freudian to use that word) and remarks about homoeroticism (which any classicist would agree upon). I would add that telling me “If you wish to reply back to me, state your argument.” is very cute and authoritative, but I will reply on my own terms, thank you very much.

          I not only accept, but fully endorse the collective critique of gender feminism launched by Irigaray, Kristeva, and Paglia, that defends the role and place of the physical body. But I am not convinced that it follows from this critique to then create an overburdened notion of sexuality that is inattentive to what we find in Foucault or, more recently, at First Things — both which give evidence against a mythical masculinity.

          That you refuse to recognize this balancing act for what it is, and instead launch blanket accusations, that project a great deal of your own insecurities and biases, and also show how little of my work you are familiar with, is not my burden. You may have read, but there is, of course, a difference between reading and reading *well*.

          • Alex

            Dr. Rocha,

            As far as over reading into ‘homoeroticism’; I’m not sure what to say about that. It is your own quote that states that this viewpoint is likely somewhat essential to the human story.

            You have not responded to any of what I have said in my previous post. As far as blanket accusations go; well, I gave quotes from your own article! As far as insecurities and biases; I don’t respond to ad hominem’s. My critique was always about your article; it was either bad, or silly, or ridiculous, etc. I never said anything about your own personal character. Keep things civil!

            In short, Dr. Rocha, I fully understand what you are trying to say in your *replies*; but what you are saying in your article seems to be something different, for reasons that I have given.



          • SamRocha

            I wouldn’t forget about the fallacy fallacy here, either. Your replies strike me as being defensive and overreaching. It is uncontroversial to say what I did about homoeroticism in the West to anyone who has studied the Western canon. That you find it otherwise suggests to me something deeper. Your three points (2,3, and 4) are, as I said, blanket accusations that oversimplify what I actually said. That you quote me does not change that.

            On civility: When you open with remarks like this, “Ohhh brother. What a lame article from Ethika Politka. Congratulations on offering a contemporary feminist viewpoint on maleness and femaleness Dr. Rocha; you are truly offering a different take on our culture’s moronic masculinity – yours is just the take of moronic feminism.” you should realize that civility is not going to be the soup of the day.

          • Alex

            Dr. Rocha,

            The critique is about your *article*, not about *you*. I will not go into some strange psychoanalyzing as a weapon with you. You can and should attack my points and my comments (maybe you think that they are lame, garbage, and bad) but attacking me personally with inflections of biases and insecurities… ahh come on. Give me a break. I am not going to respond to these.

            Perhaps I should ask other readers: did one not get a strange sort of skepticism about gender and its implications from this article? And did one not get a sense that the replies given are different than the content of his article?

          • SamRocha

            If you want me to go into more detail on the gender/sex distinction, I’ve already said that I should and would in a reply below. As for the personal element: It was you who told me, addressed personally, to get my head out of the darkness. Or was that a point drawn from the article?

          • Alex

            Ohhh brother. Dr. Rocha, you are *not* your thoughts, or your opinions! To critique one of them is to say little of the person wrote it – at least most of the time. Your sensitivity on the matter makes me wonder how you survived your dissertation advisor!

            Can we please move on to the actual *argument*, instead of your accusations of “personal bias, insecurities, reading into things, yada yada”…? This is not only getting old, but it is also going nowhere. For readers who read my replies condemning your article, they will find nothing in the way of personal attacks; upon reading your replies, they most certainly will!

            If you would like to discuss this in private, send me your email address that you use from Patheos (assuming that you have one).

          • SamRocha

            The record is here, and I think reading your opening comment will clear up why I read it the way I do. As for the three points you take issue with, I simply think you are reading them in an oversimplified way and don’t know what else there is to say. If you want a precis of the essay, here is one:

            There is a version of “manhood” that is moronic in the same way that there is something moronic about the orthodoxy of gender feminism and other extremes. But the further problem is not that there are no real problems concerning men today, but, instead, that “manhood” has become a brand name and lacks the rigor or depth to address those real problems.

          • Alex

            Dr. Rocha,

            I can agree with all of those conclusions. Thank you. And I am sorry that I was so brusque when ridiculing your article; it is my nature to tear into things that reek of feminism, libertarianism, or (and you might find this strange) modern “Joe the Cable Guy” masculinity. I too find this caricature of masculinity to be offensive, lame, and bad. It is the reason why I was so eager to read the article; upon reading, however, I find a quote that says that homoeroticism could be (at least, you think that it is) a central part of the human experience! I’m sorry my Catholic Brother… but you must understand that statements like these are going to imply that you are fitting into a contemporary “gender studies” narrative.

