The whole generation is womanized, the masculine tone is passing out of the world; it’s a feminine hysterical, chattering, canting age.Henry James (1886)
Finally Modernism, which denies and abolishes every difference, cannot rest until it has made woman man and man woman, and, putting every distinction on a common level, kills life by placing it under the ban of uniformity. — Abraham Kuyper (1898)
Don't you ever say that again about your fathers, because they are not cowards. You think I am brave because I carry a gun; well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility, for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers… 
I have never had this kind of courage. — The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Nancy Pearcey has written a book on the masculinity crisis entitled The Toxic War on Masculinity. The title makes clear her basic perspective: it is not masculinity, but the war on masculinity, that is truly toxic. Masculinity is the original software God programmed into man. It has now been infected with a virus, but the original coding — which can be recovered by divine grace — is intrinsically good and necessary to human flourishing. I think Percey's book is loaded with useful information — it is perhaps the best defense of complementarianism written since the inception of the movement (though she does not use that label). I also think the book will make absolutely no difference in the current debates over manhood and it will not really help young men solve the dilemmas they face in our culture today. Young men seeking inspiration and direction in cultivating full-orbed masculinity will have to look elsewhere. This book identifies a major problem — our culture's toxic war on good masculinity — but it does not show the way to win that war. The failings of Pearcey’s book are really those of the complementation movement more broadly. Pearcey gives, at best, a very partial picture of what masculinity should look like.

If the book is so good in so many ways, why won’t it help solve the crisis? Why won’t it end the toxic war on masculinity? I hope that will become clear as I go. Pearcey is a superb researcher and all her skills are on display in this volume. Her previous work, Love Thy Body is one of the best books I have read over the last 5 or 10 years. While I did not find this book to be as compelling overall, it's still worth reading and engaging. But as indicated already, it comes up short because of some significant blind spots.

I could write several thousand words about what I liked in this book. Here are some key highlights:

