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I'm Afraid of Men

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A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl--and how we might re-imagine gender for the twenty-first century. Vivek Shraya has reason to be afraid. Throughout her life she's endured acts of cruelty and aggression for being too feminine as a boy and not feminine enough as a girl. In order to survive childhood, she A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl--and how we might re-imagine gender for the twenty-first century. Vivek Shraya has reason to be afraid. Throughout her life she's endured acts of cruelty and aggression for being too feminine as a boy and not feminine enough as a girl. In order to survive childhood, she had to learn to convincingly perform masculinity. As an adult, she makes daily compromises to steel herself against everything from verbal attacks to heartbreak. With raw honesty, Shraya delivers an important record of the cumulative damage caused by misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, releasing trauma from a body that has always refused to assimilate. I'm Afraid of Men is a journey from camouflage to a riot of color and a blueprint for how we might cherish all that makes us different and conquer all that makes us afraid.


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A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl--and how we might re-imagine gender for the twenty-first century. Vivek Shraya has reason to be afraid. Throughout her life she's endured acts of cruelty and aggression for being too feminine as a boy and not feminine enough as a girl. In order to survive childhood, she A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl--and how we might re-imagine gender for the twenty-first century. Vivek Shraya has reason to be afraid. Throughout her life she's endured acts of cruelty and aggression for being too feminine as a boy and not feminine enough as a girl. In order to survive childhood, she had to learn to convincingly perform masculinity. As an adult, she makes daily compromises to steel herself against everything from verbal attacks to heartbreak. With raw honesty, Shraya delivers an important record of the cumulative damage caused by misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, releasing trauma from a body that has always refused to assimilate. I'm Afraid of Men is a journey from camouflage to a riot of color and a blueprint for how we might cherish all that makes us different and conquer all that makes us afraid.

30 review for I'm Afraid of Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lola

    Sometimes I read 300 or more-page books and I wonder if I read anything at all. Not everything I stumble across has to make me look at the world differently or teach me over and over, but I want something memorable because it’s more much valuable than a book that provides you with the kind of instant pleasure and happiness that you’ll forget about two days later. This very short book, not even 100 pages long, had my mind pausing on some of the interactions I have had with guys. So much of what Sometimes I read 300 or more-page books and I wonder if I read anything at all. Not everything I stumble across has to make me look at the world differently or teach me over and over, but I want something memorable because it’s more much valuable than a book that provides you with the kind of instant pleasure and happiness that you’ll forget about two days later. This very short book, not even 100 pages long, had my mind pausing on some of the interactions I have had with guys. So much of what Vivek Shraya shares in here is a punch in the heart because it’s oh so true. She chose carefully which episodes from her life she wanted to share, but these episodes are meaningful and raw and provide comfort at times. Two months ago, I was hanging out with this guy I liked. We had fun conversations online and I met him three years before. So I thought we could try hanging out in real life to see if we connect. He seemed so sweet online and through the phone. So we did that. Turns out he was a nice person to be around and I started to like his real life version a lot quickly because of our previous conversations. But the moment I let him know I found him attractive and allowed him to touch me, our interactions went from friendly to… something I didn’t really understand. Until, you know, he said he wanted to be friends with benefits. Did not see it coming. That and Shraya made me realize that once a guy is aware that he is attractive to you, he feels as though he is permitted to touch you or flirt with you or even say vulgar things like, ‘‘If you want a guy to believe in butterflies in the stomach, suck his d*…’’ Other times, they don’t even need that confirmation… Obviously I’m not sharing everything… But I have to say that I overlooked a lot of the things this guy said to me because I liked his attention and he seemed to care. Did he really care? Probably not. I also participated in the flirting because he liked it a lot but now I wish I had behaved more like Shraya and refused to flirt back because although some of those conversations were exciting… they often left me feeling a bit empty inside. And being over-sexualized over and over is not the best feeling in the world. But, well, you learn. And you slowly start thinking about what YOUR needs are and what YOU deserve and makes YOU feel good. You know what the saddest part is? Even though I found that guy attractive and he let me know he didn’t want a girlfriend, I was okay with being just friends. But the flirting continued… and continued… and what’s the point? It’s not meaningful. It’s not going anywhere. So, I guess, I’m afraid of men too sometimes because I don’t know what’s in their heads and I don’t know what they mean and don’t mean. I don’t know if they’re interested in me because I have a refreshing point of view to them or because they like my body. I feel like I never will know these things until I ask or until I stop overlooking. If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. Although Shraya is over suspicious, I think she is right to be so aware in the world and be careful and ready to bolt if a situation starts going downhill because the opposite—being too trusting and caring too fast and wanting to fix things that have no business being fixed—is much, much worse. Blog | Youtube | Twitter | Instagram | Google+ | Bloglovin’

