Perry, Grayson The Descent of Man

ISBN 13 : 9780141981741

The Descent of Man

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***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***

Copyright © 2017 Grayson Perry

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

 

I AM  RIDING MY MOUNTAIN  BIKE THROUGH THE forest up a long, steep track. Halfway up I see a young boy, maybe nine or ten years old. He is struggling; this track is a tough challenge for anyone not used to mountain  biking, let alone a kid on a new bicycle. He can’t work the gears, and wobbles and grinds to a halt. Tears run down his face. “Dad, Dad!” he yells, sobbing. He is crying for help, but he is also in a boiling  rage. I offer to help  him,  but  he  is so angry, so ashamed, that he doesn’t acknowledge me. As I pedal past up the hill, I see the father in the distance. He is standing si- lently next to his mountain  bike, arms folded across his chest, staring at his son two hundred  meters down the hill. He also looks angry. I have seen that father’s face on a thousand soc- cer sidelines, outside a thousand school gates. It’s a face that says, “Toughen  up, don’t whine, be a man!” It’s the face of someone who hands down the rage and pain of what it is to be a man. I feel incensed on the boy’s behalf. I can’t help myself: I say to the father, “I hope your son can afford a good psycho- therapist when he grows up.” The father doesn’t respond.

I hope  that  in  picking  up  this book you have already acknowledged that masculinity needs to be questioned,  that

gender  inequality  is a huge  issue for all of us and that the

 

 

 

 

 

 

                          

world would be a better place without  it. What I hope  this small  book  might  do  is bring  awareness  of masculinity  to more  people-awareness being  a  step  toward  change,  be­ cause  many forms of masculinity can  be very destructive. If this is the first book you have bought about  gender, I am  joy­ ful.  We  need  to examine  masculinity, not  just to  prevent small boys from crying with rage at their impassive fathers on a mountain-bike ride, but to change  the whole world for the better.

Examining masculinity can seem like a luxury problem, a pastime for a wealthy, well-educated, peaceful society, but I would argue the opposite: the poorer, the more undeveloped, the more uneducated a society is, the more masculinity needs realigning with  the  modern world,  because  masculinity  is probably holding  back that society. All over the globe, crimes are committed, wars are started,  women  are being held back and economies are disastrously distorted  by men,  because  of their outdated version of masculinity.

We need to get a philosophical fingernail  under the edge of the  firmly  stuck-down  masculinity sticker  so we can  get hold of it and  rip it off. Beneath  the sticker, men  are  naked and vulnerable-human even.

It is a newsroom  cliche  that  masculinity is always some­ how "in crisis," under  threat  from pollutants such as shifting gender  roles, but to me  many  aspects  of masculinity seem such a blight on society that to say it is "in crisis" is like saying racism was "in crisis" in civil-rights-era America. Masculinity needs  to change. Some may question  this, but they are often white middle-class  men  with nice  jobs and nice families: the current state of masculinity works for them.  What  about all the  teenagers  who think  the only manly  way out of poverty

 


and dysfunction is to become  a criminal? What about all the lonely  men  who  can't  get  a  partner,  have  trouble  making friends  and  end  up killing  themselves?  What about  all  the angry men  who inflict their masculine baggage onto the rest of us? All of us males need to look at ourselves with a clear eye and  ask what  sort  of men  would  make  the  world a  better place, for everyone.

When we think  about  masculinity and  men,  the  issues

can quickly  become  scarily global and serious. A discussion about  hipster  fashions or who does the  washing-up  can  rap­ idly spiral into a debate  about  rape, war, terrorism,  religious oppression  and  predatory  capitalism. I sometimes watch the evening  news on television and think all the world's problems can be boiled down to one thing: the behavior of people with a Y chromosome. Men seem  to be the ones with the  power, the money, the guns and the criminal records. The  conse­ quences  of rogue masculinity are, I think, one of the  biggest issues, if not the  biggest issue, facing the  world today. Some forms of masculinity-particularly if starkly brutal or covertly domineering-are toxic to an equal,  free and tolerant society.

Understandably, women have led the discussion about gender.  They are the ones who have been  most oppressed  by its constraints, after all. On the subject of gender, the feelings of many men can  be summed up as "If it ain't  broke, don't fix it"; the  status quo  seems  to work for them.  But I  am  asking, "Does  it? Really?" What if half the victims of masculinity are men? Masculinity might be a straitjacket  that is keeping men from "being themselves," whatever that might mean.  In their drive for domination, men  may have neglected  to prioritize vital aspects of being wholly human, particularly issues around mental health. In their drive to be successfully masculine, men

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


may be preventing their greater self from  being successfully happy. I want to unpack what the American feminist Peggy Mcintosh calls the "invisible weightless knapsack" of male priv­ ilege, full of "special  provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks," to see if it is as much  a burden to some men as a boon.

