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The Man They Wanted Me to Be: Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis of Our Own Making

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The author of The People Are Going to Rise Upon Your Shore turns his keen eye to our current crisis of masculinity using his upbringing in a rural, patriarchal home as an entry point to consider the personal and societal dangers of performative gender Based on his provocative and popular New York Times op-ed, The Man They Wanted Me to Be is both memoir and cultural analysis. Ja The author of The People Are Going to Rise Upon Your Shore turns his keen eye to our current crisis of masculinity using his upbringing in a rural, patriarchal home as an entry point to consider the personal and societal dangers of performative gender Based on his provocative and popular New York Times op-ed, The Man They Wanted Me to Be is both memoir and cultural analysis. Jared Yates Sexton alternates between an examination of his working class upbringing and historical, psychological, and sociological sources that examine the genesis of toxic masculinity and its consequences for society. As progressivism changes American society, and globalism shifts labor away from traditional manufacturing, the roles that have been prescribed to men since the Industrial Revolution have been rendered as obsolete. Donald Trump's campaign successfully leveraged male resentment and entitlement, and now, with Trump as president and the rise of the #MeToo movement, it’s clearer than ever what a problem performative masculinity is. Deeply personal and thoroughly researched, The Man They Wanted Me to Be examines how we teach boys what’s expected of men in America, and the long term effects of that socialization—which include depression, suicide, misogyny, and, ultimately, shorter lives. Sexton turns his keen eye to the establishment of the racist patriarchal structure which has favored white men, and investigates the personal and societal dangers of such outdated definitions of manhood.


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The author of The People Are Going to Rise Upon Your Shore turns his keen eye to our current crisis of masculinity using his upbringing in a rural, patriarchal home as an entry point to consider the personal and societal dangers of performative gender Based on his provocative and popular New York Times op-ed, The Man They Wanted Me to Be is both memoir and cultural analysis. Ja The author of The People Are Going to Rise Upon Your Shore turns his keen eye to our current crisis of masculinity using his upbringing in a rural, patriarchal home as an entry point to consider the personal and societal dangers of performative gender Based on his provocative and popular New York Times op-ed, The Man They Wanted Me to Be is both memoir and cultural analysis. Jared Yates Sexton alternates between an examination of his working class upbringing and historical, psychological, and sociological sources that examine the genesis of toxic masculinity and its consequences for society. As progressivism changes American society, and globalism shifts labor away from traditional manufacturing, the roles that have been prescribed to men since the Industrial Revolution have been rendered as obsolete. Donald Trump's campaign successfully leveraged male resentment and entitlement, and now, with Trump as president and the rise of the #MeToo movement, it’s clearer than ever what a problem performative masculinity is. Deeply personal and thoroughly researched, The Man They Wanted Me to Be examines how we teach boys what’s expected of men in America, and the long term effects of that socialization—which include depression, suicide, misogyny, and, ultimately, shorter lives. Sexton turns his keen eye to the establishment of the racist patriarchal structure which has favored white men, and investigates the personal and societal dangers of such outdated definitions of manhood.

30 review for The Man They Wanted Me to Be: Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis of Our Own Making

  1. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    An essential book for destroying the patriarchy and creating better men for us all. In The Man They Wanted Me to Be, Jared Yates Sexton writes about his and his family's experience of toxic masculinity, the research showing toxic masculinity's negative health and relational consequences, and how toxic masculinity contributes to Trump and the rise of the alt-right. I loved how Sexton shares his personal story with us, how he started out as a soft, sensitive child and hardened after experiencing abus An essential book for destroying the patriarchy and creating better men for us all. In The Man They Wanted Me to Be, Jared Yates Sexton writes about his and his family's experience of toxic masculinity, the research showing toxic masculinity's negative health and relational consequences, and how toxic masculinity contributes to Trump and the rise of the alt-right. I loved how Sexton shares his personal story with us, how he started out as a soft, sensitive child and hardened after experiencing abuse and problematic masculine role models, outside of his mother and grandfather. Through his sharing in this book, Sexton emulates how more men, especially white men, should act: confronting our trauma with self-compassion while owning up to the ways we perpetuate misogyny and other forms of oppression. I appreciated how he wrote about going to therapy and the courage it takes to seek help. Sexton also does a splendid job incorporating research about masculinity throughout this book. He does so in a way that adds context and builds to the narrative instead of distracting from it. He writes about how boys are socialized to repress emotions instead of anger, to devalue anything that is perceived as "feminine," and to enact aggression and violence to prove their masculinity. As exemplified by his father's story, Sexton links this socialization to how men often do not seek help for their health issues later on in life, leading to their earlier deaths compared to women. Throughout The Man They Wanted Me to Be, Sexton also makes clear men's culpability in carrying out mass shootings and other acts of devastating violence. Overall, I would highly recommend this book to everyone, especially men and to those interested in masculinity and feminism. This book feels like an important addition to the iconic The Will to Change by bell hooks. Indeed, we do need more men, especially white men, owning up to our complicity in toxic masculinity and showing how we can change it for the better. I will note that I wish Sexton had touched on how hegemonic white male masculinity often traps men of color, queer men, men at the intersection of those identities and more, etc. in its lethal grasp. I also wish Sexton had qualified his idea in the last section of the book that the answer to these issues includes showing men love. While I agree with the importance of showing men love, those harmed by men (e.g., femmes, women of color) should not have to bear the burden of making men better, a point to which I think Sexton agrees. Still, a fantastic read I hope people will pick up in 2019 and beyond.