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Pham

    A short yet sobering book written with raw honesty and valuable insights of how we treat women and people within the LGBT+ community. I was surprised to find myself gaining new perspectives based on the questions that Shraya asks, particularly with how we put men on a binary between “good”/“bad”, and the distinction between identifying as LGBT+ and being expected to have no boundaries. I think if this were a full-length memoir, I would have easily rated it 5 stars; however, this 96-page book A short yet sobering book written with raw honesty and valuable insights of how we treat women and people within the LGBT+ community. I was surprised to find myself gaining new perspectives based on the questions that Shraya asks, particularly with how we put men on a binary between “good”/“bad”, and the distinction between identifying as LGBT+ and being expected to have no boundaries. I think if this were a full-length memoir, I would have easily rated it 5 stars; however, this 96-page book could improve with being more cohesive and organized. Dividing the writing into sections like “Me” and “You” feels arbitrary, especially when she jumps between different timelines as she recalls experiences. I think the book would have been better if she had organized them either chronologically or by subject matter; instead, it feels like a random series of thoughts (even though they are important).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    A vulnerable, powerful examination of gender and masculinity from trans artist Vivek Shraya. I’m Afraid of Men reminded me of We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as Shraya uses her personal experiences of sexism and harassment to build a case for why we need to redefine and rebuild masculinity as well as gender overall. She shares her lived experience as a trans person of color with courage and incision, both the pain she has felt at the hands of men and misogynistic women A vulnerable, powerful examination of gender and masculinity from trans artist Vivek Shraya. I’m Afraid of Men reminded me of We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as Shraya uses her personal experiences of sexism and harassment to build a case for why we need to redefine and rebuild masculinity as well as gender overall. She shares her lived experience as a trans person of color with courage and incision, both the pain she has felt at the hands of men and misogynistic women and how she wants us all to move forward to create a better world. A short paragraph in which she reflects on what she wishes she had learned growing up as a boy: "When I was learning to be a man, I wish that instead of the coaching I received to take up space, I had been taught to be respectful of space. To be ever conscious of and ever grateful to those whose sacred land I inhabit. To be mindful of the space and bodies of others, especially feminine bodies. To never presume that I am permitted to touch the body of another, no matter how queer the space. To give up or create space when I am afforded more than others." Though this book falls on the shorter side, Shraya shares many insights that I wish more people thought of. She discusses how our expectations for men are way too low, how the idea of a “good man” prevents us from positively reinforcing specific behaviors men should practice more, and how the gender binary makes us all feel afraid. I’m Afraid of Men has both intellectual and emotional honesty. As someone who has also felt afraid of men throughout his life because of how they have hurt me, I appreciated Shraya’s personal disclosures a lot and they made me feel connected and less alone, despite the differences in our social identities. Recommended to anyone who wants a succinct yet compelling exploration of gender, as well as for people who have a difficulty trusting men. I’ll end this review with another earnest passage toward the end of the book: "I wonder what my life might have been like if my so-called feminine tendencies, such as being sensitive, or my interests, such as wearing my mother's clothing, or even my body had not been gendered or designated as either feminine or masculine at all. Despite the ways in which my gender felt enforced, I sometimes miss elements of my masculine past, like the thickness of my beard or the once impressive width of my biceps. Maybe this missing is actually mourning in disguise, for having to surrender aspects of my appearance I worked hard to achieve. Or maybe I'm mourning a life that I still don't get to fully live because it's one I continue to have to defend and authenticate. What if I didn't have to give up any characteristics, especially ones I like, to outwardly prove I am a girl? What if living my truth now didn't immediately render everything that came before, namely my manhood, a lie?"

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    This was such a powerful book - I must admit: I knew very little about transsexuals - and I had no idea how many different ways rejection impacted their perception of self and identity. To constantly have to 'check' yourself as far as a 'gender meter' (am I too feminine for this group - too masculine for this group) seems to me to be a burden that would be overwhelming. Vivek is raw and honest about how life treats this community and how quickly allies can turn away from you if you do not meet This was such a powerful book - I must admit: I knew very little about transsexuals - and I had no idea how many different ways rejection impacted their perception of self and identity. To constantly have to 'check' yourself as far as a 'gender meter' (am I too feminine for this group - too masculine for this group) seems to me to be a burden that would be overwhelming. Vivek is raw and honest about how life treats this community and how quickly allies can turn away from you if you do not meet their expectations - a powerful and important book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    A worthwhile, sobering account of Shraya's own experiences with toxic masculinity and societal expectations of gender roles; hardly unfamiliar topics if you read a lot of this kind of nonfiction, but Shraya's perspective as a queer trans woman of color is a valuable addition to the discourse, and I'd highly recommend this over a lot of similar books, especially if you're looking for something short and punchy. My only issue is that at 96 pages (or under 2 hours on audio, whichis how I consumed A worthwhile, sobering account of Shraya's own experiences with toxic masculinity and societal expectations of gender roles; hardly unfamiliar topics if you read a lot of this kind of nonfiction, but Shraya's perspective as a queer trans woman of color is a valuable addition to the discourse, and I'd highly recommend this over a lot of similar books, especially if you're looking for something short and punchy.  My only issue is that at 96 pages (or under 2 hours on audio, which is how I consumed it) this text sort of awkwardly sits in between long-form article and book in a way that suffers occasionally for its brevity.  Shraya's societal observations are where this book shines, consistently; it's in the details of her own life that the reader is left a bit wanting.  But as this is more essay than memoir it's hard to fault it too much for that.  This was a very eye-opening read that I can see myself revisiting again and again.

