Gender & Gender Identities

Plank, Liz. For the Love of Men: A New Vision for Mindful Masculinity. St. Martin’s Press, 2019. 

Patriarchal rules insidiously and overtly harming women have received much attention for awareness and remediation. Much less discussed is how a patriarchal society with pronounced and severe gender roles has harmed men. Men are locked from being vulnerable, seen as a primary or significant caretakers, sharing emotion, needing mental health support for conditions such as a depression, asking for directions, seeking more than sex, being too close to other men, and from not being the breadwinner or choosing to opt out of the work force as stay-at-home fathers. Plank provides anecdotal evidence from her New York City non-scientific experiment (where participants self-selected) on masculinity with couples’ therapist Esther Perel where men approached them for free advice about women. With prodding, men disclosed to Perel and Plank their reluctance to be vulnerable and deviate from the narrow code of masculinity. Raising daughters to be assertive and career-minded is no longer as revolutionary as it once was; Plank argues to finish the revolution sons’ emotional intelligence, including vulnerability and caring for others, must be prioritized. Letting men be human with wants, needs, fears, vulnerabilities means better mental health for us. Plank claims it may also sweep from the personal to the economical (men would no longer feel pressure to avoid careers deemed feminine such as nursing) to the political (less terrorism and hatred in the world). Plank includes research from relationship scientists, sociologists, doctors, and public health experts. Each chapter anecdotally presents the arenas that rigid gender roles harm men (several are health, work, emotions, romantic relationships, friendships with other men, on a macro-economic level). Plank has emphatically not delivered a relationship how-to, but because toxic masculinity can affect straight or gay romantic relationships in both relationship dynamics and in a whole host of wider arenas Plank discuses, this is an excellent book for couples to consider the sweep of how a rigid gender role of a “real” man has impacted their relationship.

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