BEING A MAN: The Paradox of Masculinity by Donald H. Bell

BEING A MAN: The Paradox of Masculinity

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Man or woman, the books are telling us, we're apt to be stuck between ""the era in which we grew up and the time in which we now live."" Bell (History, Harvard) interviewed over a hundred white, middle-class professional males and bares his personal life to examine the difference between the message men once received--from fathers, mothers, peers, and girlfriends--and the message conveyed by liberated wives. Neither anti-feminist nor a whiner, Bell sifts fairly intelligently through the range of choices and on the whole comes up with a plus for the new style of male, willing to diaper the baby and share career opportunities on an equal basis. Little is new in Bell's assessment of background influences: fathers taught self-control and competence, a narrow range of emotions (chiefly anger), and the subordination of women. (But in their later years, these same fathers have mellowed considerably.) True male friendship seems to have disappeared after college sports, and is now awkwardly revived either in ""regressive"" returns to sports camaraderie or in semi-successful men's groups (""self-revelation"" is still a problem). Mothers reinforced the subordinate image of women by deferring to their husbands; girlfriends were potentially submissive sexual partners who, once they became wives, were expected to ""care for"" their men as mother had. Bell finds that issues of ""relationships"" are beginning to take precedence over work in men's order of priorities; but his first marriage was nevertheless a casualty of his single-minded career commitment at the expense of his wife's own desire for career fulfillment (and for help with raising their son). Bell does see hope for the future--more involved, more nurturant fathers--as he and his second wife await the birth of a child. Not much groundbreaking material--but ad-and-comfort, perhaps, for the modern man lost in conflicting expectations.

Pub Date: June 20th, 1982
Publisher: Lewis/Stephen Greene