  6. 4 out of 5

    CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian

    4.5! Moving, accessible, important: that's what this book is! I loved it. My only complaint is that it was so short! Full review to come on my blog. "What if you were to challenge yourself every time you feel afraid of me, and all of us who are pushing against gendered expectations and restrictions? What if you cherished us as archetypes of realized potential? What if you were to surrender to sublime possibility, yours and mine? Might you then free me at last of my fear and of your own?"

  7. 5 out of 5

    l.

    Tbh Vivek just isn’t in command of her material here. The way Vivek continually conflates femininity and women is extremely irritating and I’m fed up of trans writers doing this. I’m tried of people substituting the word feminine for female - which Vivek does repeatedly. They’re not interchangeable. If you can discuss male privilege and behaviours, you can acknowledge that female people exist. We are not just non-males. Really the book’s biggest problem is that it claims to be about misogyny but Tbh Vivek just isn’t in command of her material here. The way Vivek continually conflates femininity and women is extremely irritating and I’m fed up of trans writers doing this. I’m tried of people substituting the word feminine for female - which Vivek does repeatedly. They’re not interchangeable. If you can discuss male privilege and behaviours, you can acknowledge that female people exist. We are not just non-males. Really the book’s biggest problem is that it claims to be about misogyny but really it’s on toxic masculinity. I don’t believe that toxic masculinity is a useful concept but that is what this book is about. For example, calling gay men groping gay men in a gay bar misogyny.... it’s not. Also, the whole homophobia is just misogyny point is one I find irritating. Maybe homophobia is based in misogyny, but how is saying that helpful, how is it clarifying. How is calling men shaming other men for not being muscular misogyny helpful? Here, it comes across as an attempt to argue that male people - including cis men - suffer from misogyny just as much as women. An attempt by Vivek to wrap up a bunch of their negative experiences by labelling them all the product of misogyny. Pass. Being a gender non conforming person is scary and lonely and hard but this analysis is Just Bad.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me fear. I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the word girl by turning it into a weapon they used to hurt me. I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me to hate and eventually destroy my femininity. I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the extraordinary parts of myself. As per her current author blurb, “Vivek Shrayais an artist whose body of work crosses the boundaries of music, poetry, fiction, I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me fear. I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the word girl by turning it into a weapon they used to hurt me. I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me to hate and eventually destroy my femininity. I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the extraordinary parts of myself. As per her current author blurb, “Vivek Shraya is an artist whose body of work crosses the boundaries of music, poetry, fiction, visual art, and film”, and in I'm Afraid of Men – truly more a long essay than a full-length book – she uses stories from her unusual life to illustrate her journey from being born a boy who was always accused of being too feminine, to coming out as a gay man – who was then accused of not being buff enough to fit into the gay culture – to eventually transitioning into a woman, who is now accused of not being feminine enough. Throughout this process of self-discovery, Shraya has learned to be afraid of men (and women, too) who would confront nonconformity with violence, and while some of her declarative statements weren't quite self-evident to me, I think that hers is an important voice to add to any conversation about gender or sexual nonconformity. Hearing stories about how other people live helps to move them into familiar territory; familiarity must lead to acceptance and safety; here's to a world in which Shraya is no longer afraid of men. (Note: I read an ARC and quotes may not be in their final forms.) I have to admit that it challenges me to have Shraya describe her time when she presented as a gay man – someone who was butch and buff, spoke in a low register, dressed in neutrals and plaid – and then say that she spent ten of those years in a relationship with a woman. Ultimately describing herself as “a queer trans girl”, Shraya was still presenting as this butch gay man when she met her current boyfriend, and was together with him for a while before she even realised she wanted to transition; it challenges me to think that this boyfriend would stay along for the ride as his male partner became a female (or rather, began to outwardly express that part of herself). Yet, I like being challenged in this thinking; who or how other people decide to love doesn't affect me at all. Even so, some of Shraya's most politically progressive statements made me raise an eyebrow: • On the heirarchy of harassment, staring is the least violent consequence for my gender nonconformity that I could hope for. • In this particular relationship, the process of exposure is especially protracted by how jarring it feels to see my (brown) skin against your pale skin, the skin of the oppressor. • Whether it's through an emphasis on being large and muscular, or asserting dominance by an extended or intimidating stride on sidewalks, being loud in bars, manspreading on public transit, or enacting harm or violence on others, taking up space is a form of misogyny because so often the space that men try to seize and dominate belongs to women and gender-nonconforming people. But again, I'd rather be challenged in my thinking than read only things that chime with what I already think I believe; and this book gives me plenty to think on. As for what solutions Shraya offers, that was challenging as well: Out of this fear comes a desire not only to reimagine masculinity but to blur gendered boundaries altogether and celebrate gender creativity. It's not enough to let go of the misplaced hope for a good or a better man. It's not enough to honour femininity. Both of these options might offer a momentary respite from the dangers of masculinity, but in the end they only perpetuate a binary and the pressure that bears down when we live at different ends of the spectrum. Just as Shraya now appreciates the “chest hair – a black flame rising from my bra – more than I ever did when I was a boy who regularly waxed and trimmed to adhere to the '90s standard”, she can see a future where “gender creativity” is celebrated and everyone walks down the street, expressing themselves fluidly and without fear of violence. I don't know if I can quite see that future, but I do firmly believe that the first step in any cultural revolution is listening to the stories of others and embracing them as part of the larger human story. I wish for Shraya that fear-free future.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    I would be lying if I said that the title didn’t have a huge influence on my intrigue in this initially, however, this book ended up giving me way more insight than I could have ever guessed. Exploring masculinity from the perspective of a trans woman through her experiences both pre and post transition, Vivek Shraya delivers a very raw take on how misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia has impacted her life. A particularly insightful part in this for me was Shraya’s take on the ‘good man’: In I would be lying if I said that the title didn’t have a huge influence on my intrigue in this initially, however, this book ended up giving me way more insight than I could have ever guessed. Exploring masculinity from the perspective of a trans woman through her experiences both pre and post transition, Vivek Shraya delivers a very raw take on how misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia has impacted her life. A particularly insightful part in this for me was Shraya’s take on the ‘good man’: In spite of my negative experiences, I’ve maintained a robust attachment to the idea of the “good man.” A common theme in my encounters and relationships is my certainty that the men I have admired were “good”, a synonym for “different from the rest.” The attachment to the promise of goodness is what left me bereft when, in various ways, I discovered that each of these men wasn’t “one of the good guys.” She goes on to talk about how instead of categorizing men (or anyone, really) as ‘good’, that we value specific characteristics one possesses such as communication, dependability, and the like. If we are to focus on specific characteristics as opposed to categorizing people as generally ‘good’, it not only eliminates the elevated image we’ve created of them, but unlike how being ‘good’ cancels out when one does something ‘bad’, these character attributes can coexist alongside one another. Although I can’t speak to experiences one faces in the LGBTQ+ community, I can relate to the experiences and scenarios presented that affect women on a daily basis. What I liked about this was also that it didn’t skip past the fact that women who defend or feed into misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia are equally to blame. Overall, I thought this was very well written, and at 96 pages, the only thing I wish is that it was longer.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kiki

