This book is about solidarity between men and women. It’s really about seeing men as human and not these big bad oppressors. Men are also victimized by the patriarchal structures we all live under, and oftentimes their bad treatment of women is a response to their own victimization. They relive trauma and over-compensate as a means of survival, even though their survival rates are lower than women’s. So their attempts are futile, but this is how they are taught to be.
I’ve thought about this topic a lot because I’m raising a son by myself. I do my best to make sure he knows that girls and boys aren’t really that different and there are no girl/boy colors or toys or activities. He turns to me when people say stuff like boys don’t wear nail polish as he responds that anyone can do anything they want. And even if I tell him to stop crying or wining, he tells me he just wants to cry or that he just talks different than me sometimes. I love that for him.
That confidence is the type of self-esteem that bell hooks points out is missing in a lot of boys and men. They turn to sex and work and lies in order to hide who they are. And those kinds of activities have major impacts on the people around them. Men must consciously choose to be real and responsible and thoughtful in order to heal. The performance of manhood only offers a facade of privilege and status–and that’s not love. The realest truth is that it’s not men making everyone miserable; it’s the patriarchy.