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Defending Men and Saving Our Boys
The anti-masculine plague that will harm us all.
“Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don't let 'em pick guitars or drive them old trucks
Let 'em be doctors and lawyers and such
Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
'Cause they'll never stay home and they're always alone
Even with someone they love
—Song By Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson; Lyrics by Ed & Patsy Bruce
The 1955 Universal Pictures film To Hell and Back, starring Audie Murphy playing himself based on his 1949 autobiography, was part of a slate of incredible films released that year. What set this wartime epic apart was its unapologetic, first-hand account of a hero — America’s Hero.
Audie Leon Murphy was born on June 20, 1925, the seventh of 12 children born to Emmett and Josie Murphy, poor sharecroppers in Hunt County, Texas. His father abandoned the family and Murphy’s mother died in 1941 when he was 16. The Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor changed the trajectory of Murphy’s young life, just as it did millions of young men and a nation at the edge of a war it was witnessing but not yet prepared.
Accepted by the Army on June 30, 1942, and advanced infantry training at Fort Meade, Murphy was shipped to the Mediterranean Theater and then to the European Theater. By the end of his World War Two service, Murphy received every U.S. military combat award for valor from the U.S. Army, including a field commission and the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Murphy writes of the experience,
Now comes the picture of mass defeat, the most awesome spectacle of the war. It is in the bent bodies of old women who poke among ruins seeking some miserable object that will link their lives with the old days. It is in the shamed darting eyes of the defeated. It is in the faces of the little boys who regard our triumphant columns with fear and fascination. And above all it is in the thousands of beaten, dusty soldiers who stream along the roads towards the stockades. Their feet clump wearily, mechanically, hopelessly on the still endless road of war. They move as haggard, gray masses, in which the individual had neither life nor meaning. It is impossible to see in these men the quality that made them stand up and fight like demons out of hell a few shorts months ago.
These are men, perhaps who started this war as boys but who grew up with a duty to their country, humanity, and each other. And now, in the America of 2023, our men — our boys — are under attack. This is deeply troubling in the sense that all around us we see the struggle, the demoralization, the cultural rot, and no one has been able to revive a spirit so quintessentially, boldly American since our beginning. We are watching a generation drown under the weight of shame and ridicule and offer nothing, recognizing somewhere deep in our nation’s soul that the rest of us cannot survive in a world of good versus evil if these boys are swallowed forever by the depths of despair.
There is much material about the ways modern feminism has damaged women, but not quite as much or in a different way about how it has damaged men. And right now, we need more women to defend our boys as they try to mature into the modern world as men. We need women to do it because we need men. Academic and social critic Camille Paglia has long defended differences in men and women, defying the vogue trend of blurring gender differences to the point of a grotesque transformation of the societal roles and the value placed on them. Profiled in a 2019 Acton Institute post, Paglia,
[C]onsiders herself an old-style feminist who believes in equal freedoms for men and women but also believes that biological reality imposes insuperable gender differences. In other words, women and men are essentially different and there is nothing wrong with that. Modern feminism for her is an exercise in social engineering pushed by spoiled daughters of the bourgeois middle class, who aim to replace their biological fathers by state paternalism. These feminists do not want freedom, they want serfdom.
For decades, feminists have rallied around the victimhood cause. Their crescendo war cry was built on the concept of oppressive patriarchy and shrieks of toxic masculinity, peaking with the #MeToo movement. It was never enough for feminism to establish women’s equality. It was never enough to tell them they were capable of following their dreams and that they were strong, independent, free-thinkers. No. Being different but equal was never the end goal. For feminists — and, by extension, progressives — women can only be free if the concept of the masculine man is erased. And they do it by inextricably tying negative characteristics to all boys and men, putting a higher human value on feminine attributes, and ignoring or discounting those male character traits that benefit relationships, families, and communities, those of stoicism, assertiveness, daring, and chivalry. It is a power grab by a political and cultural progressive elite.
Preceding the Post-War feminism of the 1960s, pop culture reflected fathers as men of respect. A man served his family through work, was civic-minded, and modeled a virtuous life for his children, balancing a sense of responsibility, power, and selflessness: think My Three Sons, The Andy Griffith Show, and Leave It to Beaver. I’m not arguing that every family of that time was headed by a Ward Cleaver, but it is a far cry from the bumbling, clueless dunderheads the fathers of today are portrayed as. Young men, especially on college campuses, are looked at as binge-drinking frat boys who are steeped in a rape culture, on the prowl for the next drunk girl of which to take advantage.
To the left, a man’s true character doesn’t matter. The fact that he is a man is crime enough. And because we place a disproportionate value on women’s feelings above all else, Americans had a front-row seat to the consequences of that mentality: from the miscarriage of justice during the Brett Kavanaugh appointment hearings in 2019 to being vilified and prosecuted for defending the defenseless as former Marine Daniel Penny currently is. We’ve allowed a countercultural generation to define the characteristics and roles of men and women. They destroyed the sense of the traditional family and the integral piece men have in it, built upon generations of norms and values, and replaced it with a society that sees masculinity as an illness to be cured.
