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A liberal woman went viral on TikTok this week with her dating dilemma. She wants a masculine man who will pay for dinners, open her doors, and generally protect her, but she’s had trouble finding one of those who is not politically conservative.
“As a liberal woman, it is really hard to find a man who’s willing to play the more traditional masculine role in the relationship in today’s day and age who is not a conservative,” she said, wondering aloud if she’s asking too much.
You don’t say. Let’s endeavor to explain why this might be the case.
Here’s the short answer: You cannot spend a generation pathologizing masculinity itself, particularly in liberal communities, and expect to find a surfeit of traditional masculine traits embraced within that population.
Men’s Differences Are Socially Being Portrayed As Negative
The theory of the political left on differences between men and women is that they don’t exist. But this is a new version of the theory in the age of trans politics. It was preceded by and now uncomfortably coexists with the theory that if differences do exist, men have differences from women that are solely negative. And those differences are just socialization, not biological, and men should just stop having them, as if their testosterone is a learned trait.
If you’re masculine, you’re toxic, and you’re toxic because you are choosing to be is not a very encouraging message for men, particularly at a time when men are demonstrably floundering in higher education, career pursuits, and mental wellness in this country.
There are powerful and important institutions propping up this notion, including the American Psychological Association, whose 2018 guidelines on treating men stated, “traditional masculinity— marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression— is, on the whole, harmful,” with nary a mention of what positive traits men might bring to the societal table.
The sheer number of sobbing TikTok confessionals created by Gen Z suggests some stoicism might be in order, but I digress.
Is it any wonder this woman’s prospective moderate and liberal romantic partners aren’t displaying any traits that might put them in this category? Those who are more traditionally masculine naturally align with movements that do not think they are inherently toxic.
Believe The Science? You Can’t Pick And Choose
Half of American men and 30 percent of women think society “punishes men just for acting like men,” according to a Public Religion Research Institute poll from 2020. (In a sign of the times, PRRI didn’t seem to ask the same question about gender roles in 2022, asking instead about gender identity.)
It is in this area that the “believe the science” crowd gets really obtuse about basic facts. There are biological differences between men and women, formed by millennia of evolution, to propagate the species. Richard Reeves, a Brookings Institution scholar, focuses on three divergences in his book “Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male is Struggling, Why it Matters, and What To Do About It.”
“Men are typically more aggressive, take more risks, and have a higher sex drive than girls and women,“ thanks to their brains and bodies being bathed in many times more testosterone than those of women.
Nature, and its negative effects, can be either encouraged or tempered by nurture/society. We can debate how much tempering is best and concede that throughout history, masculinity was certainly encouraged to excess or given a pass. But the fundamental differences exist. Ignoring them does neither women or men any good.
Which brings me to our heroine. I’m rooting for her to find love! She should examine why it might be that a liberal woman wants a traditionally masculine man. Her ideology tells her that yoking herself to a man with traditional or conservative values would mean giving up all her independence, being a housewife relegated to childbearing. Yet part of her is interested in a man taking a servant leadership role in the relationship.
Liberals would say she’s haunted by vestiges of the patriarchy. I’d argue her biology is telling her there are benefits to this kind of masculinity, while the political forces she’s aligned with actively work to create less of it in exactly the population where she’s seeking it.
Men Are Becoming More Conservative, Women More Liberal
And this mismatch isn’t getting better for the generation younger than hers, where young men are becoming more conservative while their female peers become more liberal.
Some would call it a paradox, but there is freedom in recognizing the complementary traits of men and women, that there are biological imperatives at play here, not just the patriarchy pulling our strings. In recognizing that, you have the freedom to shape your life, beholden to neither some proscribed feminist or trad vision.
This is the approach adopted by my conservative, female friends, most of whom have high profiles and boss-babe jobs, plus families with their political conservative husbands. Our marriages would be a mystery to our TikTok heroine, and that lack of imagination is stopping her from finding a mate with the traits she values.
If you close the door to the idea that masculinity can be beneficial to modern, liberated women, don’t be surprised when no one opens the door for you anymore.