I feel I need to say here that in no way am I setting myself against men in general,  not least because  I am one.  Nor am I against all masculinity: I can be as masculine as the next guy. This  book is about what I think  masculinity is, and question­ ing it. One of the problems when talking about masculinity is the confusion between sex (male) and gender (man). The physical, definite,  pretty  much  unchanging fact of the  male body can  make  us think  that all the  behaviors,  feelings  and culture associated  with  that  body (masculinity) are also im­ mutably  writ in flesh. For many males, being masculine, act­ ing in a manly  way, is as unquestionably a biological  part of them  as their penis  and testicles and deep voice. But mascu­ linity  is mainly  a set of habits,  traditions  and  beliefs histori­ cally associated with being a man. Our bodies take tens of millennia to evolve even slightly, but behaviors  seen as mas­ culine can  be as transient as a teenage  fad, a coal mine  or a forgotten  deity. We need to shift away from seeing masculin­ ity as a closed set of behaviors and from seeing change  as threatening, unnatural and  feminizing. I see masculinity as being how men  behave at present.  I think  it needs  to change to include  behaviors that are at present regarded  by many as feminine, behaviors  that  are  sensible,  life-enhancing  and planet-saving.

I can't  remember  the  first time  I realized  I  was male,  I

doubt  many men can, but that is at the nub of masculinity; it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


is there  at the very basement level of our identity.  Before we learn to speak or understand language, we are being indoctri­ nated  in  gender.  The  first question most  people  ask when they hear of a birth is "Is it a boy or a girl?" Once  we know the sex of a baby, we often coo over it in gendered  ways: "Isn't she beautiful?";  "Look  at  him  kick, he's  going  to  be  a  soccer player."

So masculinity is a deeply woven component of the male

psyche. But I am a transvestite; I am turned  on by dressing up in clothes that are heavily associated with being female. This is perhaps some  unconscious renunciation of being a man, or at least a fantasy flight toward femininity.  I sometimes like to pretend  I  am a woman, so from  a young  age I have felt that masculinity is optional  for someone  with a penis.  Because  I am  a transvestite, people often  assume  that  this gives me  a special  insight  into the  opposite gender.  But this is rubbish. How can  I, brought  up as a man,  know anything about  the experience of being a woman? It would be insulting to women if I  thought I did. If anything, it gives me a sharper  insight into what it is to be a man, since from the age of twelve I have been  intensely  questioning my own  masculinity.  I have had to step slightly  outside  myself, a doubter  at the  gates of the crumbling superdome of masculinity.  This  does  not  mean that I have stepped  into femininity, but it is no surprise  that I am  thoroughly fascinated   by  masculinity,  the  lumbering beast  within  me that  I  have tried  to suppress  and  negotiate with my entire  life. I have been forced by my sexuality to be­ come aware of what it is to be a "man."

As a  twelve-year-old  rummaging in  my  mother's  ward­ robe, I felt dangerously  weird and alone. I didn't even  know that such a thing as transvestism existed or that other men felt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


the same. This  feeling prompted  the  thought that masculin­ ity is an act played out blindly by many men who have had no reason  or impulse  to question what it is they are doing.  One thing I  discovered  in  investigating the  nature  of identity  for my TV series and  London exhibition  Who Are You? was that identity  is an ongoing performance, not a static  state.  The philosopher Julian  Baggini wrote that "Tis a verb masquer­ ading as a noun."

I can't  remember a time  when  I  embraced being a man fully, unquestioningly. I  am a white man, a rather  tarnished badge  to wear these days, weighted  with guilt  and shame  at the behavior of one's fellows. Manliness  for my young self was problematic. Somewhere  there  was always a nagging  suspi­ cion that masculinity was inherently wrong and needed  to be controlled. My mother  used me, her eldest son, as a sounding board to vent all her rage against men. By the age of fifteen, I had  taken  on  board  a heap  of anti-male  propaganda. Even today  I  often  catch  myself observing  and  commenting on men as if I were not one of them. Most men are nice, reason­ able fellows. But most violent  people, rapists, criminals, kill­ ers, tax avoiders, corrupt politicians, planet despoilers, sex abusers and dinner-party bores do tend to be, well ... men.

I did not have good role models. My father left when I was just four years old, and  I didn't  really have any meaningful contact with  him  until  I  was fifteen,  by which  time  I was pretty  well hardwired  with  my own  version  of masculinity and  its attendant sexuality, something that  I still have forty years later. My stepfather, with whom I lived for the majority of my childhood, was a volatile and violent  man  of whom  I was terrified. So men were unreliable, brutish, distant  and uninterested in me. I have suffered at the hands  of individual

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


men  and  with  the  constraints of gender  itself. I am  a male person, and  I have learned  to have some compassion for my­ self and hope to have compassion for males in general.  I write this book with goodwill  and in the  hope that men  will learn to flourish in a changing world.

