I was drawn to gender studies because of my personal frustration; from an early age I was aware of how society dictated what I was to do or not do based on my gender. As a little girl I used to have fierce arguments with my mother regarding the different way she treated my sisters and I in comparison to the way she treated my brothers. I did not like the fact that we, the girls, had to help with house cleaning and cooking, while the boys were exempt from these tasks. Back then, I didn’t think much of the fact that my brothers had to get up at five in the morning every Saturday to go to the synagogue with my father, or how they had to do their mandatory military service at the age of 18 (girls from religious families in Israel are exempt from military service). At the university, in the ‘90s, my gender education was composed of women’s studies solely. We were told that because our patriarchal culture created a man’s world, there was a need to bring forth the feminist discussion to our society. That perception changed on August 30th, 2016 when I interviewed psychotherapist Eugene Kidder for my blog. Eugene brought my attention to the fact that men, just as women, have been wronged by the patriarchal culture, as this culture set demands and limitations on both genders, women and men. When I returned home I started to research the subject and read any relevant material I could get my hands on. I was flabbergasted. There was a whole new side to gender studies that I wasn’t aware of – men’s studies. This new discovery made me feel as if my whole formal education was lacking, defective even. Thankfully today, aside from women’s studies, men’s studies is a growing field in gender studies, along with queer studies – but there is still more room to grow. In this post I would like to share with you 5 books that represent the masculine perspective in our culture. I believe it is important to be aware of how our culture influences gender perception to help us make wiser and more educated choices in our personal life.
Iron John – by Robert Bly
“The dark side of men is clear. Their mad exploitation of earth resources, devaluation and humiliation of women, and obsession with tribal warfare are undeniable... We have defective mythologies that ignore masculine depth of feeling…” (page x)
The American poet Robert Bly was one of the leaders of the Men’s Movement in the ‘70s. Using a Jungian approach, he analyzes the old story of Iron John as the different development stages a man goes through from childhood to manhood.
He – By Robert A. Johnson
“The Grail myth speaks of masculine psychology. This is not to say that it is confined to the male, for a woman participates in her own inner masculinity, though it is less dominant for her… A woman’s masculinity or a man’s femininity is closer than one realizes.” (pages x-xi)
Similar to Bly’s work, but shorter. In this book Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson uses the Arthurian story about the knight Parsifal and his search for the Holy Grail to examine the transition from being a boy to becoming a man.
Fire in the Belly – by Sam Keen
“Cliché and common wisdom tell us that ‘it’s a man’s world.’…I would guess that a majority of men never break free, never define manhood by weighing and testing their own experience.” (page 14)
Philosopher Sam Keen created a manual for men on manhood. The language is not easy to follow, but it contains a lot of useful information and tools for men who want to gain more awareness of their psychology.
Gods in Everyman – by Jean Shinoda Bolen
“Patriarchal values that emphasize the acquisition of power, rational thinking, and being in control, are unconsciously or consciously enforced by mothers and fathers, peers, schools, and other institutions that reward and punish boys and men for their behavior. As a result, men learn to conform and to stifle their individuality along with their emotions.” (page 13)
Jungian psychiatrist Jean Shinoda Bolen describes in this book 8 archetypes of men, along with their weaknesses and strengths. This is a great book for men (and women – as we also have a masculine side) who want to become more aware of their unique personality and learn how to grow.
Based on this book I wrote my article 3 Archetypes of Men Who Have Parent Issues
The Will to Change – by Bell Hooks
“Until we can collectively acknowledge the damage patriarchy causes and the suffering it creates, we cannot address male pain.” (page 30)
Bell Hooks is the pen name of Gloria Jean Watkins, an American author and social activist. This is a beautiful and sensitive book about how the patriarchal culture wronged men and by that damaged our society. In the book she also shares her suggestions on how to heal this situation.