Skip to main content
Episode 120 | October 18, 2023

The Toxic War on Masculinity with Nancy Pearcey

How did the script for masculinity turn so toxic?

“Kill all men.” “Talking about healthy masculinity is like talking about healthy cancer.” “So many men, so little ammunition.” Yes, these are actual headlines. How did the idea arise that masculinity is so dangerous and destructive? Is there any hope for redemption for boys and men in today’s culture? That’s what we’re diving into today when Keith sits down with Nancy Pearcey, a professor at Houston Christian University and the author of several books, including her most recent, “The Toxic War...

Read More
00:00 / 00:00
Ten Minute Bible Talks Episode Thumbnail


Nancy Pearcy  00:00

Hello, my name is Nancy Pelosi, and I choose truth over tribe.

Keith Simon  01:05

I'm sure that you've noticed that our culture is talking about what's wrong with men. That conversation seems to be everywhere. I read essays in the Washington Post, The Atlantic, the New York Times, I've read several books on the topic. But the best book, The best one, by far, in my opinion, is one by Nancy pearcey. She is a professor at Houston Christian University. And the title of her book is the toxic war on masculinity, how Christianity reconciles the sexes. I've been looking forward to this conversation for quite a while, and it didn't disappoint. We get into the details of what is wrong with men. We also talk about the difference between masculinity and femininity. Does the Bible give us any guidance there? The reason I think her book is the best is because she doesn't just tell us what's wrong with men. But she tells us how we got here to this point, and gives us a map forward. We talk about all kinds of stuff from toxic masculinity to the manosphere to whether it's right to think that women civilized men, I think you're really going to enjoy the conversation. Here we go. Let's hop in with Professor Nancy Pearson. Nancy Pelosi, welcome to Truth over tribe.

Nancy Pearcy  02:30

Thanks so much. I appreciate it.

Keith Simon  02:32

I'm really excited to talk to you. I've been looking forward to this for quite a while. I've been reading a lot about this issue of what's wrong with men. And it seems like you came out with a book at the right time, because there are essays and books that are all addressing this topic. I mean, I've seen essays in The Washington Post in the Atlantic, if you in the New York Times, and of course, lots of books, in my opinion, your book is the best one out there on this topic. It's called the toxic war on masculinity, how Christianity reconciles the sexes. And so it seems like everybody knows something is wrong with boys and men. What is it that you're seeing in culture that's leading you to that conclusion that something's wrong with men?

Nancy Pearcy  03:16

Well, yeah, certainly to start with, they're being attacked. It's become socially acceptable to express incredible amount of hostility against men. And so that caught my eye the Washington Post had an article titled, Why can't we hate men? Really, you know, mainstream publication like that. Huffington post editor tweeted hashtag kill all men, that you can buy T shirts that say, so many men, so little ammunition?

Keith Simon  03:46

I haven't seen that one that was pretty good.

Nancy Pearcy  03:50

And then the other books that are very overt books with titles like I hate men, and no good men, and are men necessary. And even men are jumping on the bandwagon. So there's a fairly well known male author who wrote talking about healthy masculinity is like talking about healthy cancer. And you might have seen this one because it was in the news maybe a few minutes ago now. But director of the movie Avatar, James Cameron, was quoted in the news saying testosterone is a toxin that you have to work out of your system. So that's what really caught my eye first, because, you know, why has it become socially acceptable to expose such extreme hostility against men? Where's this coming from? You know, why does our culture get masculinity so wrong? You know, I'm an apologist at heart I write books on apologetics. I'm kind of like, what you how can we analyze what's coming to us from the secular world? And how can we respond to that more effectively?

Keith Simon  04:42

And so all these books that have come out that you just mentioned, that there's a problem with men, testosterone is a toxin? Why are they responding with that? Is that because of the me to movement? Is the rise in violence what's prompting those titles? Well, that

Nancy Pearcy  04:57

is a long story. I spend a lot of my book covering So, yes, it certainly starts with things like the metoo movement. But then people want to know, where did the very concept come from that masculinity is toxic. And many people will think, Well, you know, 1960s second wave feminism, but it actually goes much further back, you have to go back to the Industrial Revolution. Because before that, men worked alongside their wives and children all day, on the family farm, or the family industry or the family business. And so the cultural expectation on men was much more a caretaking ethos, no responsibility for the common good of your family. And in fact, men were considered the primary parent fathers were most literature on parenting, like sermons, pamphlets, advice, manuals, were written to fathers, not to mothers. And if you go into a bookstore today, you know, the majority of them are just mothers, back then they were just the fathers, because fathers were considered having the primary importance, especially for their children's intellectual and spiritual growth. So that was shocking when I discovered that, like, wow, they used to really think that they really thought that men were as involved in child rearing as mothers were. And they were because economic activity took place in the home. So both men and women could be involved in economically productive work, while raising their kids. So the big change really comes with the industrial revolution, because that takes work out of the home. And for the first time, men are not working with people they love and have a moral bond with. But they're working as individuals in competition with other men. And you can imagine how this sort of changed the mentality in the literature of the day. You see, people begin to protest that and then we're losing that caretaking ethos of the colonial era, that they were becoming self interested, egocentric, greedy, acquisitive, look out for number one, when at all costs. Yeah, this is a language that people began to use at the time. And they will also concern that men are becoming more secular, because as a large public realm began to develop industry in business and financial institutions, universities, and of course, the state, people began to say, well, these large public institutions should be run by scientific principles by which they meant value free. In other words, don't bring your private values into the public realm, which is what we still hear today. It was men getting that secular education and working in that secular environment, to again, you can see in the literature, the day people began to be concerned that men were not attending churches, often they were not governing their behavior so much by biblical principles. Many of them tried to sort of straddle the two, this is where the sacred secular split, comes in, right? At work, they operate by secular principles, and then they come home and the church, and they try to operate by biblical principles. And again, the literature of the day, people said men have been split in half. One columnist in the 19th century said, Men are showing a faithful dualism that was a word of faithful dualism, where they're trying to sort of straddle the secular world with their Christian home life at anyway, this is where the language starts changing. This is the first time you see negative language applied to the male character. And so that's where we have to go back and try to figure out okay, you know, what was happening? And how can we fix it today?

