Love his politics or hate him, many women—and surely some men—swoon over the dashing good looks of House Speaker Paul Ryan. What with those blue eyes, dark hair, and famous P90X abs, he inspires an entire Tumblr account—“Hey Girl, It’s Paul Ryan.” He kicked up the lovefest another notch when he announced on Twitter and Instagram that he’s first speaker to sport a beard in 100 years.
The New York Post said Ryan now “looks less like a frat boy you’d pick a fight with and more like a top dog.” In response, women went gaga, and men such as National Review’s Deroy Murdock seethed with jealousy. The lesson? Beard or no beard, men: Take a cue from our speaker and embrace your masculinity.
We’re So Over Beta Men
Men are so vital to our society, but the modern man leaves much to be desired. It seems like beta males are as common as climate-change discussions and alphas are as rare as evidence of actual climate change. Men who fail to embrace their masculinity are as bad as chauvinists who wield it like a weapon.
To figure out if she’s in a counseling session with a male “wimp,” therapist Becky Whetstone says, “I poke around with a few questions and conclude that the man has indeed shed his instinctual take-charge manliness and turned himself into a wimp, softie or pleaser, as I like to call them.” Wimps are like the men this summer who saw a man stabbed to death on a train and did absolutely nothing to stop it.
Last year on Fox News, Australian author Nick Adams said men aren’t being men anymore because women aren’t letting them: “From the politically correct, we have all these attacks on men. It’s a very hard time to be a man in today’s society.” He quipped, “What feminism has delivered is angry women and feminine men.”
Perhaps a lack of bearded House speakers recently is a hallmark of the obvious leadership dearth in Washington. Is Ryan mirroring with his physique his call for an end to comfy little bipartisan, nicey-nice business as usual where Republicans and Democrats preside joyfully over our civilization’s slow suicide? We sure do need a hero, and it ain’t going to be Ryan Gosling.
In a nutshell: In a world of Ray Romanos, women want Don Draper (okay, a faithful, nicer one, but still). In a country swarming with people-pleasing Barack Obamas, we crave the masculine bravado of the deep-voiced Mike Rowe.
Non-Contracepting Women Like Manly Men
What does this look like? There’s a reason women are salivating over Ryan’s nascent beard. Facial hair has long been associated with uber-masculinity, and many women—especially women with higher levels of estrogen and those who aren’t on hormonal contraception—are naturally attracted to this.
A 2013 Australian study found women prefer men with “heavy stubble” or a ten-day growth, somewhere between the smooth baby-faced character Gosling plays in “The Notebook” when the couple first falls in love and the heavily-bearded Gosling when they are reunited. Science writer Rik Myslewski says “[B]eard quality, thickness, and fullness would signal to potential mates that he was sexually mature and prepared for fatherhood. This makes beardedness a sexual characteristic that is potent to women.” In other words, women find their sexual opposite sexy. The mystery of the other is what charges romance.
That said, beards aren’t the only way to prove a man’s masculine worth. Masculinity takes many forms. True masculinity has less to do with appearance—chiseled abs and hairy parts—and more to do with attitude, character, and demeanor. As Whetstone says, “[W]hat women long for and need is the man in the middle who is strong, action-oriented, passionate, take-charge, considerate and kind.”
We want our men to be confident in the face of crisis—big or small—but not necessarily domineering or bossy to the point of being a jerk. If women are rollercoasters of emotions and hormones, simultaneously fun and terrifying, we want men to be the steel apparatus upon which it rolls—allowing us our leeway, but remaining firm, steady, and (occasionally) telling us when to stop.
We’ll Be Women, You Be Men
Beyond the obvious humor and romance of “The Princess Bride,” there’s a reason women still swoon over the Dread Pirate Roberts, the “alter ego” of Wesley. Unlike Wesley the quiet, passive farm boy, Dread Pirate Roberts is assertive yet considerate, strong yet kind, direct without being a jerk. He protects the princess at all costs, to the point of being tortured and poisoned, yet screams “As you wish!” even as she pushes him down a hill.
Of course, real life isn’t like the movies. It’s undoubtedly much harder to be a manly man in a world replete with sissy men and their female enablers. It’s hard for us women to let men be men when we’re told to embrace womanhood that eschews femininity.
But men, if we promise to embrace our femininity, will you try to embrace your masculinity? Whether that’s sporting the perfect beard or being more assertive, exterior sex appeal is as tantalizing as interior confidence. We really do want you to state your opinion, stand your ground, stake your claim, and mark your territory, even if we pretend we don’t and try to push you down the hill.
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