Book Review: “The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love” by Bell hooks

“The notion that men who have lost touch with their mothers have lost touch with parts of themselves is a powerful one — powerful enough to provoke change.”

This book explained why it is important for boys and men to embrace feminism. When it comes to boys, Bell Hooks saw that “most adults are more comfortable confronting a raging teenager than one who is overwhelmed by sorrow and cannot stop weeping.” Feminist activists that wants to end sexist oppression should be more than wiling to hear men when they are speaking their pain. However, women are conditioned to be afraid to hear men voice their feelings. As Bell Hooks understood the impacts of popular culture on our lives, she also mentioned how “the vast majority of contemporary films send the message that males cannot escape the beast within. They can pretend. They can dissimulate, but they can never break patriarchy’s hold on their consciousness.”

This book argues that feminist work need to be more specific in addressing males. Males would really need blueprints for change from feminism. Bell Hooks has been looking at gender issues for years. She said, “when I first began looking at gender issues, I believed that violence was a by-product of boyhood socialization. But after listening more closely to men and their families, I have come to believe that violence is boyhood socialization.” To have a healthy self-esteem, men must practice integrity.

For many boys and men, perhaps “disconnection is masculinity.” Where do men detach from their feelings? In work. Workaholism is seen by Zukav and Francis as “a flight from emotions, …a drug that is as effective as the most powerful anesthetic… a deep sleep… a self-induced trance that temporarily keeps painful emotions away from your awareness.” When asked by men who wanted to know what love is, Bell Hooks said that it is “a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust.” Relationships have always have one or two of above-mentioned aspects. What is the foundation of love? It is, of course, mutual partnership. The thoughts and actions that came from feminism will be able to create these conditions where “mutuality can be nurtured.”

Referring Real, it is mentioned that wives have been looking for below capacities from a husband:

  • Sensitivity to others
  • The capacity to identify and share his feelings
  • A willingness to put his needs aside in the service of the family

However, these traits are often repressed by those who raise males. “Most folks believe we are hardwired biologically to long for sex but they do not believe we are hardwired to long for love.” Because of this, conflicts are created from the unrealized expectations and reality.

It is important, when we talk about love, that it is understood as “when a woman and man have promised to give each other love, to be mutually supportive, to bring together care, commitment, knowledge, respect, responsibility, and trust.” When we see love through this lens, “even if there are circumstances of inequality, no one uses that difference to enforce domination. Love cannot coexist in domination.”

It is ironic, when seeing feminism has been used to ensure same rights and privileges as enjoyed by boys, boys are mostly not granted the same rights as girls. Examples of those rights:

  • The right to play with dolls
  • The right to play dress up
  • The right to wear costumes of either gender
  • The right not to engage in aggressive or violent play
  • The right to choose

We cannot demand that boys and men give up manhood or maleness, but we can ask them to allow its meaning to be transformed. What does this mean? “Nonviolent action over violence, peace over war, life over death.” If we want to know the impacts that are done to men, we can look at this particular quote: “they’re dying of heart attacks in early middle age, killing themselves with liver and lung disease via the manly pursuits of drinking and smoking, committing suicide at roughly four times the rate of women, becoming victims of homicide (generally at the hands of other men) three times as often as women.”

“Feminism makes it possible for women and men to know love.”

Patriarchy will put power struggle as frames in all relationships. Bell Hooks like to refer to this as “imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy”, which I think really able to portray the scope of the idea. Bell Hooks explained how men do not often use the word or understand patriarchy. Men often are refusing to caretake and nurture others (as it is regarded as women’s roles). Rage is not seen as appropriate for women’s feelings. This is why women were told, even from when they were girls, to “smile”. When there is no patriarchy, men will see work as part of life, not their whole existence. Actually, family, “in all its diverse forms” should be a central place of resistance. Overall, the book provides great insight on how we can use feminism to also transform the lives of boys and men.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s