    How to describe this book? It's essentially an almanac of whining. Shraya, born into privilege and now a university professor after struggling for many years to achieve fame as a pop star, enumerates the ways in which she's felt oppressed, or even made slightly uncomfortable, by men (and women -- basically everyone) through the years. I was excited for something substantive, but this was insufferable.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lydia

    I used to work for an LGBTQ+ non-profit, and part of my job was reading and researching books, journals and other forms of media. It was exhausting. It killed my ability to read for pleasure. I was tired, often, of reading the same statistics, experiencing the same pain the community experiences in such a volume. I read everything from more recent, modern texts to memoirs from the 80's, historical documents, comics, personal anecdotes. Largely, many of the ways we experience queerphobia and I used to work for an LGBTQ+ non-profit, and part of my job was reading and researching books, journals and other forms of media. It was exhausting. It killed my ability to read for pleasure. I was tired, often, of reading the same statistics, experiencing the same pain the community experiences in such a volume. I read everything from more recent, modern texts to memoirs from the 80's, historical documents, comics, personal anecdotes. Largely, many of the ways we experience queerphobia and transphobia have shifted, but the way they make us feel is the same. Of course, there was so much queer and trans joy too, but I was immersed in these videos, books, journals and magazines personally, professionally and emotionally. A labour of love, and it was wonderful to hear from so many people in my community. But it was a deep and tiring commitment. Then I read this book. People always call Vivek Shraya's work raw, and while it was an emotionality all its own, her level of craft, care and execution is exceptional. How can I even begin to review this book? To talk about how she examines gender and toxic masculinity, how she relates it to her own experience? Shraya is exceptional because she proves that you cannot critically examine something without speaking to its emotional power. You cannot critically examine the performative nature of gender without speaking to personal anecdotes. Those anecdotes, those experiences make that concept come to life. As always, lines in this book floor me completely. “Queerness is associated with freedom from boundaries.” I read an exhausting number of queer books for my work, and somehow, Vivek Shraya's I'm Afraid of Men triumphed over all of that and gave me back my love of reading. I'll always be grateful for that. And imagine, just for a minute, that you are a trans youth. And you read this book. Vivek's power is immeasurable, but her love is too.