This  is not about  writing men off: one  thing  that writing this book has made me realize is that, despite my gender dys­ phoria,  I  can  be a very traditionally  masculine man.  There is a corny saying in therapy circles, "If you spot it, you've got it;'  which  means  that  if you  notice  behavior  in  others,  it's probably because  you behave  in the same  way. I have been masculinity-spotting for quite a while now, and note I display quite acutely some of the  traits we associate with  men.  I am very  competitive  and  territorial,   particularly  toward  other men. I often ask other men  about this and  they usually deny bristling at rivals or having any other such man moments, which leaves me feeling like I  am a macho monster for admitting  to wanting to get one over on other guys in petty ways. Maybe my circumstances, being a transvestite and an artist, mean that I am less invested in society's ideals of masculinity  than  many men and that therefore I am  willing to pick them  out and question them, even in myself. I feel I have nothing to lose but some anti­ social habits.

When I was growing  up, my unconscious dealt  with the issue of masculinity in a very particular way: it handed  the role over to my teddy bear. Maybe at some level I sensed that being fully the man I could be was dangerous in a house with my...

Revue de presse :

“Perry is an eloquent and witty tour guide through the fun house that is modern masculinity. He wants us guys to be weirder, freer, less predictable. He’s just the man for the job.”—The New York Times

“Witty... A funny, engaging, and at times penetrating trek through the tricky landscape of contemporary masculinity...a slim book, but it packs plenty of surprises per page.”NPR

"Conversational and engaging... [Perry is] less concerned with apologizing for masculinity than he is in persuading men about all the ways in which it’s damaging their lives.”—The Atlantic

"In a world where a man who talks openly about kissing and grabbing women without consent can be taken seriously as a candidate for leader of the 'free' world, you may wonder how toxic masculinity has spun out of control. As an antidote to all the bully posturing, perhaps the wisdom of a famous cross-dressing artist can help explain how we got here and how we can move forward, so it is time to pick up Grayson Perry's The Descent of Man and begin to unravel the mystery of toxic masculinity."Huffington Post

“Grayson Perry for King and Queen of England.”—Caitlin Moran, New York Times bestselling author of How to Be a Woman

"With its non-macho slender girth and personal, engaging approach, [The Descent of Man] is a breeze of a read, and one that makes you see our male-manufactured world a little differently."—Matt Haig, The Guardian

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ISBN 10 : 0241236274 ISBN 13 : 9780241236277
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Grayson Perry
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Description du livre Penguin Books Ltd, United Kingdom, 2017. Paperback. Etat : New. Language: English. Brand new Book. 'A breeze of a read, makes you see our male-manufactured world a little differently' Matt Haig'GRAYSON PERRY FOR KING AND QUEEN OF ENGLAND. Imagine how BRILLIANT our country would look if he was' Caitlin MoranGrayson Perry has been thinking about masculinity - what it is, how it operates, why little boys are thought to be made of slugs and snails - since he was a boy. Now, in this funny and necessary book, he turns round to look at men with a clear eye and ask, what sort of men would make the world a better place, for everyone?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?Grayson Perry admits he's not immune from the stereotypes himself - as the psychoanalysts say, 'if you spot it, you've got it' - and his thoughts on everything from power to physical appearance, from emotions to a brand new Manifesto for Men, are shot through with honesty, tenderness and the belief that, for everyone to benefit, upgrading masculinity has to be something men decide to do themselves. They have nothing to lose but their hang-ups. N° de réf. du vendeur AAZ9780141981741

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Description du livre Penguin Books Ltd, United Kingdom, 2017. Paperback. Etat : New. Language: English. Brand new Book. 'A breeze of a read, makes you see our male-manufactured world a little differently' Matt Haig'GRAYSON PERRY FOR KING AND QUEEN OF ENGLAND. Imagine how BRILLIANT our country would look if he was' Caitlin MoranGrayson Perry has been thinking about masculinity - what it is, how it operates, why little boys are thought to be made of slugs and snails - since he was a boy. Now, in this funny and necessary book, he turns round to look at men with a clear eye and ask, what sort of men would make the world a better place, for everyone?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?Grayson Perry admits he's not immune from the stereotypes himself - as the psychoanalysts say, 'if you spot it, you've got it' - and his thoughts on everything from power to physical appearance, from emotions to a brand new Manifesto for Men, are shot through with honesty, tenderness and the belief that, for everyone to benefit, upgrading masculinity has to be something men decide to do themselves. They have nothing to lose but their hang-ups. N° de réf. du vendeur BTA9780141981741

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