Keith Simon  08:23

Well, it's one of the things that I think sets your book apart is you don't just tell where we are. But you try to explain how we got to this point. And I think you do a great job in the book of laying out how men with the advent of the Industrial Revolution were pulled out of the home. And instead of working together as a family, now families are pulled apart, and the work environment becomes one of accomplishment, achievement, and the one home becomes kind of this more tranquil, domestic, spiritual paradise. Now, of course, not all homes operated that way. But that was kind of the cultural vibe at the moment. And then men started living more and more for themselves instead of on behalf of their family or on behalf of the greater society. And so maybe we'll come back to that, because I think the history of it interests me a lot. But today, it seems like we have a problem with men because men are not going to college as much as women, right? 57% of bachelor's degrees are being offered to women. Men are dropping out of the labor force in their prime working years. They're just literally dropping out like not unemployed, literally not even in the system. And you don't even know what those people do or how they pay their bills. Men's pay has gone down, their friendships have decreased. It wasn't that long ago, and we had to have Title Nine to promote women. In other words, women were being disadvantaged, and somehow and, you know, a half a century, we've totally flipped the script. And now men are on the outs. And I'm not sure exactly how that happened.

Nancy Pearcy  09:57

That's a good point. And I do spend some time in the book also. just outlining some of the ways men and boys are falling behind. It starts in kindergarten, you know, little boys don't have as good fine motor control, they can't operate a scissors as well as a girl can. And so sadly, it starts right from the beginning where boys start to feel like they're incompetent. Or as one writer puts it, he wrote a book on boys falling behind me said, Boys are being treated as defective girls in the classroom today. And another teacher that I quote, said, You know, when girls were behind, we blend the system, you know, discrimination, now that boys are falling behind the literature blames boys for being too masculine, you know, they need to settle down, they need to learn to be more calm, and more verbal, more like girls. And this continues, as you noted, all the way through high school and into college. So the average university now is 60%, female and 40% male. And I have to tell you smoke, private colleges are even more skewed. When I first started working at Houston, Christian University, where I am now 10 years ago, it was 7030 70% female. And so we have been working to change that. And even schools like Harvard are quietly instituting affirmative action to get more male students. And I read recently, it's not because they necessarily want more male students if that the girls won't come anymore. If there aren't some boys there, the girls won't come either. So they are trying to increase the number of boys. And you ask where it started? Because, yeah, it was 10. Nine, it was also the 1994 Gender Equity Act that poured millions of dollars into equity workshops, training materials, girlfriend, Lee curriculum, and so on. And that's great. You know, we don't want to sound like we're against girls getting ahead. It's wonderful that they're moved ahead and so rapidly, and I have to remind people, universities did not even accept female students until the mid 20th century. I am very glad I did not live any earlier. So it's just astonishing that girls have moved to headset workplaces. But now it is time to start asking What about boys, not only a university, but graduate school, more girls and boys go to graduate school, more girls are even going to professional schools like law and medicine. And then once they're in adults, as you were mentioning, they're more likely to commit suicide, be drug addicted, be homeless, be in prison, 90% of prison inmates are male victims of crime also. And you mentioned their unemployment. Yes, it's not showing up in the unemployment statistics, because they're not even looking for work. And so researchers had to dig deeper, and they now tell us that male unemployment is that depression era levels. And that was a shocker. To me Depression era levels, our memories of the depression are really bleak. And then even life expectancy, male life expectancy has gone down women's is not it stayed the same. But in recent years, maybe the first five years or so male life expectancy has gone down so that a magazine called The New Scientist says that the major demographic now for early death is being male, I think it's time to have compassion on men and boys. Let

Keith Simon  13:10

me read that little section from your book, I think it was a good summary of what we've been talking about. You're right, men are more likely than women to be homeless, to suffer mental illness to wind up in prison to commit suicide, to be murdered to be addicted to drugs or alcohol means workforce participation has dropped to depression era levels. In recent year, men's life expectancy has even gone down while women's has remained the same. And then ends with that new scientists, quote, being male is now the single largest demographic factor for early death. And we're comparing the condition of men and women and like you said, we're not asking for men to be elevated above women or necessarily women to be elevated above men, but for both to thrive. But it kind of makes me wonder, is it a zero sum game, you know, like, in order for one gender to win, the other one has to lose, because we went from a world where it was male dominated, and women frankly, didn't have the same opportunities. And now we see a world where I think men do have the opportunities. They're just for some reason, not taking advantage of the opportunities that they have. So I'm a little sympathetic. I can imagine a woman out there listening, or a man saying look before Title Nine, say back in the 60s and earlier, women didn't have the opportunity. Men now have the opportunity. They just aren't taking advantage of it. But is it a zero sum game? If one side wins to the other side lose? Well,

Nancy Pearcy  14:35

it shouldn't be right. Clearly, it should not be a zero sum game. And I don't think it has to be. But you mentioned the fact that men are not taking advantage of opportunities. So that's a major theme. And Richard Reeves new book, there's a new book out by Richard Reeves. He's at the Brookings Institution is called of men and boys. And one of his most surprising findings is he looked at programs. For example, there were some programs that would give him what state it was in But there was a state that allows in Kalamazoo,

Keith Simon  15:02

Michigan, where the people came in and said we would pay for the college education of any graduating senior on what school they wanted to go to, right? Is that what you're referring to?

