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The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private Paperback – July 15, 2000


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The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private + Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body, Tenth Anniversary Edition + The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (July 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374527326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374527327
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #272,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Shock waves riveted the Mattel, Inc., boardroom in 1961 when female executives suggested that Barbie's boy-toy, Ken--in keeping with Barbie's own physiognomy--ought to be a little more anatomically correct. No one was suggesting 1.25-inch-to-1-inch-scale plastic genitalia, mind you, just a modest groin bulge. But male execs at the toy company were scandalized; the suggested modifications did not make Ken more "authentic" in their eyes--they made him pornographic.

My, how things have changed. In The Male Body, Susan Bordo (who snagged a Pulitzer nomination for 1993's Unbearable Weight) offers a frank, sprightly, and, yes, educational look at the male nude as an index to attitudes about sexuality in the broth of media and pop culture in which, like it or not, we all stew. While the Greeks were unafraid to celebrate masculine beauty, men have been strangely sexless throughout most of Western history--until Hollywood rediscovered the male body when Marlon Brando first shed his T-shirt in A Streetcar Named Desire. It's only been in the '90s, however, that the male image has gone so far as to reclaim its penis. From de facto censorship to near idolatry, has ever an organ made such a journey in one brief decade? But it's not the penis alone that makes a man a man; perhaps, Bordo concludes, it's time for us to rethink our metaphors of manhood. --Patrizia DiLucchio --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Equipped with wit and savvy, Bordo sets out to map the ambivalent attitudes that exist in the American cultural imagination toward male bodies and, in particular, to ward the penis and its "symbolic double," the phallus. Ranging from such topics as "Viagran science" to discussions of Long Dong Silver on the Senate floor, masculinity in the movies to Plato's Symposium, Nabokov to gay aesthetics, Bordo (Twilight Zones) deftly uses academic theories without straying into abstraction. Beginning and ending with memories of her father, her focus on the male body never wavers. Part One concerns the penis: size does matter, but it is "always a collaboration with the imagination, and therefore with culture." Bordo's discussion establishes a provocative context for her subsequent examination of the complex legacy of Marlon Brando's representations of masculinity. She convincingly explains how the "lean, fit body that virtually everyone, gay and straight, now aspires to" has resulted from the commercial triumph of the gay aesthetic first introduced to the mainstream by Calvin Klein. Bordo's theme is that men and women are not species alien to one another: "We're all earthlings, desperate for love, demolished by rejection." There is anger here, but it is directed at a culture "that has us all behaving like sexual robots." Part memoir, part elegy, this feminist guided tour of the male body concludes with real hope for improved relations between the sexes.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Susan Bordo is known for the clarity, accessibility, and contemporary relevance of her writing. Her first book, The Flight to Objectivity, has become a classic of feminist philosophy. In 1993, increasingly aware of our culture's preoccupation with weight and body image, she published Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body, a book that is still widely read and assigned in classes today. During speaking tours for that book, she encountered many young men who asked, "What about us?" The result was The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private (1999). Both books were highly praised by reviewers, with Unbearable Weight named a 1993 Notable Book by the New York Times and The Male Body featured in Mademoiselle, Elle, Vanity Fair, NPR, and MSNBC. Both books have been translated into many languages, and individual chapters, many of which are considered paradigms of lucid writing, are frequently re-printed in collections and writing textbooks. Her newest book, The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England's Most Notorious Queen, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April, 2013. A British edition was published in Janurary 2014 from Oneworld publishing. She lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband, daughter, three dogs, two cats, two cockatiels, and teaches humanities at the University of Kentucky.

For more information on The Creation of Anne Boleyn, come visit the book website: www.thecreationofanneboleyn.com. For news articles, contests, and interesting conversation with others, join her book facebook page: www.facebook.com/thecreationofanneboleyn.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 36 people found the following review helpful By T.A on July 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
About me: 21 year old male, university student. (sciences/pre med)

I picked up this book some time ago while searching for books on a completely unrelated topic. It's become one of my absolute favorites. I've let at least 5 of my friends borrow it. (Or should I say I pushed it on them.)

