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Everyone needs to love and be loved—even men. But to know love, men must be able to look at the ways that patriarchal culture keeps them from knowing themselves, from being in touch with their feelings, from loving.
In The Will to Change, bell hooks gets to the heart of the matter and shows men how to express the emotions that are a fundamental part of who they are—whatever their age, marital status, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. But toxic masculinity punishes those fundamental emotions, and it’s so deeply ingrained in our society that it’s hard for men to not comply—but hooks wants to help change that.
With trademark candor and fierce intelligence, hooks addresses the most common concerns of men, such as fear of intimacy and loss of their patriarchal place in society, in new and challenging ways. She believes men can find the way to spiritual unity by getting back in touch with the emotionally open part of themselves—and lay claim to the rich and rewarding inner lives that have historically been the exclusive province of women. A brave and astonishing work, The Will to Change is designed to help men reclaim the best part of themselves.
A companion to We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity (Forecasts, Nov. 10), hooks's 23rd book for adults is a fierce, quirky denunciation of patriarchy and a clarion call to the uncommitted to align themselves with visionary radical feminism. In 12 slim chapters, hooks examines the stages of a man's life, from babyhood through boyhood to the teenage years into manhood. She finds patriarchy plays a role in most socio-sexual ills, as boys and men seek alienating sex as a substitute for the love that often seems, because of demands on families that destroy them or keep them from forming, unavailable to men: "Sex, then, becomes for most men a way of self-solacing. It is not about connecting to someone else but rather releasing their own pain." The men who can lead us out of patriarchal chains are "men of color from poor countries, men who live in exile, men who have been victimized by imperialist male violence" the Dalai Lama for example. While she calls Will Smith films such as Men in Black and Independence Day tools of the patriarchy, hooks saves her big guns for J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, scornfully exposing them as foisted on us by "rich white American men" and no more than updated version of the British schoolboy books that fueled the fantasies of Victoria's empire. A better book to buy for children, she suggests, might be her own recent Be Bop Buzz. Hooks is always readable, but her takes on mass media here have a retro ring to them.