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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Book Review: For the Love of Men: A New Vision for Mindful Masculinity by Liz Plank

I didn't want to read this book. It looked like a feminist polemic, and while I am very much a feminist, I find a lot of the literature didactic, humorless, and strident. But I was asked, for work, to read just the introduction before Sales Conference. I did. And then I stopped and put it away and read a dozen more books.

And yet, I couldn't stop thinking about it. At the very end of the season, I picked it back up and read the whole thing. It's not a fast read. I generally found I couldn't read it several nights in a row. There was just too much to think about, to chew on. I needed several days between chapters. The basic thesis is this: toxic masculinity isn't just terrible for women. It's actually worse for men.

For example, over the last 50ish years, thanks to the women's movement, women's career options have expanded exponentially to include pretty much everything. Men's haven't. As someone married to a man who used to be a teacher and now is a social worker, both women's jobs, I'll tell you it's not always easy on him, both to be in such a women-focused environment (and yet still be perceived as the privileged majority) and also to work in fields where the salary has always been kept low because they're perceived as "women's jobs." Just think if instead of politicians insisting they are going to bring back manufacturing jobs and factory work and coal mines and the like, instead we retrained those unemployed men to work in the health fields, which is a growing area, you can get a job pretty much anywhere, and always be guaranteed of employment. Wouldn't that be a better world? But because of the mindset of toxic masculinity, the men who work in those dying industries would never consider making that kind of change to a touchy-feely girls' job. So men are limited.

Plank talks about a talk she gave when she asked the audience how many of them had daughters. Hands went up. How many of them had told their daughters "you can do anything boys can do." Hands all proudly stayed high up. She then asked how many of them had sons. And how many of them had told their sons, "you can do anything girls can do." All the hands went down.

Toxic masculinity hurts men in every aspect of their lives, from health to relationships to family to work to mental health and well-being. But it will never be addressed and resolved, unless we truly understand the consequences and the price of not doing so. Hopefully this important book is a first step down that road.

This book is published by St. Martin's Press, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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