            It is not that I dislike feminists (in fact, one of my Professors, bless his heart, is one), but I do find their views destructive and very ideological. I also see them, not without reason, as being enemies of the Church that both you and I cherish and love so much.

            Of course, to cherish the the Church is to also cherish her members; I am sorry for being rude in my replies. I do need to learn how to be more charitable.

            Take care.

          • SamRocha

            Peace, brother. I also must apologize for not realizing what you were asking for when you wanted an “argument.” That is code in some circles for suggesting that one doesn’t have one, or reducing everything to a syllogism and so on.

            I tend to identify most with the moniker “womanist.” Here is an post I wrote on that at Patheos:


          • Jonathan Quist

            I’m reading this late it seems that that article was taken down. Do you have another link to it by any chance?

          • SamRocha

            I recently left Patheos, so its offline. I will soon be working through the archives though and will send it to you if you like.

          • Jonathan Quist

            I would appreciate that thanks. – Looking forward to reading more of your stuff. I started listening to that D’Angelo album you mentioned in your latest article, it sounds pretty loaded.

          • SamRocha
          • Jonathan Quist

            Wonderful looking forward to reading this. I thought you might be interested in reading this post by an old prof of mine in relation to this thread -

          • Mack Faamausili

            Yeah, it seemed to jump back and forth. Sorry, Dr. Rocha! Overall, it seemed to have a feminist bent to it at the expense of the so-called men’s movement, but it was hard to gauge a serious through line through it. Maybe it was because history is and was built by men, and that would take a book to dismantle, rather than a magazine piece. I await the next man-bashing article! Lol.

  • Timothy Rothhaar

    Just pointing out there’s a blog dedicated to manliness and manly activities:

  • Christopher Hall

    I found this particularly satisfying, because Sam Rocha has his own anti-intellectual streak.

    • SamRocha

      I do indeed. Very true.

      • Christopher Hall

        I know this isn’t the topic under discussion, but it seems to me you opened yourself up to it. Can you explain how that streak, in you, does not also offend charity? Because it seems to me, quite strongly, that it does.

        • SamRocha

          Fair enough. I suppose that I’ll need to understand better what you mean by my “anti-intellectual streak.”

          • Christopher Hall

            I think your article here is a good example:

            Albeit a bit veiled. But bear with me if I seem to ramble here.

            Basically, the many times you seem to imply that intellectuals or intellectual endeavors somehow create blinders to reality or things as they are–to life, generally, and to life in the Spirit. Which seems, to be blunt, to spit upon a lot of the work done by the majority of Catholic intellectuals, as if it is not merely void of merit, but pernicious. (That seemed to be the implied context of some of the comments in the article mentioned above, most particularly one about “the deleterious effects of Western intellectualism”.)

            Truth by told, my own spirituality is heavily Dominican in bent and influence, and the Dominican tradition and spirituality is one that is intellectually alive, that places a strong emphasis on study and intellectual pursuit as a path to truth, to God Who is Truth. Indeed, in his (very good) book on Dominican spirituality, Fr. Paul Murray quotes St. Albertus Magnus twice in the following passage:

            “It was, perhaps, to be expected that the learning of the Friars Preachers would, sooner or later, provoke opposition from outside the Order. But even within the ranks of the brethren themselves the new emphasis on learning met with some fierce opposition. Albert speaks, in one place, of people–some of them Dominicans–who, without any understanding of the subject, raise objections to the use of philosophy in the works of scholars and theologians like himself. And he notes that, even within the Order of Preachers, such people are not challenged. ‘They are like brute animals,’ he says, ‘calling down anathemas on things of which they have not the slightest idea.’ In another place, Albert’s exasperation with the enemies of study is even more manifest. Disturbed by the way a few sour and lazy people were able to interfere with the honest research undertaken by others, he writes:

            ‘I make these remarks on account of certain idlers who, searching for a way to excuse or comfort their own idleness, confine their studies to fault finding. And since they themselves are utterly lazy and sluggish, in order not to be seen as lazy, they set about trying to spot blemishes in the great. These were the sort of people who killed Socrates, drove Plato from Athens, and, through their machinations, conspired even to have Aristotle cast out.'”