  12. 4 out of 5

    MissBecka

    I enjoyed Vivek's internal awareness both of the things she has done and had done to her and the consequences of both sides of that. It was eloquent. I've just read much grittier work from people dealing with similar problems. Overall it's okay and a very quick read, so check it out.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Callum McLaughlin

    Phenomenal. This book should be required reading. To say so much, so succinctly, about the pervasive harm of masculine energy, whilst offering hope for a better future, is frankly awe inspiring. I am neither trans nor a person of colour, as Shraya is. For that reason, I would never deign to suggest I understand the extent of fear and suppression she has experienced. That said, as a gay man, I still felt so seen by this book. I don’t hate that I’m gay, but I hate that being gay makes me constantly Phenomenal. This book should be required reading. To say so much, so succinctly, about the pervasive harm of masculine energy, whilst offering hope for a better future, is frankly awe inspiring. I am neither trans nor a person of colour, as Shraya is. For that reason, I would never deign to suggest I understand the extent of fear and suppression she has experienced. That said, as a gay man, I still felt so seen by this book. I don’t hate that I’m gay, but I hate that being gay makes me constantly police my own body language, appearance, and behaviour, through fear of ridicule, aggression and intimidation (all of which I have experienced as a queer person). I’ve never seen an author capture so eloquently and vividly how exhausting and frustrating it is to feel compelled to live your life this way, nor the kind of self-loathing it incites. This, in itself, helps to systematically uphold the patriarchy, the fear teaching us to publicly reject the parts of ourselves that ascribe to traditional feminine norms. The use of direct address when relaying stories lends the book an intense immediacy. I also adored how nuanced and intersectional it is. No one is spared their rightful lampooning, with Shraya highlighting the kind of prejudices brought on by life under a misogynistic regime that plague us all: The gay men who are repulsed by the thought of vaginas; cis people who refuse to accept their trans counterparts; the ones who invalidate bisexual relationships; the straight women who have internalised misogyny to such an extent that they actively uphold heteronormative societal roles, and stand by in the face of injustice. The book is also very self-aware, Shraya pointing out that queer and non-conforming people don’t want pity, and shouldn’t have to share experiences of trauma to earn respect or understanding. And yet, here we are, the shock of reality sometimes all we have to fall back on to be given a platform or taken seriously. Shraya ultimately asks us to destroy the pedestal that upholds the concept of ‘The Good Man’. With the standard of ‘goodness’ in cis/straight men set so low, it excuses the failings of the typical man. We all have to strive for better. By dismissing gendered expectations, we will all be free to explore and express ourselves as individuals. After all, if there are no set roles to conform to, there can be no fear of non-conformity. Frank, compact, perceptive, and eye-opening, I implore you all to read this absolute gem.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    Although I'd LIKE to consider myself somewhat 'woke', this slim volume (it can literally be read in under an hour) makes me realize how far I have to go in overcoming certain inherent cisgender prejudices. As queer identified, much of this I could identify with, but it did go a long way towards confronting some of my long held misconceptions about trans people. In fact, my only quibble with the book is that it could have gone into much more detail, and there were sections that cried out for more Although I'd LIKE to consider myself somewhat 'woke', this slim volume (it can literally be read in under an hour) makes me realize how far I have to go in overcoming certain inherent cisgender prejudices. As queer identified, much of this I could identify with, but it did go a long way towards confronting some of my long held misconceptions about trans people. In fact, my only quibble with the book is that it could have gone into much more detail, and there were sections that cried out for more explication; for example, about halfway through the book, the author suddenly identifies as bisexual, and then a bit further on casually mentions a 10 year relationship with a woman (while at that point still identifying as male), that gets very little space within the narrative, and would seem to be crucial in figuring out Sharma's journey. Regardless, this was an illuminating read ... and if interested, here's the artist's own composition (she's a composer/singer as well as an author) with the same title as the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDLqZ....