  • Pearcey sets out to defend masculinity in general and evangelical men in particular. Since evangelical men unfairly get a bad rap, this is especially appreciated. She understands that many men have felt that they had to choose between their masculinity and their faith, as if both the modern world and the modern church told men, “You can be a man or a Christian, but you cannot be both" (118). As an apologetic work, her book largely succeeds in defending masculinity against this false choice. Relying primarily on anecdotes (usually in the form of quotations) and sociological data, Pearcey shows that not only are evangelical men generally good men, they are the best men in our culture.  Women married to these men have the highest levels of satisfaction in our culture; the children of these men have best shot at thriving into adulthood; and in many ways these men are the hidden backbone of our society since they are dependable, resourceful, and diligent. Vibrant Christian faith (primarily marked by regular church attendance/participation) is key to being a good man. When the data is carefully considered, we find that the charges brought against evangelical men, e.g., that a complementrian view of headship is linked with abuse and misogyny, are actually slanderous. Christian faith makes men better men; it transforms them into “soft patriarchs,” to use Brad Wilcox’s term, and these soft patriarchs are generally quite adept at caring for their wives and children. 
  • Interestingly, Pearcey shows that nominally Christian men are actually among the worst of men when it comes to how they treat women. Perhaps this is because they imbibe the rhetoric of headship, but not the actual biblical content that fills it out. In other words, it is dangerous to tell men they are “in charge” unless that is fleshed out in a Christ-like way, per Ephesians 5. This leads to an important conclusion: While it seems that patriarchy is an inescapable concept, since virtually every known society in history has been led and ruled primarily by men, not all patriarchies are good. It is a fact that men will rule, but it not a given that they will rule well. This is precisely why Pearcey’s book is so necessary: the war on masculinity is toxic because it makes men worse instead of calling on them and equipping them to do better. The need of the hour is not to “smash the patriarchy,” but to build better patriarchs. A summation: Men who attend church regularly “are more loving to their wives and more emotionally engaged with their children than any other group in America. They are the least likely to divorce and they have the lowest levels of domestic abuse and violence.” By contrast, nominal Christian men “report the highest rate of [abuse] of any group — even higher than secular couples."
  • Pearcey distinguishes two scripts for masculinity, the “good man” script and the “real man” script. Being a good man is defined in terms of honor, duty, and integrity. Being a real man is all too often defined in terms of socioeconomic status and sexual conquests. In Pearcey’s view, these two visions are masculinity are very much at odds; one represents a moral version masculinity, the other is masculinity cut loose from the restraints of faith and family. Some might wonder how Pearcey’s categories map onto other distinctions, e.g., is the good man a “beta male” while a “real man” is an alpha male? I’ll tackle this in a bit, and seek to correct the way Pearcey defines and relates the two scripts. But Pearcey is no doubt right that there are competing scripts for masculinity today and getting the script right is crucial to restoring cultural sanity. Men are desperate for a roadmap to true masculinity; let’s give them one.
  • Pearcey seeks to do justice to the biological differences between the sexes. I do not think she captures everything that needs to be said here, but her discussion on p. 31 is at least a start. Biological realism was a theme in Love Thy Body, so interested readers could also look at that book. However, it is questionable whether or not Pearcey sufficiently follows through on the meaning and implications of these biological differences. I’ll circle back to her deficient view of nature/creational design below. For now, note that affirming biological differences between men and women is good and necessary, but not sufficient. The psychological and intellectual differences between men and women are arguably even greater than the physical differences.
  • Pearcey has many good and helpful things to say about the crisis of fatherlessness in our culture today (35ff, 139f, 191fff). While a great deal of work has been done on the biological changes that take place in a woman when she gives birth, Pearcey rightly calls attention to the fact that having a newborn changes the father as well (202ff, 207). This is a crucial feature in Pearcey’s book that corrects many conservative and Christians who have written on manhood/fatherhood the last few decades (e.g., George Gilder, Graham Stanton): There has been a tendency to say that while motherhood is natural (because of the mother’s innate and biological bond with the child), fatherhood is merely cultural. But this is false. Fathers have biochemical bonds with their infants just as much as mothers. Men are designed for fatherhood every bit as much as women are designed for motherhood. We do not impose fatherhood on men, by custom or law; rather fatherhood is natural, and custom and law are useful in reinforcing nature since we are prone to rebel against it. Pearecy is right, then, that “The most important long-term solution to toxic male behavior…is to strengthen men’s commitment to fatherhood.” True masculinity will be family oriented, and it is so by divine design, not because of social construction. The war on masculinity is toxic because it is a war on fathers, and fatherlessness is the most destructive social phenomenon in our society today: "The sheer number of social problems exhibited by fatherless boys gives the lie to the idea that masculinity is toxic. If that were true, why is it that the greatest risk factor for violence and antisocial behavior in boys is growing up without a father’s presence in their lives?”
  • Pearcey opens the book talking about her own experience with an abusive father. She ends the book by circling back around to the topic of abuse, including the story of her own healing. While there are some holes in her discussion of abuse that need to be filled in, overall she does a very good job with a difficult topic. She rightly points out that many in the church have not really understood how to deal with abuse and provides many helpful reminders. e.g., counsel that we might normally give to a wife in a struggling marriage (“submit to him more, be kinder to him, look your best, be sexually available for him”) actually backfires in abusive marriages (256). Sins of abuse (or, more accurately, oppression) need to be distinguished from run-of-the-mill “normal” marital sins. Churches actually err on both sides, sometimes stretching the definition of abuse so widely that marriages are terminated with divorce even though biblical grounds are lacking; at other times, churches have pressured victimized spouses to stay in marriages where they should have been granted biblical grounds for divorce by a church court. Marriage is a “for better or worse” covenant; just because a marriage is difficult does not mean it can be terminated with divorce (cf. 1 Peter 3). At the same time, God does not require a spouse to stay in a marriage where they are being repeatedly physically harmed or endangered (cf. Exodus 21:10-11; Deut. 23:15-16). Over the years, as a pastor, I have seen several cases where a spouse had grounds and probably should have sought for divorce, but did not; and I have seen other cases where it was obvious a spouse was looking for a way out of a hard marriage even though they did not have biblical warrant to seek a divorce. Pearcey rightly acknowledges that sometimes women can be the abusers (though interestingly, she does not have much advice to offer men who are on the receiving end of abuse). Pearcey also points out that seeking to appease bullies by giving them what they want almost always makes things worse rather than better; the only way to deal with a bully to stand up to him. Since abusers are bullies, attempts at placating them are not a way forward (256f). Pearcey, following the biblical example of Abigail in 1 Samuel and the teaching of Augustine, points out that husbands who abuse their wives forfeit their right to expect her submission (257f, 266). While she does not discuss some of the key biblical texts that bear on the issue of abuse as grounds for divorce (e.g., Exodus 21:10-11), her overall treatment is very useful and a step in the right direction.
I could keep going, but you get the point. There is a lot of good material here.
The backbone of Pearcey’s book is not biblical exposition. The book is really more of a historical and sociological survey. The historical narrative (with sociological and occasionally biblical tidbits thrown in) is the strongest part of the book. She begins with a very interesting historical survey of manhood and husbandry from the Puritan era onward. Pearcey sees pre-industrial life as a kind of model for family life and yearns for a recovery of its best features. The Puritan view of marriage stressed the man’s headship, but also stressed the companionate features of marriage. A man had authority, but it was to be exercised in love. Further, the Puritans were not prudes; they emphasized the importance of mutual sexual pleasure in marriage. They also protected women; the first laws against domestic abuse were passed in 1641 in the Massachusettes Bay Colony. (For more on Puritan family life, I recommend Leland Ryken’s Worldly Saints.) Pearcey shows that men during the Puritan period, into the colonial era of American history, were very much oriented towards the common good. Their agrarian way of life meant it was quite easy for most men — “housefathers” as they were known — to integrate fatherly duties into daily life. Fatherhood was not a tacked on “extra” but woven into the fabric of daily life for most men. Pearcey then goes into an extensive overview of how the Industrial Revolution broke down the old household structure and thus contributed to the rise of toxic masculinity. She returns to the social changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution again and again to explain what has gone wrong with men, marriage, and family life in our society. As men began working away from home, moving from farms to factories to office buildings, they got disconnected from their role in the family. I think Pearcey overplays the significance of the Industrial Revolution, but there is no question many solid historians and sociologists have taken a very similar view and it must be reckoned with in these discussions.
Pearcey boldly includes a very honest discussion of the pros and cons of women’s suffrage (99ff), pointing out that most women did not initially want the vote. They were quite content to leave public, political life in the hands of men, knowing that men would act in the best interests of their household and the wider community. Before the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution, it was not so much that men voted rather than women because men were somehow superior; rather, the franchise was lodged in the household rather than the individual because the family was seen as the basic building block of society and men were the heads of their households. By the late 1800s, the rising feminist movement had gained a foothold in society, contributing to the breakdown of a “common good” view of society. As men began to drift away from family and faith, they could no longer be trusted to use their political power to seek the common good. I have said before that feminism was really the beginning of identity politics in America and Peacey’s analysis backs up that claim. Women’s suffrage was basically the first shot fired in the modern “battle of the sexes,” since it opened up the possibility for men and women (even husbands and wives) to become political rivals. Pearcey does a good job explaining that the shift towards women’s suffrage was actually revolutionary in that it made the individual rather than the household the basic social/political unit, and this in turn led to further social degradation and fragmentation. Here is Pearcey’s account in her own words:
Why did most women oppose women's suffrage? It was not out of 'indifference' or 'apathy.' Instead, it was because they understood clearly that universal suffrage implied a shift from the household to the individual as the basic unit of society. As one anti-suffrage group wrote in 1894, 'the household, not the individual, is the unit of the State, and the vast majority of women are represented by household suffrage.' Another anti-suffragist said the vote would 'strike at the family as the self-governing unit upon which the state is built.' Still another said it would, 'shift the basis of our government from the family as a unit to the individual.'
Why were women so concerned about a shift from the family to the individual as the unit of society? Because it struck a blow to the concept of male responsibility. For if society accepted that a man voted as solely an individual, then it no longer held him morally responsible for representing the common good of the entire household.
In short, women were concerned that universal suffrage would reduce men's sense of accountability for everyone in the household…The debate over universal suffrage illustrated a shift in political philosophy from the household to the individual as the basic unit of society.
Eventually, of course, women came around to supporting female suffrage. Why? The tide began to turn when the vote was expanded to universal male suffrage—that is, when men who were not responsible for a household were given the right to vote. At that point, the meaning of the vote changed. Men no longer voted as officeholders responsible for the common good of the household but only as individuals. Politics was now every man for himself.
And if the vote represented only individual interests, women concluded—quite logically—that they too needed to represent themselves. They could no longer count on the head of the household to represent their interests. Read these poignant words by Alice Henry, a leader in the Women's Trade Union League: Female suffrage is necessary, she said, because men, even good men, cannot be trusted to take care of women's interests.
In short, women's suffrage represented a tragic erosion of women's trust in men to take responsibility for the common good—especially women's good.
For the record, like Pearcey, I do not have an objection to women voting as such; I just wish they were better at it. At the same time, I know many godly women who would gladly give up their right to vote as an individual in order to restore the household to its foundational place in society; I can’t really argue with their point since the nineteenth amendment in American history has undoubtedly given us a much more progressive/liberal nation.
As men became less anchored to the home, women came to be too seen as their spiritual and sexual superiors. Pearcey takes on this narrative that men are naturally more fallen than women because it implies that women are responsible to civilize and restrain men. (This is a corrective to the likes of George Gilder, who assigns women the responsibility of “civilizing” otherwise barbaric bachelors.) This idea really arose as healthy masculinity began to breakdown in our culture in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution and the Second Great Awakening. Women and the domestic sphere they inhabited became the place of virtue. Men and the public square in which they worked became a hotbed of vice. As woman’s domestic labors got easier with the advance of technology, she shifted her focus in the home from economic productivity to emotional support and social reform. As women came to be seen as the guardians of morality, our culture’s conception of piety got feminized. Soon, it was only possible for a man to be godly if he was effeminate; a man became holy by becoming more like a woman. Masculinity came to be regarded as, well, toxic. Clergy became more and more effeminate, turning even more men away from the church (see Ann Douglas’ book The Feminization of American Culture for more). Religion came to be highly emotionalized and less rational/dogmatic, opening the door to theological liberalism. Churches came to be mostly made up of women, even those that continued to have a male-only pastorate. These problems are very much with us in 2023; evangelical churches are about 60% female.
Pearcey does an excellent job telling this story. She points out that this trend of women replacing men as the custodians of spirituality was a novelty. We should not let men off the hook. Men must take responsibility for themselves and not pedestalize women as the guardians of virtue and manners. Men should be the spiritual and moral leaders of society. Pearecy writes, 
[I]f women were defined as the morally superior sex, responsible for instilling virtue their husbands, then in essence America was releasing men from responsibility to be virtuous…For the first time in history…women took men’s place as the custodians of communal virtue…Yet when the Bible calls men to spiritual leadership, it assumes that God has equipped men with the character traits needed for the task — both strength and empathy, both determination and gentleness. Instead of asking women to civilize men, a more biblical course would have been to challenge men to accept their responsibility before God for developing the full range of many virtues (112f). 
Pearcey’s exploration of the “women are angels, men are demons” view that came to characterize American culture in the nineteenth century shows just how far back the problem of the “toxic masculinity” goes. Pearcey gives extensive evidence (much of it literary) of how this thesis came to dominate culture. For example, she points to the popular novelist Southworth who wrote more than sixty books in which, “The plot almost always involved female virtue being tested by male vice.” Women also led many reform movements, many of which targeted characteristic male vices like drunkenness. Prohibition, short lived though it was, was perhaps the ultimate triumph of angelic women over demonic men. (Of course, it was actually men who passed prohibition since women did not yet have the vote, just as it was men who actually eradicated slavery from America. But the “toxic masculinity” narrative still stuck; prohibition was widely viewed as a necessary response to an especially common and peculiarly male vice.) 
My favorite section of Pearcey’s book is her look at what I have called “freebird masculinity.” I intend to devote a complete blog post to the this theme at some point, so I won’t say everything here, but I will say that my own sense of what happened to American masculinity in this period is very similar to Pearcey’s evaluation. By “freebird masculinity,” I mean men who live like the Lynyrd Skynyrd song describes: a life free of responsibility and commitment, a life on the run, a life of male autonomy and immaturity, a life of escape from the responsibilities of family and civilization. Or, as Pearcey puts it, it’s the view that “the way to become a ‘Real’ Man was by leaving family and community behind for a life that was wild, unfettered, free” (148). “Freebird masculinity” has taken a variety of forms. Think of American legends and the myths that grew up around them, like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. No one can question the masculinity of American frontiersmen and cowboys because they proved their mettle in the wild. But to some degree, they also disconnected from civilization. Pearcey’s focus on men leaving behind (feminized) society and going into the rugged (masculine) wilderness to regain their manhood is well documented by her examination of American culture, especially Westerns. The idealized man of the Wild West is rootless, solitary, committed, and rugged, unlike his civilized counterpart who has supposedly exchanged masculinity for a staid, domesticated life of comfort and ease. Men were made to be lions but have become house cats — or so we are told. Pearcey points out that this theme of escape, presenting men as “commitment-phobic lone rangers” was a novelty. Traditionally, civilization has been viewed as the product of male achievement, the fruit of distinctively masculine energy, and a fit context for men to undertake uniquely masculine endeavors. The notion that one had to seek true manhood by escaping from it would have been unheard of until very recently in human history. This is the truth: Freebird men are effeminate; they have the appearance of masculinity but not its substance. They are not patriarchs; at best they are fratriarchs. They do not build a household or leave a legacy. Freebird men roam; real men put down roots and take responsibility.