Nancy Pearcy  15:12

Yes, I am. Because that was kind of his example of how the girls go. Students just jumped, you know, they went for it, and the boy students wouldn't even try. So that was his way of kind of saying, Well, what's happened to their motivation? What's happened to the male motivation, it's not a matter of opportunities. There's some kind of demoralization that's happening. And I can't help but think some of it is a response to the negative messages that they're getting that we started with. There's a psychotherapist who writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal. And she said, the boys coming into my practice now are coming in very demeaned, demoralized, because they feel like they're growing up in a society that's hostile to masculinity. There was a survey done a few years ago, where almost half of American men agreed with the statement these days, society seems to punish men just for acting like men, and a more recent one, which is not in the book because it's more recent, but it was in Britain. 55% of men in Britain agreed. So the number seems to be going up. When I told my class at Houston Christian university that I was writing a book on masculinity. One of my male students shot back what masculinity, it's been beaten out of us. So even in Christian circles, men are feeling as if there's some kind of maybe a hostility against masculinity that is perhaps demoralizing them undercutting their motivation, and making them feel like Why try? So

Keith Simon  16:42

let's talk about masculinity. And what is masculinity today? I think it's hard to define, right? What's the difference between a man and a woman? We've seen that our society sometimes has a hard time answering that question, I don't want to go down that path. But I would like to think about the differences between masculinity and femininity. And have we always known there's a difference, and recently had a hard time defining those terms. And I'm not sure that's true. But I remember back in 1992, Time Magazine ran a cover story and is on the cover of Time Magazine. Why are men and women different? isn't just upbringing. new study shows they're born that way. So evidently pre 1992, people were surprised to hear that men and women are born differently. Now, clearly, there are biological anatomical differences between men and women. But can we kind of distinguish more of what is masculinity? And what is femininity outside of just biology? Well,

Nancy Pearcy  17:41

biology is so central to who we are that I still think it's worthwhile to start there. In other words, you know, I mean, God made us unified beings. And it is true, that men are bigger, stronger, have more upper body strength, 75%, more muscle mass 90%, greater upper body strength. And by the way, I just read this one 162% greater punch force ability to punch by the way. Yeah, I noticed that because women who've been abused will know that one. And testosterone does cause people to be more aggressive, more risk taking, you didn't want to go down the transgender route. But women who start on testosterone often do say they do find themselves more aggressive, they do find that they start fitting more of the masculine stereotypes that you know, hormones matter. And there was a wonderful study done by an anthropologist, it was the first ever cross cultural study done on concepts of masculinity. So this was interesting, because different cultures might have different definitions of masculinity, some are more warlike, some are more peaceful. But he said, The anthropologist found that all cultures share the conviction that a man performs three things, what he called the three P's protect, provide and procreate, meaning, you know, build into the next generation, you know, even if you're not a literal Father, that you build into the future into the next generation. And I thought that was fascinating, because, you know, he's not a Christian, and these will not Christian nations that he was studying. And yet they all had an inherent innate sense that my unique masculine strengths, you know, because they are different from women, my unique masculine strengths are not given me to get whatever I want, you know, to dominate others to control. But there's an inherent universal sense that my strengths were given to me to provide, protect, take care of those that I love, the people I'm responsible for. So I think this is a sort of general revelation. But we use the word general revelation to mean what people kind of know and inherently just because they're made in God's image, and live in God's world, the world God created, it has a certain structure a certain order, and so even non Christians will understand a lot of truths, apart from Scripture. I think it's showing us that as part of general revelation that men do inherently know what their strengths were given them for or and what it means to be a good man. So when we talk about the differences between men and women, it does start with the physical. Because the implications of being physically stronger and larger, bears a lot of weight in terms of what the relationship between men and women is going to be, then,

Keith Simon  20:17

let's just say there was a lot that you said that I find interesting. And you talked about men's physical strength being greater on average, than women's physical strength. And there was a time in human history, probably the bulk of human history, where that really mattered. In a lot of ways. It seems like that matters less today, especially when it comes to providing, for example, our work now has become more cerebral and less physical robots have, and machines have taken over a lot of factory work that a lot of men did, it seems like truck driving, which is a huge occupation, for men, is probably eventually here and not too far distant future going to be taken over by automatic driving cars, warfare even has become more cerebral, in wheat about providing for a family. I mean, you're a professor at a university who writes books and makes a great living, I'm sure you could provide for a family with or without a man, you could for sure, take care of yourself. So it seems like some of the physical advantages or strengths that men had that used to be very valuable, or less valuable now in our modern, technologically driven world. So it seems like that's part of the problem, because women are looking going, not all women, of course, but looking at well, why do I need a man in order to thrive in this world? I don't,

Nancy Pearcy  21:45

that's a good point. And not only that, but a lot of the working class kind of jobs have been exported, right? They're not here anymore. Remember that TV program, dirty jobs, where he focused on really difficult, dangerous jobs, which are pretty much all done by men. The reason I think the popularity of that program was men were seeing, you know, this is what it used to be like most men had dirty jobs in the past. So I think you're right, the fact that modern culture, the modern economy does not depend as much on physical brawn does make a big difference. Although I have to tell you, it still makes a big difference between men and women. In this sense, I do have to deal a little bit with outright abuse in my book, you know, domestic violence and abuse, that's where it still plays a big role. In other words, men being physically larger and stronger, they have more fast twitch muscles, that was the word I had to learn, it means they can react more quickly. And so there's a reason why most abuse both in the home and outside male female abuse is going to be perpetrated by men. There's a reason for that. So ask any woman who has been abused, whether the physical differences still matter, they still matter very much in the relationship between men and women. You know, men still need to very much learn how to use their strength in a positive way, how to be more gentle, how to be more considerate, how to be more respectful. But the difference is, and here's what you were talking about my payroll, the difference is that women can get out of abusive relationships much more easily than they did in the past. So that 80% of divorces are now instituted by women 90%, among college educated women, so women are in a sense, voting with their feet, and saying, I'm not putting up with a bad marriage anymore. So that's where the difference comes in. It's more women are saying I won't put up with it. But it is, like I said, just ask any woman who has been abused. And that physical difference still makes a huge difference in personal relationships.