  2. 5 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~ ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣

    Or, for fuck's sake. People need to get a grip. There is no such thing as toxic masculinity, toxic femininity, toxic heterosexuality or toxic homosexuality or toxic asexuality or any other toxic sex feature. Nothing of this kind is inherently toxic. It's what people sometimes do with all of it that is toxic. Nothing that some behavioural, cognitive or some other therapy can't address. People should just stop inventing weird shit and stop shifting blame to patriarchal and/or matriarchal figures. Or, for fuck's sake. People need to get a grip. There is no such thing as toxic masculinity, toxic femininity, toxic heterosexuality or toxic homosexuality or toxic asexuality or any other toxic sex feature. Nothing of this kind is inherently toxic. It's what people sometimes do with all of it that is toxic. Nothing that some behavioural, cognitive or some other therapy can't address. People should just stop inventing weird shit and stop shifting blame to patriarchal and/or matriarchal figures. If someone has issues with their dad, mom, president, kid, neighbor or anyone else, they should go to a psychologist and resolve this issue not invent new social constructs. Society may have some or other reasonable or unreasonable expectations from people according to their gender and pretty much everything. But calling masculinity or femininity toxic is a misnomer. It's not gender that's at fault. It's society and its weird ideas that we see in films, ads, everywhere. It's also our desire to conform to things that are expected from us. Often, we don't know how to be true to ourselves, what we exactly want and how to get there. And that's the real big problem. One that needs to be addressed. What to do about it? Anarchy would help a fucking lot. Kidding. People should just screw their brains on straight and stop adhering to weird customs. You don't want women to be expected to wear high heels, full war paint and every other shit to work? Stop expecting that from them if you are of any sex and don't do it if you are a woman. You don't want men to be strong and silent types, become more open yourself if you identify male and stop expecting macho-ism from others if you are of any sex. Not going to finish this drivel. Badly researched, mislabeled and with root cause of real issues replaced with imaginary stuff. Yeah, I know, it's a bio. Well, shoot me, I don't like it when people take their personal issues and try to make them into something else. For example, I work with a bunch of men who are, well, uneasy about working with a female. And it shows. Just like that. Nothing bad or nasty or whatever but they are being weird like not calling me in for meetings, not allowing me to participate on calls with them and whenever I would invite myself to any of their meetings that I have business being at, they would shuffle and then mumble something along the lines of 'oh no you're not invited bye'. They communicate on their own and I on my own. It's weird, sets bad communication patterns and, as one can imagine, is not improving our efficiency. But then again, fuck it, I'm saving my time not listening in to their ramblings and they meet an awful lot of time most of which I'm pretty sure is wasted, since you don't really meet for 2 hours straight and then have zero to show for it. I'm not gonna blame their masculinity about it. I'd rather point out that this situation is like that due to their inferior brains (as individuals not as men), slightly less than perfect education, lack of professional adequacy and considerably less than stellar communication skills. Masculinity of theirs, I couldn't care less about it, I'm not interested in this bunch sexually. They could be alien bugs from Alpha Centauri rings and have no sexes whatsoever and still come equipped with those nice thick skulls.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

    I recommend women buy this book and then quietly place it upon the desk of any man or men in their life, no matter how she might believe that man is immured or not in toxic masculinity. And then serenade him with Born This Way :: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lga51...

  4. 5 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    American Macho is Toxic The Man They Wanted Me To Be is a cathartic look at Jared’s Sexton’s life to date (He’s 38). It is a stinging condemnation of working-class white males and their attitudes. They control, berate and beat their wives and children, hate anything that doesn’t smack of white male supremacy, and are self-contained frustration bombs, ready to explode at any time. Sexton was a chubby, asthmatic and emotional child, which infuriated a series of men – his father and s American Macho is Toxic The Man They Wanted Me To Be is a cathartic look at Jared’s Sexton’s life to date (He’s 38). It is a stinging condemnation of working-class white males and their attitudes. They control, berate and beat their wives and children, hate anything that doesn’t smack of white male supremacy, and are self-contained frustration bombs, ready to explode at any time. Sexton was a chubby, asthmatic and emotional child, which infuriated a series of men – his father and several stepfathers. He was given the ultimate crushing insult: he was “no better than a girl.” His mother bounced from one abusive relationship to another, totally unable to hook up with a reasonable man. Sexton grew up into a poor, alcoholic, frustrated and self-loathing beast of a teen and young adult. In this, he simply followed his role models. Sexton’s thesis is that the working-class white American male is in an impossible situation. Carrying the burden of being superior, the sole breadwinner and the hardest worker, he can show no emotion or even understanding of anyone else. He is there to be served. He has no time, patience or tolerance for variance in his vision of the perfect society. That society, the American Dream, does not exist for him, making it difficult for him to rationalize his life. Every nibble at his dreamworld – blacks getting educations, women getting equal pay, children going to university, immigrants taking the worst jobs available – all make him dig in and fight. He is open and welcoming to conspiracy theories backing his views of the world. And inevitably, he has come to see Donald Trump as his savior. Sexton says “America is a bastion of patriarchal pitfalls, and consistently reinforces toxic concepts.” This is called performative masculinity, and in a patriarchal society, these males must be “on” at all times. To miss that goal is to show weakness. It totally prevents any kind of intimacy, with men or even their own wives. In Sexton’s eastern Indiana in the 1980s and 90s, there was nothing else to emulate, it seems. The schoolyard reinforced it. The girls reinforced it. Sports reinforced it. It involved a lot of swearing, racism, sexism, misogyny, posing, slouching and attitude. It is also actually toxic. In all of the research Sexton conducted for the book, he found men are sicker, die earlier and are lonely and miserable in their self-enforced, controlling solitude. Sexton himself slept with a loaded rifle, ready to use it on himself at any time. The book is really about three things: Sexton’s life, the insufferable existence of men, and the rise of the alt-right to take advantage of and reinforce it. It is both a confession and a plea for readers to open their eyes. Things are the way they are in America for good reason. And more posturing isn’t going to fix it. If you can see that in the book, it is well worthwhile. It’s tempting to conclude that white working-class American males are the most gullible, weak and insecure examples of Homo sapiens there can be. They constantly fear for their position of superiority. They are afraid of everyone from their politicians to anyone of a different color, to their own wives and children. They fall for every idiot story that floats past. But of course, that’s not true. It is rather, true of people in general. Why are we puzzled that young men can be radicalized into joining ISIS by looking at websites, when mass murderer Dylan Roof self-radicalized the exact same way, except it was White Supremacy instead of ISIS? Why is Make America Great Again a genuine threat to the very existence of the USA? Sexton shows how it can be, through toxic masculinity. It leads to the breakdown of self-respect, of respect for others, of the family and ultimately of the nation, as the frustration of the isolated white male becomes the front burner issue. The key to the violence, Sexton concludes, is simple shame. Embarrassed by their own lack of humanity and success, men lash out. It is part of the contradiction that makes their lives impossible to live. It took his own father 59 years to realize it, admit it, reject it, and try to humanize himself. Just as he was getting a handle on it, he died, because part of toxic masculinity is never seeing a doctor. I learned this violence syndrome years ago in the story of freed slaves, deported to Liberia in the mid 1800s. Instead of using their new-found freedom to work with the native Liberians, they beat them into submission, kept them out of the better jobs and schooling, and perpetuated the generations of vicious lessons of the American South. As one ex-slave put it in an extraordinary admission: "How true it is, the greater the injury done to the injured, the greater the hatred of those who have done the injury!" David Wineberg

