My last piece for Human Events was a travel piece in which I reconsidered American culture war topics from abroad during a trip to Ireland. That article did not address Irish masculinity, but it is worth considering further to understand why the American left is so misguided in its social justice crusade.
From Galway to Dublin, manbuns, cropped pants, painted fingernails, and purse-like bags were conspicuously absent from Irish men’s bodies. Instead, their appearance and affect were remarkably traditional. The general lack of androgyny and femininity made the difference between men and women more pronounced than I expected to see coming from my day job covering American education, culture, and politics.
In these liberal-dominated spaces, gendered behaviors and practices that tell men to act a certain way contribute to what the left calls “toxic masculinity.” It’s “an expression once relegated to women’s studies classrooms that suddenly seems to be everywhere,” The New York Times reported in 2019.
Social justice warriors that view traditional masculinity as threatening also view gender-fluid clothing as one tool for dismantling what they consider to be toxic masculinity.
However, the American left is wrong in thinking that gender neutrality is progress. Western men used to wear makeup, heels, long hair, and ornate costumes–all while supporting politically oppressive regimes.
The last time men donned those looks was the French Revolution. Male revolutionaries tended to have shorter hair and plainer clothes than the courtiers of the Ancien Régime. That sartorial appearance echoed the Roundheads in the English Civil War who fought against the decadent royalist Cavaliers.
The difference between gendered clothing has been more blurred in the past, but primarily within the decadent upper classes. In that respect, liberal celebrities, designers, and influencers pushing for gender neutrality are not pushing for equality. Instead, they are collectively performing their historical role as a decadent social class by expressing preference for less stark divisions between the masculine and feminine.
In March, Elle India ran the article “6 Times Male Celebrities Wore Skirts Like It Was No Big Deal” that credited the garment with helping the stars “giv[e] toxic masculinity the finger.” Actors donned the skirt in a Thom Browne ad campaign, on the red carpet, and at the Venice Film Festival. These exclusive spaces are the new Versailles for the international elite.
“I hope that this brand of confidence as a male that Harry has—truly devoid of any traces of toxic masculinity—is indicative of his generation and therefore the future of the world,” actress Olivia Wilde said of Harry Styles in Vogue in December 2020. That month, the magazine’s front cover featured Styles wearing a dress such as a yellow dress for prom.
The “arc of history” does not bend in a particular direction, as the celebrity-friendly Obama White House tried to remind America. Events happen due to sequences of arbitrary factors. Thus, the Western elite preoccupation with dressing to combat toxic masculinity is a reversion of past classed practices.
That historical processes can evolve and then revert is key to understanding how the world works. This aspect of history is often lost on progressives who assume change only moves one way.
Francis Fukuyama, a fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, has the best-known analysis of historical reversions. Near the end of the Cold War, Fukuyama wrote the article “The End of History” for National Interest.
Fukuyama argues that global civilization does not evolve beyond liberal democracies. The “End of History” does not refer to a point in time when all nations are perfected liberal democracies, but the point from which political regimes either sustain their freedoms or revert to autocracies.
2022 proves that Fukuyama’s thesis is worth reconsideration. As Russian and Chinese anti-liberal aggression intensifies, Western progressives are using illiberal tactics to contort liberal democracies into vehicles for equity and social justice.
In the United States, the Democratic Party’s progressive wing is obsessed with invoking democracy during elections, but then cries foul when their revolutionary zeal is checked by elections.
In the United States, the Democratic Party has spent the last six years acting like a kindergartener demanding do-overs during a board game that isn’t going their way. In 2016, many Democrats wanted to use Electoral College to prevent a President Trump but then wanted to abolish the system in time for the 2020 election.
Democrats were fine with the Electoral College when Obama won.
Also in 2016, Democrats called Republicans obstructionists for refusing to hold Supreme Court confirmation hearings during a presidential election year. But in 2018, during Trump’s presidency, New York Senator Chuck Schumer (D) argued that the Senate should not consider Supreme Court nominations during a midterm election year.
President Trump got his three Supreme Court picks confirmed and Democrats called for court packing. By longstanding custom, nine justices sit on the Supreme Court. Democrats had no problem with that number when Ruth Bader Ginsburg was alive.
Democrats said the Senate was undemocratic when they underperformed in 2018 and 2020. But those same accusations were absent in 2022 when the party was content with its moral victory of just holding on to power.
If there is distrust among our national institutions, the fault lays entirely with the left. Progressives are trying to orchestrate the country’s future without learning the lesson from the last two elections: the American center is defiant and holding against both the left and right wings.
The left’s disgust for the electoral process is pushing liberal democracies to their limit at the same time that anti-liberal autocracies are globally resurgent. No corner of the world is advancing beyond the kind of liberal democracy that won the Cold War. Democratic freedoms are either sustaining or retreating while their adversaries gain strength.
The left’s promotion of gender-fluid clothing to combat toxic masculinity is just one front in the culture wars its elite is waging to achieve equity and social justice. Whether men should wear skirts is independent of the fact that the Democrats have glommed on to these trendy social debates to garner votes.
But when the electorate proves the Democratic Party too radical for the rest of the country, liberal leaders accuse everything and everyone else of being undemocratic. Ironically, celebrating long-haired men in heels and wishing to upend democratic institutions recalls the courts of Charles I and Louis XVI more than any kind of progress that could benefit hardworking Americans.
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