Keith Simon  23:41

Well, I want to be clear, though, when I'm talking about how men strength, physical strength is not as beneficial to them, and that women don't need men like they would have in the past. I'm not lamenting that necessarily. I'm not saying that's all bad. I think it is great that women have more opportunities and don't have to stick in abusive relationships or relationships that they don't want to be in. What we're trying to wrestle with here, though, is, why is it that men have suddenly fallen on such hard times? You mentioned something a few minutes ago, that you said, when we look at nature, natural revelation, the world around us, that's where we see a lot of the truth that we can't about masculinity, we see that men are stronger physically and that kind of thing. But when you go to the Bible and look for a definition of masculinity, I find it harder there. In other words, look at the world and how men women have operated and there's just some obvious differences. But when you go into the Bible and say, Well, what is a man defined by the Bible? Well, that gets hard because, say, the fruit of the Spirit love, joy, peace, patience. Those should be exhibited by men and women. Or if you think about imitating Christ and living a Christ like life, that should be imitated by men and women. So when the Bible does doesn't give us some sort of playbook for masculinity or femininity, then it's hard to say this is the way it should be. It's hard just to look at nature and say, just because it is or was therefore it ought to be that way.

Nancy Pearcy  25:14

There's two ways to look at nature. Remember this creation fall redemption. So you always have to distinguish is what we're looking at what's part of the original creation? Or is it part of the fall? In which case it's not normative? And then how can we be redemptive in dealing with that area of life? I mean, you can apply this to anything to politics, education, the family, whatever, you look first at How did God originally create it? And then how has it fallen? So clearly, the basic physical differences between men and women, I think are part of the created order that they don't seem to be a product of the false men did suddenly become stronger after the fall. So I think we can look at that and say, yes, it's valid to look at nature to some degree and understand general revelation from it. But your point is well taken in terms of men and women are still far more awake than they are different. You know, when Adam sees Eve for the first time, what does he say? He doesn't say, Oh, someone different from me, is it Oh, somebody like me, how wonderful bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. So his excitement was because he saw somebody was like him who he could relate to. And if you just look at psychological studies of personality traits, women form a bell curve, and men form a bell curve, and they overlap quite closely. You know, the differences are mostly at the extremes, even a trait like aggression. Turns out men and women overlap quite closely. But the extremes is where the differences are, which is why 90% of people in prison are male. So it's important to always keep in mind that we're talking about men and women are more alike than they are different. And that's important to keep in mind, I think, because in the past, perhaps the differences have been over emphasized in much of human history, the differences have been over emphasized. And so I think that as Christians, we need to be very careful not to overemphasize them. But to always come back to, yes, most of the commands in Scripture are given to men and women, there's very little distinctions and distinctions have mostly to do with marriage and family, where they have maybe somewhat different roles because women have babies. And that's another thing. When we talk about differences, most people get defensive, because typically, once you acknowledge the difference, one is going to be less than that is what typically happens. And so when we talk about differences, we have to be very careful that we talk about women's distinctive as strengths, not weaknesses. In other words, the fact that women can bear a life shouldn't be talked about as a wonderful power that they their superpower that they have. And the years that they spend, raising young children builds tremendous character, a baby, and until they're about a year old, when they're in distress, you meet their distress, you don't scold them, you don't reason with them, you don't punish them, you meet their distress, no matter what you're doing at that time, if it's 3am, you know, you stop everything and you meet their distress, then you have to have incredibly intuitive powers of deciphering nonverbal cues, because they can't speak yet. So you have to be very sensitive. And you have to be very aware of threats in their environment, because you are the one responsible for protecting that child. So mothers become mama bears trying to protect their children from environmental threats as well. And so we need to make sure that we're stating all of these things in positive terms, you know, apart from the things that men and women have in common distinctives are not better or worse, that women's distinctive are their strengths, and should not be portrayed as weaknesses. So I think that would help overcome some of the concern that people have about even acknowledging the differences. You know, there's not a less than No, both of them are well go back to the Garden of Eden. Both of them were given the cultural mandate, both of them were assigned the same task when they were first created, Be fruitful, and multiply and subdue the earth and be fruitful and multiply is not just the family. But historically, all the social institutions grow out of the family, the extended family becomes a tribe becomes a village becomes a nation. The village needs social structures, they need a state, a marketplace, a school, a church. And so all of the social structures are implied by the cultural mandate, and then subdue the earth means harness the natural resources. So that means most cultures start with agriculture, but then mining technology, inventing computers and composing music, all of the arts, all of the arts and sciences is given to both men and women. Women were not told, Hey, go have babies. Men were not told to go to work. They didn't have that distinction back then. Until the Industrial Revolution, you really did not have a strong distinction between those two roles. Men and women were both called to fulfill the cultural mandate

