The Hearts of Men

EPUB EBook by Barbara Ehrenreich

EBook Description

This book does something very important. The Hearts of Men EPUB EBook It shows that, contrary to a myth held in different forms by both feminists and their enemies, second- EPUBwave feminism didn't march into the 1960s to break up a settled relationship between the sexes, suddenly freeing women to experience productive work and form independent identities as men could.Instead, feminism corresponded to a male movement that was already underway, as American men rejected the stable breadwinner ideal they were expected to meet after the Second World War.

Conventional wisdom in the 1950s, Ehrenreich writes, held that young men would find fulfillment only in marriage and fatherhood.Psychologists and psychoanalysts like Hendrik Ruitenbeek, Therese Bendek, Erik Erikson, and R. J. Havinhurst popularized a conception of "maturity" that placed the role of breadwinner at the peak of male mental development and independence.By the early 1960s, however, it was becoming clear to some of them that this ideal was unpalatable to many American men, and that it even inspired neuroses.Frequently, the experts (and other cultural authorities such as novelists) strongly implied that the dread of the breadwinner role was evidence of homosexual tendencies, which were signs of arrested adolescence. Psychoanalyst Lionel Ovesey, for example, wrote a case study about a 23-year-old homosexual: "'He lived alone and his social existence was a chaotic one, characterized by impulsive midnight swims and hitchhiking.'" This young man, Ovesey continued, was uninterested in having a career (25).

In fact, by the late 1950s, American novelists and sociologists were describing a new type of man: the "gray flannel rebel" who outwardly "lived by the rules" of domesticity — married young, found a white-collar job, fit in at neighborhood gatherings — but feared the flesh-creeping dullness of what he invariably called "conformity" (29-30).Such a man might become alcoholic or indulge in unspoken radical ideas.Richard Yates's novel Revolutionary Road described such an uneasy young man; download; so did David Riesman's bestselling 1950 sociological treatise The Lonely Crowd, and William F. Whyte's The Organization Man, and Alan Harrington's Life in the Crystal Palace.What they were describing, Ehrenreich points out, was precisely "the masculine equivalent of what Betty Friedan would soon describe as 'the problem without a name'" (30). These mainstream authors, though, rarely saw a way out of the comfortably stifling dreariness of the American home.

While these authors fretted, an overt masculine rebellion was already in progress.In December 1953, Hugh Hefner published the first edition of Playboy.In a perceptive analysis, Ehrenreich points out that Hefner positioned himself as the champion of men oppressed by the obligation to marry — as the enemy not of women per se, but of wives and prospective wives.In an early issue, Burt Zollo succinctly explained the magazine's vision of liberation: "'Take a good look at the sorry, regimented husbands trudging down every woman-dominated street in this woman-dominated land.Check what they're doing when you're out on the town with a different dish every night'" (47).The magazine and its readers believed in freedom from the committed home.By 1956, Playboy had a circulation of one million, and its founders were millionaires by 1960.

The Beats had a similar vision of masculine liberation, but unlike Playboy, they attacked middle-class employment as well as middle-class marriage. Contrary to the "Beatnik" stereotype, which suggested that the Beats were mild and effeminate, the real Beats celebrated raw energy and (generally nonviolent) forms of aggression as release from the confinement they endured in American society. Their escape included escape from domesticity, and provoked outraged reaction from not only conservatives but also Playboy writers, who saw the Beats as a rival rebel group. (Playboy, in a three-article series in 1958, claimed that the Beats did not enjoy sex.) Ehrenreich believes that the fascination many "square" Americans had with Beat culture suggests that their critique touched a nerve.

Medical researchers also detected a male malaise in the 1950s, but they worried about the shorter life expectancy of the average male. When Ashley Montagu wrote in 1952 on The Natural Superiority of Women, he claimed that the Y chromosome was deficient, and that women were naturally healthier thanks to their "'two well-appointed, well-furnished X chromosomes'" (70). Soon, however, medical writers began to blame the male workday for early death.In 1956, Hans Selye began to publicize the idea that stress is responsible for heart disease, and in 1961 Fred Kerner popularized the idea with Stress and Your Heart.(When, in the 1970s, women began to enter the American workforce in large numbers, Selye warned that they would become vulnerable to the same heart attacks, ulcers, and high blood pressure that affected men.)But this had the disturbing implication that there was something wrong with the middle-class male ideal.Cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman proposed, in research widely publicized in 1963, that some men had a "Type A" personality that was naturally disposed to take admirable male workplace characteristics to an extreme, even to the point of self-destruction.Men, therefore, did not need to worry about the postwar breadwinner ideal itself, but that they might have a natural vulnerability to excessive devotion to success.

In psychology, however, a humanistic revolution was afoot.The Human Potential Movement and Gestalt therapy, under the influence of Abraham Maslow and Fritz Perls, respectively, suggested that personal growth might not find its peak in a particular family arrangement.Men and women alike should seek boundless growth in any fulfilling direction — and men, therefore, need not conform to a stifling ideal of manhood within marriage and work.

These developments set the stage for the sexual politics of the 1960s and following decades.In the counterculture of the 1960s, "anti-Communist machismo" was opposed with an "androgynous vision," and men began to wear long hair, flowing clothes, and flowers as signs of freedom.In the 1970s, the number of men living alone nearly doubled, to 6.8 million, and even some pornographic magazines stressed the value of liberating men from masculine stereotypes. (There was, in the 1970s, an interesting relationship between masculinity and class; the films of the period tended to equate machismo with ignorance and the working class, and relative androgyny with refinement.)And in the 1980s, Republican anti-feminists engaged in what Ehrenreich, in a nice but potentially misleading reversal, calls "backlash" against male liberation; Phyllis Schlafly portrayed men as naturally disposed to abandon their wives and lovers if not constrained by the law to support them.

The great historical weakness of Ehrenreich's book is common to a lot of feminist literature: Ehrenreich seems to see the state of the American family at the beginning of her study as essentially stable.One never gets a clear sense of the reality — that the middle-class career-breadwinner role was itself a fairly recent development in the 1950s.The male "flight from commitment" she describes was not a flight from an immemorial male role, but from a certain postindustrial and postwar state of mind.Thus, she does not distinguish very well between the different sorts of stability to which American men have been committed in the past, and to which — if she is as ambivalent about male liberation as I think she is — they might be able to reattach themselves in the future. Like this book? Read online this: Male Witches in Early Modern Europe, Hearts Awakened (Hearts of the South, #6).

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