Disclaimer: Shira & I write for Girl w/Pen but we're not great friends. We just write for the same blog. That said, that's how she came to know me to pass my name to her publicist who offered me a free copy of the book to review. Which I replied with a YES! in record time. And now our review...
First off, when you see the cover of the book you'll notice that this book is part of the Seal Press Studies series. But DO NOT FREAK OUT! While this book can easily be in a Gender & Women's Studies course syllabus, I also believe this is an excellent book for anyone to pick up in order to know more about how men have fit into the feminist movement.
What's that? You don't think that men have been a part of the feminist movement? Oh how mistaken you are! But it's not your fault that you believe that, first of all, our history classes don't teach women's history and when we take it upon ourselves we do focus on the accomplishments of kick ass women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Dolores Huerta. In fact men have been supportive of the movement all along, not as many as we would want, but that's where Tarrant really gets into the question of men & feminism.
Tarrant goes thru the history of the (mostly American) women's movement and reveals the men behind the amazing women, but also reveals some of their contradictions including how their public voice did not match their private lives or how men used motherhood as a way to push for women's rights.
But I felt that the gem of this book was how Tarrant wrestled with trans and gay issues within the context of feminism and masculinity. She showed us how the fear of being labeled a sissy keeps even the most feminist of men silent thus complacent in continuing our sexist and homophobic society. She walks us thru how ignoring or being ignorant of trans-issues keeps us focused on the false binary of boy-girl, masculine-feminine and thus keeping all of us in gendered boxes. As close friends know, I believe my feminism can connect almost any issue and Tarrant does a brilliant job at showing us how we must pay attention to the plight of boys and men under patriarchy in order to bring out a more just world. I wish I had had this book a few years ago when I was trying to create a men's issues committee for a feminist org I use to work with. I was shot down loudly and quickly.
Tarrant also has a great chapter on male privilege. It's an easy read in terms of vocabulary, althou it might be hard for anyone to totally grasp. Essentially Tarrant says "Great, you're a great guy. You might love a feminist woman, never hit her and even support her work. But unless you are taking progressive steps to call out others on their sexism there's still work to be done." It's not finger-pointing or male-bashing at all. Rather it's a straight forward call to action for all the "I'm not a feminist but..." men in our lives who really need to walk all that talk.
This would be an excellent present for a feminist dad/husband in training. It's 150 pages of the feminist manliness. If you're a nrrd like me, it's great summer reading too. Get your copy from an indie bookstore or Powells.com.
Crossposted at Feminist Review