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Sullivan

    As the mother of a baby boy being raised into a world of Donald Trumps and Brett Kavanaughs, I feel a deep sense of responsibility to raise him right, and to me that means ensuring that he rejects toxic masculinity, both for his own good and for the good of everyone in his life. These days we see toxic masculinity everywhere: in the abundance of mass shootings that plague our country, the rise of “incels” and the alt-right, and—most notably—in the election of our current president, “t As the mother of a baby boy being raised into a world of Donald Trumps and Brett Kavanaughs, I feel a deep sense of responsibility to raise him right, and to me that means ensuring that he rejects toxic masculinity, both for his own good and for the good of everyone in his life. These days we see toxic masculinity everywhere: in the abundance of mass shootings that plague our country, the rise of “incels” and the alt-right, and—most notably—in the election of our current president, “the personification of white American masculinity.” For Jared Yates Sexton, the issue is personal, growing up with a series of abusive father figures in blue collar America. In this timely book, he combines his own stories and memories with incisive cultural analysis and critique aimed at deconstructing the insidious lie of white patriarchal masculinity. Tasked with the insurmountable goal of living up to the traditional ideal of masculinity, men are doomed to fall short, causing them to overcompensate in harmful ways. They often suffer in silence—resistant to expressing “feminine” emotions like sadness and tenderness—and then inflict suffering on everyone around them via “acceptable” outlets such as anger and aggression. Yates connects the dots in ways that make perfect sense but that I hadn’t before been able to articulate, linking toxic masculinity with everything from capitalism to military/hero worship to men’s health. He shows how even the most self-aware men (such as himself) can get caught up in the web of toxic masculinity, bound by traditional social constructs and antiquated ideals that are hard to overcome. And, on the other hand, how even the most toxically masculine men (such as his father) can come out on the other side.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    What's frustrating is the people who most need to read this, and would benefit from it, almost certainly won't.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tammy V

    I got the book from the library for the "Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis o OUr Own Making" (not kindle). That part was covered in the first and last chapters. The whole middle was an autobiography. Let me say that my review is colored by having been in a battering relationship for 17 years (17 - 34). I have little sympathy for mother's who keep their kids in this kind of danger. His mother's first marriage (from whence he came) and her 2nd (was their a third? I can't remember now I got the book from the library for the "Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis o OUr Own Making" (not kindle). That part was covered in the first and last chapters. The whole middle was an autobiography. Let me say that my review is colored by having been in a battering relationship for 17 years (17 - 34). I have little sympathy for mother's who keep their kids in this kind of danger. His mother's first marriage (from whence he came) and her 2nd (was their a third? I can't remember now because the book focused on the males not the females) were to violent men. Mine never touched the kids (that would not have been smart on his part), but when he broke my eye and my daughter didn't even ask about it, I knew I was teaching her about marriage. And my son, too. And I left (which is a process). Interesting to me is my leaving was about the same time as he was experiencing all this as a child. He is a year younger than my own son. He was from the midwest, I was from the east coast. I had to dig, but I did find support, including police support. Since 10 years later when I was working with triage in a southern maryland community where the police were always sure "she asked for it," I understand that part. But staying when her kid was being beat and belittled, I don't understand. As it is, he seems his whole life to have wanted the approval of his abusive birth dad. In the end he reconciled, initially through the author's getting blind drunk all the time and sharing that with his birth father who became interested. I would have told the SOB to go jump in a lake. The author mentions in passing that his own relationships couldn't hold but does not go into it. Hurt people hurt. This is not new information. They also can stand up and say "stop" and get off the wheel of disfunction. So when he says, toward the end of the book, "If your husband, father, brother cousin or firend is one of those people who either inexorably believes in traditional masucliity or struggles with it from time to time, if you feel safe doing so, carefully remind them that it's okay if they aren't always the stoic patriarch." So much wrong with that sentence. It not a woman or a child's responsibility to heal an abuser. If another male wants to take it on, so be it. But that is not clear in the sentence. I think I am the wrong demographic for this book because reading it as a woman in a toxic relationship I would see way too many wrong cures like how being hurt made them that way, for instance, which would just hook my co-dependent side. He should have made it clear that the book was for men, because it has nothing helpful to women caught in this mess. Especially the part where he says "to show them [the abusers] empathy and love, both of which serve as contradictions to the extremists' belief that they are endangered and live in a world bereft of care." Doesn't work. I know that experientially. Interesting to read his side of he whole thing, but don't if you are currently in a battering/abusive/co-dependent relationship with one of these "fragile" [his word] men.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alex Kudera

