Here is another book review ...
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl: Wendy Jones
This is a truly dreadful book. Artist, potter and transvestite Grayson Perry has recorded his childhood biography in the form of taped interviews with Wendy Jones, a friend he met at a group therapy session, who has tacked together his information into an apology for a book. We learn of the traumas of his childhood, mainly at the hands of his violent stepfather, and his first steps into a career in art. The process by which this book was created is all too apparent and it is disjointed and clunky and unsatisfying. I am amazed that he allowed this book to go forward in his name, especially after going on to read The Descent of Man, written by Perry himself – this is an intelligent, fluently written and thought-provoking account of being male in today's society. His basic argument is that the stereotype of the male does a huge disservice to society (and has done so throughout history) and to men themselves. He is not anti-men – he is one himself – nor blindly pro-feminist, but writes with a sense of sadness at the moulding of boys and young men into a form that demands more of them than any human should be asked to shoulder, to their detriment and that of us all:
“most violent people, rapists, criminals, killers, tax avoiders, corrupt politicians, planet despoilers, sex abusers and dinner-party bores, do tend to be, well… men”
His “Default Man” “... prioritizes 'rational' goals like profit, efficiency, self-determination and ambition over emotional rewards like social cohesion, quality of life, culture and happiness.”
“What would happen if we rethought the old, macho, outdated version of manhood, and embraced a different idea of what makes a man? Apart from giving up the coronary-inducing stress of always being 'right' and the vast new wardrobe options, the real benefit might be that a newly fitted masculinity will allow men to have better relationships - and that's happiness, right?”
He is very good at asking us to contemplate how the male view of the world “just is” – it is what we have all grown up with – it is what we accept as the norm - it is woven into the fabric of our western world, from town planning and political systems to the design of public toilets.
The book is not without its flaws. It attempts to be all-encompassing, but is in fact mainly centred around the western male. However, it is a charming, honest and tender attempt to set the ball rolling on a new way of looking at masculinity; not one that is based on feminist theories (which is where most analyses of gender equality start), but one that takes a close look at how men are nurtured into a role that is not only painful for many men themselves but also causes (and has caused) untold misery for the world. There is a gently regretful air to the book, coupled with wit and humour and a hint of hope - and tongue in cheek...“We need to breed smaller, more sensitive men. Get Gareth Malone to a sperm bank now!”
Definitely worth a read.