Big Girls

Harvey Mansfield and Ayaan Hirsi Ali puzzle out our feminine ideal today. Mansfield:

Responsible choice guided by the inclinations of human nature is abandoned, and social science offers partial and partisan studies supposedly proving that women are either prisoners or conquerors of their inclinations. Social science sets itself against the impressions of common sense, yet studies in social psychology and evolutionary biology tend to confirm those impressions, otherwise known as “traditional stereotypes.” Social science blunders into popular discourse, destroying the authority of common sense and replacing it with confusion. Not to be excluded from anything open to men seems to be the most powerful desire of women today. Women want to be able to say they can do anything. Men do not feel this about themselves, vaguely aware as they are that women are indispensable. Perhaps the best contribution they can make now to understanding between the sexes is to refrain from asking women to prove they can do anything.

To be sure, our competing demands of our young women for hypermasculinity and hyperfemininity make for a stressful tension. But it wouldn’t be our age, would it, unless we sublimated this tension into yet another case of having our cake and eating it too? If Mansfield is right that social science tells us one thing or the other when it comes to the truth about being female, our anti-science — the pop-culture humanities departments of Fantasy, Celebrity, and Personality — tells us one thing and the other. Be more manly, girls! — And more womanly! Nietzsche wept.

Coincidentally, my piece at AmSpec today says a lot more about roughing and toughening up our girls in the age of Rihanna.

There wasn’t room to size up our boys today, but Ali herself suggests a place to start:

As for the males who are uncertain about their position in the gender divide, their preoccupation is not with courage but is a different kind of permanent struggle: the one to find oneself, or in other words, navel-gazing as a state of mind.