THE DESCENT OF MAN by Grayson  Perry


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It’s a man’s world, and we’re all the worse for it, according to this concise survey of gender issues and challenges.

Perry (Playing to the Gallery: Helping Contemporary Art in Its Struggle to Be Understood, 2015) is a ceramics artist who is also known in his native Britain as a TV personality (All Man) and as a very public transvestite, with an alter ego as “Claire.” He is not an academic theorist, but he draws from such research, and from mainstream journalism as well, in a manifesto of sorts that offers little new to anyone who already agrees with him. He does, however, distill the contentions with an engaging style, as when he writes, “when talking to men about masculinity, I often feel I am trying to talk to fish about water. Men live in a man’s world; they are unable to conceive of an alternative.” Yet the author is a man, and he finds himself not only able to conceive of an alternative; he insists that it is imperative, and the sooner the better. He sees men struggling with anachronistic caricatures of masculinity, behaving violently because violence has been done to them, refusing to indulge or even acknowledge their emotions. “Old-school man should be made aware of the costs and increasing obsolescence of maintaining a stiff upper lip,” he writes, invoking the traditional British cliché. Perry also acknowledges that in a world in which even sexual desire has been shaped by a phallocentric culture, “men are confronted by a rapidly shifting gender minefield,” one that leaves traditional roles up for grabs. Some men feel threatened by change that is not only imperative, but inevitable, for, as he writes, “One of the central issues here, and the reason this book is called The Descent of Man, is that as women rise to their just level of power, then so shall some men fall.”

A gender-studies primer that translates academic jargon into conversational argument.

Pub Date: May 30th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-14-313165-6
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Penguin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2017


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