Pearcey captures the dynamic of the extremes that arose at this juncture in American history and she can sympathize with the way men responded, even as she acknowledges the problems with that response. As American culture was becoming feminized in the nineteenth century, how did men react? Men understandably felt the need to push back against the prissiness of American society. Men need to work with their hands, risk, explore, and engage with the natural world. Men were made for dominion. But here’s the catch: once they achieve a certain measure of dominion, it is all too easy for men to get soft because that dominion creates a comfortable society; thus, the push for men to go back into the wilderness in search of their lost masculinity. The problem is that this is simply not what manhood is really about. Men build civilization for the sake of women and children; or, as Doug Wilson has put it, “civilization is built by men with mouths to feed.” Men accumulate and distribute resources for the good of their households. Men do not actually express masculinity by abandoning the responsibilities that come with the civilization they have created, but by fulfilling those responsibilities within that civilization. Pearcey rightly argues that marriage and family life are natural to men and to masculine identity; men were designed for responsibility and responsibility usually means settling down and putting down roots. The word “husband” etymologically means “house bound” — a man who is covenantally bound to a particular household. Manhood is not about being in the wilderness rather than an urban or suburban environment; manhood is about seizing one’s assigned responsibilities and fulfilling them, whatever the surrounding culture and environment might be like. A man can be a true man in the wilderness, on a farm, in the factory, or in an office. Dominion comes in many forms and manhood does not depend solely on surroundings, but how a man fulfills his masculine responsibilities. Pearcey: 
Men do not find their true self by escaping relationships and riding off into the sunset like a lone ranger. They find their authentic manhood in their core relationships: to God, their wife, their children, their extended family. The phrase ‘be fruitful’ also means to build up the social institutions that historically grow out of the family [including] schools businesses, governments, charities, and community associations…The best strategy for men to validate their identity, then, is to roll up their sleeves and invest more deeply in their families and in creative work that builds up and benefits the human community. The cultural mandate summon up men’s drive to achieve, to accomplish, to have an impact (158).
Pearcey rightly ties distorted conceptions of masculinity to evolutionary theory. The view that real masculinity is wild, uncivilized, and barbaric is not just a relic of America’s Western mythology. It is also a product of Darwinism, especially evolutionary psychology. The rise of Darwinism in popularity challenged and changed conventional views of manhood. Pearcey shows that secularism leads to toxic masculinity by underwriting the notion that men are pigs whose only hope is to be tamed and domesticated by (more intrinsically virtuous) women (ch. 9). Given all the recent discussion of George Gilder’s Men and Marriage, I was glad to see Pearcey take Gilder to task again here. Gilder’s book is generally helpful and insightful but Pearcey is right to critique Gilder’s view that civilization and morality depend on men submitting to women’s standards (including marriage, which comes to be seen as an institution that serves woman’s interests rather than one that is mutually beneficial). We are back to the “men bad, women good” view — ironically, despite the fact that Darwin himself was a male chauvinist who devalued women. Pearecy sums up the problem:
Tell men they are naturally irresponsible brutes, captive to ancient caveman urges, and they will start acting like it. They will start treating marriage as an imposition that works against their true nature, a trap that constrains their free spirit. The results are exactly what we see today: too many young men refusing to grow up, avoiding the responsibilities of job and family…Negative definitions of masculinity have negative consequences (171). 
As we might expect, “The nineteenth century strategy of giving women responsibility for taming men did not work. And despite what evolutionary psychologists say, it will not work today. Telling men that they must submit to what they perceive to be a feminine standard will only spur them to revolt” (173).
One of the responses to the feminization of the culture and the church in the early twentieth century was so-called “muscular Christianity.” While this movement had all kinds of problems, I appreciate that Pearcey recognizes that it did tap into an aspect of God’s design for masculinity: 
[S]ports programs are especially important for sending a message that the church honors male energy and physicality. Because of testosterone, men tend to be more physically active and competitive, and these are good gifts from God that should be validated. Team sports can also draw men to the church by fostering male friendship and camaraderie (179). 
Pearcey rightly detects that the trajectory of a feminized faith led straight to theological liberalism. Liberal theologians were mocked as “effeminate” and “sissies” and “little infidel preacherettes” for good reason. The “muscular Christian” movement tried to re-establish male responsibility; its proponents claimed, 
If God is going to win the country, he must do it through men…God is masculine God…The pulpit is the place for the strongest men we have…nothing emphasizes and exalts manliness, as does Christianity…no man is a man unless he is a Christian…[it is] a wicked, hellish, ungodly, satanic teaching that by nature men are not as good, that by nature women are …[more] inclined toward God and morality….Not a line in the Bible indicates that by nature men shouldn’t be required to be as godly as any woman, as pure in mind as any woman, as loving and kindly as any woman (183, 186).
Pearecy looks at how we got to where we are today, where fathers (patriarchs) are especially targeted for ridicule and mockery in pop culture. (More than 75% of male representations in pop culture are negative!) She traces it back to fathers leaving the homestead for the factory after the Industrial Revolution; when the father’s work was no longer visible to his children, it was hard for them to honor him as their provider. While that is part of the story, it certainly does not explain all the father-hatred we see in our culture (more on that below). But I do appreciate that Pearcey recognizes men will only embrace fatherhood en masse if fatherhood is honored once again: 
Men will be drawn back to family life only when they realize that being a good husband and father is a manly thing to do; that paternal duty and compassion are not female standards imposed upon men but are integral to the male character as it was created by God. Men are intrinsically relational and they are happiness when they create rich, loving relationships, especially with their wives and children…Authentic masculinity is best achieved by embracing the responsibilities of mature manhood — becoming a deeply engaged husband and father…Honoring fathers will do more than any other single strategy to prevent toxic behavior in the next generation of men (192, 206).  
Indeed. Pearcey goes on to show that the fatherhood crisis has created a boyhood crisis: without the discipline and direction of a father, boys tend to channel their testosterone-fueled energy into destructive rather constructive actions. Boys have a father-shaped hole in their hearts that only dad can fill. 
So, again, there is a great deal about Pearcey’s book to appreciate. Her historical narrative is a very useful overview. But there are also some significant shortcomings that keep this work from being a “go to” book for those who really want to not only understand but also solve the current “masculinity crisis.” I have lumped the basic problems into three categories.
1. We need a more comprehensive script for masculinity.
Pearcey’s "two scripts" approach to masculinity has become pretty standard fare in writings on manhood, with variations in precisely how the two scripts are defined and related. Everyone seems to know there are two competing scripts for men to choose from today. The key question here is how the two clusters of masculine traits Pearcey identifies connect to one another. The problem can be seen in her opening illustration of one man who gives his life to protect others and another man who takes the lives of others (17f). From this, she launches into her “good man” vs “real man” scripts; the good man displays honor, dependability, integrity and lives a life of sacrifice for others, while the real man is tough, strong, ambitious, and competitive — and also dangerous. The problem is that she implies the “real man” is a bad man when in reality some of supposedly negative “real man” qualities are actually good, and failure to see them as such is one the reasons genuine masculinity gets branded as “toxic” today. Whether we like it or not, we need men who are strong and tough, not just dutiful and generous. Yes, we need men to be humble — but we also need men who are confident, who can assert themselves, who can take calculated risks, who can harness ambition and drive. The best men are not merely nice; they can be dangerous when the situation requires it.
The “real man’s” strength needs to be channeled towards a proper end, and his toughness needs to be used in service of a worthwhile mission, but strength and toughness should not be denigrated if we really want to recover masculinity in all its glory. (Some of the “real man” qualities Pearcey includes in her list are immoral, but that’s precisely the problem: her depiction of a real man is a mix of typical masculine virtue and vice. The “real man” virtues are just as essential to manhood as her list of “good man” virtues, and yet they are under attack.) While Pearcey sees a tension (if not contradiction) between these two groupings of male qualities, they need to be integrated into a single holistic script for masculinity. The truly good man is real man and vice versa.
When “good man” qualities get sundered from “real man” qualities, the “real man" degenerates from protector into predator, from provider into exploiter. But likewise, when the “real man” qualities of strength and toughness get cut off from the “good man” qualities of duty and sacrifice, men slide into effeminacy and become proverbial “nice guys” who all too often fail to launch. Effeminacy may be defined here as a fear of pain or love of comfort that keeps a man from fulfilling his God-assigned vocation. A man is effeminate when he chooses pleasure over responsibility and ease over sacrifice. The reality is that men are called to do many things, whether leading their families, exercising dominion in order to provide, or putting themselves in a place of danger in order to protect, that require strength and toughness. Even the competitiveness and ambition of the “real man” can serve good purposes. To paraphrase Camille Paglia, without masculine ambition, we'd still be living in grass huts. Pearcey seems to admit this at one point  (page 20: “Ideally, the Good man should also be the Real Man”) and presents her book as an attempt to bring the two scripts back together. But she never takes any steps towards their integration in the rest of the book. If anything, her book reinforces the separation of soft masculine virtues from hard masculine virtues.  Pearcey’s good man is not a real man and her real man cannot be good. The virtuous “real man” qualities have a hard time finding a home in Pearcey’s portrait of non-toxic masculinity. But that dichotomy just reinforces the misperception that actual masculinity is toxic.
For example, see Pearcey’s discussion of strength on p. 48f, where she wrongly claims the Bible subverts the cultural expectation that men should be strong. This is partially true, but not the whole truth. Certainly, manhood cannot be reduced  to how much one can bench press. In that sense, it is true that Bible describes a kind of strength the world often fails to recognize, a strength that comes to expression through sacrificial love. But the Bible is not indifferent to physical strength, as the stories of David, Samson, etc. reveal (cf. Prov. 20:29; Psalm 45; 1 Kings 2:1-3; 1 Corinthians 16:13; 1 Tim. 4:8). We are not gnostics; faith can be expressed in physical ways, including feats of physical strength. Pearcey says that men be willing to be vulnerable. Vulnerability certainly has its place, properly understood. But one reason many men do not want to be vulnerable is because men who have tried to be vulnerable are often punished for it. Pearecy herself does this when she takes on the “men’s rights movement” (173f). To the extent that such a movement exists (and I’m actually quite skeptical that it does in any meaningful way), the men’s rights movement is precisely an expression of male vulnerability. Many men who try to point out the challenges that face men in today’s world get mocked or accused of having a victim mentality. Is any wonder many men choose to remain as stoic as possible? How can we tell men to be vulnerable then shame them as victims when they identify their fears in the midst of a culture that despises them? The reality is the best men are strong and weak at the same time. They are weak and vulnerable before God. But for that very reason, they have a genuine strength that might include physical prowess to some degree, but is really at its core a strength of heart and virtue. The Bible recognizes an analogy between physical strength and spiritual strength (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-27, 2 Tim. 2:4-6), though obviously the priority must be spiritual strength since it has a greater glory. But we should no more downplay strength for men than we would downplay beauty for women. There are natural, creational realities and there is nothing wrong with them in themselves -- men want to be strong and women want to be beautiful because God made us this way and this is part of his design. Instead of denying these truths, we should harness those desires and point to the true source and meaning of strength and beauty for men and women. Strength serves the man's central calling to take dominion over the creation; beauty serves the woman's primary calling to be fruitful and multiply. Together, the man's strength and the woman's beauty aim at the fulfillment of the creation mandate.
Pearcey (like many complementarians today) pays lip service to the biblical category of male headship. But she largely dilutes it of any meaning. She wants men to be responsible for their households, but she does not want them to have any authority over their households. She is clearly uneasy with any notion of hierarchy in Christian marriage. While there is certainly far more to a husband’s headship than authority, there is certainly not less. I am not saying Pearcey is a closet feminist, but on this point she has much in common with feminism. Feminist have always said that any version of male headship, complementarianism, patriarchy, etc., is dangerous to women and makes marriage an oppressive institution. While Pearcey wants to correct this error, the way she deals with headship/authority reinforces the feminist myth. At times it seems Pearcey reduces masculinity to ways in which men can serve women’s needs and interests, as if men had no calling of their own: “the responsibility of a husband and father is to give his wife and children the opportunity to fulfill their calling — to develop their God-given gifts and talents. His power is to be used to empower others.” Pearcey might think this is what a Christ-like man will do, but it is a pale imitation of the truth. The illustration Pearcey uses is case in point: She looks at Jesus in John 13 washing the disciples’ feet. It is true that Jesus was acting as a servant. But he was doing so not merely so others could fulfill their mission, but as a way of fulfilling his own mission. He did not set aside his authority or allow the disciples to define his mission for him; in fact, he overrode Peter’s objections to the foot-washing. Jesus went on later in that same evening to give all kinds of authoritative commands to his disciples — the very thing Pearcey downplays in the case of husbands and fathers. But this selective appropriation of Jesus’ example simply does not work. While the servant-leadership model captures a piece of what Jesus is doing, it does not capture the whole of it. Jesus does not just lead by serving; he serves by leading. That is to say, the gift he gives his disciples is the gift of wise, decisive, competent, authoritative leadership. Husbands and fathers must do the same for their households. 
There seems to be a contradiction built into Pearcey’s claim about a husband’s headship. On the one hand, she claims that a particular theory of headship does not matter to the happiness and success of the marriage: “a husband’s view of gender roles does not make a difference in the happiness of his marriage" (39; note this quotation comes from a chapter entitled “Progressive Patriarchs,” which tells you where Pearcey is going). But later in the book, she claims “When a marriage is unhappy, the empirical research is putting the primary responsibility right where God puts it — on the heads of the household” (234). But if this is so, then a particular theory of headship — one that holds men responsible for the state of their marriage — actually does matter a great deal. It is impossible for (a) what men believe about headship to have no bearing on the happiness of the marriage and (b) still claim that men hold primary responsibility for the well-being of the marriage. If men are responsible, they need to know it, and they need to act on it. Holding men responsible is most certainly a kind of headship — a theory of headship, if you will. Paul most certainly provides a theory of headship in Ephesians 5 — more than that, he provides a theology of headship and spells out what it looks like in practice. This is one of the problems with such a heavy reliance on sociology — the sociological data can be wildly inconsistent, and with so many studies reflecting the ideologies of those who carry them out (“conformation bias”), we can find a study to back up pretty much anything we want. How the various studies relate and how they can be integrated into a holistic picture is never really dealt with; sociology tends to be very piecemeal. Further, while I am not totally dismissive of these kinds of surveys, all the data we gather has to be filtered through the Scripture, and Pearcey has failed to do that. That limits the usefulness of her book for those who want a distinctively biblical and Christian understanding of masculinity. Her book might report the findings of sociologists, for whatever they are worth, but it does not tell us what God says about these realities in his Word. One inspired apostle is worth more than a million random surveys and sociological studies. God knows infinitely more than any sociologist. Scripture is superior to any survey. I’m all for using nature (observations of the reality God created) as well as Scripture, but Scripture must always have control of our interpretation of nature. There is little evidence in this book that Pearcey is interpreting the sociological data through the lens of Scripture. If anything, she relies on sociological data that contravenes Scripture.
