He posits that masculinity is, at once, a biological endowment and a personal achievement ... Like a campaign speech, Manhood is an adventure in impressionistic and impassioned disorganization. Chapter breaks may as well be accidental; most passages could be reshuffled into any section without any loss of coherence ... Insofar as it is possible to impose an organizational principle onto Manhood, the book takes up four distinct projects, though not in any particular order. The first is halfhearted biblical exegesis. The second is wholehearted self-promotion ... His autobiographical forays are desperately folksy ... Hawley’s third fixation is liberalism, defined not as a political system but as an all-encompassing ethos that consists, primarily, of the fetishization of choice ... The final strand of Manhood is standard self-help fare, much of it inoffensive ... Ultimately, Manhood differs only cosmetically from the book that Hawley’s liberal straw man would write. The Epicurean liberals of his imagination are invested in self-gratification, and he is invested in self-improvement. Both are invested in the self.
On the page, Hawley blames “Epicurean liberals” for the failures of American men ... Hawley neglects to mention his source: the second verse in the Book of Ecclesiastes, authorship traditionally ascribed to King Solomon, successor and son to King David. Reflecting upon life as vanity is part of the Judeo-Christian tradition too ... In reaching for Scripture, Hawley is being – surprise – selective ... Hawley is also selective – surprise – about his philosophers ... Hawley protests way too much. He seeks to avail himself of the positive liberty posited by Berlin ... He’s doing fine. He seems to believe, however, that he possesses a God-given right to be heard.
In a book titled Manhood, Hawley literally never mentions the most famous act of his life: running away from the protesters in the Capitol on January 6, 2021, the protesters he had earlier that day saluted with a raised fist of solidarity ... The U.S. right has created an entire self-contained fantasy world, one in which GOP politicians like Hawley can thrive without ever facing the most obvious questions ... There are zero jokes, not even a single wry remark. Consuming it is like eating a small but dense log of suet ... By Hawley’s own estimation, he is the weakest, most unmanly man imaginable.
I too would have run away from the January 6 rioters. So it’s not surprising that we can find some common ground. While Hawley isn’t wrong when he recognizes that something’s up with men, he wildly misses the mark on exactly what that something is ... I’m not sure I can imagine a less productive message than encouraging men to become fathers before they’re ready. Hawley is only interested in helping men live the exact same life that he himself leads ... No one, myself included, should read this book ... Hawley is awfully repetitive and dull. For much of the book, he leans on familiar right-wing canards ... We can and should mock Hawley, but we’re taking a risk if we don’t read between the lines ... All he’s done, for his entire career, is pin the blame on anyone but himself. By that standard of manhood alone, I feel comfortable saying Hawley’s not one.
Strange and ineffective ... Like almost everything Hawley does, the book is an epic disaster ... The pre-existing systems, culture, and structures that bind modern men and inform their choices are framed merely as excuses for not doing what’s right ... This culture-warrior perspective on manhood is so bizarre to read, knowing Hawley’s political indebtedness to the consumerist, gimme-gimme, consequences-be-damned MAGA vibe that currently dominates the Republican Party.