The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love
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Everyone needs to love and be loved -- even men. But to know love, men must be able to look at the ways that patriarchal culture keeps them from knowing themselves, from being in touch with their feelings, from loving. In The Will to Change, bell hooks gets to the heart of the matter and shows men how to express the emotions that are a fundamental part of who they are -- whatever their age, marital status, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
With trademark candor and fierce intelligence, hooks addresses the most common concerns of men, such as fear of intimacy and loss of their patriarchal place in society, in new and challenging ways. She believes men can find the way to spiritual unity by getting back in touch with the emotionally open part of themselves -- and lay claim to the rich and rewarding inner lives that have historically been the exclusive province of women. A brave and astonishing work, The Will to Change is designed to help men reclaim the best part of themselves.
When he wept, the men who stood beside him turned their eyes away. They were ashamed to see a man express intense feeling. I remembered this beautiful man of feeling in the autobiography of my girlhood, Bone Black: To her child mind old men were the only men of feeling. They did not come at one smelling of alcohol and sweet cologne. They approached one like butterflies, moving light and beautiful, staying still for only a moment.... They were the brown-skinned men with serious faces who were the deacons of the church, the right-hand men of god.
In a real world where more than 90 percent of violent crimes are committed by men, it is not surprising that popular culture offers both negative and positive models of the masculine. Woman-hating dominator men are consistently depicted as loners, who may have been abused as children and who were not able to adjust in normal society. Ironically, these “bad” men share the same character traits as the “good” men who hunt them down and slaughter them. In both cases the men dissimulate (take on various appearances and disguises to manipulate others’ perception of their identity), and they lack the ability to connect emotionally with others.
They approached one like butterflies, moving light and beautiful, staying still for only a moment.... They were the brown-skinned men with serious faces who were the deacons of the church, the right-hand men of god. They were the men who wept when they felt his love, who wept when the preacher spoke of the good and faithful servant. They pulled wrinkled handkerchiefs out of their pockets and poured tears in them, as if they were pouring milk into a cup. She wanted to drink those tears that like milk could nourish her and help her grow.
This is the issue Olga Silverstein tackles head-on in The Courage to Raise Good Men. Commenting that many people still believe that mothers compromise their sons’ masculinity, she writes: “Most women, like most men, feel that a mother's influence will ultimately be harmful to a male child, that it will weaken him and that only the example of a man can lead a son into manhood. Single mothers in particular are haunted by the dread of producing a sissy. ” Homophobia underlies the fear that allowing boys to feel will turn them gay; this fear is often most intense in single-parent homes.
Undoubtedly, one of the first revolutionary acts of visionary feminism must be to restore maleness and masculinity as an ethical biological category divorced from the dominator model. This is why the term patriarchal masculinity is so important, for it identifies male difference as being always and only about the superior rights of males to dominate, be their subordinates females or any group deemed weaker, by any means necessary. Rejecting this model for a feminist masculinity means that we must define maleness as a state of being rather than as performance.