Pyle’s discussion of “proving” manhood would’ve also benefited from more careful attention to the ways manhood can be defined in opposition to boyhood. Manhood is less about the traits that supposedly are or should be universally attendant upon maleness than it is about those characteristics that distinguish the mature man who has left boyhood behind him.
Pyle’s challenge to the direct pursuit of masculinity is in many respects salutary: manhood develops most appropriately when we pursue the kingdom of God rather than an idol of masculinity itself (and manhood differs from masculinity on account of its focus on maturity). However, the inadequacies of Pyle’s account—in part on account of his egalitarianism, in part on account of his focus on individual authenticity, and in part on account of his failure to attend closely to the form of maturity in and perfection of maleness—are most betrayed in its failure to give any shape to the concept of manliness. While, as Pyle argues, men and women aren’t called to different sets of virtues, their relation to and expression of these virtues do differ. Men and women may be compared to two different instruments playing the same notes, the difference between them immediately discernible by even the untrained ear, though often difficult to articulate.
What is “natural” to a human male isn’t simply what he does instinctively or spontaneously, but also those virtues in which male nature is perfected in his distinctive version of it. Pyle is right to oppose the hegemony of warrior manliness, but he errs in retreating from the concepts of male nature and corresponding manly virtues to the bare descriptive recognition that certain traits are more common among males.
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