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Manhood in America: A Cultural History (Pbk) [Paperback]

by Michael Kimmel
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 1997 0684837129 978-0684837123 1st Pbk. Ed
In a time when psychologists are rediscovering Darwin, and much of our social behavioral is being reduced to ancient, hard-wired patterns, Michael Kimmel's history of manhood in America comes as a much needed reminder that our behavior as men and women is anything but stable and fixed. Kimmel's authoritative, entertaining, and wide-ranging history of men in America demonstrates that manhood has meant very different things in different eras. Drawing on advice books, magazines, political pamphlets, and popular novels and films, he makes two surprising claims: First, manhood is homosocial - that is, men need to prove themselves to each other, not to women. Second, definitions of manliness have evolved in response to women's movements. When women act, men react. Originally, manliness was an internal virtue and a democratic ideal - British men were viewed as fops, and American men had to be independent, honest, and responsible. By the 1890s, however, manhood changed to masculinity, something that had to be constantly proven through the new explosion of sports, fraternities, and fashion. Finally, in 1936, Lewis Terman, the creator of the IQ test, developed an "M-F" test to analyze adolescents' masculinity and femininity. Until well into the 1960s, the test penalized boys who preferred to draw flowers instead of forests, or who knew that a teacup was used for drinking tea. But just as Terman's categories and questions seem outdated to us, so will our own standards seem temporary to our successors.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a startling, original study, Kimmel, a professor of sociology at the State University of New York, makes a persuasive case that manhood has been a constantly changing social construct in American culture. Once rooted in genteel land-ownership or in the pride of independent artisans, shopkeepers and farmers, manhood was transformed by the industrial revolution, which made American males, by the mid-19th century, insecure, mobile, competitive, chronically restive and seeking a sense of themselves as men through their economic success. Men attempted to prove their manliness through sports, business, bodybuilding, clothes, fraternal organizations, participation in two world wars and the Depression ("emasculating both at work and at home"). In 1936, Lewis Terman, inventor of the IQ test, introduced a sexist "M-F scale" that supposedly measured children's masculinity and femininity and their likelihood of "successfully" acquiring gender identity. Men today, observes Kimmel, spout angry antifeminist rhetoric in men's rights groups, or beat a defensive retreat via the men's movement's embrace of cosmic archetypes. Drawing on a wealth of material?advice manuals, union struggles, the symbolism of presidential campaigns, Tocqueville, Thoreau, contemporary films, novels and men's magazines?Kimmel's humane, pathbreaking study points the way toward a redefinition of manhood that combines strength with nurturing, personal accountability, compassion and egalitarianism. Photos.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Kimmel, a noted men's studies authority, coeditor of Against the Tide (LJ 2/1/92), and editor of The Politics of Manhood, reviewed below, presents in his own words the first cultural history of men in America. He examines how the manhood experience has not only defined American males but has also shaped the culture and livelihood of its members. Kimmel states the key driving force in men throughout history has been to prove their masculinity. He examines how this phenomenon has changed over time along with the masculine ideal and other transfigurations that must coexist with it. Holding up the model of the "self-made man" of American myth and legend for analysis, Kimmel describes the legend's birth prior to the Civil War and its lasting impact until the close of the 19th century. As the new millennium approaches, the author contemplates the contemporary crisis of masculinity. A core title for men's studies and gender studies collections alike.?Michael A. Lutes, Univ. of Notre Dame Lib., Ind.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st Pbk. Ed edition (August 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684837129
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684837123
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,695,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must in gender studies March 23, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the most interesting book I have ever read about masculinity. It explains in detail the history of manhood (as the title offers) in a very easy way to read, amusing and with the most amazing details, statistics and anecdotes about famous people, philosophers, writers, sociologists, and just normal men. Is a must if you are interested in gender studies
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By BPblshr
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I ordered the First Edition of this book several years ago, and have referred to sections of it many, many times as I observe what is going on within myself, as well as the profound struggles of men around me. Manhood in America at times deeply resonates with my own pain and disappointment, and helps to explain why we (men) do some of the crazy things we do, in an effort to compensate for what we have now (since we entered the industrial/technical age about 150 years ago): a world that is dismally unsatisfying to men, and has cast us adrift in many ways. I am very much in favor of Michael Kimmel's call to a more "democratic" definition of manhood - any other option leaves us open to being even more lost than we are now. By the way, this is one of the best researched books I've ever read (the bibliography of Kimmel's sources is approximately the last 100 pages of the book!)
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read July 9, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great book it was assigned for a history class in my university and I have to say it was a pleasure to read. It gives amazing detail about a topic that I was not very familiar with, totally recommend it. It's worth reading!
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17 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating, yet uncomfortably misandric. September 23, 2011
There are a lot of things about this book that are really great. The actual cultural history of manhood in America is fantastic, and his identification of the cultural ideals of Heroic Artisan, Genteel Patriarch and the Self-Made Man are particularly helpful concepts for making sense of it all. I've never seen it anywhere else. The first half of the book focuses on this, and was quite absorbing and illuminating. It explained, in my opinion, the Tea Party movement as well as right-wing Libertarians. The problem really shows itself in the second half of the book (almost seeming like a different person wrote it) where he loses his objectivity and replaces it with misandry instead of what is really needed in order to understand the subject (the American white male and his culture) which would be empathy. I think there's probably a way to point out the absurdity of some of the beliefs of white men's culture without being so nasty about it, and I feel that approach kept him from really getting to the core of the subject matter (which would have done a lot more to point up how people can change the problems with men's culture in the US). If I could give the first half 5 stars and the second half 2 stars, I would.
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31 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars hope for men November 8, 1997
By A Customer
I found Michael Kimmel's book to be a fabulous portrayal of the roots of American sex roles. He uses 3 categories of manhood to describe American men: The Heroic Artisan, Genteel Patriarch and the Self-Made Man. What is very interesting is that he explains, with excessive evidence, how business interests have effectively devalued the latter 2 models, leaving the Self-Made Man as the only thing for American men to strive for. Even more interesting, is the way he documents what this ideal does to the marginalized; minorities, women, immigrants, and working class men. Fortunately, he disagrees with Robert Bly about the need for men to run off into the woods and bond-men have been doing that for years. Instead, he calls on men to embrace feminist philosophy as they (feminists) are not man-haters, but those who really love men, because they "love us enough to believe that we can change." All in all, this is a great book for all men and women who are uncomfortable with gender roles in today's society and who want to learn where they came from. This book truly provides real hope for men.
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7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Accessible gender study September 24, 2005
This is a very interesting historical survey of American manhood from the early American Republic to the present day (at the time of last publication). Kimmel draws from a variety of sources to illustrate how ideas, images, and events shaped and were shaped by a continuing construction of a unique American understanding of masculinity. I understand that it is currently out of print, but I've heard rumors of a new printing fairly soon. If this is the case, then I heartily recommend this book to those interested in gender studies or cultural history. Even if you're simply interested in historical ideas of manhood or how current ideas of gender roles are in fact historically- based, this is a book for you.
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