Keith Simon  29:59

when minimum women operate at their best operate both out of their strengths. And I agree completely view that having a baby producing life is a superpower that should be honored. And I think, in some places better than others, but it really was and then come the 60s and second wave feminism. And we wanted to erase those distinctions. I mean, it's easy to forget that until the mid 60s, the pill as birth control wasn't widely available. And therefore, you had to have these distinctions between the sexes, that women were having babies and were taking care of them, their bodies were healing and doing their own thing to build to provide live fuel and nurse that new life that they had given birth to and men were providing and protecting and all those things that you mentioned earlier that men are good at no strings. But once we tried to erase the differences, or at least minimize the differences between masculinity and femininity, it seems like that took us down a whole new road that you know, I'm sure some people have benefited from them. But I'm not sure that as a society as a whole we have. You talked about men doing the three P's protecting, providing and procreating. It seems like men were using their physical strength to do these things, channeling it, like you're getting at in a positive direction instead of destructively. But then, in 2019, the APA, the American Psychological Association, started to define what I think a lot of people thought of as traditional masculinity and calling it toxic masculinity. So here's a quote from their 2019 report, a particular constellation of standards that have always held sway over large segments of the population, including, remember, this is masculinity they're defining, including anti femininity achievement, as you will have the appearance of weakness and adventure, risk and violence. So traditional masculinity marked by stoicism, dominance aggression, that they've called this toxic, and they've said that's harmful. So now we have this idea that the things that men are always good at and were advantaged in now is seen as something that society doesn't want anymore, or is embarrassed of or is trying to get rid of men like the James Cameron quote of testosterone is a toxin that you have to get rid of. So you're talking in the book about two different scripts for masculinity, two different ways to think about masculinity. And I think those kind of relate to toxic masculinity versus kind of something that's redemptive and created by God. Can you just outline those for us? What's the difference between the two scripts?

Nancy Pearcy  32:30

Yeah, this was a fascinating study by a sociologist, and I'll give you a little background. That's not in the book. This has proven to be the most controversial book I've ever written, which kind of surprised me, because I did write my last book was Love thy body, which was on homosexuality, abortion, transgenderism, which has really exploded now. But I did several classes and several reading groups on the manuscript. And when they would tell their family and friends that they were working through a book on masculinity, invariably, the first response would be, whose side is she on? You know, with that tone? And by the way, the next question was always, and why is a woman writing a book on masculinity anyway. And so men tended to just assume I was a male bashing feminist and more progressive people would tend to assume I was an angry, defensive reactionary. And so I put this study right at the beginning of the book, because it kind of helps overcome that initial suspicion. So the study was done by a sociologist who is very well known in his field. And so he gets invited to speak all around the world. And it came up with this very clever experiment where who had asked young men two questions. The first question was, what does it mean to be a good man? If you're at a funeral, and the eulogy, somebody says he was a good man? What does that mean? And the sociologist said, Hold on the world, men had no trouble answering that question. They would immediately say things like, duty, integrity, sacrifice, do the right thing. Look out for the little guy, honor, be protective, be a provider be responsible. And so the sociologists would say, would you learn that? And the young man would say, I don't know. It's just in the air we breathe? Or if they were in a Western country, they would say it's part of our Judeo Christian heritage. So then he would follow up with a second question. He would say, Well, what does it mean if I say to you, man up, be a real man? And the young man would say, oh, no, no, that's completely different. That means be tough, be strong, never show weakness, suck it up. When at all costs, play through pain, be competitive, get rich, get laid, I'm using their language there. And so this sociologists concluded, there seem to be two separate scripts that men are kind of caught between. On the one hand, they do inherently know what it means to be the good man. And again, you know, as Christians we would explain that by they're made in God's image, and they do inherently understand what it means to be good, it's innate knowledge that they seem to have. But they do also feel this cultural pressure to live up to traits that we might consider more toxic. Or certainly if separated from the moral ideal of the good man, they can slide into being entitlement control, dominance, and so on. And so it does suggest that we have a better way of dealing with these issues. Because it doesn't usually work very well to call men toxic. Somehow they don't like that. But what we should do I would suggest is, Can we tap into their inherent innate knowledge of what it means to be good, good man, you know, can we encourage and affirm and support them and that innate knowledge that, you know, like I said, from general revelation that men know all around the world, like I said, these will not necessarily Western nations with any sort of Christian background. And it also suggests, by the way, from an apologetics point of view, they're secularists who always said that Christianity is against man's true nature study with, well back to Nietzsche, at least, who said, you know, Christianity teaches us to be soft, you know, and things like forgiveness. Those are bad those against man's to inherent nature. Well, no, actually, the Christian ethic is in tune with man's inherent nature. And I mean, man in the sense of male, it's in tune with the male nature, we're not imposing an alien standard on men, when we ask them to live up to the biblical ethic.

Keith Simon  36:28

I want to go back to something you just said about how men don't want to be called toxic. You know, you've laid out these two scripts of the good man, the real man, the tough guy. And it doesn't help to take men and say Your behavior is toxic, but that's exactly what's happened. And in 2018, in Chevy Chase, Maryland, which is a very affluent suburb outside of Washington, DC, it's very liberal. I think it voted 80% For Biden, in the 2020. election. Well, back in 2018, some high school boys got in trouble because they had made a list of girls in the high school and then rated them according to their attractiveness. One of the girls saw this on the boy's computer and got very upset about it and took it to the school principal, the boy got reprimanded, I think he got detention and ended up in the Washington Post of all places, right. The local newspaper there, though, writes a story about something that I would suggest happens in every high school in every city for I don't know, forever in the past, and I'm not condoning it. I wish we didn't live in a world that was so superficial. I'm just saying though, that when boys acting like boys, noticing that girls are attractive and talking about that, ends up getting you detention reprimanded and rebuked in the national newspaper. What I'm afraid it does is it pushes boys down this road of well, you don't understand me, you think everything I do is toxic. You're against me. And then they are susceptible to people like Andrew Tate, they're susceptible to bronze, Bronze Age pervert. Yeah, I need your help for that one, I forgot. Or Jordan Peterson, who's very different than those other guys, but still in that whole manosphere thing. So do you kind of agree that what happens is when we labeled normal behavior toxic, we push boys down into that manosphere? And then what happens when they get there? Like maybe a lot of people don't know what the manosphere is about? Can you unpack that just a little bit for us? Well,

