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4.3 out of 5 stars
The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"The Will to Change" by bell hooks is one of the best books I have ever read. bell hooks gets to the heart of the ways in which most of us (men and women, people of all classes and races) are harmed by patriarchy, as well as exposing the ways in which we unconsciously replicate it in our personal lives. Her ideas are big enough to include all people who are struggling with division, oppression, and/or general un-wholeness and unhappiness, not just women. She suggests that the way to freedom is for us to love each other and support each other on our journies to wholeness. She clearly and consistently frames the struggle as one of hurting people yearning to be whole and free. This is a theory that is accessible to everyone - anyone who searches their heart, or just observes the society around them, can see that what she says is true. As a feminist who is married and loves men, I found her advice to be full of wisdom, with a refreshing lack of intellectual elitism.

After reading this wonderful work, I am more convinced than ever that heart and soul are the primary components of our future evolutionary path. Hats off to you, ms. hooks!
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50 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2004
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
bell hooks states that feminists have not discussed how to improve the lives of men and this is her attempt. In 11 chapters, she details her ideas that men must be open to feminism and feminists must be open to men, that patriarchal masculinity is the problem, not males, and that much harm comes to the life of boys.
Professional critics have called this book that non-race-based equivalent to "We Real Cool." However, I'd say it's the male counterpart to hooks' "Communion." This book is an ideal tool for feminist women raising sons. It also may be a good introduction to feminism for progressive men or men who want to be progressive. hooks cites many canonical men's studies texts and progressive books on boys and men that many readers will find useful. (Again, it's a shame that this book lacks a bibliography, just like most of her most recent works.)
While this book discusses romantic love, that type of relationship is not the main issue here. Readers that have already heard enough about hooks' views on love from her autobiographies and recent works will find this refreshing. Many loving dynamics are detailed here. Most importantly, hooks discusses the troubles faced by little boys. I'm impressed that a childless writer is so devoted to children. This almost reminded me of Rosie O'Donnell's autobiography the way a grown woman is so concerned about minors.
I would say that I have three major complaints/critiques of her book. First, as much as she constantly assesses and promotes feminism, what comes through is that anti-oppression books can help men. Her gender analysis just happens to be her angle. A civil rights activist could have said that organizing could help men or a Communist discussing anti-classism could make the same argument that hooks makes here. Thinking about justice, breaking out of boundaries, and imagining utopias has never been the work of just feminists.
Second, hooks critiques feminist self-help books for not discussing politics and the larger superstructure. However, the majority of self-help books, even ones that she cites, are apolitical. She needs to critique the whole genre if she is going to find so many individual examples unsatisfying. People who feel that hooks was too hard on Naomi Wolf will be equally surprised at how she goes after Susan Faludi here.
Third, recently, everytime bell hooks mentions sexual orientation issues, she starts off with "Lesbians and gay men can be as conservative as anyone else, but here's one bit of info that I find useful from their activism......" If a white person started every comment on race with "People of color can be just as conservative as anyone else, but...." or a class-privileged person said, "Some poor people deserve the barrel they are in, but here's what I find useful on class-based activism....", etc., hooks would be livid, yet she does it with gays. I understand hooks' point that gays are just people just like straights. However, her statements are somewhat course and insensitive. I think this flaw still highlights how bell hooks has continually marginalized issues of sexual orientation while she champions issues of race, class, and gender. Her recent ability to add imperialism to the mix shows she can build on her theorizing, so her stance on gay rights is incredibly problematic. There's a great chapter in Carbrado's "Black Men on Race, Gender, and Sexuality" that discusses hooks' shortcoming.
At the end of almost every chapter, hooks presents cultural criticism. Her subjects are broad including the Harry Potter series, the film "Life as a House," and other popular works. I am curious as to whether she is trying to satisfy her fans that are most familiar with her cultural studies work. I wonder if she is trying to prove that her new march toward self-help writing is not meant to show she has lost her cult crit skills. Coming from an African-American woman who almost always discusses black issues, this book was pretty light on race matters. African-American readers, like myself, looking for that topic will find that the only chapter that is the exception is "Popular Culture: Media Masculinity." I applaud hooks for pointing out and proving that black authors have an array of writing interests.
Like always, this book is annoyingly repetitive. hooks comes close to admitting this in her introduction. If I remember correctly, she seemed reluctant to discuss domestic violence and war in her classic text "Talking Back." Now, she has taken those problems as a centerpiece of her work. The cover of this book shows that Renaissance painting where God's finger points down toward Man's (this was the basis for the cover to "E.T.," btw). The cover has a pretty shade of blue. I think readers will find the cover quite inviting.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Great book. This needs to be recommended reading for all men. I'll probably give my son this when he's a teenager.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This was the first book I've read by bell hooks- I was previously familiar with her work, but hadn't yet read a full piece. A bit of context about me as a reader, because I think that's a very important aspect of how this book will be received: I'm a man who considers himself a feminist ally. I do buy into the idea of feminism as important for the health and well-being of not only women, but men as well, so some of my reaction to this book may lie in the fact that it speaks directly to my interests. I have some prior familiarity with mythopoetic men's movement books like "King, Warrior, Magician, Lover" and "Iron John", which hooks addresses. For me, as someone who is working to develop my sense of identity as a thoughtful, respectful, compassionate man, this book was exactly what I wanted at this point in my development.

