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“Men Behaving Badly”

Tripp, Nathaniel | New York Times Book Review, January 23, 2000


Tripp reviews Catherine S. Manegold, In Glory’s Shadow: Shannon Faulkner, the Citadel, and a Changing America, a book about a young woman’s application to the Citadel, her rejection, and what life inside that place is all about. It started as a citadel for wealthy Charlestonians who were afraid of Northern attempts to take away their slaves and needed a place to train a private police force. Over the years the fortress-like architecture has contrasted sharply with the soft, genteel facade of Charleston’s life, and has hid cruelty, ignorance, and especially a kind of hazing that has always been intended to make men hard. “Hazing is central to Manegold’s book, and was cited by the Citadel as an important reason women were not admissible. Hazing of first-year cadets, including mild torture, is a grotesque parody of the slave and master relationship of Charleston’s past. Those who show weakness, who fail or cry out, are often characterized by obscene names for parts of the female anatomy. Those who pass are admitted to an elite lifelong brotherhood. This holds enormous appeal for boys who otherwise lack direction, just as street gangs do. It creates an obedient and often misogynistic warrior class. At its root is the need to renounce all the softness and empathy one’s mother once represented. Its end purpose is to make the inflicting of pain, even death, acceptable.” Those who opposed Shannon thought they were protecting the “honor” of the Citadel. But what that word means in that society is peculiar: ”In the masculine, almost feudal sense . . . here . . . it transcends all else, including the law. In isolation, and under siege, honor often becomes malevolent. Social scientists have demonstrated that where the culture of honor is strongest, as in the rural South and West, it is closely associated with the culture of violence, high murder rates and weak gun control laws. It is an artifact of the frontier, of reconstruction, of lawlessness, of deep wounds slow to heal.”