This is a big topic.
But I want to add to the table something that hasn’t been covered before.
On the right, it’s typical to talk about the ‘feminine virtues’ and the ‘masculine virtues.’ What follows typically is a general list of attributes that philosophers and a certain amount of public opinion consider to be the virtues of either sex.
But something that has been missed is the difference in ethnic conceptions of what a man or woman are.
Let me give you two examples:
To the Irish, a man is powerful, direct, unconcerned about people’s feelings, and generally something of a bull. His lack of concern for hurting people’s feelings is considered an admirable expression of his directness. His rough-and-ready style is considered a healthy sign of maleness. The ability to ‘take a joke’ is considered essential to manliness. Being easily offendable, even for legitimate reasons, is considered a sign of weakness. To an Irishman, strength and thickness of skin are considered essential to making it through life.
Now consider the Germans. They consider a man, first and foremost, is one who fulfills his responsibilities. Germans are not impressed by expressions of raw strength. Germans consider that we are all, in our various social ‘platoons’ as Burke would call them, responsible to each other for good behavior and for supporting each other. Additionally, the highest goals of a German, socially speaking, are to be considered respectable and credible. Thus, a man who fulfills his duties, who is effective, efficient, intelligent and clear-minded, who has a clear understanding of the world, is the best sort of man. To a German, understanding the world and being able to address it in a forthright, efficient manner are essential to getting through life.
Now which one is “right”? How can one fabricate an abstract concept of male and female when such a concept must always be either:
A: Drawn straight from the ethnic expression of a male or female;
B: A cobbling together of various ethnic expressions of male and female?
The point is, male and female have never existed outside of a particular ethnicity. Thus abstract conceptions miss the point, because they have never existed, and can’t be pasted on top of a real person’s behavior, since his ethnicity will always dictate much of his personality.
So what can be done?
I think a partial answer is in the Bible. If one reads various passages in the New Testament, it’s clear that the typical conception of proper female behavior reaches beyond what’s mandatory in the Bible. This is not to say these conceptions are automatically wrong. But the point is they are not morally mandatory.
Additionally, consider the woman in Proverbs 31. Under the typical, 50s-esque conception of womanhood, she is far too efficient and self-directed. In essence, she runs the entire house and contributes materially to the family income. Apparently so much so, that her husband is at liberty to take up politics.
10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
Consider particularly verse 16, where she visits a field, of her own accord decides to buy it, and then plants a vineyard herself. Here we see a degree of executive action and physical labor outside the bounds of what is typically considered womanhood.
Now, none of this is meant to fall into the liberal lie that there are no such things as men and women. This is meant to express that the male and female virtues are dependent on our ethnicity. Additionally, this is meant to express that there is more room for fluidity than we tend to think.
So what’s to be done?
Men and women should live within the bounds of the Bible, insofar as anyone can since we are imperfect. Beyond that, they should express their particular ethnic expression of man or woman. Is this ‘ideal’? No. But the ideal is always chimerical, since it never takes into consideration the physical reality of what is possible.
As a final note, I’m not a fan of the woman in Proverbs 31. I take the chapter to be an expression of a particular kind of virtuous woman, and therefore not something I have a moral obligation to like. My conceptions involves a greater degree of co-dependence. Also, clearly the relationship between herself and her husband is much more of a materially focused partnership. I, myself, am German, and therefore I want a much greater emphasis on understanding, conversation, and coordinated activities between myself and my wife. We Germans are very intimate with those we love. For me, the woman in Proverbs 31 is too business-like and distant.