Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture continues to prove itself one of the best written publications and, perhaps slightly better, one that always challenges me, showing that traditionalism possesses both a surprising fecundity of ideas as well as rigorous inner-consistency.
In the introductory editorial vignettes that precede the chief editorial, editor Chilton Williamson, Jr. writes in “The Job of Sex” regarding the autophagic nature of liberalism:
“[O]nly a member of the subspecies Homo sapiens liberalis could have supposed that introducing women into traditionally male workplaces would not result in sexual attention, welcome or unwelcome, paid to women by their male coworkers in a society tenderized by the hypersexuality induced by the liberal ideas of sexual freedom and choice, moral relativism, and the equality and even identity of the sexes, even as society was brutalized by the banishment of chivalry.”
How can we expect men and women to behave professionally when current cultural mores have sacralized licentiousness? More amusingly, though, this quotation reminds me of the following liberating pugnacious statement by Edward Abbey (interestingly enough, a favorite writer of Williamson): “How do I feel about The War Between The Sexes? I love it. I’m in favor of it. Women and men must share everything eventually, including a common fate; but meanwhile, it is the poignant difference between them which creates the tension and the delight. There is nothing that bores me so much as androgyny — manlike women and womanlike men.”
As Abbey and Williamson would both stress–and I bet my greatest kiss, I do, we need to clarify our terms carefully. By “tension,” I doubt that Abbey means “drama.” As someone who works in field that is dominated by women and womanly men, there is nothing more dreadful to me than workplace drama. As if teaching in this dying age were not difficult enough, there is no need to create unnecessary aggravation by taking offense were none was meant or by exaggerating the severity of someone’s misguided but not necessarily destructive intentions. Tension between the sexes, however, is the sizzle of bacon grease in the cast iron skillet of the breakfast of life. If I am around an attractive woman, I want to flirt; it is written into my very carnal constitution, my declaration of concupiscence. The last thing I want to do is treat her as if she were another guy who simply had more alluring lips and softer skin and who wore cuter shoes. This type of physiological (and ontological) androgyny bores and kills what little joy most of us who lack the resources and drive to live large are afforded as the playthings of God.
The smirking innuendos, the electric back-and-forth, the passing-but-really-landing touch to hand or to knee, the purposefully rough gesture, the gaze that lingers a micro-moment, which translates into a casual eternity, too long: yes, these are the ingredients of tension that remind us of our differences but console us that, despite all the nature-denying propaganda to the contrary, the differences can fit together in a harmonious manner that reflects the celestial harmony of the spheres.