Revisioning Men's Lives: Gender, Intimacy, and Power

Revisioning Men's Lives: Gender, Intimacy, and Power

Revisioning Men's Lives: Gender, Intimacy, and Power

Revisioning Men's Lives: Gender, Intimacy, and Power

Synopsis

From childhood men are taught to be tough--not to cry or act like "sissies," and, perhaps more important, to want to win in whatever they do. The rules governing men's behavior, first learned in the schoolyard, change little during the course of a man's life and are inextricably linked with the values that determine how men judge each other and themselves.
Over the past 20 years, however, with heightened interest in male psychology and the emergence of the men's movements, greater numbers of men have begun to discover the links between traditional male armoring, inclinations toward battles for dominance, feelings of inadequacy and isolation, and the compensatory tendency to oppress women and gays. Today, while men believe they must still conform to the dictates of the male role, it has become increasingly ambiguous what that role is.
The groundbreaking book, REVISIONING MEN'S LIVES, seeks to completely reshape our perspectives on manhood and masculinity. It explores the important themes of gender, intimacy, and power in men's lives in an effort to change for the better our notions about what it means to be a man. Combining psychological, clinical, autobiographical, sociological, and critical discussions, the book describes the deeply divided "men's movement" and critiques the various approaches that different groups have taken. Chapters address individual topics such as fathers and sons, homophobia, friendships, pornography, and men in therapy; throughout, personal and clinical experiences bring the myriad issues of masculinity to life.
The book concludes with a discussion of the influence of power on men's lives. Kupers asserts that what men really want is to feel productive, successful, loved, virile, and fully alive. Yet men also believe that the only way to achieve these goals is to be powerful, and they continue to define power in a very traditional, one-dimensional way as power over others. This definition tends to trap men into lives where they will most probably fear dependency, compensate for inadequacies by oppressing others, and isolate themselves emotionally in order to avoid betraying themselves as "weaklings."
What this book proposes is a redefinition of "power" that will allow men to feel powerful through non-traditional means; most especially, through positive, non-oppressive relationships with their families, colleagues, and friends. Once men have relinquished the idea that power can only be attained at the expense of others, men and women will be able to work together to construct new notions of masculinity and greatly improved gender relations.
REVISIONING MEN'S LIVES is essential reading for everyone who wants a greater understanding of the forces shaping men's lives today. Carefully documented clinical and personal experiences are presented in a straightforward and engaging style that is accessible to all. Social scientists interested in men's, women's, and family issues, emotion, self-esteem, and gender relations will find the book illuminating.
"... This is a fine book--the kind which allows the reader to feel he has a comrade and a partner in the aruous gender role journey with which we are our male clients are engaged." -- Masculinities

Excerpt

It's a Saturday, winter 1954. a basketball game is to be played in the park at 2. We arrive only to find the park closed for repairs. Jay says we can play at the schoolyard instead. Some of the boys ride bikes, others run. We get there several minutes later and find the gate locked. There is a six foot link fence with jagged edges at the top and no crossbar to hold onto while vaulting over. the ball is thrown over and several boys begin to climb the fence. I know I can climb to the top, but I am not certain I can make it over without tearing my jeans and cutting myself. I know several of the other boys will not be able to climb at all; they are too heavy or their feet are too big and they won't be able to squeeze their toes between the links. By now three or four boys are on the yard dribbling the ball, calling to the rest of us to climb over. Then comes the familiar taunt: "Don't be a girl!"

Among eleven-year-olds, gender lines are drawn sharply, cruelly. Potent men do certain things and only "chickens," "wimps," "losers," "weaklings," and "queers" do others. From childhood men are taught to toughen up, not to cry or be labeled a "sissy" or a "girl," not to "chicken out" of a fight or a dare, and to "go for it" in a game, a rivalry, or a project if we really want to win. and most important, we are supposed to really want to win. So we create our armor, the toughening and posturing, and the capacity to hide wounds, that we believe will guarantee no one will penetrate our defenses and get close enough to really do us harm. We can let down our guard with women, of course, and talk about our pain and our fear. Women are not a threat. Besides, who else can one talk with and take risks with? Many men are only able to feel fully alive when they are with a woman who adores them.

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