    The strength of the book lies in the touching and meaningful memoir sections.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jose A

    I'm sympathetic to his viewpoint. But really this is mostly a memoir of the various ways the author and most of the men he knows are toxic in their masculinity. I think books like this are a little tricky, using your own personal experience as a paragon for commenting on global ills can sometimes read as being fraught with over-generalizations.

  10. 4 out of 5

    James

    Well...it's a slog and no mistake. I respect that the author had a very difficult upbringing and the lessons that he took from it about men were come by honestly. Still...I don't believe in toxic masculinity. It's just jargon to describe the effects of poverty, substance abuse, PTSD/depression, and other factors on men vs how they influence women. It's kind of silly to label any inherent trait as toxic. The switch from talking about sociology to politics also tried my patie Well...it's a slog and no mistake. I respect that the author had a very difficult upbringing and the lessons that he took from it about men were come by honestly. Still...I don't believe in toxic masculinity. It's just jargon to describe the effects of poverty, substance abuse, PTSD/depression, and other factors on men vs how they influence women. It's kind of silly to label any inherent trait as toxic. The switch from talking about sociology to politics also tried my patience. Again, poverty and a lack of education, not masculinity. In my opinion. Overall, there's much better, much more even-handed writing on gender out there without the scapegoating...which probably came from the author's undeniably traumatic childhood. Nevertheless. I'd recommend Thomas Page McBee's work over this guy's any day.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    The Man They Wanted Me to Be is one of the most critical works of non-fiction to come out this year, and it should be required reading for every American male. Mr. Sexton articulately captures the root problem for so many issues that plague society today: American culture has created a mythical masculinity that is unobtainable, and men will step over everyone and everything in pursuit of this unreachable standard. Throughout his book, Sexton details his own experiences growing up in a culture ro The Man They Wanted Me to Be is one of the most critical works of non-fiction to come out this year, and it should be required reading for every American male. Mr. Sexton articulately captures the root problem for so many issues that plague society today: American culture has created a mythical masculinity that is unobtainable, and men will step over everyone and everything in pursuit of this unreachable standard. Throughout his book, Sexton details his own experiences growing up in a culture rooted in this toxic masculinity, and how his own inability to measure up to this absurd standard fueled a deep depression. It's only appropriate that in doing so, Mr. Sexton allows himself to be vulnerable; the inability to make oneself vulnerable, he argues, is one of the most harmful attributes of toxic masculinity. I suspect that a lot of men will be able to see themselves in Mr. Sexton's experiences. Although Sexton specifically describes the experiences of growing up in a White culture, readers from outside culture will be able to see identify with many of these issues--being a Hispanic male from a culture rooted in "machismo," I felt as though the two cultures were looking up against each other in a mirror. I could not put this book down. Every man should read this book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn Gainey

    This book was magnificent! I could have devoured this in one sitting and actually had to convince myself to slow down so I could enjoy it for a few more days. This book provided countless facts and examples of toxic masculinity in our culture and at times also served as a memoir. I especially appreciate that Jared gave women so much credit and expressed the importance of women in our society. I will be sharing this book with all the men in my life. Jared did a spectacular job with this book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    We need more books from straight cis men articulating their stake in ending patriarchy. There was plenty I didnt agree with here, and that’s fine — I appreciate the model. Could be a great gift for white Christian brothers/dads/cousins coming into awareness of the ways toxic masculinity is killing them. I listened to the audiobook, engagingly read by the author, and could imagine sharing it with men I know who wouldn’t otherwise pick up the book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    [F]or men, it’s the simplest thing in the world to sit back and watch the patriarchy work in your favor. That privilege is strong and to our benefit, but it comes with great cost. It harms ourselves and the people we love, holds society back from its true potential, and, in many cases, destroys us. (185) Jared Yates Sexton was born and raised in Indiana factory towns, by a line of men (his father and stepfathers) who viewed him as "soft" and "not quite right." Riddled with anxiety and depression from [F]or men, it’s the simplest thing in the world to sit back and watch the patriarchy work in your favor. That privilege is strong and to our benefit, but it comes with great cost. It harms ourselves and the people we love, holds society back from its true potential, and, in many cases, destroys us. (185) Jared Yates Sexton was born and raised in Indiana factory towns, by a line of men (his father and stepfathers) who viewed him as "soft" and "not quite right." Riddled with anxiety and depression from an abusive and traumatic childhood, Sexton succumbed to the consequences of toxic masculinity when he reached young adulthood-- reinventing himself as a "man's man" and shoving his emotions and vulnerability behind a performative wall of toughness and false strength. Suffering from eating disorders and suicidal ideation, he finally sought the help of a therapist and continues to confront and struggle with the effects of patriarchy on his psyche. With this background, he is in the perfect place to understand--but not be taken in by--the rhetoric of Trump's presidential campaign and administration and the rise of the alt-right, both of which are reinforced by misogyny, racism, and homophobia. The structured and reliable existence men like my father and stepfathers had come to depend on is disappearing by the day and the realization that the world is changing is exerting massive amounts of pressure on these men, all of whom are already fragile in their masculinity and aggrieved in their entitlement. […M]en [are] refusing to come to terms with their situation because to be a white man in America is to expect everything to already be on your terms. (29) Sexton neatly intersperses his memoir with facts and figures about masculinity and patriarchy, using his personal anecdotes as supporting examples for wider societal trends. While I think he could have integrated more about queer men and men of color, overall I found his analyses to be well-supported and interesting. He broached topics like rape culture and domestic abuse, homophobia as an example of railing against "gender traitors," idolization 0f stoic war heroes and penalization of veterans in need, xenophobia and racism, mental health including the history of our understanding of PTSD, class and labor, and much more. For an academic approach to toxic masculinity that is tempered by a insider's personal narrative that keeps it from being too dry or dense, I highly recommend The Man They Wanted Me to Be. [I] realized, for the first time, that the masculinity I’d sought, the masculinity I’d been denied, had always been an impossibility. Deep down, I realized that masculinity, as I knew it, as it was presented to me, was a lie. (8)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Jones