If you're not familiar with bell hooks, she is a proponent of intersectionality - basically, the belief that privilege isn't necessarily a monolithic characteristic that lies only with specific groups, but rather a more fluid interaction between different characteristics of individuals as they relate to one another. A white woman and a black woman may both experience gender discrimination, but it may not be in the same way or to the same degree, based on the additional factor of race. (Don't take my explanation as airtight - I'm just trying to provide context.)

Given this philosophy, hooks is able to provide a keen inspection of the ways in which patriarchy not only benefits men, but also harms them. If you hold the unfortunately common (and mistaken) belief that feminism sees straight, white men as "the bad guy", hooks will skewer that. She speaks to some of the societal structures that place unequal burdens on men, or teach us harmful ways of viewing ourselves, without losing sight of the fact that those same structures are harmful to women, people of color, and other minority classes. She does this with INCREDIBLE compassion and even-handedness - in fact, I would say that hooks' ability to discuss this incredibly charged subject matter with such an unwavering sense of caring, fairness, and courage is the single best thing about the entire book. Unlike some who claim to advocate for men, hooks speaks to these issues in a way that unifies and encourages understanding, rather than making one group or another into the boogeyman.

There are a few areas which I found challenging and didn't necessarily agree with 100% - there's a section where she briefly discusses Dworkin, whose beliefs are challenging for most men, but she definitely doesn't shy away from talking about radical feminists and the reality of misandry (overblown as it may be in many circles). She doesn't deny that there are some feminists who have driven men away with anger, but she also doesn't pretend that they're a majority - nor does she pretend they don't exist because that might be more convenient. I was a little concerned when the subject came up at first, but she handles it so well that I came away with a sense of greater understanding and compassion. Similarly, she sometimes references Bly (Iron John) and disagrees with aspects of his philosophy (basically, how his work views women)- I see her point where she makes it, didn't necessarily agree completely, but again: she does it in such a way that I don't feel baited or dismissed, but as if I'm just hearing the opinions of someone who is clearly very educated, opinionated, and above all, dedicated to compassion and fairness.

Overall, this book speaks to a very charged subject with unerring maturity, insight, and compassion. If you're able to read it with an open mind and heart, you'll likely find it as moving as I did. There are places where hooks speaks to painful realities of manhood with such clarity that it hurts, but in the end she reveals a path to greater connectedness, compassion, and emotional health.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am a big bell hooks fan. I consider Feminism is for Everyone to be essential reading for the budding "women's libber" (haha gotta love a throw back). This book delivered as expected even though it did not inspire me to the extent that hooks' previously mentioned work did. I appreciated her analysis of patriarchial male culture. Hooks' choice of words gets straight to the point. She never apologizes for her opinion but at the same time her work shows an astounding amount of forgivness. Hooks' understands that nobody trapped within in the confines of a patriarchal society can be fully well. Though some benefit from this construct of oppression, ultimately nobody wins. The empathy that Hooks' expresses towards men that have hurt her in the past is prove positive that she is a member of the rare group of authors who posses the ability to put their conflicting views on paper without sounding indecisive. Hooks' dreams of a world free of oppression. Her believe that we CAN transform our toxic culture into one that nurtures all of the people that it surrounds, is uplifting. Hooks' work inspires discussion. She clearly states her opinion but remains open to dissenting views. Her critique of the Harry Potter books is not to be missed (I KNEW there was a reason that I never liked that series)! This book has something for everyone. All people would benefit from reading it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The book started with clear examples of what ms. hooks would like to see change, but about 2/3 of the way through shifted into arguing her case for what kind of change should happen and became very fuzzy. She has a theory, but I found myself wondering what she based her theory and what the change would look like, on. It got to be that she was just piling on to convince the reader that the form of her ideas was good and should be implemented, but never articulated how she arrived at her ideas, or what supported the formation of those ideas. Disappointing read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This book helped me start to discover the vocabulary to describe some of the emotions that I experienced as a young man but never voiced.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
While the title "The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love" speaks to men, hooks has delivered insights for women also, helping us to see and understand how all of us - men and women - have been shaped by teachings that discourage loving and encourage a dominance by men to show their manhood. This work invited me to examine my perspective and attitude on how men are supposed to act and my expectations of men. It begs the question for all of us, “are we - men and women - willing to change?” This is a valuable resource for all to begin a dialogue as we seek to enjoy more meaningful and loving relationships – family, friends, workplace, social….
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is incredible and bell hooks does an amazing job on critically analyzing the construction of masculinity in our culture. Defining the differnce between Patriachal Masculinity and Masculinity bell hookds articulates the amazing and critical roles masculinity plays in our culutre and the numerous ways that patriachry has prevented men and women from fullfilling their deepest desires in this world, which is the desire to love and be loved. This book has forever changed the way that I view and cherish masculinity, it is a must read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
This was an excellent read! As a heterosexual male trying to understand his role within this described patriarchal system, this book has assisted me in identifying the various areas that work still needs to be done. I will be transparent by stating that this book elicited various emotions ranging from guilt to comfort which I believe is important to experience, if pro-social change is our desired outcome. I definitely recommend this book to all!
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