Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Toy Soldier Reviews "Knights Without Armor"


I think Toy Soldiers has an interesting blog - his efforts to report on or re-post information about the abuse of men and boys is necessary. In a recent post, he offers a very cogent review of Aaron Kipnis’ Knights Without Armor: A Guide to the Inner Lives of Men, a book I also recommend - it's on the sidebar.

Here is a brief excerpt from the review:

Kipnis’ journey towards writing the book began when he and six other men met in to play poker while coping with their history of substance abuse. Over time the poker game faded and the discussion shifted from the mundane to the personal. Each man’s experience revealed to Kipnis that despite men’s hard exteriors, many men bore internal wounds. Unfortunately, wounded men cannot heal because they cannot remove their armor. They live in a society constantly requires them to remain armored up, and that society not only denies the existence of male pain, but also punishes men for speaking about that pain.

The wounded male often turns to risky behavior and drugs in an attempt to cope with his problems and with the stresses of fulfilling the role of the hero. While Kipnis criticizes the traditional norms forced onto men, he also dissects the feminized man, a man produced by “women’s attempts to modify or control men’s thinking and behavior.”

As Kipnis notes, many men try to cope with changing social norms and stresses by shutting down, becoming hyper-masculine, or simply following women’s directives. He offers an insight into why this happens:

All these strategies for coping with the modern changes in men’s roles are reactionary. They are not affirming positive, creative choices for men generated out of men’s own inner search and inspiration. They are merely attempts to adjust to the changes women have made. Reactionary roles do nothing to further men’s psychological and spiritual development, heal out wounds, or increase the range of our personal freedoms.

Sadly, much of the move toward so-called femininity is a product of shame. The shame of being male is aggravated by the type of feminist invective cited in the preceding pages.… In reaction to patriarchy (the sociopolitical belief that the rule of men is a higher authority than that of women) and in feminist to feminism (which often promotes women as morally superior to men), many men have sought initiation into soul through the feminine.… This has resulted in a more sensitive, receptive, gentles, conscientious, and socially responsible male, Yet many of the so-called new, changing men are often powerless and ineffectual in the world. As a result, women today are asking, “Where are all the real men?”

Kipnis speaks of the “lost fathers,” the gods of old. He suggests that men have lost their connection to the sacred masculinity. Only the stern, distant sky-father remains. Likewise, male sensuality and the male body get framed as dangerous, undesirable, disgusting, and evil. This further produces shame among men and keeps them from exploring broader aspects of masculinity.

The need for male role models and male bonding is central in Knights Without Armor. These two concepts receive a host of negativity from society at large, especially from feminists. However, as Kipnis points out, males crave male attention. Boys seek out male role models, and when those men are not present, boys substitute them with other males, many of whom do not provide positive influences.

I think he really captures the sense of the book - I highly recommend that anyone interested in the book go read the whole review.

On the other hand:

I suspect the man behind Toy Soldiers probably won't like me or this blog - he seems to be in the Warren Farrell camp much more than I am. While I recognize the ways men and women have been struggling over power for the past 50 years or so - with historical imbalances in both directions being redrawn and redistributed, but not rectified.

I feel less animosity toward the opposite sex than many of those who buy into Farrell's worldview (which is not to say that Toy Soldier does, only that there seems to be a pattern among "male rights" bloggers - a sense of anger), and I think this blogger is more balanced in his approach than are some others.


Toysoldier said...

Thank you for the remarks about my review. I found the book balanced considering the topic. Many books about men and masculinity tend to sway towards reclaiming old ways or deconstructing men. Kipnis offered actual advice, but without the heavy-handedness found in books like The Code of Man by Waller R. Newell.

I would not say I am in Warren Farrell's camp. We share similar views on certain issues, primarily the distortion of statistics and the vilification of males. However, I disagree with him on topics like sports, male bonding, and portrayals of violence.

As for men's rights advocates (MRAs) feeling animosity towards the opposite sex, while I feel sort of remiss to speak on their behalf, I think their animosity stems from their lived experiences. Many of those men have been treated horribly by women and feminists either directly or through legal systems. It is difficult for anyone who gets wounded to control their anger and pain, especially if they have no outlet for it. Online MRA communities provide them with an outlet, and so they unleash it full force. Online communities also provide them with access to others with similar experiences, and in some instances those people feed off each other's anger. That said, the animosity I see within the MRA community mirrors what occurs in the feminist community, and in other communities based on race, religion, sexuality, or some sub-culture.

william harryman said...

Thanks for stopping by - I do appreciate your blog and hope people who stop in here will check it out.

There are some things I agree with Farrell on as well, and as you mention there are other things where I think he is making huge illogical leaps - like sports.

I have been reading some of the MRA sites, and I do see the injustices, especially in family law - and I have seen it in men I know who barely have access to their children, while having to pay for their support. I understand the anger. I would rather see them organize behind their anger and advocate for legal change than simply vent.