    Sexton's approach to modern day toxic masculinity in America consists of personal stories through a feminist and phenomenological lens. These stories contain emotional and physical abuse, struggles with disordered eating habits, and suicide attempts. IF YOU ARE IN A PLACE WHERE THOSE STORIES CAN TRIGGER DANGEROUS BEHAVIORS, PLEASE AVOID THIS BOOK FOR NOW. While the narrative is often specific to the authors experience, he does draw conclusions that most men can relate to. This book taught me tha Sexton's approach to modern day toxic masculinity in America consists of personal stories through a feminist and phenomenological lens. These stories contain emotional and physical abuse, struggles with disordered eating habits, and suicide attempts. IF YOU ARE IN A PLACE WHERE THOSE STORIES CAN TRIGGER DANGEROUS BEHAVIORS, PLEASE AVOID THIS BOOK FOR NOW. While the narrative is often specific to the authors experience, he does draw conclusions that most men can relate to. This book taught me that the boy that I was wasn't alone. He wasn't alone when he grew angry at sexist standards that affected his sister and friends, or when he felt shame for not meeting the unattainable standards of manhood. He wasn't alone when he felt powerless against racial divides which sought to tear down his friends and classmates, or when he had a distaste for sports. He wasn't alone. This message is powerful and Sexton applies it on the individual, social, and political level. While this book does offer tools to dismantle the patriarchy; it mainly acts as a raw exploration of loneliness, shame, and pain that can unite us to work at being a people whose inclusion creates and nurtures society as a whole.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Leah Angstman

    I went into this book a little skeptical on the subject matter being told from a white male perspective, but I came out of it believing that we might be able to make better men and to change the culture that is so ingrained in the clay of this country; really, who better to talk to white men than a white man? This book is universal and personal, sad and hopeful, honest and self-aware, beautiful and harsh. I want to slip it casually onto my brother's nightstand, but he hasn't read a book since Hatchet i I went into this book a little skeptical on the subject matter being told from a white male perspective, but I came out of it believing that we might be able to make better men and to change the culture that is so ingrained in the clay of this country; really, who better to talk to white men than a white man? This book is universal and personal, sad and hopeful, honest and self-aware, beautiful and harsh. I want to slip it casually onto my brother's nightstand, but he hasn't read a book since Hatchet in middle school. (Which seems ... a fitting accidental metaphor, in retrospect.) Being of the same cloth and place and time and generation as the author, I get all the feels from this book, and it should be required reading. If you have a young son, please read it. If you have an older son, please give it to him. If you have a father who doesn't communicate kindly, please gift this book. If you are a man, please read it. If you are on the brink of a break-up or divorce that will involve young children, please read this book. The choices we make in the presence of others (and especially loved ones) when we are at our angriest or our most hurt or our most vulnerable or our most scared, are the choices that will change lives on both sides for better or worse. We can choose not to make them worse.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Zoe Nissen

    4.5, really--only a half taken off because the last chapter doesn't really acknowledge the young alt-right movement happening in the US & makes some assumptions about millennials that aren't really true. But overall this is required reading for cis men and strongly recommended for everyone else.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jocelyn

    This is a vital, important, potentially world-changing book I want everyone I know to read. How to write a book that will be read by the people who desperately need it because an identity is doing them harm but might be resistant to its message because to admit such harm would be a threat to that identity? Be from inside that world and write it as a sneaky half-memoir. Yates, brought up in a blue-collar family in Indiana, writes about the problems with (primarily) straight white American masculi This is a vital, important, potentially world-changing book I want everyone I know to read. How to write a book that will be read by the people who desperately need it because an identity is doing them harm but might be resistant to its message because to admit such harm would be a threat to that identity? Be from inside that world and write it as a sneaky half-memoir. Yates, brought up in a blue-collar family in Indiana, writes about the problems with (primarily) straight white American masculinity in a way that I think has the potential to reach men who would immediately dismiss a book more explicitly scholarly or more directly titled. The strength of Yates' work here is that it has no easy answers; he is not on some other side; he admits he is still struggling with the messages and meanings with which he was enculturated in his youth, but makes it clear that the struggle is worthwhile, has led him to a richer life, and has the potential to do the same for others. Everyone who has white men in their life should read this...and then leave it strategically lying around.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tamara Dahling

