PROVING MANHOOD by Timothy Beneke

PROVING MANHOOD

Reflections on Men and Sexism
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Freelance writer and antirape activist Beneke (Men on Rape, 1982) here traces male chauvinism to anxiety and identity crisis, but the occasional insight is hard-sought in his vague sociological outlines. Drawing on the work of psychoanalytic feminists, such as Nancy Chodorow, and others, the author explores what he identifies as the disabling pains men take to prove their manhood--pains that will never be relieved, he argues, without their confronting sexism. Throughout, Beneke's superficial analysis is confounding as he wanders from point to point in his eagerness to simplify a complex and challenging landscape of ideas. Turning the tables on women, he says that the suppression of ``objectifying'' mediums such as pornography and other variant forms of sexuality that denigrate women (``whore sexism'' and ``Madonna sexism,'' which respectively reduce women to sexual objects and deny their sexuality altogether) represents a sexual threat to masculinity. Beneke writes from a personal angle in chapters entitled ``Reflections of an Antirape Activist'' and ``Reflections on Mothers, Grief, and Sexism,'' a mishmash of undeveloped journal jottings in which he seems to invite readers to consider how his reaction to the early death, when he was 13, of his mother might fit his own theorizing. This personal material, however, is completely out of place in Beneke's sociological study. He looks at the sports page as a realm of masculine identification, concluding that the hollowness of male glory, as in sports, keeps men from intimacy with women and with themselves--a sweeping generalization. Is manhood something to be proved, consciously or unconsciously? Though the paradigm may fit the author's self-conception and his prior research into the subset of men who are violent against women, this book sheds little light on manhood for the vast majority of males.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-520-20961-3
Page count: 209pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1997




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