As a pastor with 25+ years experience in ministry, I could provide many anecdotes that run contrary to the sociological data Pearcy relies on when she says a theory of headship does not matter. (I realize that the plural of “anecdote” is not “data,” but oftentimes in-depth anecdotes are actually more useful than wide-ranging collections of very shallow data.) From my observations, I would suggest wives are much happier when husbands adopt a theory (and practice!) of headship that makes them want to love and lead their wives the way Christ loves and leads the church. Women want be led by a man; they were created to respond to male leadership and initiative; they were created to submit to a trustworthy man. Over the years, numerous families that have joined our church have commented that one thing that attracted them to our congregation was the fact that the men led their families and the wives were happy about it. Women are hypergamous creatures; they want to marry a man they can look up to, respect, and follow. Sure, a woman in her fallenness will want a man she can control, but that will not satisfy her if she gets it. Again deep down, she knows she was created to respond to masculine leadership and initiative. This is the problem with diminishing distinctive marital roles in the name of equality. Marriages in which the focus is more on equality than role/duty tend to be more highly anxious and have more conflict (in part be cause there is no way to adjudicate what equality in marriage actually is). Focusing on equality leads to a dead end. Think of feminists who argue women should be allowed to go topless in public because men get to. That’s equality right? Well, maybe, but it is a flat out denial of reality — the reality that men and women are different and so our regulations for how they dress can never be equal. To hell with equality. Give me reality. Give me truth. Don’t try to squeeze men and women into the same mold. Abraham Kuyper called this the “ban of uniformity” that “kills life” — and in killing life, it also kills joy, and it kills a lot of marriages.
The same issue arises in Pearcey’s discussion of Genesis 3:16. She allows sociology to control how she reads the text. What does it mean for the woman to “desire" her husband? And for her husband to “rule over” her? I have discussed this text several other places and hope to give the text a blog post of its own soon. But Pearcey subordinates the meaning of the text to Gottmann’s sociological research: “Modern psychological research seems to be confirming Genesis 3:16,” meaning women continue to have an emotional longing for connection with their husbands even after the fall. According to Pearcey, the woman’s desire is not a sinful desire to usurp her husband’s role (as if Eve had become a feminist); rather, it is her desire to emotionally bond with with her husband. The rule of the man, then, is seen as a curse that falls on the woman — her husband becomes a tyrant. (Note: this way of reading Genesis 3:16 suggests that women are superior spouses — they desire to emotional bonding, while their husbands act as tyrants. If this is not the “toxic war on masculinity,” what is?) Pearecy again has hit on bits and pieces of the truth, but not the whole. I believe the text of Genesis 3 is actually full of double entendres (e.g., clothing them with the skins of an animal has a double meaning, on the one hand indicating that if they were going to worship a beast, they should be dressed like a beast, but also pointing ahead to the way in which we will be covered by the bloody sacrifice of Christ). Genesis 3:16 is loaded with layers of meaning. The woman’s desire is twofold — she does desire to seize the headship role assigned her husband; the reluctance of women to promise and practice submission to their husbands is proof of this aspect of the curse since rebellion against her role hurts her as much as him. But there is also a blessing implied (as with other aspects of the curses in this chapter). The woman would never have sexually desired her husband again after he allowed her to be attacked and deceived by the serpent when he should have protected her; the end of her sexual desire would mean the end of the human race. But God in his grace sees fit to restore her desire (that is, her sexual desire) for the man so the creation command to be be fruitful and multiply can be be fulfilled. (Note: The same term for “desire” is used in Song of Solomon 7:10; Pearcey notes this on page 294.) In sum: the desire the woman has for her husband in Genesis 3:16 is both punitive (she will rebel against her husband's headship, but he will continue to rule over her, for better or for worse) and restorative (she will desire her husband emotionally and sexually, even though he failed to protect her from the serpent).
While Pearcey is right that men are ultimately responsible for their marriages, Pearcey might take it too far. At points, she makes it sound as if how men treat their wives is the sole issue in whether or not a marriage is happy, successful, etc. She quotes Gottmann, to the effect that wives are almost always doing their part already, so if the marriage is not good, it must be the husband’s doing: “It is certainly just as important for wives to treat their husbands with honor and respect, but my data indicates that there majority of wives — even in unstable marriages — already do that." My guess is that wives are not nearly as respectful as they think (or as Gottmann thinks) they are. In our culture today, we do very, very little to actually teach young women how to be respectful wives. Many wives have no idea when they are being disrespectful because they do not understand what respect means to a man. A feminized researcher like Gottmann might not recognize disrespect either. But just on the surface, the notion that failed marriages are always the fault of the man is patently absurd. Wives actually can sin. And while the husband is most definitely responsible for the state of the marriage, the way a wife fulfills her obligations has a huge sway in the overall success of the marriage. Why are men warned about marrying contentious, nagging women in Scripture if wives never tear down their own households? Men are responsible, yes, but wives still have a large say in the success of their marriages. Wives can make or break their husbands by how they treat them. A disrespectful, nagging wife can crush her husband’s confidence. That does not excuse the man for any responsibilities he fails to fulfill. But it does have a bearing upon the marriage's health and happiness. Of course, some men wreck their marriages by their own sin — irresponsibility, violence, adultery, porn, etc. But some men do a more than adequate job as heads, and their wives rebel against them anyway (much as some churches rebel against Christ, the perfect husband/head). Pearcey gives the impression that only husbands destroy marriages; that simply isn’t true. Women are not heads of their households so perhaps when they throw a rock in the pond, the ripples are not as big and do not travel as far. But women are perfectly capable of wrecking decent marriages. Men may be the primary shapers of daily life and history, but women can make history too, for better or for worse.
Again: Sociology certainly should never be allowed to trump the Scriptures. Many of the same sociologists who tell us that a theory of headship does not matter to the health of the marriage and that egalitarian marriages are just as successful as biblically patterned marriages will also tell us that children of same-sex parents fare just as well as those with a mom and a dad. Where do we draw the line when it comes to swallowing what sociologists tell us with no discernment? Surely believing and obeying what the apostle Paul teaches about marriage is going to lead to better results than being indifferent to it or rejecting it outright. If we don’t believe the Bible — if we don’t privilege the Bible as an authority and source of wisdom above all others authorities and sources — how can we call ourselves Christians? If the Bible makes no difference, if there is no advantage in believing what God teaches and doing what God says in his Word — why bother with any of it? I realize making “evidence based” arguments is the rage these days, and there is much practical prudence to be found in some of these studies. But surely nothing should be allowed to supplant the Scriptures. Besides, if one were so inclined to go looking for it, it is actually not hard to find sociological data that demonstrates that what a husband (and wife!) believe about the Bible’s teaching on headship actually has a great deal to do with happiness. Why weren’t those studies consulted? Granted, none of that data is any more neutral than data gleaned from Gottman’s “Love Lab" because all data has to be interpreted, but if we are going to be evidence based, we need to really make sure we look at all the evidence. To give just one example: It is odd to me that Pearcey seems to ignore the piles of data we have that show how much role reversal (husbands and wives swapping traditional stations) creates instability and breakdown in the marriage relationship. She points to the fact that “breadwinner” is relatively recent term, but there is no question men have historically been considered primary providers, going back to Genesis 2, where Adam was commanded to tend the Garden of Eden. (This is another one of those places where Pearcey’s reliance on sociology and minimization of scriptural exegesis really hurts her book). The simple fact is that marriage relationships work better when the man shoulders the burden of provision. This is not a cultural or social construct; it is a feature of the divine design. (On this score, Gilder’s Men and Marriage is exactly right.) If women could be economically productive on their own, just like men, why does Scripture single out widows for special care (cf. James 1:27; 1 Tim. 5:11ff)? Men are the economic powerhouses of the human race; it is the man’s distinctive contribution to the household, just as bearing and nurturing children is the woman’s distinctive contribution. These are not airtight containers; women can be productive and men certainly have a role in nurturing. But many passages bear out this division of labor and these unique roles (e.g., note the sex specific curses in Genesis 3, which land on the man and the woman in their primary domains). If women can play both the nurturer role and the provider role, then men are superfluous — which is basically how many women think of men today, thanks to feminism.
Sadly, Peacey has opened herself up to the charge (already brought against her by the likes of Shelia Gregoire and other feminists) that evangelical marriages are generally happy not because they follow the biblical teaching, but precisely because they do not. Pearcey is conceding far too much ground here, and unnecessarily. This is probably the most troubling thing Pearcey says in the book: “conservative Christian couples use the traditional rhetoric of male headship, yet in practice these men fit the close, relational model favored by progressives…they use progressive means in the service of traditional ends” (59). Pearcey is following the research of Gottmann here. I trust the Apostle Paul more than Gottman to tell me truth about marriage. I’ve read Gottmann, and I’d like to deal with his work in a future post; for now I will only say that from a biblical perspective, his research is not all that helpful in that it does not actually clearly delineate different views of headship and certainly does not capture the way headship is designed to function in a biblical marriage. But our main concern here is with what conclusions Pearcey draws in her purported defense of evangelical men. 
Pearcey is basically here admitting that progressives have marriage right, and evangelical marriages are only happy because they live like progressives. Conservatives pay lip service to male headship because they have to (it’s in the Bible!) but they otherwise disregard it. Pearcey implies progressives and egalitarians actually know more about what it takes to make a happy marriage than the Apostle Paul. Egalitarianism works; complementarianism only works because most complementarians function like egalitarians in every day life. That seems to be Pearcey’s view — but if she is right, wouldn’t it make sense to dispense with the biblical rhetoric altogether? Isn’t it hypocritical to be complementarian in name only, to advocate something that doesn’t actually work? But Pearcey is simply wrong; on this issue, she has joined forces with the egalitarians and feminist to wage a toxic war on biblical headship and biblical hierarchy. For my part, I believe Scripture’s teaching that the husband is head and his wife is to submit to him is clear; further, I believe marriages in which the couple seeks to consciously implement this pattern will be happier and more fulfilling because they will have the blessing that always accompanies obedience to God. Of the making of surveys, there will be no end; but when God has spoken, we should believe and obey. The divine design is clearly laid out for us; our calling is to conform our marriages to that design.
My hunch is that Pearcey has it backwards anyway. My guess is that progressive marriages are sometimes happy because they mimic the Bible’s teaching on headship rather than the other way around. Even men who profess to be progressives tend to feel a heightened sense of responsibility for their wives. Nature is stubborn, after all, and the instinct to provide/protect is just as built into men as a maternal instinct is built into women (Pearcey acknowledges this male instinct sacrifice in her epilogue). These natural dispositions can be eradicated but it takes a lot to do so. An example: Richard Fierro was at a drag show in Colorado with his wife and daughter when a shooter opened fire with an AR-15 (obviously, it is very unlikely he is a conservative or traditionalist in any sense, given where he was). Fierro’s masculine instinct kicked in and he went into what he called “combat mode” to protect his wife and daughter. Progressivism cannot account for this kind of heroic masculinity — and yet no one faults his wife for not running towards the killer and overtaking him the way he did. There are no progressives or egalitarians when the shooting breaks out. There are no feminists when the bullets are flying. Another example: Who made the marriage proposal in these egalitarian marriages? One would think it should come from the woman 50% of the time if these couples are truly egalitarian and a theory of male headship does not matter. But the engagement ring and proposal still almost always come from the man — which suggests these couples are not actually as egalitarian as they claim to be. It sounds cool to say you have an egalitarian marriage, but it’s hard to see how a truly equal romantic relationship, in which neither person leads or follows, could ever get off the ground. Someone has to take initiative and risk, and even in our feminist age, it is still usually the man. Equality and romance simply do not mix — no more than equality and traditional dancing can mix. Someone has to lead and someone has to follow. You cannot have a democracy of two. Yet another example: studies have shown many couples where the wife earns more are embarrassed by that fact even though their ideology tells them it shouldn’t matter (See Suzanne Venker on this topic). There is no way this is due to cultural conditioning. There is something deeply unnatural about a wife taking the lead as provider for the household (unless the husband is an invalid). It is actually a form of transgenderism. Indeed, I have made the argument that all our current cultural confusion about men and women is downstream from feminism, so much so that the LGBTQ movement should be renamed the FLGBTQ movement, with the “F” standing for feminism. Wives who are breadwinners and stay-at-home-dads are are a prime example of transgenderism. Women in combat are practicing transgenderism even if they never get surgeries or hormone injections. All of these are ways we violate the natural order.
Saying “your theology of headship does not matter - just love each other and you’ll have a good marriage” is like saying “your theology of work does not matter - just work hard and you will find your job satisfying” or “your theology of liturgy does not matter — just praise God." To some degree this is true, of course. When we do what we are designed to do (marry and love our spouses, get jobs and work hard, give God thanks in prayer and song) things go relatively well because we are doing something that suits us. But all things being equal, I’d rather my daughter marry a man with a biblical view of headship, and I’d rather my employee understand how his work fits into the creation mandate, and I’d rather my congregants understand the biblical patterns and principles of liturgy — because in the long run this makes for better husbands and better workers and better worshippers. When Pearcey claims that believing and obeying what the Bible teaches on headship does not matter to the happiness of a marriage so long as husbands are nice to their wives, she is simply wrong. It matters a great deal. Pearcey says that instead of adopting a theory of headship, men should “express affection, be aware of needs, bond over shared interests, and spend quality time together.” Fine. Those are all good things. I would encourage husbands to do them as well — and in doing so, I believe he would image the headship of Christ to his wife. But if this is all he does, he is being disobedient, no matter how happy his wife is. His wife may be happy with him, but Christ will not be. And pleasing Christ must always be more important to a husband than pleasing his wife. Christ demands, expects, and requires men to be men — and that means exercising leadership in the household. There is no other way to be a Christian husband. Men were designed for marriage to one woman; they were designed to protect and provide for that woman and the children they have together; they were designed to lead their households and use their households to fulfill the creation mandate. Anything less is a failure of manhood, a failure to be like Christ, a failure to obey the Scripture. Husbands should certainly want to please their wives and her happiness is not an irrelevant consideration. But the most important consideration in any Christian marriage should be conformity to the pattern of Scripture. Pearcey would instead have us conform to the survey results of sociologists.
When Pearcey turns her attention to what headship actually means (particularly what it means to evangelicals), once again she ignores what the Bible actually says and relies on a smattering of quotes from sociological surveys. She starts off by suggesting that a husband’s headship means he is “first among equals” (51f), which is a wonderful way to put it, but from there she slides downhill. Pearcey quotes several anonymous evangelical husbands and wives; more than anything, the quotations show that evangelicals hold a mess of contradictory and semi-biblical notions of what Scripture teaches. Here is an example: “Being the head doesn’t mean you’re a ruler or something. It’s more of a responsibility” (55). Yes, headship includes responsibility. But responsibility and rule should never be separated. When they are separated, the result is injustice. Think about it: What if we told a school teacher, “You are the head of this class. That means you are responsible for the results of these students. But you do not rule these students. You do not have authority over them. You not get to give assignments or determine their grades.” No teacher in his right mind would step into that position; it simply isn’t fair. To hold someone responsible when they have no authority is cruel. If you want to understand why men are simply dropping out of marriage, this is a huge reason why. We still want to hold men to traditional, 1950s style responsibilities. But today's man has no virtually no chance of getting a woman who will fulfill traditional, 1950s style wifely duties. How can he be expected to “man up” under these circumstances? As Aaron Renn has pointed out, how can the man be expected to act like Ward Cleaver if the woman is dead set against being June Cleaver? Unless the church (and society as a whole) asks women to change as well, the call for men to take responsibility, marry, and settle down will largely fall on deaf ears.
The best way to make marriage appealing to men is to link responsibility and authority; separating authority from responsibility always results in a terrible relational imbalance. Authority is an inescapable concept. There will always be authority exercised in the home; the only question is who will exercise it and how they will exercise it. If we deny that headship means authority, authority does not go away, it just gets relocated. But where? Inevitably to the woman. Patriarchy gives way to matriarchy. But in the modern feminist matriarchal version of marriage, while women have been given (or have seized) authority, they do not have responsibility, at least not in the same way men traditionally have had responsibility. The problems with this should be obvious. There is no way to recover the traditional prestige associated with the offices of husband and father, unless we tie together responsibility and authority the way the older patriarchal system did. Obviously, authority held by the head-of-household should be exercised for the good of the household as a whole, not just in a self-serving way. The head of household was traditionally understood to be a corporate person, in some way embodying and summing up every member of the household in himself so he could act on their behalf. While fallen men certainly need external checks and balances on how they exercise authority, the reality is that men's innate, created masculine instincts pressure them to use their authority in ways that bolster the good of the whole family.
