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Men Can: The Changing Image and Reality of Fatherhood in America Hardcover – May 28, 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Fatherhood is evolving. In Men CAN, Donald Unger tells the story of that evolution in ways that are warm, personal, and compelling. The picture that emerges is a hopeful one, but it will also be helpful and comforting to men and women struggling with new roles at home." 
Jeremy Adam Smith, author of The Daddy Shift and editor of Shareable.net

Book Description

Fatherhood is evolving in America. Stay at home dads are becoming more commonplace; men are becoming more visible in domestic, caregiving activities. In Men Can, writer, teacher, and father Donald Unger uses his personal experiences, stories of real-life families, as well as representations of fathers in film, on television, and in advertising, to illuminate the role of men in the increasingly fluid domestic sphere.

 

In thoughtful interviews, Don Unger tells the stories of a half dozen families—of varied ethnicities, geographical locations, and philosophical orientations—in which fathers are either primary or equally sharing parents, personalizing what is changing in how Americans care for their children. These stories are complemented by a discussion of how the language of parenting has evolved and how media representations of fathers have shifted over several decades.   

 

Men Can shows how real change can take place when families divide up domestic labor on a gender-neutral basis.  The families whose stories he tells offer insights into the struggles of—and opportunities for—men caring for children. When it comes to taking up the responsibility of parenting, his argument, ultimately, is in favor of respecting personal choices and individual differences, crediting and supporting functional families, rather than trying to force every household into a one-size-fits-all mold. 

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Temple University Press; First Edition edition (May 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439900000
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439900000
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,165,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Men Can is a great book. We'll start there. Don Unger miraculously weaves rich, gripping family stories with incisive cultural criticism, provocative sociological commentary, and engaging personal narrative; the result is a highly readable, uncommonly thoughtful, and deeply interesting book about men, women, family life, and all things parenting. To boot, Don's laser sharp wit comes through beautifully in this book. Funny, touching, but most of all provocative, Men Can is a must read for parents, educators, mental health providers, M.D's, and anyone else interested in men's potential to play a more critical role in society in the decades to come...
Great job, Don!
John Badalament
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Format: Hardcover
Donald Unger uses stories of real families to expose inconsistencies in our language, our politics, and our culture that are holding men and women back from succeeding at work and at home. Unger doesn't seek to define a family formula that works, but instead "favors flexible arrangements and a society that respects personal choices and individual differences, crediting and supporting functional families." For me, in this media world that runs towards extremes to increase readership/viewership, Unger serves as a voice of reason to help the reader sift through the nonsense to show how families are actually living.

One inconsistency Unger highlights is a resistance to acknowledge the change that has happened to real families. In conservative circles, the message goes that if a man were to publicly admit to sharing domestic labor, it would be an "admission of emasculation on two counts," first a failure to earn sufficient money to allow his wife to stay home, and second for doing "women's work." For a woman in the same circles, admitting she works means she has failed to take care of her home and children and she has "usurped the prerogatives of the '"proper head of household.'" In many real families, especially middle class and blue collar families, Unger points out a strong aversion to daycare, citing a "betrayal of family values." Given that most mothers and fathers in these families need to work, evidence shows that these Moms and Dads are in fact sharing responsibilities at home to some degree.

From liberal circles on the other hand, Unger points to a resistance to acknowledging progress because it might blunt further progress. Basically, men may help more than they used to, but they don't help enough.
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Format: Hardcover
The most enjoyable part of the book for me was reading Unger's portrayal of the families he interviewed, all of whom had dads staying home as the primary caregiver. I was struck by the common thread among these families, all of whom differed in terms of ethnicity, geography, and philosophy, being they simply wanted to be good parents. As progressive as I like to think of myself as being, I found my own personal stereotypes were challenged in this part of the book. I applaud Unger for his efforts at finding that common link, and I think many readers will appreciate these stories and connect on some level with the families portrayed.

For my entire review, please visit Book Dads at: [..]
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Format: Kindle Edition
What gives Dr. Unger's book merit are his background in Humanistic Studies, the diverse melting pot of dedicated fathers he provided as examples to support his conclusions and his personal experience as the primary caregiver - a role often reserved for mothers.

Dr. Unger eloquently illustrates how so many fathers past and present have overcome many of the social, cultural, legal and political barriers that often hinder a man's desire to be a good parent. One example he provides is our culture's unwillingness to forgive the sins of past fathers. Another is his astute examination of the movie "Kramer vs Kramer" and it's social relevance.

Dr. Unger also does an excellent job tackling the internal strife a mother and father face due to gender differences, poor language and communication skills. And he doesn't shy away from the uncomfortable issues many mothers and fathers are afraid to address and resolve.

Bravo Dr. Unger for your insightful, invigorating perspective on fatherhood and, more importantly, recognition of today's positive image of fathers that our society should and can be proud of.

Men Can should be read by fathers, mothers as well as family health professionals who want to improve support services for fathers and the parenting landscape for the greater good of the children.

Hogan Hilling, Author of Rattled, Pacifi(her) (Turner Publishing - Release Dates August 2011) & The Modern Mom's Guide to Dads (Turner Publishing, 2010).
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