The Thinking 

When Neutered Men Speak to Boys

January 13, 2013


WHEELER MacPherson writes:

The small town at the base of our mountain counts among its charms a genuine country restaurant. Once a month or so, my wife and I treat ourselves to an early-morning outing at the breakfast buffet there. The fresh, family-prepared food offered there is worlds removed from the pallid microwaved sausage links and scrappy bacon ends and frozen biscuits and congealed gravy and out-of-season fruit one finds at a Shoney’s or a Denny’s. I am comfortable in saying that it’s obscene to think of the chain restaurants as worthy of comparison to such a good country kitchen.

This morning we made our trek down to the restaurant and found a booth and said our hellos to some of the Saturday morning regulars, including a little garden troll of a man who always orders a large plate of sliced tomatoes, which he eats buried in fresh sausage gravy and which he manages to keep from slopping onto the immaculate white snap-button shirt he always wears. We got our coffee and fetched our plates and loaded up with the food of the mountain South.

While we ate, we talked a little and people-watched a lot. This is our way. There were several young families in the restaurant with their small children, all of whom were well-behaved. There were also a number of grayhairs with their grandchildren or great-grandchildren in tow. The children were talkative and expressive and a wonder to watch. All those little blonde and red and brunette scalps atop all those little blue and green and hazel eyes.

As I watched, I became aware of something that’s been gnawing at me for some time now. The young fathers and the not-so-young granddaddies had a peculiar way of speaking to the male children. They squatted down to be on eye level with the lads, or they leaned way over to appear less tall. And when they spoke, the mens’ voices were…feminine. I don’t mean lisping or mincing or effeminate. I mean feminine. No matter how low the voice might have been naturally pitched, the men without exception raised the pitch of their voices and lowered the volume until they sounded like spinster Sunday School teachers, whispering in calming tones, asking questions and making observations.

“Do you see the birds outside, Chad?”
“Let Papaw tie your shoe.”
“Did you spit out your gum, Nolan?”
“What do you want to drink?”
“Show Miss Judy your tooth!”

Each of these sentences was uttered with an upward inflection into the high tenor range, as if singing a campfire song. The younger men were the worst offenders; their facial expressions were all wide eyes and open mouths. They reminded me of 19-year old female daycare workers. But most of the older men were also doing some diluted variation of these techniques. None of them seemed like whole men in the presence of these male children.

And so I began to search my memory, and I could not recall a single adult male in my boyhood speaking to me or my friends in such tones. I cannot recall any men routinely squatting down or leaning over to make themselves appear closer to my own height. I cannot remember any men putting a breathless wheezing whisper into their words. I cannot bring to mind a single incident in which a grown man opened his eyes and mouth as wide as possible and talked to me like some grinning, masculine Norma Desmond. What I do remember are the grown men who picked me up and lifted me to their naturally imposing height, instead of lowering themselves to mine. And such lifting was always accompanied by a feeling of safety and strength. I’m pretty sure (and confirmed by my wife’s memories) that I never talked to our boys or to my nephews in such a manner. And I know very well that I have never vocally nor vertically neutered myself when interacting with my grandchildren.

The men of today, both young and old, have been poisoned, it seems. Poisoned by the feminist doctrine that has been mixed into every social expression, event, and philosophy. Poisoned by the erasing of distinctions between the sexes. Poisoned by the need to be nonthreatening and never, ever overtly masculine. Poisoned by the need to be liked by their own children and grandchildren – liked like schoolyard chums, I mean.

The males of today have a horror of many things; the horror of not being a man does not seem to be listed in the catalog of fears.

When we left the restaurant, I felt that odd combination of bewilderment and determination that always accompanies epiphany. Now that I have named and described this behavior in my own mind, I will be keenly aware of it. And I will also be vigilant to see if any men alive today know how to talk properly to a boy. I want to know if men today realize that the lads under their gaze are future men, men who (God willing) will one day have their own lads to tend.

—- Comments —-

Lawrence Auster writes:

GREAT entry!

Kimberly writes:

It’s interesting that you title this article using the word “neutered,” and I’ll get back to why that is. I would like to let Mr. MacPherson know, my husband treats his boys like a “whole man” would, as he’s described. I felt uplifted as he spoke of men that used to raise children up to their eye-level, rather than squatting down to theirs, because I’ve seen my husband do that often. My boys have a tremendous respect and devotion to their father. They love him but they also fear him.

I am now pregnant with our fourth child, and my husband has been asked several times if he is going to get “fixed.” His response is, “I’m not broken. Why would I get surgery on a working organ?” They respond with a confused look. Some have stammered that it’s only a 45 minute operation. My husband is one man that is certainly afraid of losing his masculinity, and he’s proud to maintain that fear, and I’m proud of him for it. I’d like to know what Mr. MacPherson means exactly by saying that the emasculated men of today fear many things… I’d like to know exactly what they’re afraid of. If they aren’t afraid of getting neutered, they must have some very strange fears. I simply cannot understand them.

