MANHOOD: A New Definition by Stephen A. Shapiro

MANHOOD: A New Definition

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N.Y. family counselor Shapiro, borrowing (very simplistically) from Christopher Lasch, sees today's men as increasingly narcissistic--now that feminism has rightly tainted the old macho-man ideals: ""Vast numbers of us are silent, enraged, insecure, and consumed by self. . . My face hurts from trying to smile, listening to puerile men endlessly describe their tennis and golf activities. . . The puerile seems to have triumphed."" The answer to this supposed crisis? ""We must rediscover some traditional values: respect for our forefathers, brotherhood, commitment to marl tal love, responsibility, sacrifice."" Thus, what follows in this thin, repetitious essay is a mixture of sermonettes, unoriginal psychobabble, literary allusions, and dreary case-histories (including Shapiro's own). Shapiro tells men to stop blaming their fathers for not being ideal, to ""suffer the ideal father's absence in a sacrificial way."" He urges them to rediscover brotherly love in this competition-plagued era (""Cain could be comfortable today""), thus avoiding envy. He feels that ""two decades of unisex negation of any differences"" between men and women has increased ""mutual envy""--so men must strive to be open, vulnerable, renewing ""the cosmos of trust."" (He himself is twice-divorced.) And later chapters apply this platitudinous framework to mid-life crisis, violence (including US foreign policy), and today's heroes: ""Heroism abolishes otherness between persons and fills the empty technical cosmos with the substance of human kinship: trust."" In both therapeutic theory and moral outlook, then, there is nothing new here: Shapiro is simply paraphrasing (or exaggerating) what many people have always regarded as the elements of psychological maturity and true, non-macho manhood (or adulthood generally). And, lacking the how-to appeal of Dr. Dan Kiley's similar retreads, this bejargoned gathering of dubious generalizations and pompous critiques (Freud himself ""was mute in the presence of presence"") has little to offer but a trendy title and a few catch-phrases.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 1984
Publisher: Putnam