    The book traces Sexton’s life in small town Indiana, raised by his mother and a string of men who exhibit their masculinity with violence, bullying, anger. And Sexton explains why, which is the heart of his book. Having grown up in a similar environment, I can verify that he knows what he’s talking about. Although the first part of the book is a bit disjointed, stay for the last few chapters as they are excellent and give superb context into the current political and social environment. Highly r The book traces Sexton’s life in small town Indiana, raised by his mother and a string of men who exhibit their masculinity with violence, bullying, anger. And Sexton explains why, which is the heart of his book. Having grown up in a similar environment, I can verify that he knows what he’s talking about. Although the first part of the book is a bit disjointed, stay for the last few chapters as they are excellent and give superb context into the current political and social environment. Highly recommend.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Xerxia

    This book is intense and honestly more than a little frightening. Structured as part sociological essay and part memoir of a 'good ole Indiana boy', it's a brutal look at toxic masculinity and the white male culture of entitlement, as told by someone living it and benefiting from it, but also studying it. A lot of the story focuses on the American election of the ultimate toxic sludge that is tr*mp, breaking down his support base in a way that is helpful for us non-Americans watching This book is intense and honestly more than a little frightening. Structured as part sociological essay and part memoir of a 'good ole Indiana boy', it's a brutal look at toxic masculinity and the white male culture of entitlement, as told by someone living it and benefiting from it, but also studying it. A lot of the story focuses on the American election of the ultimate toxic sludge that is tr*mp, breaking down his support base in a way that is helpful for us non-Americans watching in horror. But the American-centric perspective harms the overall message. Because toxic masculinity is not an inherently American problem, so saying the American civil war is a root cause is an oversimplification. But I digress. There was good attention paid to the effects of industrialisation, media and social media in developing these toxic personas, as well as intelligent tie-ins to global warming, poverty and consumerism. A nice balance between big picture and microcosm. I am torn between saying that the tone of the piece is a bit too apologist (it's not men's fault that they are abusive assholes, they've been trained to be this way!) and appreciating that talking about the issue in terms of the harm it does to *men* (lower life expectancy; higher rates of suicide, homicide and abject stupidity) might be the only way to get men themselves to take action. I will say that there is virtually nothing hopeful about this story, that as each chapter was unveiled I felt more and more alarmed, more and more like western society is self-destructing. It's well written, adequately researched and compellingly told, but it's frightening as hell. I consumed this as an audiobook, self-narrated by the author, and it was well produced but I suspect it'd be better experienced as a print book where one could be more immersed in the particularly poignant passages. And as a warning to those who are sensitive, there are unflinching descriptions of spousal abuse and partner violence, sexual assault, murder, child abuse, bullying and suicidal ideation. They are presented in context, but they're graphic. There is also a LOT of swearing, which doesn't bother me, but again, is utterly unflinching and perhaps a little gratuitous.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Villan

    This is your standard "why did trump win?" mixed with "in the 80s my dad and uncle called me gay (which I MUST say I am TOTALLY not!), and well now I've got a sleeve tattoo and wrote a book" Extremely poorly written, intellectually lazy, socially cowardly (the author has absolutely no insight into non-white forms of masculinity, which, in a subject like this is invaluable in examining cross-ethnic commonalities and differences. In fact, I would go even further, that white men who are This is your standard "why did trump win?" mixed with "in the 80s my dad and uncle called me gay (which I MUST say I am TOTALLY not!), and well now I've got a sleeve tattoo and wrote a book" Extremely poorly written, intellectually lazy, socially cowardly (the author has absolutely no insight into non-white forms of masculinity, which, in a subject like this is invaluable in examining cross-ethnic commonalities and differences. In fact, I would go even further, that white men who are poor exist on a scale where vast success is apparently attainable, and that shapes and poisons their entire outlook (as well as their communities and families). But there are ethnic groups where the men see the unlikelihood of the american lottery, and they have to develop a sense of what being a man is within that context. And quite frankly, there is good scientific data to show that in many ways, this is a healthier way for a community t0 live. Focus on the family, not some never-ending corporate ladder with some gold painted apple at the top. Raise your children, love your partner - be a fucking man. (Or, just be a good partner, since there seems to be a hell of a lot more strength coming out of the LGBT community these days compared to all these pathetic "mens rights groups". )

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    This book is mostly a memoir peppered with factoids about toxic masculinity and how it impacted the author’s life. It was an engaging book and a page turner. The narrative is occasionally choppy (at some point there’s a brother in law and I cannot remember mention on a sister...), but it’s a dramatic story in parts and you feel for the emotional damage toxic masculinity wrought on the author. One last critique: author cited websites instead of papers to back his findings. What happens when the w This book is mostly a memoir peppered with factoids about toxic masculinity and how it impacted the author’s life. It was an engaging book and a page turner. The narrative is occasionally choppy (at some point there’s a brother in law and I cannot remember mention on a sister...), but it’s a dramatic story in parts and you feel for the emotional damage toxic masculinity wrought on the author. One last critique: author cited websites instead of papers to back his findings. What happens when the websites get taken down? I would recommend this- particularly if you want to get into the mind of what the heck a Trump supporter thinks...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jarrett Neal