 Art from Texas writes:

“I want to know if men today realize that the lads under their gaze are future men, men who (God willing) will one day have their own lads to tend.”

It is hard to say the same for all men, but many today really only see this intellectually. The rest of life is all compartmentalized off from that, and they never see the connections they should, or understand the meaning of the connection, between a boy and a man.

Laura writes:

I think Art is describing men with such stunted imaginations that they cannot project into the future at all.

Kevin M. writes:

Whoever these men are who seem to talk to their sons as though they were toddlers are imprinting their sons with a very bad structure of communication. Don’t doubt for a minute that when the boys encounter men who don’t talk like this, they will wonder what on Earth was wrong with Dad. I vividly recall my college graduation where I overheard a father call his grown son “Honey.” Another man turned to him and asked if he just called a grown man “Honey,” and the offending father’s face went six shades of beet red when it dawned on him what that looked like.

That they act effeminate is puzzling. Do their wives talk this way? Are there daughters who are given the same treatment? Where in the U.S. is this happening? The South? I thought sounthern men reeked of testosterone. Maybe I was wrong.

There is something highly puzzling in Mr. MacPherson’s tale. I don’t doubt his account of it all, but my gut tells me someone’s wife, a purple dinosaur or a Telletubby is at the root of this. Some people are not given good examples of parenting skills.

A reader writes:

In response to Kimberly, I have listened to the conversation of many younger, weak men and I know what some of their fears are.

They are afraid of food poisoning, so they examine every label. They are afraid of any slight amount of chemicals, so they will quit their jobs if they detect anything made of any material, even carpeting. They do not like nature any better, and will not walk barefoot on the grass nor sit on it without a cushion underneath them.

They are afraid of smoke coming from someone else’s fireplace or camp fire, and will go to great lengths to get it stopped, for their own comfort.

They are afraid of bugs, spiders, mice and mold, and will create a great deal of attention and drama over every particle of offending dirt or anything else they come into contact with. They are afraid of living in the city but afraid of everything in the country too.

They are afraid of the economy collapsing, so they send their wives to work — whatever sense that makes.

They are afraid of the end of the world because they do not understand the meaning of life. My belief is that many of them were raised, for the most part, in institutions of fear (daycare, schools, colleges, workplaces) and they cannot tolerate the details of real life. They never learned that life was part bad, part good and that there is goodness and severity in both God and in the authority of fathers. Life is part good and part bad, but the weak men insist that it all be soft and sweet. They make terrible fathers because they have no strong standards that they can insist their children live up to.

These are a few of my own observations and my own conclusions. Others may see it differently.

An interesting movie to watch, based on a true story, and available on Netflix, is The Measure of a Man. Observe this man and see both his kindness and sternness, and the resulting adoration his family held in him. He was not squeamish. He knew how to pass on his knowledge to his children, and was capable of telling the boys how to be men, and the girls how to be women.

Mr. MacPherson writes:

Kimberly, I was encouraged to read of how your husband treats your boys. The phrase, “They love him but they also fear him,” did my heart good. This is exactly what is lacking in what I’ve witnessed these days. Now, to answer your question about what males today are afraid of:

I think they’re afraid of being expected to do anything. To put it another way, males today fear being required to be men of action. Imagine if you and your family were in church and drunken rowdies made their way into the worship service. How would most of the men respond? To be more specific, how would the pastor (or priest) respond? I suspect that in most congregations, the pastors would be horrified, offended, outraged, etc…but in attitude only. Not in observable response. They would probably shriek for someone to call 911.

Let me give an illustration from real life. Not long ago, I was standing in our front yard, which is about 150 yards from the gravel road. A man from my church was standing in the yard with me, and we were talking about planting and caring for fruit trees. A truck came zooming into view, plowing up an enormous cloud of dust, skidding around on the gravel due to excessive speed, and generally inserting a vulgar and noisy display into a quiet winter afternoon. I interrupted my conversation long enough to point my finger at the young man driving the truck (at least he looked like a young man from that distance) and to say in a loud voice, “This ain’t your private driveway. My grandkids walk on this road sometimes! Slow down!

My friend blanched and said in a stage whisper, “I’d be careful if I were you. He might come over here and start trouble.”

Let’s set aside a couple of  facts (my voice won’t carry intelligibly over a couple hundred yards; my voice won’t carry over the roar of a diesel engine) and just pay attention to the obvious. My friend ignored the fact that this kid was driving like a lunatic. He focused on the remote possibility that I might (gasp!) get into trouble.