In her 2021 book Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity, Peggy Orenstein details what has become a commonality among feminists, gender study scholars, and culture elitists: that the “problem” with boys is a construct of society and to solve the problem of toxic masculinity means boys have to be more like girls. Ms. Orenstein and her brand of feminism argue against any notion of boys and girls having inherent differences. The problem with this thinking is that we have tried taking masculinity out of boys for decades, and what are the results? Boys are shamed and disciplined for being aggressive, competitive, and loud. High-energy boys are medicated. Playfighting is banned. We take away recess, gym, and contact sports and expect them to sit quietly and play with their gender-neutral blocks — don’t dare build any pretend weapons!
Schools are dropping classical works, opting out of teaching Homer’s epic poems and moral tales of legendary heroes, wars, tragedy, and triumph. American history is taught through a one-sided narrative turning our Revolution-era heroes into villains, condemning them for their faults, sweeping our entire nation into the dustbin of history for its original sin of slavery. It’s no wonder, then, that when a generation of boys are taught their instincts are wrong, they retreat to video games and satisfy desires through artificial or online relationships or pornography. And when “Believe All Women” takes the place of critical thought and due process, why would a man risk his reputation, job, life, and future to pursue a relationship that could end badly and at the mercy of a vindictive former ex? In lieu of teaching boys about the virtues of chivalry and honor, they are taught about consent. And girls lack the guidance to behave in ways that deserve respect. Women aren’t saints just because they’re women. [This story is a rude reality for the new world our boys are growing up in. (Warning: it is very explicit.)]
Girls aren’t the only ones who see the messages from feminists and politicians, repeated in movies and television, that women aren’t equal and are constantly fighting for space in an oppressive society and that they don’t need men to be all they can be in the She-Ra Man-Haters Club army. Their message is that the world might be a better place with fewer men.
This is utterly wrong and destructive to society. We are the torchbearers of men like 78-year-old farmer Samuel Whittemore, who, on April 19, 1775, was shot in the face by British soldiers, bayoneted six times, and clubbed in the head with the butts of their muskets after he shot three Boston-bound British soldiers near his house. The stubborn Revolutionary refused to die, living another 18 years even though the British musket had torn away part of his face. In an era when monuments are torn down, this man, as much as any is deserving of his own marker. But you won’t find his likeness at the National Mall or his bust in the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol, just like there is no monument to the working men who wake up every day facing uncertainty, hardship, and loss, but who rise anyway and do their best to be stewards of a nation of hope and opportunity. That Whittemore has a modest marker and not a national monument is precisely why he doesn’t need one: men and women teaching their boys to live virtuous, honest, bold lives are living testaments to the enduring spirit of freedom. They work thanklessly to make certain liberty isn’t smothered by the blanket of security or the incendiary divisiveness of gender-ideology warriors.
It’s gone too far, and we are now failing our boys. Adults who care for the safety of their daughters, sisters, and mothers realized the consequences of decades of attempts to destroy our men by attacking our boys. But what happens when our boys are continually told they don’t matter? That their natural instinct to protect and defend themselves, their family, and their country — even to the point of reckless disregard for their own safety, is wrong? Eventually, they’ll go away with no Audie Murphy or Sam Whittemore to take up their cause. We won’t have anyone left to defend us if there is anything left to defend.
“My country. America! That is it. We have been so intent on death that we have forgotten life. And now suddenly life faces us. I swear to myself that I will measure up to it. I may be branded by war, but I will not be defeated by it.”
― Audie Murphy, To Hell and Back
Audie Murphy’s official Medal of Honor citation:
Second Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. Second Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to prepared positions in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. Second Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50-caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from three sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued the singlehanded fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. Second Lt. Murphy's indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy's objective.
If you have the opportunity, I urge you to visit Arlington National Cemetery, where Murphy, along with thousands of America’s heroes, are laid to rest. His gravesite is here.
He was wounded in battle three times, and his 28 military decorations were earned before he turned 21.
As a daughter, sister, wife, and now a mother of a 20-month-old son (and soon a daughter), I realize more than ever the importance of women defending our men, being supportive and nurturing their potential, and never giving in to the feminist lie that they are inherently threatening, oppressive, and dangerous. Maybe Waylon and Willie had it backward — we need more cowboys and fewer lawyers and such.
I’m planning on expanding on this topic after I read Senator Josh Hawley’s new book Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs. I also recommend this recent podcast interview The Spectator Editor-at-Large Ben Domenech had with Hawley on this topic.
Thank you for taking the time to read (and hopefully subscribe) to A Pilgrim’s Progress. I appreciate it.