Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Man Up Review

Man Up
by: Jack Urwin 
Review

Photo Credit: Moi :)

While I was home for Thanksgiving break I managed to complete this book at long last, honestly this was only book that I finished in November. November was Non-Fiction November, during this month anyone who wanted to participate they were asked to read more Non-Fiction than they normally read in a month. I chose to pick up this book after I saw it on MercysBookishMusings YouTube channel, where she hauled the book in a video, needless to say I was intrigued. I am going to be honest about this book, it was truly a masterpiece that I feel everyone must read. As a 19 year old Universtiy student this is not exactly what would be expected of me to be reading, however this read is engrossing and incredibly important at this time in history. 
iCon Books: Author Photo

Who is Jack Urwin?
Jack Urwin is a journalist who writes for Vice. He came to the spotlight when he published his article, A Stiff upper lip is Killing British Men. This article was published on October 17th 2014 and took the world by storm with its open discussion of the issues surrounding masculinity. This is a piece that was later expanded upon to create the non-fiction wonderfully thought provoking book which is, Man Up: Surviving Modern Masculinity. He currently lives in Toronto Canada, where he is a prolific journalist for many outlets. 

General Thoughts: 
 This book is bloody brilliant, to put it simply. I would not go to say that this book covers topics that are revolutionary or radical in most definitions of the word. However, this book does tackle the issues with how men are portrayed within the world now and how societal pressures shape the men of today. These ideas are ones that I have thought many times throughout my short time here on the earth but I have been too shy to vocalize. This book may be dismissed when it is seen on the shelf initially by someone who thinks it will be anti-feminist or dry reading, this is NOT the case. Urwin is a self professed feminist who believes in gender equality and healthy relationships between everyone, a truly admiral quality. 

In this book Urwin covers topics such as what makes a man, sexuality and virginity among men, social constructs of masculinity, aggression and mob mentality, body image in the modern world, LGBTQ+ and masculinities roles within the other movements, as well as what we can do in the future to move beyond this macho atmosphere. These topics are covered throughout this book with full force which is also impeccably poignant and funny all at once. How? Well Urwin has the typical dry sense of humor that we would expect in an old British man, however he uses this dry and witty humor to engage with the reader on another level. This material without Urwin's signature wit and dry humour would have been a slog for any person to read, though through a few choice words he has single handedly made me aware of the flaws that are within masculine culture today. This is not to say that I did not realize that something was wrong with how men for example objectified women, acted like arseholes to impress friends, or even just create the "bro" or "lads lad" bond between one another; Urwin has shown me where these aspects of men that I so vehemently contest have come from. While this book is not a textbook I feel as though this book should be read widely as a warning to all in response to what has just occurred with America's recent election, and as an example of how we can move beyond these attitudes. 

In this book perhaps one of the major themes that I saw and agreed with most was that masculinity can be "toxic" if it is used in the correct environment. Urwin provides examples in nearly every section of his book, however, the general idea of "toxic masculinity" is harmful actions that are perceived as masculine/desirable and therefore are perpetuated. Some examples of toxic masculinity are seen in places such as Urwin's early childhood and perhaps many of our own, when parents tell their little boys that "boys don't cry". In such a simple phrase we have packed so much meaning, the meaning that the child should stop making a fuss is only the surface, when it is looked at under a finer comb it is seen that the subliminal message we are sending is "men do not show emotion or vulnerability". Though this is by no means what we intentionally want to send to our children, it is what is being received by them. This form can manifest in many ways: 
Photo Credit: Moi :)
  • Increased male suicide 
  • Alienation and feeling alone in the world/ Depression
  • Overcompensation to validate one's masculinity
  • Suppression of emotion & Poor communication skills
These are just four topics that are covered within this book, when in reality there are so many more aspects of life that can be affected for the negative when masculinity is portrayed in an incorrect light. These ideas of gender equality and ideas about how as a society we can correct some of the most harmful actions are a MUST read for anyone who is reading this right now! 

Since hearing what Urwin had to say about Modern Masculinity and how it is causing detrimental actions within our society I have been desperately pushing it into the hands of everyone. I have bought three copies so far and honestly may buy more as Christmas gifts for friends and family members! I am a small town kid from central Vermont USA and I have felt the pressures that are spoken about in this book, just as much as one from the city or anywhere around the globe would; this book has changed my outlook as a human. I think that a book this eye opening only comes along once in a lifetime. I am just grateful that I read this book at the time that I did. As you all will know I took a break from the blog a few weeks ago, that was because of a particularly painful break up between myself and the girl I saw as potentially being by my side through the rest of my life. Having read this book right after having such an incredibly hard life change occur I was shown that it both is not unmanly to cry, nor is it emasculating to talk to those around you for comfort. Both ideas play a huge role in Urwin's book, and they allowed me to evaluate how I act and how others may perceive me which is not something that I had previously done. I found that I was predominantly an open, caring, and loving guy which is something that this book is striving to have all men assimilate to some form of. This new found assurance that who I am is a valuable and productive member of society was just what I needed in my life at the time, thus making the messages all the more empowering and humbling. I am by no means trying to say that I am perfect, as no one is; however through this book I received comfort in the man I am becoming. 

While not everyone who reads this blog post will have gone through something that has changed them so drastically as that break up changed me, and I hope you will never have to. I do urge you to pick up this book and hear what Urwin is saying regardless of the circumstance. This book is an easy read which deals with topics that are pressing and harmful to today's society, not only does it identify the negative qualities seen in masculinity but gives a possible solution that is attainable. This solution begins with the children, we need to encourage open discussions of emotional significance and stop putting pressures on them to completely conform with gender binaries that are in society today. Though this is not something that can be implemented and take effect over night it surely is a starting point for a much needed change. 


Writing style: 
As mentioned above Urwin has a distinct writing style combining the sarcastic and witty with the inexplicably poignant. His writing is nothing that will wow you with impeccably crafted metaphors, but is more a utilitarian style to convey a message in a very succinct and clear way. 

Who should read it? 
  • Everyone who is mature enough to handle adult topics.
What groups in particular SHOULD read it? 
  • The President elect: Donald J. Trump
    • I seriously feel as though he would finally see where so many of his fellow citizens growing concerns are coming from. 
  • Greek Organizations
    • Fraternities and Sororities on college campuses everywhere. I am not saying that Greek Life is toxic in the broad sense, however it does seem to bring out the worst in guys especially when they come together. This will show how actions can hurt and have just as big of an impact as words (or not speaking about issues) can. 
  • Every one of my blogs readers!
Final Thoughts: 
This is a book written for everyone! This is not a book that is carried by men's interest groups, nor is it a book solely looking at feminist issues, this book heeds to no party. In heeding to no one specific party or line Urwin is able to openly and freely express his opinions and beliefs about the topic of "toxic masculinity".  This book will challenge what you have grown to accept as society's normalities and encourage you to reach beyond the tough barrier and change the perception of masculinity and its role within society. 


Rating: 5/5 stars!

Links: 

Happy Reading!

I hope you all saw that this book is truly an inclusive read and a constructive and valued addition to the conversation about modern Masculinity. It is truly one of my new all time favorite books!

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