Last night I attended a reading of Men Speak Out: Views on Gender, Sex and Power by Shira Tarrant at Bluestockings, a feminist bookstore on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since I heard about it and had also wanted to visit Bluestockings for quite a while but thought the lure of so many awesome books would cause this unemployed gal’s head to burst with overstimulation (it almost did). It was quite an impressive turnout for a independent bookstore reading, the audience comprised of both men and women, young and old, (however leaning towards the young white women demographic), and Shira and four of her male contributors were met with enthusiastic applause all evening.
Men Speak Out is a third-wave feminist reader comprised of thirty-nine essays written by men discussing masculinity, feminism, and sexuality. In reading the introduction to the book, Shira touched on the fact that in the past men who were interested in feminism could often be met with hostility and disdain, dismissed as only interested in feminism to get into women’s panties. However, as third wave feminists try to redefine and reshape feminism, the voices of male feminists are becoming more prominent and valued. Although I myself admit I am sometimes wary of male feminists, I do wholeheartedly believe in working together to redefine both femininity and masculinity in further shaping a more gender equal society. Thus my interest and excitement about this book.
The four readings of the night, read by the original authors, illustrated wonderfully the scope of the book. The first reading was an over-analyzed mental monologue of the always interesting debate of who should pay that damn dinner bill when you’re on a date with a woman. The second reading came from a professor who during the late 1970s taught a class on masculinity and sexism and touched upon what he learned from his female students. The third reading was from a male feminist discussing his discomfort as a member of a machismo collegiate basketball team. And finally the fourth reading came from an awesomely enthusiastic man with a slam poetry-style reading about having gay female friends and embracing feminism in college–he only read half of his piece and will apparently be reading the other half at another talk, that tease.
Men Speak Out shot to the top of my to-buy list after this event. The readings were so thought-provoking as both a female and as a feminist as I try to navigate the waves of new feminisms. I myself sometimes feel awkward within the “feminist-realm” and question my involvement and even my right to claim the term, so I can only imagine how men must feel. As a woman I am also utterly confused by modern-day definitions of masculinity and it is outstanding to see men questioning and deconstructing the ways to “be a man.” I attended the event with my boyfriend and although we both responded positively to the readings, I know his reaction as a male feminist had to have been slightly different than mine–this sets up a great situation for debate and conversation between male and female feminists! I believe we have quite a few male readers and so I would strongly suggest checking out this book and giving us here at BTW your two cents on the subject.