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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 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racist patriarchal structure which has favored white men, and investigates the personal and societal dangers of such outdated definitions of manhood.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 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. 5 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 a 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

    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...

  3. 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 several stepfathe 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

  4. 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, “the personifi 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 4 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 4 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...

  12. 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.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dan Downing

    If one uses facts and hard data references, there is little to argue with here and little new. Most everything has been explained elsewhere. Mr. Sexton writes as well as the typical newspaper writer. Most of the book is his biography. After explaining the disastrous marriage in which he was conceived, and the following union his mother engaged in with another abusive asshole, he tells us, on page 77, that Mom wanted him to meet Randy, whom she had dated for seven months and had agreed to marry. If one uses facts and hard data references, there is little to argue with here and little new. Most everything has been explained elsewhere. Mr. Sexton writes as well as the typical newspaper writer. Most of the book is his biography. After explaining the disastrous marriage in which he was conceived, and the following union his mother engaged in with another abusive asshole, he tells us, on page 77, that Mom wanted him to meet Randy, whom she had dated for seven months and had agreed to marry. Mother and son walked the half block from their living quarters--- with her parents---to Randy's trailer. "I'll never forget that trailer", writes Sexton, "With its floor swimming in old Mountain Dew cans, every surface covered with opened comic books and magazines, empty containers of Skoal chewing tobacco piled up next to a TV covered in a thick layer of dust." What a shock when Randy goes to jail soon after. Jared needs to spend some time considering toxic women as well as the undeniably vile men in his life. Him included. Those who most need to read this won't, of course, and those who would most applaud Mr. Sexton's triumphant journey through alcohol and idiocy would applaud without reading his story in detail. He despises Trump and spends the last 50 pages citing familiar crudities, lies, and inadequacies of our President and listing the predations of Donnie's supporters. White men support Trump because they fear women, the law, morality---the things which revoke their unearned power and suasion over others. We knew about these people when we sensed their little weenies curling and shriveling when an almost white black man was President. They were able to unite under the wet muck of Trump's campaign and as Donnie gained momentum, the haters found the courage to emerge into the light. The emotional disturbances of the blacks and the women who support Trump are connected, but not examined here.

  14. 4 out of 5

    David

    The general cultural, psychological, and economic commentary seemed on point to me but also widely available (alt-right is scary; people who boast all the time may be compensating for insecurities; suppressing "soft" [i.e., not anger] emotions might not in the end be terribly healthy for men; Trump tapped into a sense among White guys in areas experiencing tough times that life hadn't worked out as expected, so someone should be blamed..........). What was more compelling in my reading was the au The general cultural, psychological, and economic commentary seemed on point to me but also widely available (alt-right is scary; people who boast all the time may be compensating for insecurities; suppressing "soft" [i.e., not anger] emotions might not in the end be terribly healthy for men; Trump tapped into a sense among White guys in areas experiencing tough times that life hadn't worked out as expected, so someone should be blamed..........). What was more compelling in my reading was the author's own story of how toxic masculinity affected his life. Tough to read, but worth it -- abused by his Dad and several stepdads, witnessing his mother's serial experiences of domestic violence, bullied at school, and on and on. Doesn't spare you the details of his struggles, including some scary DUI scenes, randomly picking fights with strangers in bars, eating disorder symptoms, relationship problems and more. Very impressed with how he ties together his individual experiences with wider cultural trends, not to mention more concretely how he ends up patching things up to an extent with his father before the father died. Author teaches creative writing [though i assume this is all true!] and is indeed himself an excellent writer.

  15. 5 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 patience. Again, poverty and 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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, 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Sexton doesn't offer answers to the problem of toxic masculinity. Instead, he delves into the personal and the worldly causes and effects. The book is, at times, heart wrenching, especially when Sexton shares about his complicated relationship with his father. It's also well researched and deeply thoughtful as he makes sense of the role of toxic masculinity in his life and society. It certainly gave me a better understanding and empathy for how this plays out for men, and it is a stark reminder Sexton doesn't offer answers to the problem of toxic masculinity. Instead, he delves into the personal and the worldly causes and effects. The book is, at times, heart wrenching, especially when Sexton shares about his complicated relationship with his father. It's also well researched and deeply thoughtful as he makes sense of the role of toxic masculinity in his life and society. It certainly gave me a better understanding and empathy for how this plays out for men, and it is a stark reminder that this is something we need to address as a society.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Blas Olavarrieta

    If you don't want to look like the guys who loved this book: sad, weak, depressed, EMASCULATED start doing things for MACHOS! ha ha it was just a load of proggressive crap, but i laughed really loud while i was reading this, but you know what? i laughed even more when i saw the guys commenting about this book, haha!!!! guys be ready because your wives will get bored of you very soon, and they will be dancing with their "friends" while you clean the house the friday at night.

  21. 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.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nicki Cartin

    This book was absolutely amazing! I loved how detailed it was and how he used examples from people in his life rather than a pedantic, distant commentary on men. I saw so many of the men in my own life in this book and it made me feel more prepared to support my son as he grows up. Everyone who knows a man should read this!

  23. 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.

  24. 4 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.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Juan Bacigalupi

    A fascinating look at the fragile image of strength most men try to project, how it is in display in spades with Trump’s supporters and how it is dangerous for our society and for the men at risk of suicide for failing to achieve this unachievable idea of what a man is. Highly recommend.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Noe

    An essential read that I worry won't reach those who need it most. I don't post long reviews here much, so I'll leave it at saying this dredged up many memories and feelings in me... and that if it makes you need to talk, I'm here to listen.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    I listened to this book vs reading it, which I regret. I never remember to timestamp interesting parts to return to or to research on my own to learn more about the particular facet the author is discussing. Absorbing and incredibly timely content.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    A moving memoir and solid overview of the myth and paradoxically vulnerable foundations of hyper-masculinity and the danger it poses to men, women and our political future; along with some thoughts on a way out of our current societal bind.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Azhar

    Part memoir, part critical analysis on the actions and origins of masculine behavior. It's a good book and definitely worth a read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Karma

    This might deserve five stars, but it's really more of a book for men than women. I wish more men would read it, but they probably won't. Chapter 13 was particularly powerful.

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