Why were men so focused on winning?
When I was a boy and went to a museum 1 can remember seeing a head cut off from its body and being told by the curator that it was thought to be die head of the captain of the uinnmg team in a Mayan ball court game (roughly a Mayan and Aztec equivalent of-football). Other times, the losing team’s captain – or the entire team – was killed 9 Why? It depended on who the society felt would best protect them: the able-bodied winners, in which case the losers were sacrificed; or the gods, who might be more pleased by a sacrifice of the winners.
If winning per se were important, the uinner would never have been sacrificed. The sacrifice of the winners taught the society that both men s lives and winning were secondary to society’s protection. Men’s focus on winning was, historically, a focus on protection – even at the expense of themselves
The Civil War: men as second-class citizens
During the Civil War in the United States, two groups were able to avoid the draft: females and upperclass males. Any female was the equivalent of an upper-class male in this respect. Except that even the upper-class men had to buy their way out of death. They did this by paying three hundred dollars10 (roughly $5,400 today11) to a poor man This allowed the poor man’s family to survive while he risked death The poor man s self-concept – that he was worth nothing if he remained poor – was literal. Being cannon fodder at least made him worth something to someone.
Why could the upper-class male buy his way out of the Civil War? Because he had the ability to save the community in other ways – producing munitions or food supplies in factories, producing harvests via the property and slaves he owned (which might go unproductive were he to go off to war, and which might never again be productive if he was killed) The upper-class male did not have the privilege to avoid the savior role – only the privilege to play the role in various ways He still inherited the obligation to save, not the option to be free from saving. Nor did he inherit the option to have a woman save him.
During the Civil War, the got ernment passed a Conscription Act1J allowing, in essence, for an all-male slate trade More than a half million men (623,026) were killed in the Civil War13 – the equivalent of eleven Vietnam Wars. Try to imagine eleven Vietnam Wars in a row in which only females were drafted, in which 620,000 female soldiers – your sister, your mother, your daughter – arrived home in body bags
Was this war stuff, though, а ‘теп е thing”? Hardly. Women “hissed and groaned” at men who didn’t fight14 In the South, men rarely ran ads for substitutes because, as the award-winning PBS series on the Civil War explained, “ women wouldn’t permit it.”13 Few women wanted to marry a man who was afraid to fight
There is yet another lesson here. If men loved war so much, why did men riot, protesting the draft of men in the 1860s? Why did many Northern men risk ostracism by running ads in newspapers for substitutes so they could buy their way out? Today men still get hissed and booed when they succeed at avoiding war. Ask Dan Quayle. Bill Clinton. . .
Some boys, of course, willingly go into war. If girls from disadvantaged backgrounds willingly had their limbs torn off so their families could have an extra $5,000 a year, we would call these girls saints. We call the boys macho.
In the Civil War, as in most wars, both sexes believed in the principles for which their side was fighting. One of those principles was freeing black slaves. In essence, white male slaves fought to free black slaves. We have long acknowledged the slavery of blacks. We have yet to acknowledge the slavery of males
In these respects, no man и as equal to a woman: no man, of any class, could expea a woman to save him from attack Or from starvatk>n. And in Stage I, starvation and attack were the primary fears. In these ways, men were the second-class citizens. Boys died before the age of consent – before they had the right to vote.
If girls willingly risked their lives in the Civil War in exchange for a few medals, we would immediately recognize low self-esteem as a woman’s issue. Yet boys do this and a best-selling feminist book in the 1990s, Gloria Steinem’s Reiolution from Within, claims that low self-esteem is a woman s issue.16 Low self-esteem is also a man s issue – an issue deriving from the male version of being a second-class citizen. Our ability to address it is a Stage II privilege; our addressing it for only one sex is Stage II sexism.
When feminist historians call this slave class a warrior class and an elite class,17 they miss this perspeaive warriors were not so much an elite class as a dead class.