Obviously, I'm not as serious a reviewer as some seem to be, so bear with me.

I caught this book a little late, a few years after it was originally published, but feel her comments are still dead on. I thought it was written very professionally, yet casual at the same time. I did not feel like I was being condescended upon, it felt like something "we" were discussing over a coffee.

She starts off with a candid retrospective of sorts on her father, then changes direction entirely with the opening sentence in the following chapter: "Becky Stone was the first of my friends to actually see one."

Other topics include an analysis on media images, women's bodies, and of course, men's. A few of my favorite passages in the book include: the whole section on "Public Images", as well as "Gentleman or Beast? The Double Bind of Masculinity", "The Sexual Harasser Is a Bully, not a Sex Fiend" and "Beautiful Girls, From Both Sides Now."

Remarkably insightful, with theories and analysis that are hard to argue, her comments hit home and make you think whether you agree or not. I suspect even the most chauvinistic reader would have a hard time "debating" or "disproving" some of her thoughts and theories behind media images and the like, in my opinion. Sometimes I may not have wanted to "hear" some of things she had written but couldn't think of any retaliation.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Abell on July 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Susan Bordo has written insightfully about women's perceptions of their bodies, and she now focuses those perceptive skills on men. Anyone expecting a feminist to engage in male-bashing will be relieved to find that Bordo genuinely likes men, and she writes with clarity and humor about their bodies and how they are socially understood. Beginning with an emotion-rich eassay about her father, she then moves on to discuss how biology and society converge to create our views about how men should (and shouldn't) behave. The chapter called "Gentleman or Beast?" is of the most insightful essays I've ever encountered on the psychological pressures experienced by boys in our society. Leave behind the trite banalities of the "Men are from Mars" crowd: Bordo really gets to the meat of the issues. One of the best books on gender I've ever encountered.
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Sean P. Drummond on February 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As a man who read this book, I'm already breaking the stereotype of manliness. Bordo correctly characterizes the male species as one who does not indulge in self-analysis. However, her analysis of the male body and character is surprisingly accurate, especially coming from the female perspective. After reading this book, I find myself analyzing the marketing of male hygene products in prime-time commercials. I was also enlightened as to the impact homosexual culture has had on opening the door to male exhibition. This book not only helped me to understand my own place as a 21st century male, but it also helped me to understand the female perspective on the male body. Men have been looking at an acquiescent female nude in pop culture for so long that we fail to see the double standard. The time has come for more books like this one that could possibly spawn a renaissance of the beauty of the male form.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bakari Chavanu on October 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is the male version of Jean Kilbourne's "Can't Buy My Love." Both look at media representions of gender and how they perpetuate stereotypical myths about males, females, and homosexuals. They also show how advertising and other image makers use the body to exploit consumer desires and insecurities about their own body. Thus, in Bordo's words, what we see in the twentieth century "is the recognition that when we look at bodies (including our own in the mirror), we don't just see biological nature at work, but values and ideals, differences and similarities that *culture* has 'written,' so to speak, on those bodies."
What is most compelling about Bordo's work is that she extends her analysis beyond the media and extends it to literature, history, and various institutions that influence our ideas about the male body. She shows overall how myths about the male use sexist images that have been used against women for years. She does this using very lucid, insightful, and humorous writing.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Adam E. Leeds on April 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
Bordo's effort is a perceptive and engaging overview of the convoluted representations of the male body active today and of their historical roots. She begins by tracing the evolution of representations of the body and of masculinity in film- with considerable insight and appreciation for the complexity of her subject- before moving on to a more polemical examination of "the double bind of masculinity" today: the incoherent standards that would have men be both 'primal' or 'brutal' and 'sensitive' or 'restrained', and the various reductionisms, biological or otherwise, that attempt to naturalize determinations of differences in gender roles. While her style is non-academic, her even-handed treatment and broad analysis make this book a good read for both gender theory buffs and general public consumption. I, personally, am considering buying a copy for my sixteen-year old brother, to help him make sense of the brutal tensions underlying the performance of masculinity in his public high school.
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