IN A TIME OF FALLEN HEROES by R. William Betcher


The Re-creation of Masculinity
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 Men and women are essentially different--historically, biologically, culturally, psychologically--according to Harvard Medical School psychiatrists Betcher (coauthor, The Seven Basic Quarrels of Marriage, 1991, etc.) and Pollack. Here, employing a wide cultural perspective, the authors--who contend that feminist thinkers have interpreted these differences as male imperfections- -attempt to redeem and transform contemporary men. Men grow up masculine by differentiating from their mothers, say the authors, while women become feminine by resembling them--so men are comfortable with aloneness while women require relationship. Moreover, men need ``Special Women'' (mother, wives, girlfriends) and ``Special Men'' (father, brothers, mentors) to ensure their sense of identity. But even with these role models, men are incomplete, since their development is also shaped by aggressive instincts, by a need for power and dominance that sometimes turns into rage and violence--self-defeating expressions of helplessness, as well as of a genuine biologically based vulnerability. Morally, men are burdened by abstract principles of duty that often conflict with personal obligations and that find a safe release in excessive work. Men find escape, play, identity, power, and relationship in sports or in sex--a ritual in which, at its best, they can lose themselves. In parenting, men discover a second chance to complete their development, to recover the lost child within, and develop the softer virtues that women require of them. The transformed man, Betcher and Pollack argue, has recovered what's essential in his masculinity and no longer measures himself against historical or social expectations. The source of men's sense of failure is in accepting the wrong heroes to measure themselves against--usually, classical ones such as Odysseus or Achilles who can no longer act as proper models in today's complex modern world. A solid, convincing, and important contribution to the literature on masculinity, backed by case studies and distinguished by subtle analyses of Greek myths and of such moderns as Freud, Jung, Bly, and various feminist commentators.

Pub Date: July 9th, 1993
ISBN: 0-689-12177-6
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Atheneum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1993