Nancy Pearcy  38:31

I think that either go into the manosphere, or the opposite, they become passive and live in their mother's basement, you know, the failure to launch syndrome, which is sadly too true. And the manosphere, kind of the opposite, as you know, sort of hyper masculinity, we're going to affirm all of those things that society says are bad. And so you know, we're going to affirm sexual promiscuity and fast girls fast cars, fast money. So that's kind of the manosphere. And what I'd like to maybe kind of get back to where did the manosphere even get this exaggerated notion of masculinity, because in my book, I take us through several stages of how the definition of masculinity became secularized. How it moved further and further from a biblical understanding of masculinity. And one of the most important turning points was the rise of Darwinian evolution. And most people don't know this, because we think evolution has to do with, you know, genes and fossils. But it had a profound effect on people's understanding of masculinity. Because Darwinian writers began to say, that the men who went out on top in the struggle for existence would by necessity be ruthless, rugged, brutal, savage, barbarian and even predatory. So the message of evolution then seems to be that to get in touch with you authentic masculinity, meant to get in touch with the beast within know with a biological instinct for lust and power. And so whereas in the past As Christians had urged men to live up to the image of God in them, the message now was no to find your true masculinity, you live down to the animal nature that we all have. And by the way, Darwin did also say, very emphatically that women were intellectually inferior to men, he was quite clear about that. So he bears some responsibility for that as well, that we didn't think of sort of checked women off their Victorian pedestal and put them down on a lower rung of the evolutionary ladder. And that's still going on today, by the way, so it was called Social Darwinism. Back then, now, it's got a new label. It's called evolutionary psychology. The idea being that if our bodies evolved and suited our brains, and so that our entire psychology everything we think and feel, has to be explained by natural selection. And writers on the subject still have an extremely negative view of men. There's a best selling book I emphasize best selling, called the moral animal. And the author says, the human male is an oppressive, flesh obsessed pig. Giving him a book on how to have a better marriage is like giving a Viking, a book on how not to pillage. And then another one that I quote, in the book is a recently reissued book, it came out a while ago, it's just been reissued. It's by George Gilder called men in marriage. And He literally says that men have violent, sexually promiscuous, irresponsible, their deepest longing is to just leave civilization behind, leave women behind, in particular, get on their motorcycle and go out for the open road, you know, sort of the Lone Ranger view of masculinity, and that men are not naturally oriented towards marriage and family. And here's where it's different from the Christian view, of course, men are naturally oriented toward marriage and family, they were given the cultural mandate to be fruitful and multiply. But the current secular view is that no, no, if a man gets married, that's counter to his natural tendencies. And so women need to tame men, women need to civilize men because men won't do it on their own. George Gilder even says, Men need to accept a woman's morality, what man is going to accept a woman's morality. It's not women's morality to be faithful husbands and devoted fathers. That's God's morality, men are responsible to God for that. And I think we need to call men well influenced by the manosphere, or influenced by the secular notions, that it's God, who they're responsible for in terms of how they treat women and children, and especially, of course, their own wife and children. Well,

Keith Simon  42:40

I'm really glad that you touched on that idea that you said, is prominent and Gilders book, this idea that women tame men or civilized men, because I hear that a lot. You know, men are violent, reckless, lazy, immature, but when they get married, now, they kind of have this sense of a greater responsibility. And so the better angels of the better nature kicks in, and they grow up and take more responsibility for their life. And, and so marriage is really good for men in a way that it's not necessarily equally good for women not saying it's not good for women just in a different way. And you know, there's something that's kind of intuitive about debt that you go, yeah, okay, that kind of makes sense, because I looked around, and guys do really dumb things, right? I mean, there's a reason that men go off to war and end up in prison and do kind of violent, dumb things. Anyway, there's something intuitive about that. But I guess what you're saying, If I hear you, right, especially connecting earlier in our conversation, that even that idea that women taming goes back to the Industrial Revolution, when men leave, because now you go work in a factory and women home raising children, they stopped being one unit that are working on their farm or whatever together, but now they're separated. The man's world becomes this achievement accomplishment, women's world becomes morals, and virtue. And now women are given this responsibility to tame men, which sets the sexes up for a conflict, not harmony. So I'm really glad that you did there anything else you want to say on that that might help straighten out our thinking? Yes,

Nancy Pearcy  44:17

yes. Oh, first of all, I'd say that marriage is an institution is good for both men and women. So it's not a matter of women taming the man. It's the institution of marriage and family, because a lot of women are self centered and immature, as well. You know, let's be fair. A friend of mine says my children made a mother out of me, which is not an oxymoron. You know, in other words, I wasn't mature or responsible until I had kids. But the history of this is really important. Yes, it does go back to the Industrial Revolution. And as men's behavior grew worse, okay, so they're in a secular environment. They're not going to churches often. And again, I like to quote the literature of the time because even at the time, people began to protest Then Then we're turning their careers into an idol. That word was used man, they're turning financial success into an idol, which is kind of in a sense, displacing their commitment to God, they're making their professional success into an idol. So that language was already being used back then. So when a woman fit in, well, if the public realm was becoming more secular, you know, if it was supposed to be value free, then where would values be cultivated? Well in the private realm, and who would cultivate them, women, because they were still in the private realm. And so for the first time, ever, in human history, women was said to be morally and spiritually superior to men. Just want you to realize how very new this is. Back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, people had always thought that men were morally and spiritually superior, stronger. The idea was that the insight into right and wrong is a Rational Insight. And they felt that men were more rational. And therefore, they concluded that men are more virtuous. In fact, the word virtue comes from that Latin v i r means man, like the word virile. So the word virtue always had overtones of masculine strength and honor to this was totally new that in the 19th century, what happened is that men's behavior was going worse because they were being more separated from their Christian roots and their behavior. Well, let me give you an example. There was a huge increase in gambling, drinking crime, gang activity, and prostitution. Sometimes a single fact can kind of crystallize it for you. In 1830, Americans drank three times as much as they do today.

