THE END OF MANHOOD by John Stoltenberg


A Book for Men of Conscience
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 A mixed bag of essays, fables, musings, and skits in which a radical feminist plays havoc with the concept of manhood. In this follow-up to Refusing To Be a Man (1989--not reviewed), Stoltenberg, a founder of Men Against Pornography, turns from public policy to interpersonal issues. His theme here is contained in the epigraph: ``The core of one's being must love justice more than manhood.'' The notion of manhood itself, says Stoltenberg, is a sham, a trap--and those who would redeem it or remythologize it are kidding themselves, for manhood is a mask, incompatible with truly human selfhood. So much for beating drums with male companions in the woods. Each of Stoltenberg's 23 brief chapters poses a question--usually an anxiety-laden one (``What If My Father Didn't Love Me?''; ``How Can I Be Anybody If I'm Not a Real Man?'') that may or may not be answered here. The text takes many forms and varies from philosophical, even scholarly, analysis to tongue-in-cheek humor. Homophobia, pornography, and the treating of women as sexual objects are scrutinized and lampooned. ``Coach `Irony' John'' gives advice to sexual athletes; ``Mister Mann'' offers a guide to proper etiquette in male bonding; and the ``Ancient Armorer'' versifies on the link between manhood and warfare. In a final sendup, all three testify at the ``National Commission on Manhood Hearings.'' Stoltenberg's humor can be heavy-handed and often crude, perhaps because his anger is so strong, but it gets his message across. Less persuasive are his personal revelations (of his homosexuality, for instance). A harsh critique of masculinity ostensibly written for men but likely to find its warmest reception among women.

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 1993
ISBN: 0-525-93630-0
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1993


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