“Manliness and Civilization,” by Gail Bederman essay

For Gail Bederman, Civilization is such a strong word. It encompasses a lot of things, which includes the concepts about manhood, race, and gender. Her concept of civilization was a collaboration of manliness and refinement in culture. The concept of supremacy, male dominance and the advancement in evolution were all characteristics of being a white man, and that being born black or colored entails unmanliness, barbarism and savagery.

A civilized world or society entails a responsibility to have its people move to manliness, since civilization demanded that people should be able to discipline their appetites. People at that time, especially the whites, are also pressured, and bothered by the ever changing definition of civilization. This has exposed to them to a state of mental confusion or disorder, which is known as “Neurasthenia. ” Neurasthenia was a mental condition experienced by those belonging to the upper classes in the society.

The pressures of civilization and the competition with other classes caused them to feel fatigue, anxiety, headache, impotence neuralgia and depression, as a result of the exhaustion of the person’s energy reserves. These were evidently caused by the demands that civilization has put on the shoulders of those belonging to the upper and middle classes in the society at that time. This is what links manliness and civilization, the notion of evolution. Pressures put on the “superior race” by other races were there in order to prove that they really are the superior race.

For Bederman, those who were at the risk of developing neurasthenia were the one’s which are highly evolved; since they are the ones who had developed a level of civilization high enough to meet demands like the pressures of neurasthenia. Race Suicide and Survival of the Fittest At that point of time, the United States had fairly low birthrates, and it came to a point that it has declined. This clearly signaled extinction for the superior race, and that it all came as pressures of civilization, since they are the superior race.

But what if the “superior race” is a dying race? How would they go about and be able to continue their existence? The concept of race suicide was given much concern and attention by the people. As the then-president Theodore Roosevelt sees it, the “race suicide” they are currently experiencing (decreasing birthrates), people should strive to have a large family as much as they can be able to do so, and avert the negativities of the “race suicide” itself (Bederman 1995).

Theodore Roosevelt often visited towns and residential areas in order to check on the progress of averting the “race suicide” his superior race is facing. People were then encouraged to have a large number of people in their family in order to avoid the “race suicide. ” Whenever they see the president, they would shout that there is no case of “race suicide” in their family. What could be the implication of this to the society and civilization? It directly or indirectly implies that civilization entails having a large number of people, since it is a large-scale concern of the society.

In order to attain a state of being civilized for the “superior race,” it has been a standard that they should have big family. The American society, in order to them to be civilized, they should be able to produce a large number of people, in order to keep up with the competition with other countries and groups of people. It has been somewhat a concept of “strength in numbers,” for their part, which is why the president is indirectly encouraging his country to have bigger families through his campaigns of a superior race.