            Lest there be any confusion, I’m not trying to specifically redirect Albert’s (or Murray’s) harsher words towards you, Dr. Rocha, but merely using the entire passage quoted to suggest that anti-intellectualism, as such, goes wrong. It is even might even be a sin against charity if it “fundamentally” excludes intellectual pursuit from what it means to be a good Catholic. Because those who engage in that pursuit would be bad Catholics. And a certain anti-intellectual narrative seems to be on the rise under the papacy of Francis, who is (I think wrongly) linked to it. A great saint and Doctor of the Church had strong remarks for those of an anti-intellectual bent. I think those who possess that bent would benefit from considering those words, just as those who, say, are so immersed in their studies and writings that they cannot find time for prayer or corporal works of mercy would do well to consider the example of St. Francis.

            And thus it is in part because I strongly agree with you about the various witnesses of the saints that I reject anti-intellectualism, per se. It tramples on the witness of a good many saints, and narrows far too much what sanctity can mean. That seems like a sin against charity to me.

          • SamRocha

            Well look:

            If by anti-intellectualism you mean some sort of total irrational nonsense or willy-nilly hypercritical tomfoolery, or any such sort of absolute anti-absolutism that tends to quickly slip into something far worse than Rousseau’s Romanticism — if you mean something like THAT — then you’d have me wrongly pegged.

            If, however, you mean something along the lines of having a concern about the ORDER between the head and the heart that can sometimes lean a bit too strongly in the direction of St. Monica. with too few of her son’s analytic virtues, then, my dear sir, you’d have me pegged right.

            That I struggle with the latter does not imply that I’ll take the accusation of the latter laying down. Ino ther words, to have an anti-intellectual *streak* (as you originally phrased it), and relatively ironic if not absurd one to boot, is absolutely not the same thing as being an anti-intellectual proper.

            I hope that clears everything up for ya.

          • Christopher Hall

            Somewhat. Not entirely. Remember that my initial question was whether or not you considered that anti-intellectualism–perhaps I should add, even if it is only instanced here or there, and does not reflect an absolute attitude–might constitute a sin against charity.

            I suppose your comment, that you “struggle with the latter” (the latter meaning that you can sometimes lean too strongly in a certain direction, to the detriment of the other) suggests that you might consider it such a sin, or at least a fault.

            I didn’t mean the former. (Your comments in this article would have been enough to disabuse a person of that notion–if I’d ever suffered from it to begin with.) Though looking back, I can see how it might have seemed that way; but I was really trying (to quote you) “get to the root–the radix” of what I perceive to be a problem, generally. If anti-intellectualism, per se, is bad, then I would consider that to indulge in it from time to time is bad as well. That’s where I was going. Pardon me for not being clearer (especially considering some of my remarks to follow).

            I tend to be kind of snarky, myself, so I can appreciate (what I perceive to be) your own tendency to indulge in snark. I just wonder whether one ought to sacrifice clarity of meaning for a good jibe, particularly when accusations of fault come into play.

            Putting it generally, ceteris paribus, my problem is not with people who lean a certain way, but with people who can’t lean that way without putting other ways down. Interestingly, that seems to be part of your point in this same article.

          • SamRocha

            Look man, cheers. I think people forget or don’t realize, and I think you get this point, that this online writing gig thing is mainly for fun and to try and learn to write real good. The rest is a sort of public pedagogy that I take very seriously, but haven’t gotten the right recipe together for it yet. To much vinegar, too salty, and all the other imbalances. But that is the art of this kind of stuff. Does it all have a sinful, broken route paved to run over charity? Sure. But, truth be told, I’m actually not pissed off or crabbed about it. Nor do I despair too much. The main reason is that I am very good at not convincing myself about this stuff, all things considered.

  • Colin Howell

    Excellent article Mr. Rocha. To some of the comments below, I think he made it abundantly clear in his article that he is not lumping together all people on various sides of these issues. The apex of his article seems to be the final two paragraphs which I think are excellent and commend you on your perspicacity. There are most certainly mass movements in American culture (and others too for that matter) both for and against a very superficial and unrefined idea of something so abstract as masculinity; mass movements that take a rather cavalier attitude towards both the sources and solutions to these questions. It seems like he is only asking us to take a moment of pause to reflect well and often on the matter. Thanks again for the article Mr. Rocha.

  • I consider the fine arts to be useless luxury, and find the humor of dried up old prunes of a lesbian variety to be highly insulting.

  • Martin

    Are you confident that Foucault’s scholarship is reliable? I don’t know either way but I do remember that as an arts student in the late 90s it was shoved down our faces entirely unchallenged. I look forward to interrogating his work if I ever get some spare time.

  • John Doman

    Why are you lumping in “Larry the Cable Guy” with “Joe the Plumber?”
    Larry the Cable guy is a comedian’s stage name/persona. He’s a character.
    Joe the Plumber was an ordinary man who had the guts to be blunt with then-candidate Obama. What exactly is wrong with that?

