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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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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.
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The book does fall short in it's "contemporary" observations...from 1998. The constant references to Ally McBeal and other late 90's pop culture were at times difficult to take seriously, or remember for that fact. For anyone who was not an adult at that time those references might make cloudy the points she is trying to make. If you can see past that then you will read a great book.
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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I picked up this book some time ago while searching for books on a completely unrelated topic.Read more