  15. 4 out of 5

    Konstantin

    Wild, raw, insightful, brilliant.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    This book is a necessary antidote to cisgender, white perspectives of feminism in a post-#MeToo era (whatever that even means anymore!). What I found particularly powerful about Shraya's theorizing of masculinity is all the love and hope the narrator (and younger selves) gives the men who hurt her that, throughout the telling, violently gets thwarted and betrayed. We become, then, all the more aware of how the narrator is providing that love and hope herself, how that capacity remains even This book is a necessary antidote to cisgender, white perspectives of feminism in a post-#MeToo era (whatever that even means anymore!). What I found particularly powerful about Shraya's theorizing of masculinity is all the love and hope the narrator (and younger selves) gives the men who hurt her that, throughout the telling, violently gets thwarted and betrayed. We become, then, all the more aware of how the narrator is providing that love and hope herself, how that capacity remains even amidst violence. There's a palindrome-like quality to the way the book is written that works really well with its theory and storytelling (which is also seen in how the book cover is designed!). I would recommend it to anyone who's new to queer, racialized forms of feminism or anyone who wants to be reaffirmed. For me, it's interesting to trace my own responses as someone with incredibly different experiences, how the story ebbs and flows from places that are deeply universal while still being specific to the author's social location.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    Breathtakingly neurotic, self-absorbed person depicts countless incidents of self-consciousness throughout a life defined entirely by how others perceive her. At the end, one gets absolutely no sense that she's found emancipation or balance from her transition. Depressing and so very self-pitying.

  18. 4 out of 5

    rachel ☾

    my first read of pride! thought-provoking & powerful

  19. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I initially picked up this book hoping to see through the eyes of a trans woman and educate myself on what her path might look like. What I discovered was an insight into a very difficult journey but along with that I was challenged in my own perception of gender conformity. It made me think about our roles in society and I found that it gave me a little bit of strength and encouragement to explore my own feelings on the topic. My can of nonconforming worms has been well and truly opened. And I initially picked up this book hoping to see through the eyes of a trans woman and educate myself on what her path might look like. What I discovered was an insight into a very difficult journey but along with that I was challenged in my own perception of gender conformity. It made me think about our roles in society and I found that it gave me a little bit of strength and encouragement to explore my own feelings on the topic. My can of nonconforming worms has been well and truly opened. And for that I’m thankful that Vivek was able to so beautifully articulate her thoughts and share them with us all.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lisa H

    Honestly, everyone should read this book. Shraya examines how masculinity has effected her life, she was too feminine as a boy, and is not feminine enough as a girl. It brings up tough questions about gender and asks us to reconsider what it means to be a "good" man. How do we make good less nebulous? In what ways does the way we think about gender need to change? This books asks hard questions but they are exactly the discussions we need to be having right now.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    This slim volume is a longish essay about the author’s experiences as a bisexual teen and then later as a trans woman. There aren’t any insights here that anyone up on contemporary feminism would find surprising, but the deeply personal aspect of the essays makes it a compelling read nonetheless. 3.5 This slim volume is a longish essay about the author’s experiences as a bisexual teen and then later as a trans woman. There aren’t any insights here that anyone up on contemporary feminism would find surprising, but the deeply personal aspect of the essays makes it a compelling read nonetheless. 3.5⭐️

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sylwia (Wish Fulfillment)

    Please ignore my rating, as my ratings are more for me than for you. Thank you! Whenever I review, I ask myself the same set of questions, based on my personal standards for novels. I exclude the sections about “characters” and “plot” when reviewing nonfiction, obviously. ;) I also talk about the books on my BookTube channel. I make friendships through twitter. DO I RECOMMEND IT? Passionately! REPRESENTATION Who does it represent? The author is a trans gal who guides us through what ❖ Please ignore my rating, as my ratings are more for me than for you. Thank you! ✌ ❖ Whenever I review, I ask myself the same set of questions, based on my personal standards for novels. I exclude the sections about “characters” and “plot” when reviewing nonfiction, obviously. ;) ❖ I also talk about the books on my BookTube channel. ❖ I make friendships through twitter. ❖ ❖ ❖ DO I RECOMMEND IT? ❖ ❖ ❖ Passionately! ❖ ❖ ❖ REPRESENTATION ❖ ❖ ❖ Who does it represent? The author is a trans gal who guides us through what life was like for her before she transitioned, during, and after. There is so much depth to this novel, I believe a lot of folks of varying identities would feel seen reading this. She focuses on common experiences for queer folks, women, and people of color. The author is Canadian and Indian. Though the word "fat" wasn't used, the author did include people of different sized with one sentence, and I appreciated that very much. ❖ ❖ ❖ READER HEALTH ❖ ❖ ❖ Did it perpetuate mentally healthy ideals, including being socially just? Absolutely! The author has a sort of thesis and she does an incredible job making every section either describe an experience, deeply analyze the roots of our ignorance(s?), and talk about how we can move forward. ❖ ❖ ❖ EDUCATION ❖ ❖ ❖ What else does this work teach the reader? Did it teach me anything I didn't already know? Did it make me think at length about any topics? The author takes us on a journey of deep self and societal exploration. It was validating, informative, and thought-provoking. I'm still reflecting about the things she said. ❖ ❖ ❖ WRITING AND STORY-TELLING ❖ ❖ ❖ What was the writing style like, in terms of grammar, "flow", accessibility, and story-telling? The entire novel reads like a set of lengthy poems, while at the same time being a memoir and a work of social justice. ❖ ❖ ❖ ENTERTAINMENT & PLEASURE ❖ ❖ ❖ Was it able to keep my attention? Was it able to entertain me? Did I enjoy reading it? Was I amused? I couldn't put it down and there wasn't a moment of boredom.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elisabeth Manley