Pearcey is uneasy with men ruling. But Scripture is not. Scripture explicitly says men are to rule their households (cf. 1 Tim. 3:4-5; the Greek word Paul uses there to describe a man “ruling” his household indicates “presiding over” or “having preeminence over;” in a very real way, it distinguishes him from the rest of the household). The skill and competency with which a man oversees and governs his household determines whether or not he is fit for church office. Pearcey says that if the Apostle Paul wanted to teach that husbands are to rule over their wives in Ephesians 5, he could have used language to make that clear, such as the term “kyrios.” But ironically, Peter tells us that Sara called Abraham her kyrios! Husbands are lords of their wives!And does not Paul’s command that wives “submit to” and “obey” their husbands imply that he has authority over her? Pearcey obviously wants to sidestep debates over a husband’s authority, which is no doubt part of her apologetic strategy. She wants to stay above the fray of debates over gender roles. But the position she ends up defending is not the biblical one, and unfortunately, that means she is actually waging her own toxic war on masculinity at this point. Given Pearcey’s definition of what headship means, why should a  young man aspire to marriage? How could he possibly find her version of the husband’s job description attractive?
Pearcey even entertains the highly discredited view that “headship” could mean “source” (57). But this is a move of desperation. Exegetically, it is simply false; even if “headship” can include source as an aspect of its meaning, that is not the focus in the New Testament “household codes." There is no getting around the fact that headship in the Bible includes authority. Separating authority from responsibility is, quite frankly, the essence of the toxic war of masculinity. Pearcey hits all the right notes when it comes to a husband’s responsibility: “Men are called to protect and provide…[including] responsibility for the spiritual well-being of the family” (56). She says “Christian men need to lead the way in standing against evil, fighting for what is right, and challenging the false worldviews of the secular culture” (57). All that is true. She also rightly fears away false views of headship: “committed Christians do not define headship in terms of entitlement or superiority” (57). True. But the Bible includes authority in its definition of headship and there is no way to escape that. Pearcey dances around the issue a bit (e.g., 57f). But the bottom line is that she wants men to be responsible even though they do not rule. Again: Stripping men of authority but still holding them responsible is right at the heart of the toxic attack on masculinity. In this part of her book, Pearcey is fighting on the wrong side of the toxic war on masculinity. 
But it gets worse for men. Not only does Pearcey’s view of marriage turn husbands from heads into figureheads by taking away their rulership; there is also a tendency for the responsibility men are still saddled with to get conflated with blame. Proper, biblical covenant headship not only links responsibility and rule; it also distinguishes responsibility from blame. A husband can be held responsible for his household while not blameworthy of every sin committed in the household. Jesus and his bride are the ultimate illustration of this: on the cross Jesus (as head) took responsibility for his bride’s sin even though he was blameless. Sadly, Pearcey never brings this key distinction into her discussion of a husband’s responsibility. Her kind of “thin” complementarianism unfortunately converges with feminism in that both have the same toxic result for men: men get blamed for everything (because they are responsible) even though they have no authority to actually do anything about it (because headship does not include rule). Men who enter marriages under this kind of system are being told to make bricks without straw. It’s the lie of servant-leadership in its modern, egalitarian form. We expect men to play their traditional role as protectors and providers, but we do not accord them the traditional honor and authority that came with the office of head of household. We expect men to bear a traditional load of protection and provision, but we do not expect women to play their traditional role of submissive and supportive helper. This is the toxic war on masculinity — and it is part of what is killing men and masculinity today.
Pearcey's views of headship are not very different from what we find among egalitarians. But egalitarianism simply does now work. What would an egalitarian football team be like? How can we ensure that every member of the team is equal? What would happen if an offensive lineman threw half the passes and the quarterback threw half the blocks so they could be "equal"? It would be a disaster for the team. It's much better to let each player use their strengths. That's how a team works. The "team" model for marriage is most definitely not egalitarian; every team has different positions with different roles, and no team treats every member as interchangeable with every other member. It is not at all clear how egalitarianism is supposed to work in real life; theoretical equality does not tell us what to do practically. When there is no authority, who gets to decide what counts as equal? In Pearcey's view it is actually the wife who determines if the marriage is working. It is her happiness, her emotional needs, her feelings that become the de facto judge of the husband and the marriage. The woman becomes the head and authority. The fact that Pearcey does not even to realize she has defaulted to a feminized understanding of marriage is telling; it demonstrates just how deep the problem runs.
Corresponding to her diminishing of the husband's headship, Pearcey also downplays the wife’s obligation to submit. Her discussion of submission on pages 59ff is quite good, as far as it goes. Submission does not mean a wife has no voice, it does not men her gifts cannot be used, it does mean a husband gets to use her as a doormat. Submission is perfectly compatible with a wife taking initiative in certain areas, thinking for herself, and devising creative ways to serve the good of her household. But elsewhere Pearcey suggests that submission makes wives passive lumps. Elsewhere Pearcey relies on sociological data that suggests marriages are happier if marital roles are largely androgynous, e.g., men split chores evenly. But actually, the better data seems to be on the other side of that issue. Multiple studies could be linked here. Marriages are happier (and sexier) when there is a division of labor in the home; each spouse obviously needs to bear burdens, but even wives tend to like it when their husbands do more what they consider to be “masculine” tasks. This is just an aspect of the basic truth that polarity drives sexual attraction; couples that want to cultivate a strong sexual relationship should focus on polarity rather than equality. We should also note here that women will almost always be better at certain domestic tasks because nesting and domesticity are aspects of their nurturing nature.
What might a young men take away from Pearcey’s view of the man’s role in marriage? With all the negative rhetoric about marriage out there, has Pearcey presented a compelling case for marriage that can overcome the cynicism deeply rooted in our culture? I fear that a young man hearing Pearcey’s presentation of marriage would not find it very compelling. Nothing in the picture she draws could really make young people, especially young men, want to marry. At a time when marriage rates are plummeting, that’s a major shortcoming in a book that claims to shore up our understanding of the goodness of masculinity.
The feminists have always been wrong about marriage. They claim marriage is a tool of patriarchal oppression. But that simply isn’t the case. Think of the common complaint women have about their boyfriends: the guys are commitment-phobic. If marriage was truly a way for men to dominate women, you might think guys would be jumping at the chance to marry. But they often are not, which suggests that just maybe marriage is not the tool of patriarchal oppression that many think it is. The reality is that marriage brings many burdens into a man’s life. They are good burdens. They are burdens he should rejoice to carry. They are burdens that will mature him and make him more like Christ as he embraces them. But they are still burdens. In a society that does not back up a man’s headship, but instead blames him for everything that goes wrong, it’s no surprise many men are very reluctant that to take the plunge into marriage. This is really unfortunate because there is no greater source of joy and fulfillment in life than a marriage patterned after Christ and the church, the way God intended. But when marriages rebel against that pattern, all too often tragedy follows.
So marriage is not a tool of patriarchal oppression. But what if the opposite has become true today? What if marriage — at least some versions of contemporary marriage — has become a tool of matriarchal oppression? If men are responsible, and responsibility includes blame but does not include rule, then that is exactly what marriage has become. If husbands have responsibility but not authority, husbands have been made into slaves. And thus it should not surprise us that so many men today simply say, “No thank you.” I believe “men going their own way” (MGTOWs) are terribly effeminate; they are cowards who shy away from the risks real masculinity would compel them to take. But I also think there is a kind of logic that drives their decision to simply drop out of the dating and marriage game altogether and (unlike Pearcey) we need to understand that logic if we are going to effectively reach these men.
There is a well known rule of thumb that says any institution that is not explicitly right-wing will sooner or later become left-wing. By the same token, we can say marriages that are not explicitly patriarchal will sooner or later become matriarchal. If we deny men are in authority (even if we do so on the name of "equality"), authority does not vanish. It just shifts to the woman. It is no coincidence that the rise of feminism has corresponded with men dropping out of marriage, dropping out of the workforce, dropping out of society. Societies that are not partriarchal in orientation quickly become hostile to men and societies that are hostile to men eventually cease to function because a healthy society requires mature masculine energy (just as it requires feminine energy). In a very real sense, the survival of our civilization requires us to figure out the issue of inter-sexual dynamics.
Obviously a lot of non-Christian young men are not interested in marriage because they can get sex (or watch porn) without it. But many Christian young men are not all that interested in marriage either. A big reason is that marriage looks like a bad deal to them — again, it’s all responsibility, but no authority. There’s not even a solid expectation the sexual relationship within marriage will be fulfilling; sexless marriages are all too common (just check out the sociological data on this — frankly, it’s pretty depressing). Again, this is why the “man up” message does not really work to motivate men any more. “Man up” used to be a way to goad men into bearing manly responsibilities. But why “man up” and play the traditional masculine role when there is virtually no expectation you will get a traditional wife? Why “man up” when family courts make it very easy for a wife to walk away with the assets and children if she gets unhappy or finds someone she likes better? It’s all well good and to call on men to take on manly burdens and responsibilities. But without a corresponding message to women, it won’t work. So perhaps that should be Pearcey’s next project: a book on the toxic war on femininity. If we want our men to be genuinely masculine, we also need women to be truly feminine.
In sum: I have said many, many times over the years that the key to be a good spouse is being a good Christian. Or as I more frequently put it: the key to being a good husband is being a good Christian man, and the key to being a good wife is being a good Christian woman. But this is quite different from Pearcey’s claim that a man’s theory of headship does not matter. In my view, being a good Christian man means the kind of man who will embrace his God-given design and his God-assigned roles — including the role of head. It means embracing his innate masculinity and living it out. And of course, all that feeds into what has been called gendered piety — the man is sanctified in a distinctively masculine way, in comparison to the Christian woman, who is sanctified in a uniquely feminine way. If a man does these things — if he is a good Christian man — he will most certainly have not only a particular theory of headship, but will also be committed to the practice of headship in his marriage. Pearcey, by contrast has thinned out what it means to be a good man — it gets reduced to knowing “how to convey honor and respect” (39) or “just being a good (androgynous?) Christian.” That’s not enough to counter the war on men. It's not enough to defeat those waging a toxic war on masculinity.
Pearcey claims "No sex has a monopoly on any particular virtue...The problem with stereotypes is that they cut us in half—men get one half of the human character traits and women get the other half. But in redemption, God calls us to be whole persons.” There is certainly truth in this. Virtues are not sexed. It's not as if compassion is feminine and courage is masculine, since men are called to be compassionate and women courageous. In that sense, some stereotypes do need to be challenged. But Pearecy does not provide the whole picture. While there is no distinct list of virtues for each sex, the way in which the virutes come to expression in each sex will differ. Masculine compassion is distinct from feminine compassion. Masculine courage is distinct from feminine courage. And so on. Acknowledging gendered piety is especially important in contexts like parenting. Mothers and fathers both love their children, but maternal love is not the same as paternal love which is why (ideally) a child will grow up with both a mother and father.
The "good husband" in Pearcey’s view sounds a whole lot like the proverbial “nice guy.” Pearcey frames the issue as if we could separate out being a Christian from being a man, as if piety and gender were separable, as if a man could be a good man without being good at being a man, as if sanctification were androgynous (cf. p. 175, which suggests a gender-neutral view of piety). But there is a lot more to husbandry than simply being nice to your wife and spending time with her doing what she likes. Given Pearcey’s emaciated vision of husbandry, it is no surprise she has virtually nothing to say about the sexual component of marriage. After all, Pearcey’s “nice guy” is not likely to be particularly attractive or arousing to his wife. She may be comforted by his kindness, generosity, and service (all excellent qualities a man must demonstrate!!), but for a marriage to truly fulfill God’s design (including the sexual fulfillment God desires us to have, e.g., Proverbs 5), a husband is going to have be a more complete man than the one Pearcey profiles. Don’t believe me? Many sources, secular and religious, have commented on the epidemic of sexless marriages, both inside and outside the church. Any treatment of manhood that does not teach men how to cultivate attraction falls short. Pearcey dismisses the “real man” in his desire to “get laid.” But good men want sex too — with their wives. Reading Pearcey’s book, you would never know that good men want to cultivate a healthy and vibrant sexual relationship with their wives; nor are good men given any direction about how to do so. Likewise, Pearcey downplays the “real man” in his desire to make money. But “good men” will also (or should also) desire to make money as well because they will want to provide. There is such a thing as godly ambition — but you’d never know it from Pearcey’s book. Developing a holistic practice of masculinity is crucial to this because without it, evangelical men will tend to default towards some form of effeminacy. Pearcey does not give us a full-orbed vision of masculinity to counter these issues. 
2. We need a more biblically rooted understanding of the household.
Everyone is talking about the patriarchy today. But what is the patriarchy? When it comes to discussing the patriarchy, we have to distinguish between the natural order, that is, God’s creational design, and the social structures various cultures build off of that creational design, either congruent with it or in rebellion against it. There is no question that God built men to be leaders in home, church, and society. This is clearly taught in Scripture and is manifested, with varying degrees of wisdom and faithfulness, in most every culture that has every existed for any length of time. If matriarchal societies existed in the ancient world, they were so unsuccessful and short-lived, they left no trace. Patriarchy is, in this sense, an inescapable concept. It’s not a matter of whether we will have patriarchy, only which kind of patriarchy we will have. The patriarchy in this sense can never be smashed because it is a feature of created reality.
But the social patriarchy -- the set of customs, laws, and so forth that human cultures construct — can be more or less true to God’s created intention. Societies that conform to the creational design will generally be happier and more prosperous. This is how Western civilization was built — it was a Christian patriarchy, in which cultural norms for the genders more or less conformed to God’s design and resulted in great flourishing. The social patriarchy was undergirded by the natural patriarchy. This is not to endorse everything in the Western tradition’s practice of gender roles. Many times things were done wrongly or to an excess and some legal regulations (e.g., all the details of the coverture system) were not necessary. But in the main, Western civilization succeeded largely because its view of sex, the sexes, and marriage paid attention to God’s design.
Today, this is no longer the case. The natural patriarchy still exists of course, and it explains many features of our society that continue to persist, much to the chagrin of feminists. But the social patriarchy has largely been smashed. The smashing of the social patriarchy just is  the toxic war on masculinity. The culture has actually become even more hostile to men than Pearcey recognizes. This is not just an alt-right myth; our culture really is a kind of gynocracy, steeped in misandry. (Note: The claim that our culture is full of misandry does not mean it is not also steeped in misogyny. These are not mutually exclusive; indeed it seems they go together. But we need to understand the particular features of misandry as well as misogyny.) To illustrate the pervasiveness of misandry today, consider a recent article from City Journal that cataloged a variety of ways in which our culture has a strong-anti-male bias. The entertainment industry, law enforcement, and educational establishment are full of misandry:
Smug misandry has been box-office gold for Barbie, which delights in writing off men as hapless romantic partners, leering jerks, violent buffoons, and dimwitted tyrants who ought to let women run the world. 
Numerous studies have shown that both sexes care more about harms to women than to men. Men get punished more severely than women for the same crime, and crimes against women are punished more severely than crimes against men. Institutions openly discriminate against men in hiring and promotion policies—and a majority of men as well as women favor affirmative-action programs for women….

