For The Love of Men

The following appeared on Amazon describing a new book:

“In 2019, traditional masculinity is both rewarded and sanctioned. Men grow up being told that boys don’t cry and dolls are for girls (a newer phenomenon than you might realize—gendered toys came back in vogue as recently as the 80s). They learn they must hide their feelings and anxieties, that their masculinity must constantly be proven. They must be the breadwinners, they must be the romantic pursuers. This hasn’t been good for the culture at large: 99% of school shooters are male; men in fraternities are 300% (!) more likely to commit rape; a woman serving in uniform has a higher likelihood of being assaulted by a fellow soldier than to be killed by enemy fire.

In For the Love of Men, Liz offers a smart, insightful, and deeply-researched guide for what we’re all going to do about toxic masculinity. For both women looking to guide the men in their lives and men who want to do better and just don’t know how, For the Love of Men will lead the conversation on men’s issues in a society where so much is changing, but gender roles have remained strangely stagnant.

What are we going to do about men? Liz Plank has the answer. And it has the possibility to change the world for men and women alike.”

Probably not fair to critique a book solely based on its content pitch.   However, there are a multitude of so called facts or opinions that I find highly objectionable in the summary of the book.  To begin with the book’s author is a women. Not to say that a women should not be able to write about masculinity but it is problematic to assume that she is able to truly understand the inner life of a man. 

The opening phrase that “men grow up being told that boys don’t cry and dolls are for girls” is a cliché that does not reflect how most boys are currently being raised nor does it reflect how men – particularly media and sports stars – behave.  In previous blogs I have addressed this with greater depth and noted that this is often the language that female writers use to describe the message they assume that boys are getting from parents and the media but are hard pressed to come up with specific examples other than from the John Wayne era of rugged masculinity.

 Another statement by the author is based on the prevalence of toxic masculinity.  “What we’re all going to do about toxic masculinity” assumes that toxic masculinity is a major issue in our society.  Yes, there are a small minority of men who behave badly and use social media to debase women but for the most part the “Me Too” movement and the prosecution of high profile individuals has made men far more aware of behaviors that could be considered toxic.  In addition, the data on mass murders represents a small sample of men and has more to do with mental health than toxic masculinity.

The statement that “gender roles have remained strangely stagnant” demonstrates a lack of understanding of why gender roles are somewhat rigid.  Women, despite the gains made by the feminist movement and Title IX, tend to gravitate to pink jobs while men continue to seek blue jobs.  I believe this is more than cultural.  Female energy leads many women to seek jobs that are designed to help others and stress interpersonal relationships while male energy favors jobs that are physically demanding and technically oriented.  It is certainly true that women’s roles are probably somewhat less stagnant given the inroads women have made in medicine, law and research.  However, men are still avoiding teaching, nursing and social work despite the demand for these professions.  

Frankly, contrary to the book summary Liz does not have the answer.

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