    Make yourself smaller, invisible, don’t take up too much space, don’t accidentally rub arms with the man next to you on the subway. Don’t make eye contact, or smile, don’t accidentally show an interest that could be seen as “asking for it”, whatever “it” may be. Vivek Shraya speaks to the little things we do every day out of fear, whether we notice we do them or not. She doesn’t only limit this to men, this fear also extends to women; women who encourage these men, women who do not support each Make yourself smaller, invisible, don’t take up too much space, don’t accidentally rub arms with the man next to you on the subway. Don’t make eye contact, or smile, don’t accidentally show an interest that could be seen as “asking for it”, whatever “it” may be. Vivek Shraya speaks to the little things we do every day out of fear, whether we notice we do them or not. She doesn’t only limit this to men, this fear also extends to women; women who encourage these men, women who do not support each other, women who stand by and let abuse happen. A must-read, and it will take you less than an hour to do so. While I can’t relate to the added struggles of being transgendered or gay, the small every day fears expressed in this essay of a book hit close to home and must resonate universally with women everywhere. It not only touches on fear, but also on societal views of a “good man” and the bars we set for men because we just expect them to be inherently bad, and so consequently celebrate them when they are not. Women and men alike should read this, for perspective, so we can create a generation of decent people, regardless of gender.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Prakash

    After reading "even this page is white" I never thought I would see my experience as a (gender)queer South Asian person living in Canada so acutely expressed in literature. But "I'm Afraid of Men" has done just that. Vivek Shraya so succinctly and devastatingly recounts how the systemic violence of a forced gender binary robs us of the ability to both be safe and be ourselves. I really hope everyone who has ever cared about me reads this book so they can understand what I mean when I too say, After reading "even this page is white" I never thought I would see my experience as a (gender)queer South Asian person living in Canada so acutely expressed in literature. But "I'm Afraid of Men" has done just that. Vivek Shraya so succinctly and devastatingly recounts how the systemic violence of a forced gender binary robs us of the ability to both be safe and be ourselves. I really hope everyone who has ever cared about me reads this book so they can understand what I mean when I too say, "I'm afraid of men."

  25. 4 out of 5

    Starlah

    In this essay, trans artist, Vivek Shraya writes with raw honesty her reasons for being afraid. Throughout her life, she had endured acts of cruelty and aggression. She discusses the damage - on not only herself but on society - that has been caused by misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia. Shraya builds a case for why we need to redefine masculinity and gender as a whole. Truly an amazing, compelling, emotional, and thought-provoking read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Diane Creeman

    I picked up this beautiful little Penguin hardcover with high hopes. I wanted to read a trenchant essay on toxic masculinity. This book is garbage. It's like something someone in grade eight would write in their diary. The gist of it is "this boy in high school I thought was cute told my friend he wanted to beat me up and it scarred me for life and now I don't know how to have sex." It's truly that banal. I don't know how anyone could rhapsodize about this adolescent swill.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    Some will be afraid of this book and that’s exactly why they - and you - should read it. It makes you think, it makes you nod in agreement and shake your head at the behaviour of some and most importantly forces you to consider yourself.