The education establishment has obsessed for decades about the shortage of women in some science and tech disciplines, but few worry about males badly trailing by just about every other academic measure from kindergarten through graduate school. By the time boys finish high school (if they do), they’re so far behind that many colleges lower admissions standards for males—a rare instance of pro-male discrimination, though it’s not motivated by a desire to help men. Admissions directors do it because many women are loath to attend a college if the gender ratio is too skewed.
Gender disparities generally matter only if they work against women. In computing its Global Gender Gap, the much-quoted annual report, the World Economic Forum has explicitly ignored male disadvantages: if men fare worse on a particular dimension, a country still gets a perfect score for equality on that measure. Prodded by the federal Title IX law banning sexual discrimination in schools, educators have concentrated on eliminating disparities in athletics but not in other extracurricular programs, which mostly skew female. The fact that there are now three female college students for every two males is of no concern to the White House Gender Policy Council. Its “National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality” doesn’t even mention boys’ struggles in school, instead focusing exclusively on new ways to help female students get further ahead.
Women have been a majority of college graduates since 1982 and dominate by many other key measures…

Society tends to care for women while ignoring the plight of men:

[Women] not only live longer than men but also benefit from a higher share of federal funding for medical research. They’re much less likely to be fatally injured on the job or commit suicide. They receive the lion’s share of Social Security and other entitlement payments (while men pay the lion’s share of taxes). They decide how to spend most of the family income. Women initiate most divorces and are much likelier to win custody of the children. While men are ahead in some ways—politicians love to denounce the “gender pay gap” and the “glass ceiling” supposedly limiting women—these disparities have been shown to be largely, if not entirely, due to personal preferences and choices, not discrimination….

While the wage gap between men and women is a myth, bias in favor of hiring females is not a myth:

In 2016, the Australian national government launched a rigorous quest to combat its own misogyny. As part of its “Gender Equality Strategy,” it brought in Harvard economist Michael J. Hiscox to address a disparity in the government workforce: women held 59 percent of the jobs but only 49 percent of the executive positions...
The experiment produced an “unintended consequence,” as the researchers ruefully noted in their report, “Going Blind to See More Clearly.” When managers evaluated a résumé with a female name like Wendy Richards, they were more likely to shortlist it than if they saw that same résumé with no name. And they were less likely to shortlist it if the name was Gary Richards. Australia’s public servants were clearly guilty of bias against men—and that was just fine with the architects of the Gender Equality Strategy…
In the real world, a full-time female worker over 25 in America earns 84 cents for every dollar a male earns, but even equalitarian researchers acknowledge that this gap is not due to overt sexual discrimination (illegal since the Equal Pay Act of 1963). It’s due mainly to men choosing higher-paying professions, like coding, instead of, say, teaching, and to the “motherhood penalty.” There’s no significant gender gap between childless singles in their twenties, but once they become parents, mothers tend to reduce their hours, switch to a lower-paying job with more flexibility, or drop out of the workforce. To equalitarians, these differences are the result of systemic sexism: gender stereotypes that discourage girls from seeking high-paying jobs and saddle them with an unfair share of child-care responsibilities….

On average, women care more about “work-life balance” and finding a job that seems personally and socially meaningful—typically, one in a comfortable environment that involves working with people rather than things. Men prioritize making money, so they’re willing to take less appealing jobs—work that’s tedious, outdoors, dirty, dangerous—with longer, less predictable hours. The gender pay gap among graduates of elite business schools is due in significant part to their job choices. The male MBAs are likelier to take jobs in finance and consulting, whereas the women tend to choose lower-paying industries that are less competitive and less risky…..

Even dating, which is ultimately a zero sum game (since men and women either win or lose together), still presents a unique set of challenges for men in the modern world:

Women still prefer winners. They’re the pickier sex—on Tinder, they’re much likelier to swipe left—and they’re especially picky when it comes to a partner’s income, education, and professional accomplishments, as researchers have found in analyses of mate preferences, activity on dating websites, and patterns of marriage and divorce. Most American women still want a man who makes at least as much as they do—and wealthier women are more determined than less affluent women to find someone with a successful career.

While some traditional attitudes about wives’ roles have shifted, husbands are still typically expected to be breadwinners. An American couple is more likely to divorce if the husband lacks a full-time job, but the wife’s employment status doesn’t affect the odds. Studies of divorce rates in dozens of other countries have confirmed this peril to unemployed men, which comedian Chris Rock has also observed: “Fellows, if you lose your job, you’re going to lose your woman. That’s right. She may not leave the day you lose it, but the countdown has begun.”

The “metoo” movement is full of misandry. In saying this, I am not denying or excusing real cases of abuse that exist. Some men do terrible things to women and that should be addressed. But “metoo” has gone too far. “Metoo” has exaerbated the problem of bringing the sexes together — not only because it assumes men are guilty on the mere say-so of a woman (as if false accusations were impossible), but because it has made men fearful to approach women for fear of being labeled as creeps and getting stuck with an HR complaint (or worse):