    A solid, if uneven and diffuse book. If you're like me--a non-white, non-straight, highy-educated person living in Western culture--you are not the target audience for this book. Pretty much ninety-five percent of what Jared Yates Sexton conveys in The Man They Wanted Me to Be is well-known to those of us who don't classify as SWGs (straight white guys). After the election of Trump, the details of this book are pretty much wallpaper to our angry, traumatized minds. But redundancy, in this case, is A solid, if uneven and diffuse book. If you're like me--a non-white, non-straight, highy-educated person living in Western culture--you are not the target audience for this book. Pretty much ninety-five percent of what Jared Yates Sexton conveys in The Man They Wanted Me to Be is well-known to those of us who don't classify as SWGs (straight white guys). After the election of Trump, the details of this book are pretty much wallpaper to our angry, traumatized minds. But redundancy, in this case, is not a bad thing. Sexton, as someone who, whether he likes it or not, belongs to this group but definitely is not of this group or a champion of its poisonous ethos, intends this book for the men like him who, as he points out, are destroying the nation, the culture, democracy, and themselves. Sexton is trying to save his brethren so he can, in his own way, save the culture. The Man They Wanted Me to Be does some good work. In this slim book, Sexton gives readers a gadfly's view into the countless torments he faced throughout his life as a SWG who, for various reasons, just didn't fit the mold of traditional masculinity, what many people now rightly refer to as toxic masculinity. I can relate. Though there are only slight modifications, black men, and men of other races and ethnicities, are forced to endure the same tests and trauma. Witnessing a succession of losers, including his own father, abuse his mother and him made Sexton the prime author of a text that critiques the tenets, challenges, and grizzly permutations of modern manhood within a zeitgeist of feminism, civil rights, queer rebellion, and immigration debates that take a power drill to the very foundations of traditional Western masculinity. Sexton notably points to the ways men in America born and raised after World War Two succumbed to the propagandistic myths of manhood funneled down to them through cinema (I love his critique of Patton, both the Academy Award-winning film and the man), risky sex, combat sports, misogyny, conspiracy theories, and opportunistic politicians. Sexton knows his target audience and he's not afraid to call them and their forebears out on the heinous crap they've done--like voting for Trump--that have widespread ramifications for men and women around the globe. The most satisfying section of the book for me was the final chapters where Sexton takes morons like Alex Jones and Jordan Peterson to task, exposing them for the hucksters they truly are. I applaud Sexton for that. Yet the book is not without flaws. Technically, The Man They Wanted Me to Be is not a smooth, cohesive book. Frankly, it's disjointed. Sexton is trying hard to blend memoir, sociology, history, politics, and current events in this book. Yet the result is a stew that, while nourishing, isn't particularly toothsome. While he never lacks conviction, passion, or authority, Sexton falters in his book's presentation. If he could have found a way to be more fluid, to organize this book in way that elevated it, this would have been an exceptional expose', one to partner Hillbilly Elegy, the new de facto book on poor Caucasians and their myriad socioeconomic struggles and resulting prejudices. However, I felt this book aimed low, giving informed readers like me material we were already well aware of. I found the writing neutral and unpolished, yet I think that's what Sexton was aiming for. He knows that the audience he needs to reach, those die hard Trumpers, won't cotton to high-falutin academic speak or SAT words. They want real stories, plain talk, and an SWG like him to give this book to them without frills, stats, or BS. I applaud Sexton for writing specifically to his audience, but I wish he had done a little bit more for woke folks like me. Still, you can't have everything, and Sexton's book succeeds if only in its raw punch-to-the-gut honesty.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    Really great book that I could relate to. I really appreciate the comparison of toxic masculinity to a chronic illness. You never get rid of it, you just learn to manage it as best as you can. Also really liked the way it put some of the current societal difficulties in context and related them to toxic masculinity.

  25. 4 out of 5

    kelly

    This book should be essential reading for all men, especially in today's times. In "The Man They Wanted Me to Be," Jared Yates Sexton writes about his and his family's experiences throughout a lifetime legacy of toxic masculinity. Much of the first section focuses on the personal experience of the author and the negative consequences of sexism and violence, which he witnesses first hand through his abusive father. Jared, a sensitive child raised by a single mother in rural Indiana, eventually ha This book should be essential reading for all men, especially in today's times. In "The Man They Wanted Me to Be," Jared Yates Sexton writes about his and his family's experiences throughout a lifetime legacy of toxic masculinity. Much of the first section focuses on the personal experience of the author and the negative consequences of sexism and violence, which he witnesses first hand through his abusive father. Jared, a sensitive child raised by a single mother in rural Indiana, eventually hardens and becomes suicidal after years of abuse and bad role models due to his mother's choices of men. He discusses the way in which the 'ideal' masculinity (tough with absolute emotional control) is essentially unattainable and not a real way of living but a lie. He also discusses the socialization of boys--the way in which parents and society train boys not to cry, to repress emotion, to hate all things 'feminine' and to express themselves through physicality and violence. The second section is about Jared's relationship with his father and how they eventually reconcile after years of estrangement. The third and the last section concerns itself with the ways in which toxic masculinity gave rise of the alt right and the election of the current president. It is focused squarely on White working class men, who, let's face it, need to do better. He discusses the toxic culture in this group that wraps itself in privilege and white supremacist ideas, in addition to sexist and xenophobic views against 'them' (namely minorities, women, LGBTQ individuals, and immigrants). The only thing I wished this book would have touched on more is how sexism traps men of color as well as queer men. However, I realize that that discussion is a completely different animal. Although we're still talking about bad masculinity, we know that there's history, race, class, and other socioeconomic factors that change the flavor. I would like to read Sexton's opinions on other aspects of this conversation, however. Definitely do pick up this book. While I would not describe anything in here as particularly shocking, it is necessary reading to begin to undo much of the damage due to toxic masculinity.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ian Rose

