A CHOICE OF HEROES: The Changing Faces of America's Manhood by Mark Gerzon

A CHOICE OF HEROES: The Changing Faces of America's Manhood

Email this review


Farewell to machismo (again): a sensible, fair-minded, largely predictable survey of had male archetypes and the gentler, saner ""emerging masculinities"" that with luck will replace them. Gerzon has been taking the nation's socio-political pulse since 1969, when, still in his senior year at Harvard, he wrote The Whole World Is Watching, a study of the generation gap. He's a seasoned observer now, as this vigorous personal tract repeatedly shows; but he has neither extraordinary insights nor expertise in psychology, sociology, etc. to offer us--so he ends up playing variations on some familiar feminist themes. Gerzon runs through five once-useful images of masculinity that have now gone rotten: the Frontiersman, the Soldier, the Expert, the Breadwinner, and the Lord. Reflecting on the Soldier, for instance, he talks about the John Wayne mystique (noting that young, not-yet-antiwar Lt. Daniel Ellsberg once saw the Duke dining in a Rome restaurant and gratefully sent a bottle of champagne to his table); about the hyper-masculine mania of the Nazis, homophobia in the McCarthy era, ominous signs of cowboy bravado from the Reagan administration, and so forth. Instead of such morbid myths, Gerzon wants men to look to non-violent archetypal figures like the Healer, the Companion, the Mediator, the Colleague, and the Nurturer. Desirable though that might be, Gerzon can do little more than editorialize about it--with help from some telling case histories. What he can't do is: meaningfully compare American masculinity with other varieties; discuss clinical findings on male/female differences; analyze in any depth the history of sex roles in this country; or explain the cultural and economic foundations of sexism. A good primer--but no more than that--on masculine self-reform.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1982
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin