Cover image for The man they wanted me to be : toxic masculinity and a crisis of our own making
Title:
The man they wanted me to be : toxic masculinity and a crisis of our own making
Edition:
First hardcover edition.
Publication Information:
Berkeley, California : Counterpoint, 2019.

©2019
ISBN:
9781640091818
Physical Description:
254 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Contents:
A hard, small cage -- My father's son -- A crisis of our own making.
Abstract:
"Based on his provocative and popular New York Times op-ed, The Man They Wanted Me to Be is both memoir and cultural analysis. Jared Yates Sexton alternates between an examination of his working class upbringing and historical, psychological, and sociological sources that examine the genesis of toxic masculinity and its consequences for society. As progressivism changes American society, and globalism shifts labor away from traditional manufacturing, the roles that have been prescribed to men since the Industrial Revolution have been rendered as obsolete. Donald Trump's campaign successfully leveraged male resentment and entitlement, and now, with Trump as president and the rise of the #MeToo movement, it's clearer than ever what a problem performative masculinity is. Deeply personal and thoroughly researched, The Man They Wanted Me to Be examines how we teach boys what's expected of men in America, and the long term effects of that socialization--which include depression, suicide, misogyny, and, ultimately, shorter lives. Sexton turns his keen eye to the establishment of the racist patriarchal structure which has favored white men, and investigates the personal and societal dangers of such outdated definitions of manhood"-- Provided by publisher.
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Prescott Public Library1Received on 5/23/19

Summary

Summary

"By carefully and soberly examining his own story, Sexton deconstructs American life and gives many examples of how pervasive toxic masculinity is in our culture." --Henry Rollins, Los Angeles Times

"This book is critically important to our historical moment . . . [C]rackles with intensity and absolutely refuses to allow the reader to look away for even a moment from the blight that toxic masculinity in America has wrought." --Nicholas Cannariato, NPR

Based on his provocative and popular New York Times op-ed, The Man They Wanted Me to Be is both memoir and cultural analysis. Jared Yates Sexton alternates between an examination of his working class upbringing and historical, psychological, and sociological sources that examine the genesis of toxic masculinity and its consequences for society.

As progressivism changes American society, and globalism shifts labor away from traditional manufacturing, the roles that have been prescribed to men since the Industrial Revolution have been rendered as obsolete. Donald Trump's campaign successfully leveraged male resentment and entitlement, and now, with Trump as president and the rise of the #MeToo movement, it's clear that our current definitions of masculinity are outdated and even dangerous.

Deeply personal and thoroughly researched, The Man They Wanted Me to Be examines how we teach boys what's expected of men in America, and the long-term effects of that socialization--which include depression, shorter lives, misogyny, and suicide. Sexton turns his keen eye to the establishment of the racist patriarchal structure which has favored white men, and investigates the personal and societal dangers of such outdated definitions of manhood.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this moving memoir of growing up steeped in the toxic masculinity of 1980s working-class rural Indiana, Sexton (The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore) gives an emotionally intimate demonstration of the thesis that "men have actively overcompensated for their insecurities, so much so that they have endangered themselves, the people they love, and their society as a whole." His father violently stalked his mother after an ugly divorce caused by his cheating, and subsequent father figures were abusive, reckless, or prone to forcing idealized masculine behavior on him; Sexton's most secure relationship was with his grandfather, a WWII veteran who drowned PTSD in alcohol and was only given "the benefit of the doubt" for being "sensitive" by his family because of his established identity as a war hero. Sexton partially reconciled with his father as an adult; both men were grappling with the unhealthy behaviors they developed to cope with gendered expectations. The final section gives Sexton's psychosociological analysis of attendees of Donald Trump's 2016 rallies, whom he depicts as people compelled to "double down" on antiquated masculine ideals. This thoughtful and powerful consideration of the damage done by traditional masculinity to its ostensible beneficiaries will reward readers' attention. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

A contributing writer for Salon continues his examination of Trumpian America through the lens of gender expectations and their discontents.Men don't cry. Men provide for their women, and women better be grateful for it. Growing up in rural Indiana, writes Sexton (Creative Writing/Georgia Southern Univ.; The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore: A Story of American Rage, 2017, etc.), these were the kinds of tropes that were planted in him as a man-to-be. Yet the toxic masculinity that such ideas enfold is hardly usefulif it ever wasin a new economy and world in which the blue-collar American male has "given way to a new era of progressivism that rewards communication, creativity, and education, all things that have been scorned in working class families for generations." These things are scorned in the White House, as well, but Sexton locates in the current occupant the very soul of that toxic ethos, one that itself is giving way to a culture that has less use for precise ideas of gender roles, to say nothing of gender itself. Donald Trump may be the dark antimatter standing in the way of a better future, but the author considers him a tragically weak figure. His followers are just as weak, but "their loyalty to Trump is unending because the fragility of their own masculinity is unending." It's a point that, when raised in the newspaper piece that gave birth to this book, earned Sexton hate mail and death threats. At book length, it's unlikely to find many readers among his detractors, but even his supporters may conclude that the author belabors the point just a bit too long. Still, it's refreshing to think that the complex of domestic abuse and willful stupidity, which Sexton links to larger issues in our history, may soon end at the hands of a rising society "that's actively dismantling the patriarchy."Pop sociology and journalism meet in a powerful, occasionally repetitive argument against things as they are. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Sexton takes a deep dive into masculinity in America, with an intense focus on its most toxic aspects: aggression, anger, violence, control, abuse, and misogyny. He begins his fascinating, exceedingly well-researched study with a brisk survey of the evolution of toxic masculinity from the wake of the Civil War to 2018, and then offers a more measured and discursive examination of his subject in the context of his own life. As a boy as a result of his sensitivity, creativity, and intelligence he was regarded as different and was, thus, the victim of violent abuse from his father and two stepfathers, and relentlessly bullied by the masculine boys at school. As an adult, he gives considerable attention to his evolving relationship with his erstwhile abusive father and his own ironic descent into toxic masculinity. Recovering from that, he sees hope for a more civil masculinity in the millennial population. His combination of dramatically realized memoir and sociological analysis provides an effective, readable, and incisive examination of a timely subject.--Michael Cart Copyright 2019 Booklist