A Reader’s Perspective on bell hooks’ The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love

Gloria Jean Watkins, better known by her pen name bell hooks, died on December 25. Her legacy is outstanding and her knowledge on gender equality has enlightened many generations. Here’s a review of her book focusing on men and masculinity.

bell hooks is the bright American author, professor and amazing feminist, whom I have admired and I have come to love ever since I started understanding a thing or two about gender dynamics. I am writing ‘is’ purposefully, because I think that all the work she has left behind makes us feel like she will be eternal, forever present throughout our lives as we live and prospect towards gender equality, by diminishing gender roles and eliminating gender stereotypes, just like she would have wanted.

Lately, I have been reading one of her precious works – The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love. I am rereading this now after a few years, seeing that I understand her writings a lot more different now that I am older and a bit more experienced in relationships, whether those be romantic ones, family, friends, or acquaintances.

The narrative you will often hear by most of what bell hooks calls ‘progressive feminists’ is that women should become more aware of their rights, and radicalize so that we can achieve social justice and gender equality. However, in Men, Masculinity and Love, hooks decides to look at things from another angle as well. With words as soft and soothing as they can be, she explains that in order to achieve gender equality, we must also think about men, about their struggles, the barriers, choices, and consequences which make them who they are – and think of alternative ways for masculinity to be manifested, rather than that of violence and power.

What I absolutely love about this book, is that it tries to explain how patriarchal society really and deeply crushes the lives of boys and girls, men and women. It makes it so clear, how feminism is a solution to save boys and men from becoming heartless, emotionally unavailable, and violent, which is something that patriarchy demands from them every day, from the moment they are born. hooks strives to make it clear for men that they have the right ‘to feel’, as absurd as it may sound, as no one should be reminded of this. She is ultimately trying to let them know that masculinity does not have to be defined with authority and power. Instead, hooks suggests what she calls a ‘feminist masculinity’. It is the sort of masculinity that presupposes that it is enough for males to be in order to have value, that they do not have to perform in order to be affirmed and loved. Rather than defining strength as ‘power over’, feminist masculinity defines strength as one’s capacity to be responsible for self and others.

The book tries to look back at the time when patriarchy kidnaps little boys into what is known as manhood, through gender roles in schools, in their families, mass media, books, literature, and overall relationships. It explains how most mothers do not commit to doing something to save their little boys from the claws of the patriarchs of the families — fathers who are distant, competitive, and often cruel to their sons. As such, boys who see their mothers giving them up to the patriarchy, grow up as boys who hate women and abuse them whether emotionally or physically.

bell hooks tries to let men and women know, how feminism is really the way towards ‘creating the work of love’ and maintaining it alive.

hooks wrote in The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love: “As long as men dominate women, we cannot have love between us. That love and domination can coexist is one of the most powerful lies patriarchy tells us all. Most men and women continue to believe it, but in truth, love transforms domination. When men do the work of creating selves outside the patriarchal box, they create the emotional awareness needed for them to learn to love. Feminism makes it possible for women and men to know love.”

In order to expand your horizons and understand this perspective a little further, I invite you all to read the book yourself and contribute to getting to know more about the role you have as a man or woman in the world of patriarchy.

Picture: Iryna Kalamurza/shutterstock.com

If you are looking for more books to read:

Books Can Be Your Therapy: Five Books to Read When You Are Low or Depressed

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