Monday, January 23, 2006

More About Men

I read the review of Norah Vincent's "Male Like Me" in yesterday's New York Times Book Review yesterday, Bush, and I want to read the book. In case you didn't catch the review, the story's simple: the author, a Lesbian woman (but that's not the point, Bush, I promise you!) transforms herself into a man for a period of several months, with the intention of coming to understand something of what it means to be a man in today's socio-cultural environment. A thorough job, right down to the five o'clock shadow and the prosthetic penis! Fascinating!

Now, not having read the book I'm obviously in no position to write about its content. It was the last paragraph in the otherwise generally favorable review that attracted my attention. It seems that having discovered first hand some of the unexpected challenges men face out there in the world today, Vincent attended a weekend men's retreat, attracting the scorn of her reviewer: "She is," he writes, "I dare say, too respectful of the 'men's movement' instigated by the publication of Robert Bly's Iron John in 1990." While he praises her for being "detached enough to ridicule the tribal drums and plastic swords wielded at the retreat's climactic 'spirit dance," she herself is taken to task because "she still buys into the movement's victimography and faux-purgatory nonsense."

Well as I've mentioned on several occasions in the past, Bush, I myself have been involved in men's work for more than a decade now, and my judgment is that this reviewer reveals more about his own fears and prejudices than he does about what he so readily categorizes and dismisses as the "men's movement." His attitude is rather typical of those many of us males who have been brought up to live primarily, if not exclusively in our heads. Many of us, indeed, are so busy in our heads that we neglect our bodies--and suffer the consequences in everything from addictions to obesity and heart attacks. As for those other dimensions of the experience of being human--the emotions and the spirit--well, forget it. They're unworthy of serious attention.

Of course I didn't attend the weekend Norah Vincent attended, and have no idea what was involved. I'm sure there are men's weekends that are worthy of her, and the reviewer's ridicule. My experience, though, has been quite different. It's not about "victimography", nor about "faux purgatory nonsense"--whatever these scornful and dismissive terms may be intended to convey. It is about self-discovery, about getting in touch with healthy aspects of masculinity that many men never knew existed. It is about learning that male "strength" can be destructive, that the fears men hide about themselves can lead to tragically destructive behavior patterns. And it is about change, and growth, and healing. To bundle all men's work into a single, easily ridiculed package is, it seems to me, to indulge in a sadly familiar cliche, and sadly complacent ignorance.


Mr. Gone said...

As a self profesed Man, I agree with your stance on this issue. I won't bother trying to read this book myself though due to the fact that no matter her sexual preference, the author is still a woman and has no idea what it is like to have your sexual drive take over at the most inappropriate times or be burdened with a logical understanding of a woman's emotional outburst over what we do when we aren't at work.

Nope, don't need that mirror. It seems to have some smudges on it.

-Mr. Gone

PK said...

There was a show on TV that featured her. It was very interesting to see. Like she said, women have no clue about men. She had to go into therapy as she was so depressed when it was over. The mans mind is so different from woman's. I don't believe either should go where she went. Just enjoy the fact that we are different, and sometimes a great mystery to the other. Enjoy the book Peter.

David said...

Peter, I'm not all that curious about what it would be like to be a woman, but I've always wondered what it would be like to be a dog. I'm going to get myself a tail and a flea collar, and of course a bowl w/ my name on it. Look for my book when it comes out :)

PeterAtLarge said...

Hey, David, just6 let me know when you need your bowl filled. And for now, well, "Sit!"