Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Responding to Men in Crisis: Masculinities, Distress and the Postmodern Political Landscape

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Responding to Men in Crisis: Masculinities, Distress and the Postmodern Political Landscape

Article excerpt

Responding to Men in Crisis: Masculinities, Distress and the Postmodern Political Landscape by Brian Taylor. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2005, 283 pp.

The postmodern, feminist and critical schools have helped us recognize the ways in which social structures hold down, diminish, and victimize women and members of other "other" groups (non-White, non-heterosexual). Notably, less attention has been given to the ways these structures may also harm majority-group men. In this work, Brian Taylor focuses on the complex intersection between patriarchal masculinity and its concurrent "privileges," the emasculation of men within the mental health system.

Taylor's direct examination of this complex topic is thoughtful and thought-provoking. The author argues effectively that we need to avoid the simplistic perpetratorvictim binary (as has happened with many other binary conceptions), recognize and honor the stories of individual men's suffering and difficulties (as has been done with the stories of individual women), and eliminate gender-based categories (for example, "mad and bad" men vs. good but passive women). He also argues for greater attention to the entirety of a man's (or woman's) personal story, and not simply those aspects that conform to our cultural stories. As a result, men who commit suicide might not automatically be construed as victims, but may also be recognized as belonging to that small group of men who threaten suicide during divorce or child custody battles or who use suicide as a way to punish their female partners. Taylor's recommendation is simply to treat men in distress as individuals who may or may not experience the benefits of the patriarchal system but also as individuals whose difficulties may be compounded by masculinity's injunctions to not demonstrate emotion, not expose weakness, and solve problems on one's own.

Taylor recognizes that his suggestions present substantial challenges. As he repeatedly points out, many of his suggestions are logical applications of his theoretical approach to men and many of his suggestions reflect extant practices with women. Taylor also acknowledges that his recommendations will require service providers, self-help groups, and self-advocacy groups to be more flexible in their outlook and practices, while maintaining an appropriate level of support in situations that challenge everyday expectations and have no obviously "correct" solution. …

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