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Jennifer Tipping "Notes from the driving seat" (UK)

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Stand By Your Manhood: An Essential Guide for Modern Men
Stand By Your Manhood: An Essential Guide for Modern Men
Price: £4.41

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating, if slightly vitriolic, discussion of modern manhood, 3 Jun. 2015
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Simone de Beauvoir wrote of man "He is the Subject; he is the Absolute. She is the Other." Since that time feminists have been successful in seeking to regain female subjecthood. But what this feminist narrative obscures is that while the male may historically be the norm in our society, it is also its own sex with its own concerns and viewpoint. This book sets out to speak from that viewpoint and raise the concerns of modern manhood, and does a pretty good job of it.

Lloyd explores issues in contemporary masculinity and debunks some myths about how women have it so hard and men have it easy. It was fascinating to read about parenthood from a male perspective, both the issue of unwanted fatherhood and the attendant financial implications; but also of men who wanted to be fathers but now have no access to their children due to resentful ex-partners and the court system which supports them. The chapter on the development of the male contraceptive pill was insightful and I had no idea that circumcision leads to such a loss in sexual response, although once it is pointed out, it is obvious. We hear all the time about the horror of female genital mutilation, but none about male.

Germaine Greer writes in The Whole Woman about the medicalisation of womanhood and sees the fact that women are forced to be scanned and examined throughout their lives while men escape the indignity as evidence that the medical profession seeks to own women's bodies. This book takes the opposite viewpoint and sees the same fact as evidence that men are unfairly treated by the self-same medical profession, and essentially left to die.

While this book contains some really useful stuff, it is not without its problems. At times, quite a few times in fact, the anti-feminist vitriol dilutes what is otherwise a valid message. There is little warmth in it. It purports to be in praise of masculinity but does not actually show many of the good points about masculinity, rather concentrates on the bad points of the feminist narrative. This may be because the author doesn't realise the good bits of masculinity because he has spent so long swallowing and then resisting the feminist narrative, but it may just be because he is blinded by anger at that narrative. On occasions he also seems to betray a desire to simply win the battle of the sexes "Us men are often brilliant at comedy, so let's use it for the last laugh" which is a shame. As far as I am concerned, as soon as you frame it as a battle, we have all lost already.

It is clearly a conversation that needs to be had. While I have a lot of sympathy for his thesis that the current feminist narrative allows for man-bashing in a way that would never be allowed the other way round, I don't see that bashing feminists is the best way to go about it. I completely agree, however, that the narratives of manhood need to be challenged and more positive and nuanced ones developed and this book is unafraid of standing against the current trend of seeing men as feckless, stupid and untrustworthy.

While he mentions a few other books to read, (which I may well try), this book seems to be pretty new in its scope and the author had a lot of resistance to publishing it, so if it serves as a catalyst for others to join in the conversation about masculinity then great and I look forward to reading them.

Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us)
Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us)
by Tom Vanderbilt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Traffic: You will never look at a traffic jam in the same way again., 19 April 2010
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In this book, Tom Vanderbilt looks at the subject of traffic from an eclectic range of perspectives. Covering driving psychology, social-anthropology, economics and traffic engineering, among others, he gives a comprehensive and original view of this uniquely human phenomenon. He shows the picture on the world's roads as it truly is, not how drivers, politicians or transport planners would want it to be.

In one chapter he covers the cognitive process of driving, based on the fact that humans did not evolve to travel at speeds of 60+ mph and so our sensory organs are not designed to work at such speeds. In another he covers calculations of risk, both ours and the insurance industry's. In another he shows how driving norms have evolved differently in different countries. And he achieves all this with an entertaining wit and a lot of useful pub facts.

Books about driving are often either testosterone-fuelled rants or so bogged down in finger-wagging minutiae they make The Highway Code look exciting. Despite being full of information, this book is an easy and enjoyable read and takes a warm and personal view of people on the move in all their wonderful irrational multiplicity.

I bought this book because I work in the industry. I would recommend it because it is really good!

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