Last winter while I was back home in Minneapolis for the holidays, I was driving around running errands on a cold December day. Flipping through radio stations I settled on my local NPR station, and heard an interview that immediately caught my attention and caused me to pull over so I could make a note of who was speaking.
As it would turn out, it was Liz Plank discussing her book For the Love of Men: A New Vision for Mindful Masculinity. I was struck by both Liz’s sense of humor in the interview and the important points she was making about the way in which society talks about men and masculinity. As someone who was getting their Master’s in Gender Studies, I knew this was a book that I had to get a copy of.
Our Current Definition of Masculinity
Liz cuts straight to the point on the first page of her book:
“There is no greater threat to humankind than our current definitions of masculinity.”
As she notes herself, this may seem like an exaggerated statement, but throughout her book she makes a compelling case for her argument. At the core of the book For the Love of Men lies a question asking what is wrong with society’s current definitions of being a man, and how do we move forward to create new and more mindful forms of masculinities?
Real World Examples
Throughout the book, Liz brings forward a variety of statistical evidence, real-world examples, and thoughtful insights to answer this question. Covering a wide range of topics, the book explores why so many men are fearful of showing their emotions, what it is about masculinity that compels men to engage in reckless and dangerous behavior, and many others as well.
The Father Figure
My favorite chapter in the book is titled “Waffles Are His Love Language.” The chapter begins with Liz describing the way in which her father was engaged in her childhood—making waffles every Sunday—and in her opinion, his routine defied most of society’s ideas and pressures around what it means to be a man.
As the chapter progresses, she brings her experiences with her dad into the larger picture around the current state of fathering practices that exist in the world today. Weaving together examples of larger cultural debates and interviews with gender and masculinity experts such as Jackson Katz, this chapter demonstrates one of the truly great facts of this book, the way in which Plank is able to communicate complex ideas and important information in a clear and thoughtful way.
Short Essays About Men
Another one of the more delightful parts of the book is the different amuse-bouche’s that are mixed throughout. I’ll admit, I had to Google what exactly amuse-bouche means, which is a French term for an hors d’œuvre which rather than you ordering, is picked for you by the chef to go with your meal.
In her book, these amuse-bouches are short essays focusing on men with a variety of different background experiences and challenges with society’s definition of being a man.
These include Wade Davis, one of the first openly gay NFL players, Victor Pineda, who is a man of immigrant background with a disability, and Thomas McBee who is a trans journalist in the U.S. These short essays also demonstrate another important detail of this book, which is that these conversations about men and masculinity must also be approached with an intersectional lens.
An Important Book
For the Love of Men is an important and timely book. We sit in the middle of a rapid and changing society in many regards, especially gender relations.
Plank’s book is a blueprint for how we can chart new and healthier ways of being a man.
That is why we are excited to feature this book the same week we are focusing on both men and women for gender equality.
If you like the sound of this book, make sure you get yourself a copy. Also keep your eyes peeled for our own feature piece with Liz, where I will be sitting down and speaking with her about all things related to creating a new definition of what it means to be a man, and hopefully our shared love for waffles. •