UNLOCKING THE IRON CAGE by Michael Schwalbe

UNLOCKING THE IRON CAGE

The Men's Movement, Gender Politics, and the American Culture

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A sociologist's sympathetic account of a much-maligned movement. To the general public, the ``men's movement'' mostly evokes images of half-naked, white, middle-aged men beating drums in the forest. Schwalbe (North Carolina State Univ.), who went out among these wannabe savages, reports that these images are accurate-- but somewhat misleading. The so-called mythopoetic activities that the men engage in--which Schwalbe describes in detail--do include dancing, drumming, poetry reading, and sharing feelings. But what Schwalbe uncovers are the social forces behind the participants' need to join in these rituals. The men involved, reports Schwalbe, are largely the products of families with abusive or absent fathers. Lacking positive male role models in childhood, and believing that their notions of masculine inferiority are confirmed by feminist criticisms of men as selfish, egotistical, and power-driven, some men sought a way to rid masculinity of its negative image. The men's movement's brand of ``loose essentialist'' Jungian psychology fills this need by confirming that archetypally ``masculine'' traits are normal, though some are good and some bad; at the same time, it allows men to redefine their masculinity by achieving a positive balance among various archetypes. In other words, the men's movement lets them eat their cake and have it, too. While affirming the value of much that the movement offers its adherents, Schwalbe criticizes some of the movement's prevalent attitudes, such as its antifeminism, or afeminism. Because the participants are involved in their own pain and disillusion, explains Schwalbe, they can be insensitive to the legitimate grievances of women. Schwalbe also notes the inherent exclusivity and homophobia of the movement and its conscious or unconscious acceptance of a male supremacist society. A thoughtful inside look at a phenomenon that will give both opponents and proponents of the men's movement cause to reconsider.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-19-509229-5
Page count: 278pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1995




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