Both sexes have also been hurt by the misandrist excesses of the #MeToo movement. With a few exceptions—like the actress Amber Heard, successfully sued by her husband, Johnny Depp—women who wreck men’s reputations and careers with false accusations suffer few consequences in the media or the courts. Police and prosecutors have routinely refused to act, even in clear cases of perjury, as Bettina Arndt has documented. These injustices, along with the draconian punishments and policies imposed by the (mainly female) managers of human resources, have instilled fear in workplaces, stifling office romances (which, in the past, frequently led to marriage) as well as valuable professional relationships. Most women still want men to make the first move in courtship, but who wants to risk being reported to HR for subjecting a colleague to “unwanted attention”? Even a purely professional meeting in private is risky if something innocent gets misconstrued—or falsely described by a hostile colleague exploiting the believe-all-women bias.
Pearcey does not acknowledge the depth of our society’s misandry, much less try to explain it or give men strategies for dealing with it. Yes, she knows there is a toxic war on masculinity but her book barely scratches the surface on just how far that attack on masculinity has gone. Instead, she constantly points to the downsides of the Industrial Revolution (IR) to explain what has gone wrong with intersexual dynamics. But is the IR really to blame for the toxic war on masculinity? For collapsing marriage and birth rates? For high divorce rates and illegitimacy? Hardly. While I can agree with a lot of her critiques of life in a post-IR world, her account misses in some key ways. Her tunnel vision focus on the IR causes her to miss the importance of other social trends and forces that have shaped the war on men.
Pearcey exaggerates how hard it is to have a traditional, faithful, and happy family life after the IR. I know plenty of families that have done it (including my own). Yes, it does require sacrifice. It almost certainly means living off one income for a while so the wife can devote herself to her children in their early years. (While Pearcey acknowledges there is often a “dad tax” — many men rightly do not pursue career advancement in order to have more time to spend with family — she fails to acknowledge that many men pursue career advancement precisely so their wives can be freed to be at home with the children.) Whether or not family life works well in modern society really comes down to the choices a family makes. In many ways, our modern conveniences could and should make family life easier than ever; alas, we lack the discipline and drive to make use of modern technology in a way that serves the best interests of the family. The Christian faith teaches basic principles of family life that can be adapted to the conditions of modern life, preserving biblically prescribed gender roles and giving children the opportunity to thrive under the loving care of mom and dad. Yes, the IR presents certain challenges to family life, but nothing about post-19th century social and economic conditions makes family life impossible. (And of course, Pearcey’s romanticized discussion of pre-IR life igores the incredible challenges families faced in that era.)
I think the real issue is not the IR itself, but the prosperity it brought. In an agrarian society, there isn’t much time or opportunity to hang out in pubs and get drunk. Mere survival requires constant work. In industrialized society, there is usually greater wealth and greater leisure time and a greater social safety net to catch those who have been irresponsible. It’s easier to soften the consequences of bad decisions. The reality is that free time and money often bring temptations. Precisely as our nation’s wealth radically increased, we became more secular and more post-familial. This did not have to happen; there was nothing inevitable or necessary about it. It happened because of the choices people made. I believe Deuteronomy 8:11-20 has more explanatory power here than the particulars of the IR. In our prosperity, we have forgotten God. Hard times made strong men, strong men made prosperous times, and prosperous times made weak men. That’s the circle we are living in.
Consider: The Torah, addressing Israel in an agrarian context, does not have any explicit laws against drunkenness. But by the time we get to the wisdom literature, when Israel is wealthier, more prosperous and more urbanized, we find many warnings about drunkenness. A new situation, with greater wealth, leisure, and a social “safety net” meant the people would face new temptations. This is similar to what happened in American history, post-IR: a new social situation, with greater technology, wealth, and urbanization led to new temptations. But just as the normative family structure in Israel did not change when the nation urbanized, neither should it change with the IR in American history. Socio-economic conditions vary; human nature does not. The IR (and subsequent digital revolution) actually has all kinds of advantages for families, if families will make wise choices. But that’s what it really comes down to: not the socio-economic environment per se, but the choices made within that environment. There are ways for Christians to wisely and faithfully improvise in light of the changes the IR brought on. The fact that many did not do so does not prove it was impossible (we are not Marxists who believe material, socio-economic conditions determine everything, after all).
Pearcey suggests the only way to recover biblical masculinity is to get men back in the home (though she never explains how to do this in the modern world, other than pointing to those who worked from home during the pandemic). But I think she’s probably being overly romantic about pre-IR life and how “family integrated” it was (e.g., dads were not taking 2 year olds into the fields or woods with them; in many pre-industrial societies the family's home and farmland were not even on one contiguous piece of property so the idea that the whole family was together all day long was never the norm). Think about this: None of the men Jesus called to be his apostles worked from home. They were pre-modern men, but their vocations were not home-bound. The breakdown of the family today might be facilitated by the IR but not caused by it; again, it still comes down to choices people make. It’s not hard to find plenty of examples of men who have worked outside the home and still been great dads. Given that Pearcey’s suggested solutions (e.g., men using technology to work from home) are really not scaleable and really only applicable to a small set of white collar jobs, we certainly better hope it is possible to live as a Christian family in the conditions created by the IR. If not, we might as well concede that technology and economic developments have defeated the Christian faith. But how can fulfilling the dominion mandate — which is at the heart of the Christian view of life — subvert the Christian family and the Christian faith? There must be another way. God does not contradict himself. His call to take dominion and his call to build a household are not at odds; instead they serve each other. 
Those who advocate for a return to pre-IR life are much like those who nostalgically long for a return to the 1950s. Of course, Pearcey does not actually want to go back in time — she knows that’s impossible. But anyone who longs for a previous era usually underestimates the hardships that characterized life in the past. Before the IR, especially before the explosion of fossil fuels as our central energy source, life was brutal for almost everyone. It took all people had to merely survive. Lifespans were shorter. Infant mortality was a fact of life for almost every family. The roles that men and women had in such a world were largely dictated by what it took to survive. The debates we have today over things like gender equality, or how to navigate mixed sex “friendships" in the office, are luxuries that pervious eras could not have afforded or even imagined. Rather than looking at pre-IR life as a model, I believe we should look to the Scripture and seek to adapt its teachings to the context in which we live. 
I think Pearcey is probably also wrong about Titus 2 and what it means for women to be workers at home. On Pearecy's logic, there is no reason why Paul could not tell men the same thing. If everyone worked at home and all Paul means by “workers at home” is “work hard,” it is hard to understand why this is something older women would be commissioned to teach younger women. Paul does not actually tell women to work hard (though that may be presupposed);  he does not describe the manner of their work but the content of their work. They are to be “keepers at home,” or “good housekeepers” or “homemakers.” This is a specifically feminine task (cf. 1 Tim. 5:14, where he calls wives “home managers.”) Paul is tethering the women to the domestic sphere a way that does not apply to the man. The sex-specific curses of Genesis 3 are no doubt in the background. Paul is also drawing from Proverbs 31. In Proverbs 31 there is a contrast between the man who serves at the city gate and the woman who serves at home. Her husband is active in the public square, she is active in the domestic realm. Pearcey does not seem to have any objection to women pursuing a career right alongside mothering young children. Given her sociological, evidence based approach, it is shocking that she does not seem to be aware of the massive amount of data that we have that demonstrates how critical constant motherly care in the early years of life is to a child flourishing as he grows up and reaches adulthood. So much depends on the foundation laid in the early years of life, and that foundation can really only be laid by a devoted and undistracted mother. The scientific and sociological data here is not hard to find; I especially recommend Erica Komisar’s book Being There and Suzanne Venker’s work. While I do not agree with all of Komisar’s political solutions, there is no question she has put her finger on the reasons why mothers should put children ahead of career and do whatever they can to keep their children out of daycare. A mother is quite literally everything to her young child. She is replaceable most everywhere else; she could never be replaced at home.
Pearcey has an interesting discussion of maternal authority in the home, but misses some key factors (64ff). Pearcey claims the Bible “does not teach that fathers rule while mothers merely back up what fathers say.” Certainly she is right that mothers have real authority in the home over the children and are to be honored right alongside fathers. But Pearecy does not investigate how her egalitarian view of parental authority squares with a text like Ephesians 5, which commands wives to submit to their husbands “in all things.” Are her actions as a mother to her children exempted from this wifely submission? Of course not. The Bible does not teach parental egalitarianism; it teaches a layered view of authority, in which a wife/mother really does exert authority over her children but in a way consistent with her husband’s overall vision for their household life. A wife/mother does have authority over her children, and she is responsible as an individual for how she wields that authority. But men have authority over the household as a whole, and will give an account for how they have ruled/managed their household as a whole. This means a wife’s/mother's authority is exercised under the overarching authority of her husband. This layered view of authority should not be hard to understand. In a large business, middle managers are both in authority and under authority, and the way they exercise their authority over their subordinates must be subordinated to those who are over them in the company structure. A football team’s coaching staff has real authority; every coach on the staff is over the players, but every lesser coach must exercise his authority in submission to the head coach, fulfilling his overall vision for the team’s strategy, culture, etc.
If a husband/father is wise, he will appreciate the uniquely feminine insight that his wife can give. He will want her to care for their children in uniquely maternal ways. But he will do this precisely because her maternal love complements his paternal love. In general, of course, the biblical expectation is that mom and dad will be on the same page; even though they love and teach their children in different ways, there will no conflict, and the children will benefit immensely from being loved by opposite sex parents. But if there is a conflict between mom and dad in what they want for their children, she will need to submit to him (unless he is commanding her to sin). So, no, Scripture does not teach that “fathers rule while mothers merely reinforce paternal authority.” Mothers have their own contribution to make to the nurture of the children. But mothers are not independent and autonomous either. Mothers care for the children under the headship of their father. In this sense, the claim that mother and father have equal authority is simply false; the mother’s authority really is subordinate to the father’s authority. This is the only way mom and dad can work as a team.
Sidenote: It is interesting that when it comes to men, Pearcey is quick to downplay or qualify any authority men have. Men are servant-leaders, after all. Authority is dangerous and prone to abuse. But when Pearcey discusses a woman’s authority — in this case, a mother’s authority over her children — there are no qualifications (despite the fact that mothers are actually more likely to be abusive: “68% of the maltreated children were maltreated by a female, whereas 48% were maltreated by a male. (Some children were maltreated by both.) Of children maltreated by biological parents, mothers maltreated the majority (75%) whereas fathers maltreated a sizable minority (43%). In contrast, male perpetrators were more common for children maltreated by nonbiological parents or parents’ partners (64%) or by other persons (75%). "). I am sure Pearcey could make certain qualifications, but it is interesting she feels no need to. When Pearcey talks about a man’s authority, she is quick to point out that men should use their authority to serve others. But when she talks about the woman’s authority, she does just the opposite, e.g., Paul’s command that women be workers at home “is telling them not to be maids but managers” (225). But what’s wrong with being a maid? Shouldn’t women use their managerial authority in the home to serve the other members of the household? And won’t this inevitably involve her in maid-like domestic work? If men should not be above the act of washing others’ feet, why should women be above maid-service? 
The bottom line is that Pearcey’s description of household life leaves a lot to be desired. Her explanation of the breakdown of the household in the modern world is woefully inadequate, as are her solutions. And she fails to fully grasp the biblical model for the household we should be striving to imitate.
3. We cannot fix men without also fixing women.
Ironically, at many points Pearcey’s book seems to reinforce the very narrative of toxic men/blameless women she decries elsewhere. Her book contains a lot of great information, but it does not actually interact with the world as most young men (and for that matter, most young women) today experience it. This is why I do not think her book will be all that helpful going forward — its approach to the issues is already out of date.
One area where this is obvious is in her treatment (or lack of treatment) of attraction between men and women. Many men today want to know how to attract a woman in a dating marketplace that has gone global thanks to the internet. Men do need to up their game in many cases if they want to attract a quality woman, but both sexes seem to be getting fed up with the way dating in the modern world works — and they each seem to be getting fed up with the opposite sex. In a book that relies so much on observational data, it is interesting that Pearecy is so quickly dismissive of the so-called manosphere (173). The discussion of intersexual dynamics that take place on the manosphere could be considered the longest running sociological experiment there is. Obviously much of what is found there is trash, in the sense that it comes from a non-Christian perspective. But it is still data that can be mined. And what the manosphere says about intersexual relationships rings true for many people; one could argue much of it is repristinating the wisdom that was commonly known in the past, not only by those who sat on barstools, but also those who sat in pews.
For example, if men want to be attractive candidates for marriage, they are going to need to develop “real man” qualities to go with along with “good man” qualities. The best men are a wise blending of both. Pearcey suggest that desiring money and sex are part of the “real man” script, not the “good man” script. But it is possible to desire both money and sex in virtuous ways. Granted, temptations surround both — but they are central to man’s creation mandate to rule and multiply. But virtually every time money and sex come up in Pearcey’s book, they are cast in a negative light. The reality for most men today is that unless they learn to earn a solid living, their marriage prospects are very limited. Unless they learn to romantically pursue and attract a woman, they will end up lonely -- and it's not good for man to be alone.
Why is there so little in Pearcey’s book about sex? Maybe that’s a liability of a woman writing a book on masculinity. To understate the matter, sex plays a much, much bigger role in men’s lives than it does in Pearcey’s book. One of the greatest challenges facing all honorable men today is how to find a wife. Many men think, “If I am a nice guy, she will like me back” — Pearcey suggests as much as with her “good man” script — but then these men are devastated when this turns out to not be true. The reality is that if a man wants to be attractive  to a woman, he is going to have to offer more than the “good man” virtues Pearcey describes. As Aaron Renn has reminded us, whether we like it or not, godliness is not sexy. A lot of nice guys end up in the incel camp, desiring female companionship but unable to find it in today’s complex dating maze. Pearcey’s book seems to blame these men for their problems — and no doubt they are responsible for them — but without explaining to these men what they are doing wrong and how they could improve their prospects. In other words, Pearcey’s book lacks the kind of actionable strategy for self-improvement that men will find in books like Foster and Tennant’s It’s Good to be a Man  or Man Up! by Jeffrey Hemmer. If anything , Pearecy seems quite calloused towards men who are struggling in this area. We are justified in wondering why these men cannot also be objects of empathy instead of being summarily dismissed. Pearcey describes the problem but offers no real help. The reason men like Jordan Peterson have found massive audiences among young men when evangelical leaders and pastors have not is precisely this issue: Peterson understands what men are up against, refuses to let men think of themselves as victims, and then gives them practical, actionable advice. Peterson speaks the truth about many realities; men can hear him speaking to their problems with earnestness and empathy; men can see their own lives reflected in what he says; and so they trust him. Pearcey seems completely oblivious to the way intersexual dynamics and the dating/marriage market actually function for most men today.
So what do we do to help those countless men who want to be married but cannot figure out how to find a wife, or how to make themselves more attractive as candidates for marriage? Again, this is where Pearcey’s “good man” vs “real man” script is unhelpful. Carmel Richardson is much closer to the mark in describing the problem, using the recent Barbie movie as a foil:

For young men today, the picture looks a lot closer to what Barbie envisions than many care to admit. 

In a recent essay for the Washington Post, writer Christine Emba detailed the male problem at length, including her own anecdotal experience with male acquaintances who, she writes, lack friends, ambition, purpose, and even basic social skills. But this is not merely anecdotal: While older men still hold many high-level jobs, young men coming of age today demonstrate little promise of following in the same footsteps. Data from Pew Research Center show today’s 25-year-old women are just as likely as their predecessors in 1980 to work full time (both 61 percent) and more likely to be financially independent (56 percent versus 50 percent). By contrast, today’s 25-year-old men are significantly less likely to find full-time work than 40 years ago (71 percent today versus 85 percent in 1980) or to achieve financial independence (64 percent today versus 77 percent in 1980). 

As male career prospects worsen, so do male marriage prospects, predictably. For now, women still seek a spouse who earns as much or more than they do

For those who have been paying attention, this behavior is not caused by unexplained, sourceless apathy. As higher education has moved to a model which favors female strengths, men have been leaving it, and with it many of the higher paying jobs which require an advanced degree. For those already in the workforce, expanding H.R. departments—overwhelmingly staffed by women—and the politically charged sexual politics typified by the Me Too movement, have meant that formerly healthy male behaviors have been routinely coded as “toxic.” It is not an exaggeration to say that culture, writ large, has declared masculinity unwelcome. Men are being told to kick sand.

Are these men on the margins “Ken the way the girls would have him be”? Perhaps on its face, but female social behavior, especially in romantic relationships, suggests another conclusion. After all, men being “in their flop era,” as one Substack writer put it, is not an isolated problem. Indeed, for the vast majority of American women who hope to date and marry one of these males, the problem is theirs as well. Whether they blame male chauvinism, male inadequacy, or merely rising standards of acceptable relational behavior, women are incredibly vocal today about their dissatisfaction with the dating pool, yet unwilling to admit the causes.  

Men, meanwhile, may be beginning to reject the paradigm. The response of young men to living in a Barbie world has been a mixed bag, especially on social media, with some following unsavory media personalities like Andrew Tate to embrace a kind of Hugh Hefner “masculinity” that consists more in flaunting material wealth and injuring women than any thoughtful critique of a world after feminism. (The Romanian government has charged Tate with rape and human trafficking.) More probing responses have come from online pseudonymous communities, like that on Twitter around the poster known as Bronze Age Pervert. While some of these reactionary personalities are better than others, and esotericism can make it hard to tell which is which, the women who critique them in magazines or TikTok clips are missing the point: The so-called manosphere exists because of an excess of feminine naysaying, and will not be answered by more of it. 

Or consider another woman's advice to men who are seeking permanent female companionship, aka marriage:

In order to attract a woman and go the long haul, just focus on these following five questions:

  1. Do I lack purpose or drive? (Do I have a career I like that pays relatively well, or do I have a clear path forward to get me there?)
  2. Do I say no when I mean no? (Or do I say yes to keep the peace?)
  3. Do I communicate my needs clearly and effectively?
  4. Am I calm? (Or do I get easily agitated?)
  5. Am I in good physical shape, and do I pay attention to my appearance?

Men with purpose and drive don’t need to be rich; they need only be motivated toward something that lights them up. That will light her up.

Men who say yes when they mean no will not get the respect they crave. Always tell the truth, even when it hurts.

Men who communicate their needs are sexy. Men who clam up or stay quiet are not.

Men who are calm are enormously sexy. Men who yell are not.

Women aren’t sexually attracted to men who are lazy with their appearance. Put in the effort to be healthy and look good.

To reiterate: You cannot make a woman be less masculine. But you can provide the structure that will allow her to feel safe. And when she feels safe, she softens.

Right now we have a nation of women who don’t feel they can trust men because men have succumbed to the equality message just as fiercely as women have and as a result have taken a step back.

This is not what women want. I know it feels natural to do this as a result of women becoming more like men, but that is not the answer.

I know what I’m saying isn’t easy to hear or easy to do. I know that it feels easier to let women be men because there will be less conflict and because you’re so good at serving women, and it seems like this is what they want.

But it isn’t. Every week I hear from married couples that learned this the hard way.

So be preemptive. Don’t fall for the sexual equality garbage. That’s for the workplace, not for your relationship. Stay true to what God (or nature, if you prefer) made you to be: fierce and strong and purposeful and protective.

Male nature is the one and only thing that will cause a woman to surrender to her femininity, which will in turn create peace and passion in your relationship. If she won’t follow your lead, you’re either doing it wrong or she’s not the womanfor you.

Just stay focused on YOU. Forget about what women are or aren’t doing. As long as your answers to the questions above are no, yes, yes, yes, and yes, you’re in great shape.

If not, you have some work to do.

Women want a man who is masculine because masculinity creates security. One of the best ways a man can put his wife at ease and bring out her femininity is by making her laugh. If he can flirt with her or joke with her, he releases her tension and anxiety. Men often need to develop a Chestertonian dimension in their personality -- jovial, playful, witty, defiant. I have told men more than once, "You could solve a lot of your marriage problems if you just laugh with your wife once a day. Making her laugh softens her and re-feminizes her." Of course, what works with a wife also works in attracting a wife. Men need to be mission-focused yet also fun; confident but but not cocky; calm and poised, especially when she is having a strong emotional reaction to something. Men who get angry or anxious quickly lose frame and push the woman back towards a more masculinizing mindset. A man who has self-control and competence, who has a solid track record of getting things done, who has proven himself to be a competent and wise decision maker will have the opposite effect. Women soften around men they trust; they get hardened by men they do not trust.
As feminism has become more and more influential in the culture, it has produced a crop of young men who are simply not attractive to women. Feminized men simply do not fare well on the dating market. In a sense women got what they wanted, but now they don’t like it. In smashing the patriarchy, they smashed their own prospects for being happily married because they’re smashed the kind of men they would actually desire in a romantic way. To be blunt, women said they wanted feminist men, but now that men have been shaped by feminism, women find they despise those men. The best thing for men to do at this point is to push back against the whole feminist script. Femnism is a civilization-wide test that man have failed. Men have to get outside the feminist frame altogether. Men need to understand female hypergamy and become the best possible versions of themselves. If women want to marry men who earn more than they do (an example of her hypergamy), then men who want to get married better master at least some aspects of the “real man” script as Pearcey defines it. A man who is merely a “good man” is going to get left in the dust. And to come at it from the woman’s perspective: women have to decide if they want equal treatment with men or special treatment from men. For example, when it comes to wages, women cannot have it both ways: they cannot demand equal pay (and often better than equal educational and career opportunities) while also expecting to marry men who make more than they do. It just isn’t possible.
To take another example of the kind of thing we need to fix: Pearcey acknowledges that women initiate 80% of divorce (90% for college educated women), but she just assumes this is because men are typically relationally deficient. Men’s needs are being met so they are content in the marriage and see no reason to change anything. Women, meanwhile, feel unloved because their husbands do not meet all their emotional needs. Pearcey believes far more wives are good at being wives than husbands are good at being husbands; therefore, men, not women, are to blame for the fact that women initiate 80% of divorces. It’s hard for me to fathom that Pearcey could be this ignorant of reality. Studies indicate that as many as 1 in 5 marriages are sexless (meaning no sexual intimacy in the last year), and it’s worse problem for younger couples than for older couples. We should not just assume that men are getting their needs met in marriage. And even if men are getting their needs met, and women are not, this does not in any way explain or justify women initiating divorce twice as often as men. What if men have more realistic expectations for marriage than women? What if men are much simpler and easier to please? What if women constantly expose themselves to content (from social media, romance novels, movies, etc.) that feed their discontentment with unrealistic expectations for marriage and men? What if too many young women invest more in the idea of getting married and the big wedding day than preparing for the realities of actually being a wife? What if many women have destroyed their ability to pair bond with a husband because of pre-marital sex (studies show fornication severely damages men and women both, but the consequences for future relationships are even greater for women)? What if women pursuing career over family (as so many do today, thanks to the feminist script) leads women to think they do not need their husbands once their career gets to a certain level? They are financially independent after all — and if they divorce, they are almost assured of custody, alimony, child support, etc. In short, there are a lot of reasons why women pursue divorce at twice the rate of men, and not all of them have to do with problems on the man's side. Scripture acknowledges that there are some women who really do tear their own houses down.
The truth is that we do not have good data on the actual reasons why most people get divorced. Obviously, divorce is complex and any given divorce can happen for a multitude of reasons. These situations are usually fluid. But Pearcey simply assumes men are to blame, with no proof at all. Once again, this is an odd point of convergence between the thin complementarians and the feminists: men get blamed for everything. (Patriarchy holds men responsible, but does not conflate responsibility with blame. Further, patriarchy insists that Scripture, not the wife’s feelings, must be the final standard in evaluating the husband’s performance.) Pearcey does not really understand or sympathize with the challenging dynamics men must deal with when it comes to divorce. Let us grant (as I think everyone would) that some men are terrible husbands. Some men cheat. Some men are abusive/oppressive. Some men give their wives clear grounds for divorce. As a pastor, one of the biggest difficulties I have had is getting women to divorce bad men; some women are reluctant to take that step, even when it’s obvious they should and a church court has given them grounds/permission. But set all of that aide. That still does not explain why women divorce men twice as often as men divorce women. Pearcey seems oblivious to the other dynamics at work in our culture. Many women will divorce their husbands because they are unhappy and the culture feeds a sense of entitlement. Indeed, it’s not hard to find testimonies of women who frivolously divorced their husbands expecting the grass to be much, much greener on the other side of the fence, only to find loneliness (unless you consider cats to be good company). We also have to reckon with the corruption of the family court system which has a strong anti-male bias (especially in more conservative states — because they have a misguided notion of chivalry and will often conflate blame and responsibility for the man). Family courts often punish men, even men who would very much like to stay married to their wives. Wives are financially incentivized to divorce in a way that men are not. If women choose to terminate their marriage, most of the time they can expect a nice settlement in their favor, with the house, the friend group, alimony, child support, and primary child custody. When a wife she knows she has cash and prizes waiting for her at the end of the family court process, it can be hard for some women to be content with their marriage. Men are certainly responsible when their marriages fail — but who will hold women accountable for the marriages they have ended without grounds? Women have agency and responsibility too. I have seen numerous good Christian men get “divorce raped” by their discontented wives while the church stood by and did nothing to help. When feminism harnesses the power of the state to attack men, there is very little men can do to defend themselves.
Pointing this out is not at all the same as turning men into victims, or creating a victim mindset. Obviously, the victim mindset is the antithesis of real masculinity. But demonstrating objectively that some men are indeed victims of unjust divorces and corrupt family courts (and sometime church courts) is just a reality. Men can be worthy of empathy. Men can be hurt. Men can be sinned against by women. To reiternate an earlier point: If we tell men in such cases, “you are not a victim because you are the man and therefore responsible” we are actually telling men that their pain does not matter, that they should be stoic and stuff their feelings. But isn’t this the very thing we are trying to get away from? While all men must learn emotional self-control, there is certainly a masculine way to grieve, to suffer, to express anger and pain at having been mistreated by a woman and by the courts. 
None of this is to jump onboard some kind of men’s rights movement. I have heard there is a men’s rights movement, but  have not seen it. I do not think there is any viable “men’s rights movement,” nor am I convinced there ever will be. To wit: We all know of major feminist organizations, like NOW and Planned Parenthood. They are household names. There is no such equivalent for men — and I doubt there ever will be because men do not typically organize themselves as an identity group for political purposes in this way. Men tend to be individualists, women collectivists. Laws will only change to protect men when society as a whole comes to realize that treating men better serves the common good (and it is actually in women’s best interests since it will make men more desirous of marriage and all that comes with it). The same can be said of other male struggles — the fact that men are far more likely to commit suicide, to be homeless, to be the victim of a violent crime, to be falsely accused of sexual harassment. If almost any other subgroup in society suffered the way men do, the government would be rushing in with millions of dollars, programs, advocacy groups, and whatnot. That will never happen for men. I am not saying that it should. But I am saying that men who decide to look soberly at the risks involved in getting married today, given the realities of the family courts, or who look at the risks involved in interacting with a female co-workers, given the reality of the anti-male bias in HR departments, and so on, are simply wise. It is risky to be a man in today’s world. There really is a toxic war on masculinity and men need to know the tactics and strategies that will help them best navigate it. It is unmasculine to run from risk when one ought to take a risk — and I would say getting married today is a risk worth taking for the vast majority of men. But there is nothing unmasculine about understanding the risks involved and taking appropriate steps to minimize them. Taking the black pill and giving up on marriage is pure effeminacy; but taking the red pill (so to speak) as a way of soberly assessing how to minimize one's risks in getting married before taking the plunge is the epitome of wisdom.
A close reading of Pearcey suggest that she is just barely on the conservative side of these issues. She gets very close to embracing egalitarianism at several points. She clearly wants to sidestep complementariam/egalitarian debates by appealing to sociology, but it just isn’t possible. We’ve already noted how she basically concedes that marriage works best on egalitarian principles and that most evangelicals are not actually practicing male headship in marriage in any deep way. But her egalitarian tendencies come out in other ways. To give one example: Pearcey quotes research done by hyper-feminist Sheryl Sandberg to tell us that marriages are happier when men do more chores around the house. But there are more reliable studies that actually demonstrate the opposite (linked above). When we are taking marriage advice from Sandberg, we are pretty far off the Christin reservation. We might as well get our talking points from Rollo Tomassi or Andrew Tate if we are going to rely on Sandberg. This is the woman who advised younger women, “When looking for a life partner, my advice to women is date all of them: the bad boys, the cool boys, the commitment-phobic boys, the crazy boys. But do not marry them. The things that make the bad boys sexy do not make them good husbands. When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner.” Note what Sandberg says here about attraction/sexiness and marriage — “good men” are useful as husbands because they serve women’s interests, but they are not particularly attractive. The men who are actually attractive are not the ones who are into "equality." Another example: Pearcey favorably quotes Phillip Barton Payne on page 64 to affirm the “egalitarian dynamics” of New Testament marriage. But Payne is a full blown egalitarian who has argued that all church offices and ministries should open to women with no exception. Why rely on his work unless you are going to actually advocate for egalitarianism? Why doesn't Pearcey seek to explore and explain how the egalitarian dynamics she cites (e.g., 1 Cor 7:2ff, which has to do with mutual sexual obligation in marriage) fits into the broader headship/submission pattern that Scripture gives us?
Pearcey herself is close to the egalitarian position of Payne, though only readers who dig into the footnotes will actually catch it. When it comes to gender roles in the church, she praises the second Great Awakening for giving woman all kinds of ministries in the church, but she never goes into any arguments for why this should be the case or how it squares with the biblical texts. She sees laypeople in the church as androgynous: anything a non-ordained man can do a woman can do. None of this can be satisfactory to those who take seriously the biblical teaching in texts like 1 Cor. 11:2ff ; 14:33-35; 1 Tim. 2:9-14; etc. The reality is that most of what is wrong with the evangelical church today can be traced back to the Second Great Awakening. The Second Great Awakening is when the American began to go off the rails, doctrinally and liturgically. It radically democratized the church and individualized the faith, rejecting pastoral authority and legitimate tradition. It recast the faith in entirely experiential and emotional terms, rejecting the means of grace and creating new quasi-sacraments like the altar call. Pearcey says, approvingly, “From the time of the Second Great Awakening, evangelical churches and allowed women a wide range of public ministry…evangelical churches allowed women to speak in 'mixed assembles’ (of men and women); to pray aloud or read passages of Scripture in worship services; to lead prayer meetings; to teach Sunday School…to speak from the pulpit at revivals, church meetings, and Bible conferences…Essentially whatever a non-ordained man could do in church, a non-ordained woman could do” (315-16). She admits these practices are now associated with theological liberalism. She makes no theological or exegetical case for them. She fails to see that the shift that took place in the role of women in the church is very much at the heart of the toxic war on masculinity and is one reason why so many men stay away from the church today. She fails to see that this Keller-esque view that a woman can do anything unordained men can do (as if the laity were androgynous) is the soft underbelly of complementarianism that allows feminism to make deeper and deeper inroads into evangelical churches.
It is a massive omission in a book that purports to be about the toxic war on masculinity that Pearcey says virtually nothing about women taking on ecclesiastical offices that biblically and traditionally have been reserved for men. My guess is Pearcey sidesteps this issue because it is a bit of an embarrassment to her. Since she does not have a deep understanding of the differences between men and women, she cannot give a good rationale for why the pastorate should be limited to men, outside of the bare command of Scripture. But rules without rationales are eventually broken and those who refuse to understand and accept the clear reasons why the pastorate is limited to men will not hold that line for long. Given that Peacey teaches at an institution that has a history of being connected with the Southern Baptist Convention and the SBC has been roiled in controversy over the role of men and women in the church, Pearcey’s failure to take up this issue is a rather glaring omission. The truth is, if we want to really understand masculinity, there is no better place to start than 1 Timothy 2-3, where Paul explains why teaching and governing authority in the church must be masculine, and then goes on to give the qualifications men must meet in order to hold office in the church. If we understand why pastors must be men, we will not only understand the purpose of the pastorate, we will also understand the meaning of masculinity. Since the pastorate is a paradigmatic masculine role, if we want to understand the pastorate we have to understand masculinity and if we want to understand masculinity it helps to understand the pastorate. 
The problem today is that so many male pastors in the evangelical church are effeminate. This is largely why the pastorate is now considered more of a “helping profession” (whatever that is) rather than viewing the pastor as a general in the Lord’s army, leading the saints into spiritual combat. The job of the pastor is not to make everyone feel good or to keep the congregation happy all the time ("if you think your job as pastor is to keep every church member happy, you are going to be awfully busy," as Will Willimon once put it). Church is not supposed to be another “safe space” where no one is ever made to feel uncomfortable. The congregation is an army. The job of the pastor is to lead the troops into war. He wields the sword of the Word, and cuts the people up, transforming them into living sacrifices. While Paul could point to both fatherly and motherly aspects of his pastoral work in 1 Thessalonians 2, there is a clear cut reason why pastors and elders must be men. Pastoring is masculine because it is martial. Pastoring is masculine because the pastor represents God the Father and Jesus the Son to the congregation, which is the bride of Christ.
There are other ways in which Pearcey’s book displays a disappointingly thin concept of masculinity. She seems to have no interest in why the Bible gives sex specific curses in Genesis 3 and sex specific marital commands in Ephesians 5. Surely a book on masculinity should explore why wives are commanded to respect their husbands, no? After all, if we want to know what makes men tick, we should look at what they crave — and men most certainly crave respect. How can a book that aims at rescuing men from a war against masculinity not explore the concept of respect — what it means, why men want it, and how wives can give it?
In the end, while Pearcey’s book is chock full of interesting information, the book remains something of a mess as she never pulls it all together into a coherent whole that actually deals with where we are as a culture. The book trots out the outdated and discredited complementarian party line on numerous issues, but the whole things feels about 30 years behind the times. Had this book come out in 1993 it would have set the standard for complentarian treatments of masculinity. In 2023 it just feels like a swing and a miss. Complementarianism was a helpful construct for a time but it was never particularly stable or deep. It was an attempt to remain faithful to the clear texts of Scripture while accommodating the feminist movement as much as possible. In other words, complementarianism was a movement that wanted the blessings of faithfulness without causing offense in the culture — and that almost never works for long. It is not at all surprising that the evangelical world is basically being re-sorted into more traditional patriarchal and more progressive egalitarian camps. Symbolically, it is likely that complementarianism died with Tim Keller and it is doubtful anyone will be defending it a generation from now. Those who want to take the Bible seriously, those who believe in a deep and discernible design for the sexes embedded in creation, will inevitably become patriarchalists of some sort in the years to come. (And even if they seek to avoid the label, they will be smeared with it.)
Pearcey fails to see that a war on masculinity automatically entails a war on femininity. If men are in crisis, women are are too. One sex cannot rise if the other is falling. Women may be doing better by certain objective measurements (e.g., more women are going to college and graduate school than men), but not all that glitters is gold. Women are often getting degrees with very limited ROI, meaning they are saddled with unbearable debt. If a husband will not rescue them from the debt, they will try to get Uncle Sam to do it. In general, today's women are unhappy -- a fact that has been documented again and again. Pearcey does not seem to notice any connection between the crisis of masculinity and the corresponding crisis of femininity. For her, the real disaster seems to be limited to males.
On issue after issue, Pearcey speaks as if women are just fine as they are, but men are defective. When she discusses parenting, she focuses almost entirely on the problems caused by fathers and has very little to say about mothers who fail at motherhood (though admittedly, she does touch on this on page 66). When it comes to marriage problems, she not only holds men responsible but essentially blames them for everything that goes wrong. This is true even in the case of the divorce, despite the fact that women are twice as likely as men to file for divorce. It will not to do to say that the purpose of Pearcey’s book focuses on masculinity and so, of course, she harps more on problems caused by men. The subtitle of her book is “How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes.” If one sex is in crisis, the other sex is in crisis as well, even if that crisis is masked. We cannot solve the problems of one sex without solving the problems of the other. If there is a toxic war on masculinity, there is a toxic war on femininity as well. Are we really supposed to believe that in age of feminist careerism, a time when thousands of women are turning to Only Fans as a source of empowerment and extra income, an era in which a feminized, therapeutic view of feelings are allowed to trump biological reality, an era in which female voters are more radicalized to the left than any other demographic, a period in which Cardi B represents womanhood liberated from the oppressive patriarchy, and so on, that men are in crisis but women are doing just fine? Is it possible that many of our current social problems actually stem from the rebellion of women against the created order? There is simply no way women are doing as well as Pearcey's overall assessment suggests. It’s been said, “In a feminized age, women have rights and men have responsibilities.” I have tended to think that’s something of a one-sided exaggeration — but reading a book like Pearcey’s makes me think maybe there’s a good bit of truth in it. Pearcey wants to fight against those who are waging a toxic war on masculinity — but all too often her book aids and abets the enemies of masculinity. In doing so she aids and abets those women who continue to evade accountability for their own actions — either because they can blame men for their unhappiness, or they can count on a social safety net to catch them and save them from the consequences of their bad decisions. Pearcey’s book is certainly right to reinforce male responsibility; in that sense, men need to be “man up” and play the masculine role (and that role is even larger than Pearecey imagines). But women also need to be held accountable, and that includes encouraging them to cast off feminism so they can pursue true femininity. The war on masculinity cannot be won unless feminism is soundly defeated — because only then will men be masculine again AND women be feminine again.
Pearcey starts off the book talking about how physically and verbally abusive her own father was, and how it caused a crisis of faith for her. She ends the book talking about how she worked through the trauma of that experience by coming back to faith. It’s a rather touching and beautiful story of redemption, but it also skews the way she frames the issues. She is right that masculinity is not the problem; it is the solution to the problems we face. But it is not a stand alone solution. We cannot recover masculinity unless we recover femininity and we have to recognize that the same toxic, satanic war being waged against masculinity is being waged against femininity. Pearcey is right that the Christian faith reconciles the sexes, but the way it does so is much deeper and broader and more powerful than her book recognizes. 
I have listened to a couple recent podcast interviews with Pearcey. She seems like a wonderful, delightful, and godly woman. She is obviously brilliant and she is totally devoted to the defense of the Christian faith in the public square. It's clear that she appreciates men/masculinity and wants to defend Christian men against unfair accusations. Pearcey rightly rejects the sacred/secular split and she wants to develop a holistic Christian worldview. To be honest, I am loathe to criticize her because I respect her so much. I actually think if we had a sit-down conversation about these issues we would not be nearly as far apart as this review makes it sound. We have plenty of common ground and I hope this review will be seen as friendly fire in an ongoing discussion the church needs to have.
True masculinity is under attack from multiple directions today. On the one hand, there is a huge problem with "softness" or effeminacy, especially amongst younger Christian men. Even if science did not tell us men are declining in testosterone, you can look at many of today's young men and tell they are not what their ancestors were just a generation or two ago. These men are "good" in many ways. They want to please. They want to be virtuous. They want to be the sensitive, vulnerable men they've been told women desire. But they are sorely lacking in the kind of masculinity we see in the heroic men of Scripture and church history. These young men have been coddled and are completely unprepared for what's coming down the pike for the church (most likely) in the coming decades as our cultural slide into Trashworld continues apace. Many of these men are not really even capable of leading their families adequately, much less providing the church with courageous and firm leadership in the years to come. They need a more robust masculinity message than they've been given (and certainly more robust than the one Pearcey gives in her book). They need to learn some toughness (and we should note that learning physical toughness can be an aid in teaching spiritual toughness).They need to "man up" in the biblical way (cf. 1 Kings 2, 1 Corinthians 16).
But on the other hand, there is an attack on biblical masculinity that comes from a different direction. Pearcey seems more concerned about this attack even though it less common, but we do need to be aware of it. This is the neo-pagan, neo-Nietzschean form of masculinity championed by the likes of Bronze Age Pervery, Andrew Tate, etc. The point is not that everything these men say is false -- it clearly isn't. There is a reason why so many listen to them -- they are saying some things that deeply resonate as true. But the those truths are mixed with egregious lies. The point is that men who buy into the total package of what these influencers are offering will remain just as immature and emasculated as those who who settled for the effeminacy of progressivism. These men have testosterone, but unfortunately they seem to have more testosterone than sense. They do not actually have masculine wisdom to offer. They also fail to mature, just in a different way than their effeminate counterparts. Their version of masculinity seems largely performative, especially geared for a social media age. But it's still a counterfeit masculinity, not the real thing Scripture calls us to.
I was hopeful that Pearcey's book would thread the needle between these distortions, incorporating their strengths and correcting their flaws. I was hoping Pearcey's book would offer a comprehensive vision for biblical masculinity, building off the excellent work done by men like Esolen, Hemmer, etc. Alas, her book did not deliver. I spend quite a bit of time with godly young men in their late teens and twenties, and I am certain that Pearcey's book is not going to scratch their itch. If Pearcey's book is considered very narrowly as an apologetic work, aiming to show that evangelical men are not tyrannical abusers, but actually make very good husbands and fathers, she largely succeeded. But even then, she gave away the spoils of victory by suggesting that the reason evangelical men do so well is because they live as egalitarians rather than biblically-anchored evangelical heads-of-their-households. So what she gives to evangelical men with one hand, she takes away with the other. I can see why someone like Sheila Gregoire (a hard-core egalitarian/feminist) would want to weaponize Pearcey's book against those who believe the Bible teaches a hierarchical/headship view of marriage; Pearcey has left the very men she wanted to defend wide open to that kind of counter-attack. Pearcey has unwittingly given the enemies of biblical marriage a lot of ammunition to work with. Pearcey's approach may be summarized as "happy wife, happy life," but there are all kinds of problems with thinking of marriage in that way. Pearcey writes a book defending men, but still treats men as if they are the problem and women are not; in reality women have contributed quite a bit to the breakdown of intersexual relationships as well. Many of the problems with today's men that Pearcey's describes are a logical, albeit effeminate, response to modern women and modern social structures. Obviously, Pearcey set out to write a book defending masculinity, but I am afraid much of her book ends up defending effeminacy -- that is, a terribly inadequate view of masculinity.
More fundamentally, I believe Pearcey made a two key strategic mistakes in her book.
First, by appealing to sociology as a way of trying to be above the fray, she failed to actually give a coherent, integrated vision for masculinity. Sociology can be aid, but it cannot bring the whole picture. She wants to focus on "just the facts" rather defending a pre-made egalitarian or complementarian position, but there is no neutrality. There is simply no way to get into this issue without the labels and categories that have developed over the last few generations. I unbderstand her apologetic aims, but by allowing sociology rather than Scripture to control the discussion, she failed to actually explain how Christianity reconciles the sexes (and even glues the sexes together in the sexual covenant of marriage). I have no objection to appeals to nature, but they need to be made from within a biblical framework, and Pearcey did not provide that framework for the discussion. The work of Scott Yenor is much better on this score. Yenor also uses sociological data, but he does so within a framework much more clearly anchored to the biblical categories, even if he does not make them explicit in his writings.
Sociology has its proper place, but it needs to be kept there. I wonder: How many of those Christians who applaud Pearcey's reliance on sociological data regarding family structure would be happy to let sociology dictate our worship services in the same way? If surveys showed that Christian women are happier singing contemporary praise chorus than chanting psalms, would we cater to that preference? I hope not. Whether we are talking about marriage structure or liturgical structure, we need to look to the Scriptures as the final authority. In our day of horrific confusion about sex, the sexes, and marriage, we need a clear voice that stands above the fray, and that voice is going to be found in Scripture alone.
Second, Pearcey made the mistake of putting entirely too much weight on the IR. I think she did this in part thinking it would serve her apologetic purpose. Surely no one wants to defend the whole IR project and its aftermath in 2023, right? In an age obsessed with climate change, this is convenient, certainly. But Pearcey focused so much on the downsides of the IR she missed dealing with other social trends and forces that better explain the rise of our culture's anti-masculinity ethos. The IR was actually the triumph of men, bringing greater comfort, safety, efficiency, and prosperity into our lives. The IR is one of the greatest accomplishments of masculine dominion in all of history. But men have become victims of their own success. We could not handle our new found prosperity. The IR should and could have been a great boon for family life, but it did not necessarily play out that way because of a foolish response to its massive gains. Pearcey misdiagnoses what went wrong and why it went wrong. In particular, she makes several claims that seem to be completely unsubstantiated, such as (a) the number of men who actually worked at home in the pre-IR economy, (b) how much time fathers actually got with their young children on a daily basis in the pre-IR world, (c) how easily/effectively men could transition back to working from home in today's technology-based economy (look for David Bahnsen's forthcoming book on this this topic), and (d) how negatively she views the competitive nature of the post-IR marketplace.
For Pearcey, the IR represents a fundamental shift in the structuring of society. I grant that, to a large degree, but I believe she over-relies on the IR to explain what has gone wrong. In Pearcey's view, the IR gave rise to what we might now call the secularized liberal order. It split society into various dichotomies, now associated with public life and private/domestic life. Thus, there is the public realm governed by scientific facts; it is secular, rational, individualistic, and oriented around competitive markets. On the other hand, there is the private realm governed by values; it is religious/spiritual, emotional, familial, and oriented around service. The former comes to be associated with men, the latter with women. And thus, the IR leads to the pedestalization of women as spiritually and morally superior to men. In the past, men were considered morally and spiritually superior because ethics and religion were considered rational and public concerns; now that is no longer the case and so the privatization of faith and values has feminized them. I can fully grant Pearcey's claim that the IR led to men shunning the home and religion as a matter of historical fact, though it is not all clear why it had to be this way. But I actually think, following Francis Schaeffer, the secular/sacred dichotomies in Western history go much further back than the IR, and really grow out of a version of Thomism. Even in American history, pressures to privatize the faith can be traced back to the founding era in the work of men like Jefferson, who wanted a value-free, religiously neutral and secular public square. The IR might have, as an accident of history, exacerbated the dualisms that continue to haunt us, but it did not create them.
More to the point, I think Pearcey is has missed the real culprit in the war on manhood in the modern world. The real culprit is not the IR or the marketplace. The real culprit is statism. Consider this: The black family in America was mostly in tact up until the rise of the welfare state (LBJ's "Great Society), starting in the 1960s. If we are trying to walk back the IR (as Pearcey implies we should), we are not only going to fail (because no one with a brain really wants to give up all the gains we have made), we are not going to solve the real problem anyway. We need to walk back the welfare state -- which is not only possible, but will be necessary if we want our civilization to survive. We have created a Leviathan that is devouring our men, our productivity, our innovation, our wealth. Feminism, being opposed to nature (God's creational design), has to be imposed on society by the force of the state. It cannot stand on its own. Socialism, therefore, is a necessary corollary of feminism. It is the political expression of feminism (and the way feminist women vote proves the point). But socialism is an anti-masculinity system. It emasculates men. The welfare system undercuts men as providers (e.g., subsidizing out of wedlock births). The statist solution to violence undercuts men as protectors (e.g., gun control laws). And so on. In our welfare system, men pay more in taxes than women and women receive more benefits than men; thus, the whole system is a massive transfer of wealth from men to women, but in an impersonal, bureaucratic way, rather than a familial way. Socialism replaces the husband and father with Uncle Sam who becomes a surrogate husband and father. In sum: Big government is the main force emasculating men today. It is not the IR, but statism, that must be undone. Public education, from pre-school through the university, as an arm of the state, is extending the war against masculinity. The war on boys in the elementary school classroom is very real. The war on men at the college level is well documented. It is odd to me that in a book on the war against masculinity, Pearcey says virtually nothing about the welfare state or public education as enemies of manhood, but instead focuses on the IR, which is actually a great male achievement.
In a rather well known exchange, R. C. Sproul once asked Francis Schaffer, "Dr. Schaeffer, what is your biggest concern for the future of the church in America?" Without hesitation, Schaeffer replied, "Statism." My argument here is that Schaeffer was right. Statism is not only a threat to the church, but also to the family, including masculinity. The church has been very poorly prepared to stand against the almighty modern state. Of course, modern secular corporations have often worked in sync with the state to do undermine faith and family, dismantling anything that might get in the way of training us to think of ourselves solely as consumers. The state has very effectively targeted the family. Modern public policy has broken up the molecular family and turned us into isolated atoms. In the this environment, it is not a surprise men have been largely emasculated. Modern society has basically told men, "We do not need  you. We do not need your masculinity. Your masculine energy is a threat." Obviously creating a new social order is beyond the power of any of us; we will have to see what God does next. But a post-liberal order is most certainly on the way, and we should pray and work as best we can to ensure that it is church-centered and family-friendly. In the meantime, there are all kinds of ways in which we can rebuild productive households and strong families without completely dropping out of the economy. We should simply say, "No!" to the privatization of the faith. We should intentionally transgress the dichotomies that have been set up in the modern liberal order. We should preach that Jesus is Lord over both public and private life, and seek to obey his lordship in everything we do, everywhere we go. And, of course, we should seek to repristinate biblical roles in our marriages, since marriage is perhaps the best living icon of the gospel we have.
Interestingly, Pearcey and Gilder are being discussed in tandem today -- Pearcey's new book on masculinity and the reprinting of Gilder's older book on masculinity coming out about the same time make comparisons inevitable, and there are indeed some interesting convergences. Both books have serious flaws -- Pearcey fails to see the necessary "real man" qualities men must develop if they are going to be fully biblical in their masculinity, while Gilder treats men like brutes who need to be civilized by (less fallen?) women. But at the same time, Pearcey acts as a corrective to Gilder, by holding men accountable to be spiritual and moral leaders rather than defaulting to women as the "superior sex." And Gilder corrects Pearcey by pointing out the that the welfare state (as opposed to the IR) is one of the major forces in destroying masculinity in our culture. Perhaps they should get together and write a book, or at least have a conversation. I'd pay good money to see what they come up with if they put their brains together.