In a world where we still struggle to redress the wrongs done to women, both historic wrongs and present ones, it can sometimes seem that to praise the assumed masculine virtues is still -somehow- to denigrate women.
The masculine stereotypes are deconstructed and criticised to the point that it is sometimes hard to remember that just as there are specific virtues to the feminine so there are specific virtues to the masculine. In a world where words have become weapons even stating such a commonplace carries the risks of hostility, even- sometimes- of vilification.
The battle of the sexes may end in a hard fought draw- as indeed it must- but in such areas as public breast feeding, for example, many battles are still to be found even in supposedly equal societies. Personally I find it bizarre that anyone could object to a mother feeding her child and those who demonstrate hostility to mothers who make that choice seem to me to be both discourteous and even rather strange. Perhaps I feel this because I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s where attitudes towards going topless were less hypocritical than they seem to be in the twenty-first century of universal access to pornography via the Internet contrasting with public prudishness.
So, although women continue to asset- rightly- their determination to play a broader, less constrained, role in Western Society and although the battle to overturn the oppression of women in Islamic and other societies is still in its infancy, sometimes we should note the historic virtues of men.
A good example for me has been the heroic actions of the three US Marines and the British man who came to their aid on the Amsterdam-Paris Thalys train the day before yesterday. The three showed self-sacrificial courage in tackling the would-be mass murderer on the train and no little strength in disarming him, even when they themselves were being attacked and badly wounded. The modesty they demonstrated in the face of adulation too was an object lesson in the world of cheap celebrity. They demonstrated in full measure the strength and responsibility that are associated with the masculine. Although it is more than appropriate that the virtues associated with the feminine: nurturing, caring, emotional connection have been promoted to both sexes, nevertheless sometimes it is as well to remember that manly virtues, which women may also possess, are also necessary for a balanced psyche and a balanced society.
At a time when there is great concern about how we educate our young men it seems to me that mutual respect must also include self respect. Women are not yet equal and that is a tragic waste. Yet equality can not be built on the denigration of the masculine, but true equality must lie in respecting our common humanity and our sexual and gender diversity.