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Is There Anything Good About Men?: How Cultures Flourish by Exploiting Men 1st Edition

26 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195374100
ISBN-10: 019537410X
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Drawing on psychological and sociological theory in what he acknowledges is an essayistic rather than scholarly work, Florida State psychology professor Baumeister addresses gender roles and equality in a simplistic and even baffling book (as an example of male-female cooperation, he writes, "Most men voted to extend the vote to women," overlooking how long it took before men agreed to cast that vote). The reason men dominate culture and rule the world, he observes, is not that men are superior to women or have designed patriarchy to oppress women but rather that culture grew out of male relationships, which resulted in large structures containing many people (whether to engage in trade or in war), and thus men were always in charge. Whereas women, in Baumeister's view, seek close one-on-one relationships that are not culture-building. The author's belief that future cultures will be better off if they recognize and accept the differences between men and women can sound an awful lot like a "separate but equal" argument. Ultimately, though, Baumeister's repetitious and circular arguments fail to contribute any fresh ideas to the gender debate.
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"[Baumeister] does make the fascinating point that men operate at the extremes, socially and biologically." --Bitch

'Male readers may find some solace in Roy F. Baumeister's "Is There Anything Good About Men?" Mr. Baumeister is less concerned about the wimpification of modern man than about the degree to which men have been historically "exploited." The very cultures that men have built, he says, have considered males more expendable than women... But men, Mr. Baumeister says, are often taken for granted and denigrated as the bane of female existence, with some gender activist insisting that women would be better off without them. In a feisty rejoinder, Mr. Baumeister says that "'if women really would have been happier without men, they would have set up shop on their own long ago."
--Dave Shiflett, Wall Street Journal

"Read this if you're open to a thought-provoking take on so-called battle of the sexes. Packed with counterintuitive but convincing points, the book will reshape how you think about sexism, feminism, and gender differences." Andrea Bartz, Psychology Todayl

"There are some interesting arguments concerning marriage, procreation, and the creation of culture that students and professionals in the field of evolutionary psychology probably
would be interested in discussing further." -- Elin Weiss, Sex Roles


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (August 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019537410X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195374100
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1.1 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #710,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By J. Steven Svoboda on November 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Florida State University psychology professor Roy F. Baumeister has published an excellent, even stunning book that answers the title question, "Is there anything good about men?" with a resounding yes. To explain "why men have dominated culture and ruled the world," the author writes, "[C]ulture grew out of the way the men related to each other, more than out of women's relationships.... Because culture grew out of men's relationships--including competition, trading and communicating with strangers, and ample doses of violence--men were always in charge of it."

Ever the optimist, Baumeister believes "that the hostility between the sexes has been overstated." He points out that "women got the vote because a majority of men, only men, voted to extend the vote to women." In one deft paragraph, the author summarizes Warren Farrell's outstanding book Why Men Earn More and demolishes feminist suggestions that oppression explains the gender salary gap.

The take home for the author is, "If we want to understand gender and culture, we need to have our eyes open to how culture exploits men as well as women." Following in the tracks of Farrell, he ticks off several disadvantages of masculinity--greater likelihood of criminal sentencing and longer sentences, higher levels of homelessness, 92% of workplace deaths happen to men, and of course the male-only conscription systems in place around the world.

Baumeister reminds us of the reasons why men seem to be more expendable in these ways to society: men are in fact literally more expendable, in that "culture needs only a few men but as many women as possible" due to their biologically different roles in producing the next generation.
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55 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Ham on November 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is possibly one of the most important for men (and women) in the last 50 years of the so-called gender debate. As one of the world's leading psychologists, Baumeister takes an open and inquiring approach into many of the myths and poses the question "are there alternate explanations here?" and in doing so, debunks almost every feminist 'anti-male' myth.

However, this is not a book which is anti-female, if anything, it cleverly explains that we need both genders, and that we both serve different purposes and roles from a cultural perspective. It also dissects the apparent drive (mainly in the US) demanding that men to be more like women, which thankfully, is also debunked. We do not need men to be more like women, nor women to be more like men.

For example, Baumeister illustrates that men have great interpersonal relationship skills (which is not what the feminists claim), and that men use these in a larger social setting, whereas women have great interpersonal skills and tend to use these in more intimate 1:1 setings. Men are considered as more 'expendable' by society, are not treated equally in the workplace, in risky occupations etc...... some real eye openers in this book.

This will challenge your thinking, and is a welcome fresh perspective. Possibly the first book in the gender space to be unbiased, evidence based, and thought provoking. Highly recommended.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By James A. Wilson on January 5, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was one of the most interesting and insightful books I've ever read. One might expect that it would either reinforce my male prejudices or alter my perception of how men are valued in our present culture but it did neither. The effect of reading this book enhanced my appreciation for women throughout history. The ridiculous conspiracy theories peddled by real and imaginary feminists have always seemed too farcical to buy, yet I find I've imbibed a lot more of their Kool-aid than I had expected. Fact is women don't make very good men (and men make worse women), and Though I've always been suspicious of feminist claims about patriarchy and similar nonsense, I still expect women to be more like men, but even worse, to understand manly attributes and the reasons why things are the way they are. Yet how could they? With all the endless drivel, starting with the foolish theory of the superiority of men and then swinging to the opposite extreme today, how could anyone land on truth?

Well I reckon that's just what the good professor has done.

Both sexes ought to be able to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of the other. And what is in this book? Analysis of the mounds of research that has already been done where the truth sat there waiting to be found, but because of obtuseness, or political correctness, or prejudice, or just plain stupidity, the correct conclusions were avoided like the plague. Yet the conclusions were all there waiting to be teased out. Some of it is so obvious I keep slapping my forehead in disgust that I never saw it before.

The final paragraphs are a plea for all of us to quit thinking of the other sex as the enemy and see that partnership is by far the best policy. I couldn't agree more.
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35 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
That question is easy to answer: yes! This book is an incisive, extended essay about gender differences and the role the play in our society, with positions that are backed up by a great deal of research, done both by the author and others. It also serves as an essay on the perceptions of gender in our culture, particularly among well-educated people. Until reading this book, I never realized how much misinformation about gender is widely accepted. For instance, the fact that the average male sex drive is stronger than the average female sex drive is obvious to many people (and can be proved, as the author points out), and yet textbooks and scholarly writing on sexuality and gender assert that there is no difference at all (or that women have a stronger sex drive), and this mis-perception is commonly promoted and repeated.

The beautiful thing about this book is that it is, for the most part, remarkably unbiased. As a social scientist, the author knows how to interpret data and describe its implications while avoiding value judgments. He points out where implications are clear-cut but multifaceted, and also points out where there are multiple possible causes or effects. Nonetheless, this is destined to be a controversial book. Some of the points in this book support some out-of-fashion traditional beliefs on gender. Others novel beliefs that are at simply at odds with what educated people are supposed to think. And while the author himself steers away from advocating any specific course of action, it is easy to imagine people reading more into his analyses that is actually there, due the charged nature of the topic.
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