As a male who has long been interested in gender topics, a female friend who personally knows the writer recommended me Anne Dickson's book. Consequently I eagerly purchased a copy with the optimistic hope that the book would reflect a more mature and scholarly 21st century perspective than the simplistic feminist party line of the 1970's and 80's, which insisted that the woes of the world are caused entirely by men. Sadly Ms Dickson simply reinforces this outmoded and discredited view and her rather short book (99 pages) seems little more than an outdated rant against the so-called "evils of patriarchy", which unfortunately will do little to endear even the most sympathetic of males to the valid cause of feminism.
Ms Dickson makes so many generalizations and dubious assumptions that it would take a book rather than a review to address them all. One example, however, is where she repeats the standard feminist belief that for over thirty thousand years matriarchal societies flourished until patriarchy was brutally imposed on women around 4000 BC. This foundation myth, popularly promoted by the late Marija Gimbutas to mention only one feminist, has long been discredited by objective historical research but is still the official view of many women to the present day. Fortunately Cynthia Eller, also a feminist writer and scholar, has done much to dispel this feminist foundation myth and it is unhelpful that Ms Dickson continues to promote this fallacy by asserting that men are the enemy who are responsible for all that is wrong with society.
Ms Dickson makes many other unfounded assumptions based on little or no evidence, such that men perceive a woman's body as somehow inferior and relegate it to object status. Does this mean that every man who is physically attracted to a female is exercising a superior and exploitative attitude? It seems highly unlikely because sexual attraction primarily is nature's method of ensuring that humans procreate for the continuing survival of our species. In addition to that, on page 72 Ms Dickson lists 15 recurring problems experienced by women, such as: "I don't know how to challenge unfair criticism" and "I keep quiet even when I'm being put down". But these personal issues of inadequacy are not confined solely to women; many men experience them too. There are women today in the political, academic and corporate world who would intimidate the strongest of men and it seems disingenuous to state that strong women are merely mimicking men and consequently falling victim to patriarchal conditioning. It seems more likely that the issue of power is not gender-based, but human-based; it is a problem of human nature.
To sum up, I would say that Ms Dickson's book is a sadly missed opportunity to educate and enlighten those men who genuinely yearn to support women in an unjust and corrupt world, but who themselves are also victims of our flawed humanity. In that sense the content of the book, I would say, dramatically fails to conform to the promise of the title, which is to teach men to be feminist.