This is one of the irrational fears that dominate males today. They won’t speak up against wrongdoing because they don’t want to get in trouble. They won’t challenge destructive, foolish worldviews because they don’t want to be frowned at. They won’t mention hypocrisy and double-standards in the public square because they don’t want to be called a name. They won’t won’t set firm boundaries for their children because they fear they will be disobeyed and then they’d have to actually do something to back up their authority. All of these things have a common source: fear. And the fear has a common theme: fear of being disliked or disapproved of.

I think Art is correct, and I think he’s touched on something important. Men today feel no connection to the past, so it’s not surprising that they can’t see a connection to the future. White men in particular are indoctrinated mercilessly with the notion that they are not part of a distinct people, and so why bother with flimsy thoughts about one’s ancestors or one’s great-grandchildren? These are abstract concepts at best to the present-day males, who indeed possess what Laura calls “stunted imaginations.”

Kevin, I have to confess that I’m puzzled by your being puzzled at my descriptions of what I witnessed. I infer from your question about where this is happening that you’ve never seen such behavior? If not, I invite you to look a little harder the next time you’re in the company of men and small boys. And to reiterate what I wrote, I live in the mountain South. The men here are very masculine. They’re big, beefy, bearded fellows who can tear apart a transmission or a rack of ribs with equal skill and gusto. They’ll fight at the drop of a hat, and they’ll help you drop the hat. Rough hands and rough voices…until they speak to little boys. My point was that this is the horrific element of what I witnessed. These men aren’t khaki-wearing Bill Gates clones or metrosexual mama’s boys. They’re mostly hard, tough men. But they have been infected by the spirit of the age. It hasn’t come about because of women; that’s the easy answer. It has come about because men have stopped seeing themselves as protectors and vice regents, and started seeing themselves as “persons of the male gender.” No area of the country with cable/satellite TV service is safe from this infection.

The reader who recommended The Measure of a Man is so, so correct on so many points. The list of things males fear is uncomfortably accurate. We once kept pistols at our hips. We now keep hand sanitizer in our man-purses.

Laura writes:

Men are afraid of asserting themselves.

Terry Morris writes:

Wheeler MacPherson – what a redneck!  :-)

Perfesser Plum writes:

It appears that lots of men are self-castrated omegas. They learned early on that they’d only get women to like them if they acted as women—voice, wording, gestures. I can’t imagine wanting the approval of such women. I bask in their enmity.

Fortunately, the men on both sides of my family had either been gangsters or hard-working guys. So, when I speak to members of the younger generations (with their caps on sideways and long shorts that look like culottes) they often wet their pants and run screaming. My wife tells me to speak more gently. I tell her to “Drop down and give me 50.” She often responds with a frying pan, but I’m quick on my feet.

Bruce B. writes:

I saw what Mr. MacPherson describes at child’s birthday party this past weekend. One of the fathers did exactly what Mr. Macpherson describes. I also noticed another father who did not do this. The main difference between the two seemed to be social class. The “neutered” man was middle class. The man who was not neutered was (typical modern) working/lower class – big and tattooed with a bushy Viking beard. I think, in general, a lot of the effeminacy among males is predominant in the middle and upper middle classes but hasn’t affected the lower classes nearly as much.

Mary writes:

I, too, have noticed this phenomenon. In my experience this behavior is usually found in middle class men. It occurs to me that one of the contributing factors is that there are very few large families anymore and that this, along with the fact that many of the middle class are having children later in life, has created an overly-large generation gap . The result is that these men have little to no contact with young children for decades before they have their own kids. If a boy is raised in an average two child household, marries in his late twenties and has kids in his early thirties he has potentially gone without any meaningful contact with young children in a healthy family setting for twenty years. Being from a two child family he has no little brothers or sisters to be an example to, and being presumably close in age to his only sibling he has no older siblings having children of their own while he is young enough to get benefit from it. These men end up taking the lead from their equally inexperienced wives.

A second detriment of our nation of small families, and perhaps it is the biggest contributor to this feminisation of fathers, is that the one or two children of these inexperienced parents are treated in an overly precious fashion, since each of the two parents has only one child, or even one child between them, on which to focus their complete attentions. Again the men take the lead from their wives. The children aren’t handled together as a group with rules for the group, benefits for the group, etc. but treated as treasured individuals whose every whim can be catered to. In small families with one girl and one boy this is especially true as no sharing of bedrooms and toys necessary. It is easy to see why these children are spoken to and treated by their fathers like fascinating, delicate little creatures whose every facial expression and mood is a marvel: rare things are treated as such.