  • John Doman

    Why not define masculinity and femininity not by ever-changing societal norms, but by vocations? Eg. Ephesians 5:22 AND 23 (the two do not make sense unless they are read together). Real men should sacrifice for their wives/children.
    Or maybe the masculine and feminine roles only become important in the context of marriage or holy orders. I dunno.

  • craig

    I have to agree with Alex’s original complaint — the original article (but not the replies so much) appears to follow
    the gender feminism that essentially defines the feminine as ideal and
    the masculine as a privation of the ideal.

    It’s hard for academics in particular to notice
    just how thoroughly contemporary society is defined by this attitude,
    but just look at how any school (primary, secondary, or university)
    currently treats boys compared to girls, and you’ll see it in spades.
    My guess is, academics tend to ‘fight the last war’ and engage the
    historical Western tradition as if it still dominates culturally, which
    it does not anymore. The New Left won; those who railed against The Man
    are now The Man themselves.

    Given that, it’s skepticism-inducing to go on about how Western culture is all about homoeroticism and how Jesus doesn’t really need to be a manly man and so son. The overall tone says ‘masculinity is suspect’.

    While there certainly are
    examples of homoeroticism in the ancient Greeks, among other Western
    literature, to find it permeating everything is to see the canon as a
    Rorschach blot. The usual purpose of such analysis is to support
    agitprop claims that all the creative works we admire were really done
    by Approved Victim Class X (gays, women, blacks, Jews, etc.) while
    uncouth warmongering straight white Christian male jocks always rushed
    in and stole credit.

    Likewise, popular notions of ‘gentle Jesus meek and mild’ possibly cause us to misread Jesus if our concept of His perfection requires us to focus on passivity and excise the active principle. Some early Gnostics said that women could be saved by becoming as men; we risk teaching the inverse error.

  • Dave

    You have some decent things to say, Sam, but I look forward to seeing you write something more constructive about your own views on the issue. It’s not terribly challenging to write something deconstructive about all the things that seem nonsensical about other people’s views on gender, but it only comes off as glib if one doesn’t offer an alternative. Once again, I look forward to reading your future posts.

    • SamRocha

      I was trying to be constructive when I wrote this:

      “Men and women, I think, should imitate the best qualities of anything that deserves it, without condition or pretense, and rejoice that grace perfects nature.”

  • P.B.

    I think you make some good points Mr. Rocha, but there is still something valuable to the whole “don’t be a sissy” thing. Men should pursue martial virtues. We should try to maintain a decent level of physical fitness, be capable of hard labor, and be proficient in small arms. My own privations in those areas do make me less manly. Manliness is good and important, but as you point out, it is not the most important thing. A “wimpy” guy who gets to heaven is way better off than a macho guy who goes to hell. We should not make a false god of masculinity, but nor should we discard it.

  • OldWorldSwine

    I thought you had begun plotting some sort of course in the first few paragraphs, but the remainder of the article boiled down to “THIS… but on the other hand, THAT” and I couldn’t make head or tail of anything from there.

  • The reason Michael Voris and Matt Walsh have so many fans (and you don’t) is because they are 100% authentic. What you define as “smug certainty and preachy self confidence” is actually “focused, passionate and informed.” Bye bye! I’m off to find my duck food!

    • SamRocha

      While you are certainly right about my own low marks in popularity, I would caution confusing *that* with the mistaken idea that Voris or Walsh are remotely popular outside of their tiny niche audience. In the end, I may be a minnow, but they are still very small fish. Plus, I find it quite odd to think that being popular and gaining fans comes as a direct result of being authentic. In fact, considering the cult of celebrities, my guess is the exact opposite.

  • Eve Fisher

    Good article. A couple of things that I think some of your critics below should think about is that (1) every philosophical and political science discussion in the West is an argument with, for, or against Plato and Aristotle; (2) homoeroticism can be nothing more than bromance, i.e., the idea that men only have intimate buddy relationships with men, which was what the ancient Greeks and Romans truly believed, and is still present today. (Thus women in the military can never be truly part of the buddy system, no matter how good they are at their jobs, because they’re women.); (3) much of “MANLY culture” involves putting down women – a man who isn’t manly cries, acts, talks, thinks, punches, throws, etc. LIKE A GIRL. What could be less manly, less admirable than that?

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  • Elmwood

    maybe it’s time you come out of the closet sam and embrace your homoerotic tendencies.