    Probably the most important and personally impactful book I've read this year, along with David Wallace-Wells' Uninhabitable Earth. I belong to an identity that has caused an almost unfathomable amount of harm in my lifetime and before, and I like to think I'm beyond or above it, but Sexton makes a great case that none of us are. It's baked into us culturally from birth and only mindful vigilance ever holds it back. I recommend this book to everyone I know, but especially the men. It's on us to Probably the most important and personally impactful book I've read this year, along with David Wallace-Wells' Uninhabitable Earth. I belong to an identity that has caused an almost unfathomable amount of harm in my lifetime and before, and I like to think I'm beyond or above it, but Sexton makes a great case that none of us are. It's baked into us culturally from birth and only mindful vigilance ever holds it back. I recommend this book to everyone I know, but especially the men. It's on us to do better, act better, vote better, be better.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    It's everywhere when you know how to look for it. It's in the bullying, xenophobic power-grabs of old men in politics, in American government's negligent treatment of war veterans, even in some young men's reluctance to take AP classes in school for fear of being teased by their male peers. It's behind the increase in hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, and every horror story of alcoholic fathers who abused his wife and children -- sons of which all too often went on to drink and abuse fami It's everywhere when you know how to look for it. It's in the bullying, xenophobic power-grabs of old men in politics, in American government's negligent treatment of war veterans, even in some young men's reluctance to take AP classes in school for fear of being teased by their male peers. It's behind the increase in hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, and every horror story of alcoholic fathers who abused his wife and children -- sons of which all too often went on to drink and abuse families of their own. Jared Sexton spent his young life trying to get out from under the shadow of the common thread in all these sad stories of modern life: toxic masculinity. His mother struggled to raise him under the thumbs of a series of abusive father figures, each one driven almost literally insane by the narrow band of acceptable male behavior their society forced upon them, and the lack of empathy when it comes to acknowledging the insecurities and fallibility of imperfect, human men. It drove him to the brink of self-destruction, as well. Using his own painfully personal experiences as a framework, Sexton lays out a devastating case study of an America that has sold itself the myth of a particular masculine archetype. He means that literally... generations bought tickets to adopt John Wayne as a role model, and let advertising sell them the vision of imperturbable suburban manliness. These are the influences have come to define what we think of as a typical modern man: the emotionally closed-off individual who turns to the external forces of emotional addiction and self-medication as the only means to deal with his perceived weaknesses and failings. Where this book succeeds, and most other attempts to explain terrible male behavior do not, is that he seeks to absolve men of none of it. This book is not a woeful tale about how men are the real victims of the patriarchy, but instead demonstrates how the worst "manly" traits of generations past have escalated into wars that psychologically damage young men, who have to keep up the facade of being indestructible supermen, and how such behavior self-regulates itself almost into parody. Reading The Man They Wanted Me To Be, I feel lucky that I mostly escaped the pervasive American myth of the inscrutable, indestructible male... My father never played into the masculine stereotypes that he was raised around, and it's only recently that I've started to wonder how that happened. A lot of it, I think, was his personality... instead of sports and cars, he gravitated toward the arts, literature and language and theater. (Having multiple sclerosis, he didn't have trauma of Viet Nam to deal with, either.) He didn't teach me to throw a ball, but he did teach me how to get up in front of a crowd and project to the back row. He taught me that masculinity doesn't lie in how you look to others, but how you feel about yourself. I wish someone like that had been there for Mr. Sexton.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mitch

    An important book for these chaotic and dangerous times. Sexton has written not only a powerful book, but also a necessary manual for all of us males who struggle everyday in this misogynist world of Trump. He rips the curtain aside and shows the American male as the raw, scared little boy he is. But he also offers hope for us men, we can be saved from our darker natures.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    While this book held my interest, I had expected a feminist piece with more concrete findings. Instead, this reads almost like a memoir. All but the last chapter are filled entirely with the author's own personal anecdotes of grappling with toxic masculinity. Which is interesting, but not exactly what I was looking for. It may be a better read for people who are unfamiliar with truly toxically masculine people. As someone whose male family members have pretty intense toxic pedigrees (murdering t While this book held my interest, I had expected a feminist piece with more concrete findings. Instead, this reads almost like a memoir. All but the last chapter are filled entirely with the author's own personal anecdotes of grappling with toxic masculinity. Which is interesting, but not exactly what I was looking for. It may be a better read for people who are unfamiliar with truly toxically masculine people. As someone whose male family members have pretty intense toxic pedigrees (murdering their wives, murdering other people, being blatantly racist, family reunions resulting in all-out brawls, etc...) this felt straightforward and kind of boring. I'd recommend it to people, especially cis men, who struggle with understanding toxic masculinity. Or people who want to understand the far right more.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Trek

    This might quite possibly be one of the most important books to can read this year. Sexton uses his own upbringing in southern Indiana to dive into the issues facing men of all ages, from little boys to grandparents. Drawing parallels to the patriarchy that brought about the rise of Trump, he outlines steps we can all do to help end the misogyny, racism, and homophobia that plague out culture. Everyone needs to read this book. Especially men. Especially parents with children.

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