  28. 4 out of 5

    chantel nouseforaname

    This was a hard and very instigating read for me that I could and couldn’t relate to on LEVELS. I have many issues with so many concepts in this book and they mainly stem from the pointed questions, relating to her own experience, that Vivek uses to paint cis-gendered woman in this almost-as-bad as men sort of dynamic, towards the end..which may be true in some cases, but to have it depicted that way.. you know, it’s alienating. Maybe, that’s what she wants, to shake shit up, but I didn’t like This was a hard and very instigating read for me that I could and couldn’t relate to on LEVELS. I have many issues with so many concepts in this book and they mainly stem from the pointed questions, relating to her own experience, that Vivek uses to paint cis-gendered woman in this almost-as-bad as men sort of dynamic, towards the end..which may be true in some cases, but to have it depicted that way.. you know, it’s alienating. Maybe, that’s what she wants, to shake shit up, but I didn’t like it and I wonder if I’m just being too critical of the diss and that’s just really the way trans women experience other women, generally speaking. However, hailing from a similarly marginalized intersection of women, I don’t believe that shit for a second.. Real talk, how problematic she describes women as being is a possibility, if I’m not being facetious, but I just think it’s irresponsible to put that generic ideology out there in the world. Your truth is your truth tho, so it is what it is. I can’t even get into what I really thought because I honestly feel like there are just so many people in the comments on this book who sum up my issues with this book perfectly. It took me awhile to get through such a short book because of the conflicting energies it brought up out of me. I know what Vivek is saying is true about the experiences of trans women but I think it’s her need for people to cape for her that rubs me the wrong way. It’s idealistic in a way and that wouldn’t typically upset me, but it does here and I think it’s because of my intersection of being a black female reader who never comes from a place where I’ve had the privilege of anyone caping for me or seeing me as cape-worthy, so now when I see other women asking why people ain’t caping for them - I’m like oh girl, that’s an option? You’re kidding, we don’t need that, we keep stepping regardless...why you worried? Oh you think you’re owed safety? Bitch where? (We all should be allowed to live in peace and safety real talk, but...)We ain’t been safe out here since the beginning of time! Why aren’t we challenging that, you ask? Oh well, it’s becausd we haven’t been even given the platform to speak.. why? Oh, because we don’t have the privilege of not having to deal with anti-blackness or having famous white people and white Women on our side to push us! We don’t have the resources my G, so you’re out here with an issue and we’re just trying to survive.. and it’s shit that I think that way but yeah.. It’s sad that that’s how we’ve been conditioned to think because those are the facts and that it informs my perspective of books like this. It’s shitty, because I can honestly state as a black woman, that if I had read this as a book from the intersection of a black trans woman writer and not Vivek, I probably would have had a completely different experience with it. Shitty, but, just like racism’s existence, it’s a true statement. I really just believe that a few elements of entitlement and language around what is and isn’t a feminine trait or female behaviour would have been handled or spoken about differently from a black author. I just really don’t get, my brain is struggling to compute why Vivek wants externals to be the one to ride or die for her, when as a black woman reading this I just felt like, yeah, me too girl, all of us do. Ain’t no one been caping for me. I see you Vivek, I feel you but if you’re afraid of men, why as a quick side-bar on top of this, you want to shit on women who have a hard enough time dealing with the levels of muck we’re buried under too, from any intersection not cis/het & white. To be honest, I’m terrified of men as well, but when in the last few pages she goes on to talk about how she misses her beard and she misses elements of masculinity my interactions with this book became more and more conflicted. I know also that reasonably speaking, Vivek missing elements of her masculinity doesn’t have to be a one or the other.. and that of course one of the unique elements of being trans is the conflicting thoughts and emotions stylistically and emotionally that many trans people have to work through regarding their appearance. Knowing a few trans women and men, this book didn’t sit too right with me. There was something about it I couldn’t click with. I do respect, on a base-level the fact that she shared this piece with the world. She definitely got me thinking and in the headspace where I want to examine my own viewpoints, about what it means to be female/feminine and what it does and doesn’t mean to be those things separately and together. I do believe that it’s that mix that threw me; the amalgamation of how Vivek portrays what she has experienced or thinks it is to be female/feminine herself in relation to other women, cis, trans & non-binary. It’s a conflicting read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Emy

    A short essay, highlighting Sharaya's experience of abuse, cruelty of society, misogyny, the hurtful fact that how common these experiences are :( how violence affects the self-esteem, and therefore: happiness! The book started with “I’m afraid of men because it was men who taught me fear. I’m afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the word girl by turning it into a weapon they used to hurt me.” and in the last chapter, she mentioned that she was afraid of women too "I'm afraid A short essay, highlighting Sharaya's experience of abuse, cruelty of society, misogyny, the hurtful fact that how common these experiences are :( how violence affects the self-esteem, and therefore: happiness! The book started with “I’m afraid of men because it was men who taught me fear. I’m afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the word girl by turning it into a weapon they used to hurt me.” and in the last chapter, she mentioned that she was afraid of women too "I'm afraid of women who've either emboldened or defended the men who have harmed me, or have watched in silence”, that moment I realized that I understand her : I’m afraid of the devil in people :( I don't know what to say, I don't understand why are people frightened by differences, why can't we accept others the way they are? Why can't we tolerate, and just enjoy diversity?

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jennie Chantal

    This long essay was more memoir than I expected, which is no disappointment! I finished it in just two hours and will be recommending it all around. I do wish it was longer, although I have the sense it’s one I’ll read again and again.

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