Keith Simon  46:45

Wow, I No idea.

Nancy Pearcy  46:48

Me neither. I still have one in the book. Just to help clarify. Yeah, male behavior was going significantly worse. And by the way, especially young men, first of all, young men were being raised without their fathers. So already, people were concerned that young men were growing wild and unruly, is a lot of concern in the literature of the day, that leading psychologists of the day said, Never has the American boy been so wild as he is now. And it's because he's half orphaned, meaning, you know, his dad's not there anymore to help raise them. So boys were already, you know, having a lot of unsupervised time. And then they began moving to the cities to find work. So they were separated from the traditional structures of authority, like family and church, and neighborhood. And so especially young men were being caught in the vices that are more common in the city. And that's why in response to that, there was a huge influx of reform movements in the 19th century, the temperance movement, as I just said, there was a reason for the temperance movement, public drunkenness, had become a real problem, people just falling down drunk in the alleys. And so it kind of like drug addiction is today, there was the abolition movement, of course, against slavery, there were what was called the Social purity movement, which was against prostitution and sex trafficking. There were a whole host of reform movements, most of them, however, driven by women. And so this is what sort of sets up that conflict between men and women, because women were therefore being treated as morally superior, and therefore they were called to be the moral guardians of society. So they came out in force in these four movements. But what were they attacking? They were attacking, what were sort of traditionally male vices. One historian puts it this way. There was little doubt as to the sex of the tavern keepers, the slave masters, the drunkards and the seducers. And so this tension between the sexes, which I think you're right, I think we still see it today. We saw it in the metoo movement. And I've talked to young people in churches, I said, Do you think this is still happening? And they say, Oh, absolutely. There is still in the churches, there's a sense that men are just more naturally prone to sin advice, more naturally prone to sexual sin, for example, and pornography. And that is the woman's job to sort of hold them in check, draw the line in a dating relationship, for example. And so that idea of women in a sense taming men, I think, is very harmful. And I agree with you that you still do see it today. It's very demeaning to men to imply that they are more naturally prone to sin and vice than women are. I think what people don't realize that's very uncomplimentary of men, it's attacking men. And most women don't like being the conscience of men either, which by the way, kind of explains third wave feminism. third wave feminism is when women said I'm not going to do it anymore. I'm not going to do that job. I am not going to be the man's conscience anymore. I'm going to join him. I can be just as raunchy as any man. So that's kind of the third wave feminism is where women stopped wanting to be the moral guardians of society the ones who are called upon to tame men. When

Keith Simon  49:58

your book toxic war a masculine Unity came out, you kind of got sucked up into this war on Twitter, this debate between egalitarians and complementarians. And I think it's partly because you talk about marriage and how men and women relate in marriage and who has better marriages, who has worse marriages. And when I saw some of the people attacking you, I thought, Oh, these people don't know who they're messing with. I read your other books, Love thy body total truth, as they've messed with the wrong person. And I thought you handled it very well. I mean, you're very direct, but gracious, and full of facts in truth. And I think they'd completely misread your argument about marriage anyway, I'm not even sure they'd read your whole book, when they were tweeting about it. But in our world, that's not unusual. People tweet before they think or read or anything. What is it that they miss, about what you're arguing the book, or maybe a better way to ask it is, according to your research, and what you write in the book, who has better marriages, and who has worse marriages, when it comes to the relationship between the sexes?

Nancy Pearcy  51:07

Well, those are two slightly different questions. Let me start with pick whichever one you want. So yes, the day after the book came out. So clearly, these people had not read the book, and they admitted it, it was attacked by Christian egalitarians, who said that I was giving ammunition that was their word, I'm giving ammunition to complementarians. And that's evil and bad and dangerous. And the irony is, I don't actually deal with that in House debate.

Keith Simon  51:35

Let me just explain real quick if you're not familiar with those terms, and a egalitarian position is a Christian position that says that men and women are equal, not only made in the image of God, but completely equal enroll, that there's no differences in role, whether that's within a church, or within a family, a complementarian position would hold that men, women are both equally made in the image of God. But they have different roles inside of church and family. And there's all different kinds of versions for each of those. And so I don't want to be too simplistic about it. But just to give you a little bit of a definition. So they put you in this argument, but like you just said, it's not even a topic you really address inside the book.

