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The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy Paperback – April 29, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Reviews of the previous edition:

"Johnson argues...that although female oppression "is at the heart of patriarchy," its fundamental essence is men's relationship with other men as they engage in a continuous struggle to prove their manhood-not to women, but to each other... Johnson takes patriarchy to task, critically examining its dynamics to reveal an underlying, pervasive domination-and-control mentality that is destructive to both females and males." Choice

"... this book is a worthy addition to the small group of serious writing by men who understand the oppression of women, who can clearly and without defensiveness define a system of patriarchy, and who can voice the participation of both men and women in patriarchy without blaming the victim. Written in clear and accessible language-without academic boorishness or political rhetoric-this is a good introduction for women as well as men-but most importantly, it is from a man who can clearly explain to men what's happening and what they can do to change it." Feminist Bookstore News

"The best of feminist theory is linked with practice, and Johnson's book follows this tradition by connecting patriarchy's macrostructure to its microstructure and by encouraging the reader to envision taking the necessary steps to dismantle the system... It is beautifully written and thoughtful, and provides compelling analyses of contemporary patriarchy and of the powerful ideology that supports the system and inhibits change... In addition to the quality scholarship, Johnson makes it clear throughout The Gender Knot that his work is more than an academic exercise; it is a guidebook for a life-changing adventure." Contemporary Sociology

"Highly accessible and a pleasure to read, Johnson never oversimplifies the complex issue he explores. His engaging and conversational style will appeal to a wide audience and will be particularly useful for the classroom." Gender and Society

"Allan G. Johnson's stirring new book ... more than dusts off the word [patriarchy] to parse it; he resurrects it. He makes it pulse again with portent. And he emboldens readers to do something about it that will make a difference...The Gender Knot belongs on the reading list of every course in sexual politics that encourages students to engage (if not "smash") patriarchy meaningfully." Men and Masculinities

Book Description

A compelling approach to gender inequality that empowers both men and women to be part of the solution instead of just part of the problem
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Temple University Press; 1 edition (April 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592133835
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592133833
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #811,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Allan G. Johnson is a nationally recognized writer, novelist, and public speaker who has worked on issues of privilege, oppression, and social inequality since receiving his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Michigan in 1972. His nonfiction writing has been translated into several languages and excerpted in numerous anthologies. His novels, The First Thing and the Last and Nothing Left to Lose, come from a lifelong devotion to the art of writing coupled with a passionate commitment to understanding what it means to be a human being in a complex world full of unnecessary suffering. He shares his life with Nora L. Jamieson, a writer, healer, and gatherer of women. They live in the hills of northwestern Connecticut.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Allan Johnson takes a complex and highly charged topic and makes it clear, concise and understandable, regardless of one's gender. His analysis spans the gamut from the personal to the general with regards to not only power relationships between men and women, but also the dynamics of all kinds of oppression. He is "radical" in that he gets to the root causes of sexism -- all isms for that matter. Yet he stays clear of the guilt/blame spiral and instead inspires a sense of empowerment, suggesting how to be part of the solution to the immense problems wrought by patriarchy's fallacies.
Also, appreciated his challenges to some of the leading gurus in the "mythopoetic men's movement" as well as the trendy gender arbiters like John Gray and Debra Tannen, who normalize male/female behavior differences, without examining the root causes and how they actually perpetuate behaviors formed out of thousands of years of patriarchal conditioning.
This book removes the veil of illusion about the world we live in -- while offering hope, not for quick fixes, but of the long-term, big-picture variety. It reveals the scholarship of one who has gone to the depths in the study of people, social systems and how they interact.
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Format: Paperback
When I first read this book a couple of years ago, I was not prepared to accept the full sweep of Johnson's arguments. It was not that I disagreed with his reasoning -- his logic is as sound as his prose is lucid! But I was not prepared for the implications of what he had written for my own life -- as a man who professed to be active in the feminist movement, I was for some time not prepared to make the changes in my private life which were necessary to unravel my own "gender knot". But I have grown, I have changed, and as I mature both as a man and an academician, I realize just how fundamentally right on Johnson is. His words haunt me: "That I don't rape women doesn't mean I'm not involved in a patriarchal society that promotes both male privilege and male violence against women." Men need to remember that.
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Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book because he does not enforce a man-hating policy. Instead, he addresses everyone who participates in the patriarchal society. So many men and women resist feminism because everyone's looking for the people to blame, and no one wants to feel guilty. He states simply that we are all to blame if we do not examine how we live our lives. I know now that even though i'm a woman, i too was to blame. Patriarchy is bigger than all of us, and to say that Johnson hates men or is self-loathing is ignorant and only goes to prove the point of his book. If you have the chance to see him speak--do so. It's worth it.
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Format: Paperback
Allan Johnson writes with rare clarity about gender issues.
Here at last is a book about gender relations that both men and women can feel connected to. Johnson validates women's feminist work, holding it up as an example of both moral and intellectual achievement. In fact, he takes feminism absolutely seriously, which made me realize just how rare that is. And yet, he's not a guilt-ridden "sensitive 90's guy" who is merely kow-towing to anything female because of the long history of our mistreatment at the hands of his gender. Instead, Johnson takes a far more responsible role than passive guilt. He is actively working to understand patriarchy from a male perspective in order that he can be part of a large-scale, *societal* (not individual-level) solution to the gender problems we are mired in. Men will not feel personally attacked by his stance on patriarchy, and yet, women will feel validated.
This is a very important book.
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Format: Paperback
I was very impressed with the thoroughness and depth of this book. Given the status quo cultural, religious and political/economic pressures for patriarchy, it is a remarkable achievement, I think, to write a book like this that can see the system from the outside, and that frankly discusses it costs to both women and men as well as the many red herring arguments made in support of maintaining it.

I found this book tremendously helpful in understanding anger that I can't seem to avoid feeling much of the time, and it was very gratifying that a male author recognized the nature of this. Having grown up female in a patriarchical family, and having had to spend decades of my life trying to work against myself and my anger to find a place in the world and a way to support myself and function in healthy relationship to men and children, I can appreciate that this book could do a lot to make the world a better place.

A few suggestions for improvement:

(a) The author seems to have a female-centric view of nurturing and unpaid work of raising children, i.e. that this is a woman's responsibility only. He says that "I don't feel less bonded to my children because they didn't grow in my body" which is a good point except that what matters most is whether his children feel as bonded to him as to their mother (many men do accomplish this type of bonding by being as responsive to normal dependency and developmental needs of children as mothers, doing their half of the adult unpaid work of the family, etc.)?

(b) This same bias shows up in how he says that in a patriarchal society "everyone becomes male-identified." Does he really mean "everyone becomes patriarchal male-identified"?
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