Cool Men and the Second Sex

Cool Men and the Second Sex

Cool Men and the Second Sex

Cool Men and the Second Sex


Academic superstars Andrew Ross, Edward Said, and Henry Louis Gates Jr. Bad boy filmmakers Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee, and Brian de Palma. What do these influential contemporary figures have in common? In Cool Men and the Second Sex, Susan Fraiman identifies them all with "cool masculinity" and boldly unpacks the gender politics of their work.

According to Fraiman, "cool men" rebel against a mainstream defined as maternal. Bad boys resist the authority of women and banish mothers to the realm of the uncool. As a result, despite their hipness--or because of it--these men too often feel free to ignore the insights of feminist thinkers. Through subtle close readings, Fraiman shows that even Gates, champion of black women's writing, and even queer theorists bent on undoing gender binaries, at times end up devaluing women in favor of men and masculinity.

A wide-ranging and fair-minded analysis, Cool Men acknowledges the invaluable contributions of its subjects while also deciphering the gender codes and baring the contradictions implicit in their work. Affirming the legacy of second-wave feminist scholars and drawing as well on the intersectional work of third-wavers, Cool Men helps to reinvent feminist critique for the twenty-first century.


Pose of supreme indifference, eyes hidden behind shades, habits of transgression, irreverence as a worldview—the allure of coolness is something we know about from high school and think about through a store of images supplied by books, music, television, and movies. My project here is not to pin down the meaning of coolness, much less trace its cultural origins or various manifestations. Rather, setting a particular notion of coolness beside the dilemmas of gender gives me a way of talking about a troubling phenomenon: the fact that, more than thirty years after the dawn of the second-wave women’s movement, after decades of intensive feminist scholarship in almost every field, after the promotion of at least some feminist scholars to positions of eminence, after the emergence of a body of feminist film theory now central to film studies, and after the infiltration of most aspects of movie production by women—after all this, there is not only a predictable and well-documented right/center backlash against feminism but also, incredibly, a lingering, systematic masculinism among some of the best-known, left-leaning, evidently “cool” cultural workers, many of whom explicitly ally themselves with women’s concerns.

This book examines a number of filmmakers and scholars—Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee, Brian De Palma, Edward Said, Andrew Ross, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Eve Sedgwick (and a cluster of other queer theorists)—famous in recent decades for breaking the rules and disrespecting the status . . .

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