Manliness and femininity are at risk in gender-neutral society, writer says
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Manliness and femininity are at risk in gender-neutral society, writer says

  • Modern society is shying away from manliness, cautions hero biographer
  • Joanna Grochowicz is a chronicler of heroes such as Ernest Shackleton
  • The move towards a ‘gender-neutral society’ is ‘very troubling’, she said
  • She discussed the gender debate with with Major General Patrick Cordingley 

As a chronicler of heroes such as Scott of the Antarctic and Ernest Shackleton, Joanna Grochowicz knows a thing or two about machismo.

But modern society is ‘shying away from manliness’, she warned this week.

‘I find it very troubling that we’re moving towards this gender- neutral society where sex-specific qualities are not valued,’ she said.

‘In the same way we are shying away from manliness, I think we are shying away from femininity as well.’ 

She was speaking in a discussion with Major General Patrick Cordingley, who commanded the 7th Armoured Brigade – dubbed the Desert Rats – during the first Gulf War, about ‘the lost virtue of manliness’ before an audience at the Chalke Valley History Festival.

He spoke about Joan Rhodes, who found fame as a strongwoman in the 1950s. She was able to bend iron bars and lift anvils, but was also ‘very attractive’ and had a 22-inch waist. 

After being abandoned by her parents, she lived on the streets of London at 14 with buskers who taught her ‘to be strong’.

Major General Cordingley said: ‘She was also a kind lady. She had this appallingly bad upbringing which fixed her whole idea of what she had to do in the world.

‘Is that manly?’ Ms Grochowicz replied: ‘I have nothing against a woman being called manly. I think Joan is a classic example of somebody that embodies both [manliness and femininity]. And why can’t we celebrate that? She was straddling two worlds and actually being incredibly successful.

‘You don’t have to be overtly muscular to be manly, you just need to have self-confidence, to be able to hold your space, to be able to express your opinions openly.’


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