Josh Hawley and the ‘left-wing attack on manhood’

But Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley has decided to make us fret about something he considers to be a crucial issue of our time: the decline of masculinity. American men, he says, are being attacked as part of a concerted leftist project.

“The left want to define traditional masculinity as toxic,” he said in a speech at the National Conservatism Conference on November 1. “They want to define the traditional masculine virtues — things like courage and independence and assertiveness — as a danger to society.”

Really? Funny, I’ve never run into anyone of any political persuasion who thinks those virtues are dangerous, in either men or women. But enough of that.

Hawley goes on to say that because men have been so badly treated — he calls it “the deconstruction of American men” — they’ve started to misbehave and suffer. “Can we be surprised,” he asked in that same speech, “that after years of being told … that their manhood is the problem, more and more men are withdrawing into the enclave of idleness and pornography and video games?”

So what’s the connection to porn, as Mike Allen asked him on “Axios on HBO” on Sunday?

Answer: “You’ve got 16 million men … who are idle, who don’t have anything to do. Now, partly that’s their own responsibility, but also partly it’s because jobs have dried up.”

Another leftist plot, like Covid.

In the world according to Josh Hawley, this crisis of masculinity has been a deliberate ploy of the left, turning able-bodied and willing men into shadows of their former selves. In his world, they are victims, although he goes to great lengths to say they are not.

“I am not here to tell you tonight that men are the victims,” he said in his speech to the conservative conference. “The last thing we need in this country is more of the victim mindset. And men who blame others for their problems and then slink away to do nothing — or worse, who embrace violence or cruelty — deserve rebuke.”

Hmmm. Haven’t heard Hawley rebuke the king of grievance, the master of victimhood and the embracer of January 6 violence, Donald Trump himself. But enough of that.

Hawley’s conspiratorial vision, as told to Axios, is that the liberal grand scheme has unfairly taken men to task, ruining all self-esteem and productive potential.

“The left-wing attack on manhood says to men: You’re part of the problem,” he told Allen. “It says that your masculinity is inherently problematic. It’s inherently oppressive.”

Sure, if you’re Harvey Weinstein. But I hope my husband doesn’t feel that way.
Of course, the questions about the future for young men in this country are serious: More are tuning out, not working, not pursuing college. And Hawley talks about male anxiety, depression and substance abuse, all real problems, too. But is it because some cabal of leftists have defined their masculinity downward, leaving them skulking toward the basement in search of “Call of Duty”? Hardly. Let’s talk about education, job retraining, community college, mental health counseling. Enough with the grandiose conspiracy mongering.

Hawley admirers say he’s making the cultural case that the state is trying to replace fatherhood, and it’s failing. He’s pro-fatherhood, not exactly going out on a limb. He’s also pro-family. But what about that leftist mob that is promoting family and medical leave? Isn’t that pro-family?

Speaking of the male psyche, family and fatherhood, this may be the appropriate place to ask why Hawley endorsed Sean Parnell in Pennsylvania’s US Senate race. Parnell, involved in a bitter divorce and child custody dispute, has been accused of domestic violence, allegations Parnell denies. Hawley endorsed Parnell in September, and Parnell is a Trump favorite. Will pro-family Hawley stick with him?

Hawley fans say the senator just enjoys getting involved in big, philosophical conversations (as if this is actually one, which it is not). The political motive is obvious: Conservative, alienated men are a political treasure chest. Just ask Trump. Hawley is looking for another way to pick that lock.

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