I have a small family myself but am from a large one, with loads of cousins, grew up in a neighborhood literally teeming with children, etc. so we never fell into this trap. Children of large families are universally unspoiled simply because it is impossible for them to be catered to in this way. In a world where parents had children freely there would indeed still be small families but there would also be lots more large ones, and neighborhoods and extended family would likely provide all children and young adults with enough experience in raising children that this phenomenon of treating youngsters like precious toys would be diminished. Grandparents are getting older and older, too, with huge gaps in their own experience. The wisdom of the ages is being cut short.

Laura writes:

I agree with everything Mary says.

We live in a world in which children are both spoiled and neglected. They are indulged in small things and deprived of big things. And many adults spend so little time with children — they also spend so much of life in an ugly, sterile, dis-enchanted, and depersonalized world — that they are awed by children, who seem magical and real by contrast, and hence they idolize them.

Texanne writes:

It has taken a long time, but I have slowly come to discern that this same behavior of men towards their daughters has left the girls and young women feeling like there is no one who will protect and take care of them — there are no grown-ups, no elders no one who can or will protect them — even from their own acting out. They face the future of having to take care of themselves — even to the point of choosing a fertility lab over a father for their children. Might as well pair up with a competent woman rather than a tamed, feminized male. Mothers and fathers were once acknowledged to possess different kinds of wisdom and different domains of expertise and action, as well as areas in which deference to the parent of the other sex was expected and common sense.

The engine of the feminist movement, in conjunction with the general questioning of authority (in response to which the “Greatest Generation” came up woefully empty handed), suddenly turned on men and demanded that they justify the assumption that their role in the family was to be the provider and protector, strong and wise: “Says who?”! It was insisted that men get in touch with their feminine side, that they be fully involved in the details of their baby’s care and development. In particular, they were admonished to practice womanly tenderness with their children — avoid harsh judgment and stern rebuke in favor of gentle reasoning and positive reinforcement. The mother and father should be interchangeable in the home just as sex differences in the wider society must be erased.

Men have been nudged (or bludgeoned) into this posture and behavior by feminism, and lo and behold, women find they are no happier for this victory. The weakening of the father has been most damaging to the children. Sons have no model for virtuous manliness, and daughters observe the sexless partnership model of marriage with despair. Yet the progressive engine drives relentlessly on towards the ideal of radical equality. So sad.

Laura writes:

Excellent points.

You write:

It has taken a long time, but I have slowly come to discern that this same behavior of men towards their daughters has left the girls and young women feeling like there is no one who will protect and take care of them — there are no grown-ups, no elders no one who can or will protect them — even from their own acting out. They face the future of having to take care of themselves — even to the point of choosing a fertility lab over a father for their children.

So true.

Mrs. P. writes:

I believe I have an opposing view here provided I understand what is troubling you, Mr. MacPherson, and what you observe in the behavior of fathers and grandfathers toward small boys when you and your wife go to breakfast at the country restaurant. Forgive me if I misunderstand.

You undoubtedly are a loving father and grandfather given the sweet way you describe the children at this restaurant. My husband is a loving father and grandfather too. So was my own father who would be in his nineties today if he were still living. My husband has always been a good provider and protector of our family. The same was true of my father. It is a natural thing for my husband, and was for my father as well, to squat down when speaking to a small child in order to be eye level whether a girl or a boy. My husband does this all the time with our small grandchildren. We have 16 grandchildren. Nine are boys. The pitch of his voice tends to be higher than normal for him, too, in speaking to one of our small grandchildren. It is natural to do this as far as I am concerned. It is nothing more than being gentle and tender. These characteristics are not the exclusive property of females. Men can be gentle and tender, too, without it impairing their masculinity or blurring it in the eyes of children.

What does my husband’s example show the children you might ask? It shows them that a man can be gentle and still a man. In a word, a gentleman. That is what my husband is….a gentleman. What is more, our children and our grandchildren do not fear him…they respect him. They hold him in high esteem and seek to honor him. And, of course, they love him as do I.

When my husband and I were young and dating, I recognized this quality of gentleness in him. I fell in love with him then. I wanted him to be the father of my children, because I knew he would be a good father, and he has been the best of fathers. We have been married over 50 years. I am a blessed woman.

I will have to try the fresh tomatoes smothered in sausage gravy that you wrote about. It made me salivate when I read it.

Laura writes:

It is important for men to be affectionate and gentle with children, but I believe Mr. MacPherson is talking about men who go overboard.

Mr. MacPherson writes:

Laura, you are correct, and thank you.

Some behaviors are so pronounced and so odd, they seem cartoonish. My descriptions were my visceral reaction to the emasculated voices and gestures I witnessed at the restaurant. And this reaction is becoming an unconscious part of my observational repertoire. It’s elicited not just by neutered men, but by young women who speak with the obnoxious, quasi-masculine “vocal fry,” and by police officers who strut and swagger in the presence of those they call “silly-villains” behind their tax-paying backs.

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