Why Forcing Equality of the Sexes Leads to Civilizational Chaos
No Apologies: Why Civilization Depends on the Strength of Men
By Anthony Esolen
Publisher: Regnery Gateway
Review Author: Mary Brittnacher
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the term feminist entered the lexicon of Western culture. It had a particular meaning in its iteration at that time and place, and it has retained that essential meaning up to the present day. Some observers at the time were concerned that the idea of splitting the two main components of mankind, and favoring one over the other, did not bode well for society. Anthony Esolen’s No Apologies: Why Civilization Depends on the Strength of Men puts feminism into proper focus by balancing it with the truths about men that feminists and all who agree with them deny.
Esolen flies a countercultural banner, as America teems with anti-male propaganda, and has for at least 50 years. Early feminists such as Gloria Steinem, Erica Jong, and Bella Abzug spread the idea that there is little divergence between men and women, either physically or mentally. They declared that perceived differences were culturally induced. Esolen calls out three errors in this premise: (1) It creates a division between society and the people who inhabit it according to their social nature; (2) it ignores the very real physical differences between boys and girls; and (3) it turns each sex against their natures as man and woman.
Esolen explains the many physical differences between men and women, giving examples of situations that illustrate his conclusions, from those graphically manifested in the work of building houses, roads, and bridges to the 2016 incident in which an under-16 boys’ soccer team easily defeated the Australian women’s World Cup soccer team by a score of seven to zero. Yet physical characteristics are not the only qualities that define a man. Examining Aeneas and Odysseus as men of honor and courage, Esolen demonstrates the emotional strength of these heroes from ancient Greek literature in the face of danger and inconvenience to themselves. These men modeled restraint and discipline, which enabled them to endure many hardships before and after arriving at Ithaca.
This self-sacrificial value in men is universal in the heroes of the world. Esolen relates a Native American tale in which a grandmother beseeches a young boy not to go and find the killer of their people. He goes despite her pleading, and in the end he kills the evil murderer and nearly all the murderer’s clan.
Esolen goes into detail about the productiveness and creative labors of men. He discusses how the Romans built sophisticated aqueducts from concept to finished structure. These practical and aesthetically pleasing edifices survive all over Italy and the rest of Europe to this day. But it is not just material and physical prowess in which men want to excel; they seek mental challenges as well. Men are driven to in-depth study and intensive experimentation. For instance, when the renowned British mathematician Andre Wiles was ten years old, he found out about an unproven mathematical theorem and made it his goal to “prove it one way or another.” He had the soul of a pioneer, an explorer. He not only became a mathematician but one of the world’s greatest. As a professional, he worked on the theorem for seven and a half years, with little support or cooperation, and in the end produced a seminal paper on it.
Esolen examines the concept of the team as an essential grouping of men for the purpose of accomplishing their aims or simply for the joy of playing a game. He brings to light fundamental differences between boys playing a game and girls playing sports. Women and girls have sports for themselves now, but these are the real social constructs, he says, distinct from the games of boys. Women’s sports are organized and supported institutionally, though girls getting together for a “pick-up” game is not often seen. “Boys will invent more games in a year than girls have adopted in fifty,” Esolen explains. “It is in their nature to do so.” Those who disagree with his conclusions still can see the veracity of his observations.
Hierarchy is essential to the team concept and is a natural system that provides the best outcome for the group. Esolen does not consider hierarchical structures as positing one person against another, or as indicating superiority or inferiority. He compares the hierarchical team or group to a musical composition: “If each instrument were equal — playing the same note at the same time with the same loudness and insistence — you would not have a symphony. You would have a chaos of equality.” This principle of hierarchy applies to both leadership and every part of the organization. Every part matters; every part is important.
Esolen’s writing style is lively, and he offers frequent concrete examples of his ideas. He also uses the second-person pronoun as a descriptive technique that puts the reader into the narrative of cathedral builders, ship crews, football teams, and so on.
Though Esolen tells many tales of men’s abilities and accomplishments, he is far from anti-woman. Early on, he makes this clear when discussing the wonderful women he knows and knows of, including his much-admired wife and daughter. He primarily wants to convey that “men have nothing to apologize for.” He reminds us that “we must speak in general terms, because men and women are more alike than unlike, and though they may strive to reach the true home of the soul by separate ways, yet the home is ultimately the same. Still we can note the differences.”
The assumption of feminists has been that men have tried to hamper women’s progress. But history shows that men simply want to do the work at which they are best. If women have normally not done the same kind of work, perhaps their strength and glory lie elsewhere. Women throughout history have been provided for and protected by the work that men do. Even in war, as G.K. Chesterton tells us, men do not hate the enemy as much as they love what they are fighting for: the women and families back home.
Brotherhood has always been part of men’s clubs, teams, and schools. Jesus and His Apostles were a band of brothers. Some say that brotherhood is just a custom, but Jesus did not reverence convention as such. He chose men rather than women as Apostles because He was forming an army to evangelize the world. Considering the trials and suffering they would have to endure, brotherhood was crucial for that group.
Sociology and extensive research reveal a great deal of statistical evidence that children need both a mother and a father. The two sexes have different parenting styles, the woman’s based on the close biological link between mother and child, the man’s based on his role in the world and preparing his children to assume their roles as well. Both work for the benefit of their offspring. Jesus called God “Father.” He did so, Esolen says, to explain that “the fatherhood of God is primary. Human fatherhood is derived and secondary. Human fathers reflect, in a shadowy and sin-distorted way, the essential and all-encompassing fatherhood of God.”
To counter current anti-male sentiment, Esolen draws on historical perspectives and declares that “ours is the least patriarchal society in the history of the world.” He points out that we are rich enough to avoid the consequences of living against the natural order. But, in reality, patriarchy is the only kind of society that will work for mankind. “Whenever the rule by fathers is at ebb, liberty languishes,” he warns, “because the engines of government must come in to deal with the chaos that always results.”
Esolen peppers No Apologies with poetry from Dante to Shakespeare to Chesterton, illustrating ideas with beauty. An example is found in this advice: “Begin and end with worship of God not for what he does for us, but for who he is in himself — his ineffable glory. Then we can understand him as love, as Dante says, ‘that moves the sun and the other stars.’” (Which reminds this reviewer that Esolen’s translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy is one of the best in a crowded field.)
The great evil of dividing the sexes, pitting one against the other, has resulted in a lack of order in man’s relationship with God. Any attack on God’s order is an attack on God Himself. Let us hope for a return both to Him and, as Esolen writes, “to a genuine gratitude of each sex for the other.”
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