Manhood Is Made, Not Born: A George Gilder “Men and Marriage” Favorite

Canon Press is doing a George Gilder documentary and republishing his classic, Men and Marriage. In honor of this delightful occasion, here is one of my favorites from Gilder’s Men and Marriage with a few thoughts scattered in the wake—”Throughout the literature of feminism there runs a puzzled complaint: ‘Why can’t men be men and just relax?’ The reason is that, unlike femininity, relaxed masculinity is at bottom empty, a limp nullity. While the female body is full of internal potentiality, the male is internally barren (from the Old French bar, meaning man). Manhood at the most basic level can be validated and expressed only in action . . . In all its specific expressions, manhood is made, not born.” (Gilder, Men and Marriage)

This is simply some good old horse sense. This is three yards and a cloud of dust teaching on masculinity that can only be lost on our lazy, inflated, on the dole generation. Ask your grandfather if he is still around. Men are made to work. We work, or we die. 

The guild of soft evangelicals may fear I’m going Jesus and John Wayne on them. My first reply is: we can use a good bit more of Jesus and John Wayne. My second reply is that there is nothing superficial or machismo to this point about manhood being expressed in action. Men are made to act and lead in a way that is distinct from women. This purpose is baked throughout man’s nature and it runs all the way down to his soul. 

The command God gave our father Adam in the garden was to work it and keep it. This command was not contrary to his nature. He delighted to do that which God commanded. His constitution was suited to the job assignment of leadership and carrying the primacy of responsibility. Things are a bit different with the female. I am not saying that women are not hard workers. Anyone who has even glanced at Proverbs 31 knows the flurry of goods that flows from the fingertips of a woman who fears the LORD. She is suited for work like the man. But God fashioned the fairer sex as a helper. This quality is seasoned throughout her nature, and this too runs all the way down to her soul. She was made to be planted. She was made soil. And in her grows fruit that will live on forever. As Gilder said, her very body is full of internal potentiality.

The man, however, is not the one who is planted, but the one who plants. He can and does help of course. You could list several examples of men not always being in the captain’s seat. But that does not discard the point that to lead is of men’s nature, and to help is of women’s nature. Things have gone topsy turvy and the men have either grown limp or frozen up unsure of how to operate in this feminized society. As Wodehouse once put it, the men have stiffened from head to foot like somebody in the Middle Ages on whom the local wizard had cast a spell.

Earlier generations shake their heads in laughter at just how confused we have become. This point regarding the natural distinction between male and female was nothing extraordinary to them. Here is C. S. Lewis for example, 

“‘There are no servants here,’ said Mother Dimble, ‘and we all do the work. The women do it one day and the men the next. What? No, it’s a very sensible arrangement. The Director’s idea is that men and women can’t do housework together without quarreling. There’s something in it. Of course, it doesn’t do to look at the cups too closely on the men’s day, but on the whole we get along pretty well.’ ‘But why should they quarrel?’ asked Jane. ‘Different methods, my dear. Men can’t help in a job, you know. The can be induced to do it: not to help while you’re doing it. At least, it makes them grumpy.'”

Lewis has a way of getting moderns to swallow down his historic Christian ideas. But my bet is several people will still choke on this one. They will say, “Do you mean to tell me that a man is not to help out around the house?” But you who ask this question have seen just what Clive describes. 

The present structure of our society is cockeyed. The various waves of feminism have washed over us such that we don’t realize just how far we have strayed. Gilder rightly says manhood is made, not born. But how do you build men in a culture where everyone gets a medal? How do you raise up men to be godly rulers when their political and military opponents wear skirts? We live in a society where women have assumed power and authority that simply was not designed for their taking. This is not a knock to the women. As it was in the garden, so it is today, “The degree to which women take power seems to depend on the extent to which the men are absent.” (George Gilder, Men and Marriage)

So a message to the men: It is time to rebuild. A good place to start would be Gilder’s Men and Marriage. Get your copy at