Nancy Pearcy  52:16

No, I didn't. And I gave two reasons. One reason is, the book draws very heavily on social science data. It's the most fact based book that I've written, because to talk about evangelical couples, I looked at the sociological literature by both psychologists and sociologists. And what they was studying was not this internal debate this in House debate between complementarian and egalitarian what they were looking at if the secular world is attacking Christians, right, which is much more important debate in my mind, the secular world is attacking Christians, and the word evangelical has become treated as a bad thing, because of course, any evangelical man who believes in any notion of headship in the home, that's going to turn them into an overbearing, tyrannical patriarch. And so the social scientists were listening to these accusations and saying, where's your evidence? You making these charges? But where's your evidence? And so they went out and did the studies. And I cite some dozen studies are so and what they actually found is that evangelical Christian men test out on the top of the heap, they test out as the most loving and engaged husbands and fathers. So yes, some of them are complementarian. But that was not the main point of the data. I was following the data, the data, the research was done on evangelicals. And so that's how I framed it in the book. In fact, two of my top researches specifically said, a husband's gender theory does not seem to make much difference in whether he has a good marriage or not. So the first one is Brad Wilcox. He's a sociologist at the University of Virginia. And he's done the largest study, by the way, on evangelical men. It feels a whole book. So it's a larger study. And he says, he found that a husband's gender theory just did not make a difference one way or the other, whether his wife was happy, because they're judging it like by is his wife happy, because the accusation is that the evangelical husband is going to be abusive, patriarchy. And then he also did a study of egalitarian marriages and said, Well, in our study, they weren't any happier. You know, I'm just giving you the facts. And our study they did not test out is any happier. And then the other expert that I quote is not a Christian. He's Jewish background, but I think pretty secular Jew. His name is John Gottman, and he is often considered the top marriage researcher in the nation. He was a mathematician before he became a psychologist. And so he does his very quantifiable studies, where he brings couples into a lab outfitted like a bed and breakfast and wires them up in tests their heart rate and breathing rate. At no sweating, rate and stress hormones, and of course, their language. And he feeds all this into a computer. And he's gotten famous because he's been able to predict, with 93.6 accuracy, which couples will divorce, with only about 15 minutes of observation. So that's why he's famous. But he too, says, I have people coming into my practice, where some couples feel like the man should be in charge. And I have couples come in who are much more egalitarian. And he says, it doesn't seem to make a difference. And here's how he concludes his his words, he says, emotionally intelligent husbands, that's his phrase, emotionally intelligent husbands have figured out the most important thing, which is how to convey honor and respect to your wife. And so I put that in the book. And I said, here's why I'm not dealing with gender theory. Because these top researchers found that it was not really what made a difference. What Brad Wilcox found did make a difference was whether the man valued his family above all else, being family centric, being convinced that the family is the foundation of society, you know, being committed to the family was actually what he found made the biggest difference in how a husband treated his wife and children. What

Keith Simon  56:22

I thought was interesting is that the Christian men who are engaged in their faith kind of scored out as being the best husbands, the best fathers, the people who scored out as being the worst, were nominal Christian men. And by nominal, we mean who go to church occasionally, who've picked up some of the lingo in the language, maybe around headship or authority, but they don't have the character. They're not engaged in their faith, they just use that language in a more manipulative way to live for themselves. So if you are an engaged, Christian man, you're a great husband. And if you're a nominal Christian man, who's just kind of trying to use the Christian worldview to be more self oriented and self centered, well be careful of that person. Toxic war on masculinity. I just think it is such a good book, I'm getting ready to discuss it with a bunch of seniors in college, I've handed it out to people done book discussions with it. I've been through it a lot, I would highly recommend it. There's a lot of good books out there. But this I think, is the best one. So you're a professor, my last thing is you teach any online classes, if somebody wants to take one of your online classes, or besides finding your book on Amazon, and like I said, I've read the other ones as well. They're all good. If you just look up Nancy pearcey, you'll see all of our offerings. But are there other places you're writing or teaching that people could discover? Yes,

Nancy Pearcy  57:48

well, my publisher very kindly created a fresh new website for me, which is colorful and fun. So you can come over there and browse my other books. It's Nancy And Percy is P AR cey. So next up is You can come and see my other books and browse them and read the endorsements. And you can leave a comment which is fun, you know, so come on over and say hi. And yes, I do teach some online courses, I have to tell you, not only online, but also auditing students. I really love this. So online courses are ones where they're asynchronous, you don't actually interact live with a professor very much. But I do also have courses where people can audit, and they come in on Zoom. And you do have to be there at the same time. So we do see me you see the professor and you get a chance to be part of the class discussion. For me, those are even more fun, because then I really get to interact with the auditors and they come from all over the country, all over the world. I have from Australia, to Switzerland, to Canada, to Philippines, I've had students join us auditing. And that's a fairly nice way to sort of just get if you want to take a course mostly for personal enrichment,

Keith Simon  59:00

auditing is cheaper, less expensive, and you don't have to do all the work if you don't want to. But it is personally enriching to take classes like that.

Nancy Pearcy  59:08

Yeah, you get out of it what you want. So we have some people who sort of sit quietly and just want to observe. And then we have some auditors who are very active just as much as if that was sitting in the classroom. So I like that for people who want that kind of interaction. You can do that as well.

Keith Simon  59:22

So people find that on that website you told us about or at Houston Christian University, where do they find the classes? It just information about him? Yeah,

Nancy Pearcy  59:31

Houston, Christian University. And you have to look up the word surveyor, because there's a legal definition of auditing that we don't quite fill. So we had to invent a new name. So it's easier to find if you look under surveyor, so Houston, Christian University surveyor courses, and right now I'm doing a course on the philosophy of CS Lewis is wonderful digging into Lewis, you just can't lose because everything he writes is so good. We're having a great time with that this semester.

Keith Simon  1:00:01

I bet you are. Professor Piercey. Would you pray for us as we close our time together?

Nancy Pearcy  1:00:06

Yes, I'd be happy to thank you. Lord, we thank you for this time that we've had to discuss these very important issues. We pray that You would help us to make better analysis, clearer diagnosis of what is going on with men today in modern society so that we can apply your word and your truth more effectively. We thank you so much that we are not just lost in the secular worldview, but that you have communicated truth that we can rely on that we can be certain is really true, so that we can be confident and who apply it to the issues of our own day. We pray that You would give wisdom and godly heart to the people who are listening today and be with all of us in our churches, as they also work to minister better to men. Administer more wisely more biblically to the men in their congregation. We pray all these things in Jesus name, amen. Amen.

Recent Episodes

Last Chance to Subscribe to Truth Over Tribe