"In our rapidly changing society we can count on only two things that will never change. What will never change is the will to change and the fear of change. It is the will to change that motivates us to seek help. It is the fear of change that motivates us to resist the very help we seek."
-Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Intimacy
How will this book help me in deciding...?
This book helps readers understand the influence patriarchy has on our psyches, families, romantic relationships, society, and even our mental and physical health. If you are going to have children, this is a great book to aid in your journey of raising children with an anti-patriarchial lens. If you are not going to have children, the book is also useful for exploring how patriarchy has manifested and affected your own life, as well as your childhood, and romantic relationships.
Why do we put "fatherly love" on a high pedestal? LOVE IS LOVE.
Ch 1: "Wanted: Men Who Love"
"To speak our hunger for male love would demand that we name the intensity of our lack and our loss" (pg 1).
What does it mean to be loved by a male? Can love be gendered? Is love gendered?
In her first chapter, hooks references this "male love" and the frustration many early "man-hating" feminist had-- not only with the inequality of power, but of men's inability to share their emotions, "to love us." These feminist, like the men they were judging, "wanted to be rewarded for being out of touch with their feelings, for being unable to love" (pg 1). They simply could not love the men they were with.
I do not find the claims from these "man-hating" feminists very persuasive, since they simply promote binary forms of gender, and assume that all women share in their frustrations, and that all men are emotionally distant.
Though, I understand the point hooks tries to make with reference to these feminist. These feminist were upset that males appeared to be okay with some parts of feminism--making room for more equality and shared power with women in society, but not other parts--changing their emotional selves.
In her explanation of why we (we who are romantically attracted to men) seek "male love," she incredibly explores the root of the problem, which she attributes to the patriarchal culture's overvaluation of the love of one's father, over the love of one's mother. Because these fathers (men) are so withholding of their love, affection, and emotions, daughters, son, wives, and society want it even more! (You always want what you can't get), and this phenomena makes it "unlikely that maternal affection will heal the lack of fatherly love. No wonder then that these girls and boys grow up angry with men, angry that they have been denied the love they need to feel whole, worthy, accepted" (pg 2).
Moreover, the White, American, patriarchal society also enforces the idea that a father's love is not only necessary, but vital for the well-being of a child and their growth--but that is obviously bullshit, since there are many society's with matriarchal society's doing just fine, and many single mothers or lesbian couples raise their children just fine. Yet, society perpetuates the idea that "fatherless children" are inherently disadvantaged and missing out on a sort of exceptional love. Of course being a single mother, or without the emotional support of your partner would be extremely difficulty, financially and practically, but when it comes to giving a child the love and attention they need, a single mom can do just as well as children who grow up with their fathers' physical and emotional presence.
Yes, sometimes male love, when we remove the romantic, sexual, and friendly part from it, often triggers feelings about our first "male love," our father's love, or lack there of. And this is where self-actualization and self-awareness are crucial for individuals who unconsciously put "fatherly love" on a high pedestal. I myself did not have a very affectionate father, but he was there enough of the time, and he showed me his love in his own way, and continues to do so, but if it weren't for psychotherapy and feminist texts like hooks', I would be stuck, limiting myself, and believing that I was deprived of some "magical male love" from my father, which I will never get, and that I need to get from a male. Yes, I was deprived of his responsiveness, understanding, and time, and yes, maybe he was that way because society told him he had to be, but it is simply not true that he, or any male, will be the source of where I get my needs met. And it equally not true that this is the kind of love I should expect and accept from males, just because my dad was this way, and society tells me males should be this way. Male (or fatherly) love will not heal you or make you complete. As an adult, you will heal you, and you will make yourself complete. As a child, the parent simply missed their chance, but it's okay, not parent is perfect. Yes, it would have been great to have had my unmet needs met as a child by either of my parents, but I didn't, and it made me who I am today, and it pushed me towards self-actualization and cultivating my own self-love, self-assurance, self-confidence, self-attention, and self-understanding.
Romantic love is a partnership and union, and the love that exist between the two people should not be gendered in such a way that perpetuate expectations on what "female love" will provide, what one as a "female" should provide, and vice-versa on "male love". Love is love. Tell me, what is the difference between motherly love and fatherly love, if not, a socially-constructed, essentalist/absolutist view on gendered-love? Many of today's psychoanalytical, social-work, and sociological literature fortunately try to push against these gendered views on love.
Any longing for "fatherly love" is a longing for something that does not exist . Love is love. I'm not suggesting that the love from a father does not matter, because it does, but it is not his maleness that makes his love important, it is that he is your parent, someone who should be raising you with love and understanding.
The false longing of "male love," created by the patriarchal society, also perpetuates the idea that men are inherently unemotional, which makes real, vulnerable love from males so difficult to find, and also make some women, as nurturing and sympathetic women, settle and accept any kind of "male love."
hooks' goes on to explain that some women/gay men learn to "overvalue" male love, even when it is not love at all, and some will settle for whatever "male love" they can get because they overestimate the importance of "male love," while forgetting about love itself. Where there is love, there is fearless and mutual sharing and understanding, not inequality and built-in expectations. You deserve someone who sees you, and loves you, not because of your gender, or what they think your gender's love should provide them with.
"So many of us have felt that we could win male love by showing we were willing to bear the pain, that we were willing to live our lives affirming that the maleness deemed truly manly because it withholds, withdraws, refuses is the maleness we desire. We learn to love men more because they will not love us. If they dared to love us, in patriarchal culture they would cease to be real 'men'" (pg 3)." SHE IS SO GOOD.
PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY ALSO HURTS MEN BY DENYING THEM THE RIGHT TO FEEL AND SHARE THEIR EMOTIONS
"...the patriarchal society really does not care if men are unhappy. When females are in emotional pain, the sexist thinking that says that emotions should and can matter to women makes it possible for most of us to at least voice our heart, to speak to someone... . Patriarchal mores teach a form of emotional stoicism to men that says they are more manly if they do not feel... . ... We construct a culture where male pain can have no voice... . It is not just men who do not take their pain seriously. Most women do not want to deal with male pain if it interferes with the satisfaction of female desire. ... " (pg 5-6).
hooks does a great job at examining the ways males are also duped in the patriarchal society. She also highlights how some women may unconsciously or not, get stuck on their partners being a version of "masculine" and "male" that perpetuates gender binaries, since they themselves may be abiding to her "duties" as a women, or so they think. Some women may think it is a jab towards them if a man expresses feeling unloved, since they may feel they are failing at their jobs, since women are supposed to be the "nurturers and lovers." Again, love is love. If he feels unloved, that is something to definitely work on, but it is not because you, as a "woman," are not doing your "job," but it might be that, you as a human being are not being understanding, affectionate, caring, and supportive (showing love).
hooks also explores anger. She explains that men are told that showing anger is okay and "manly," but sometimes that makes women fearful, and yet, in reality, men are also fearful of showing their emotions and holding another person so close. In the end, love is not effectively communicated from either side. "We cannot love what we fear" (pg 9).
WE NEED TO LOVE EVERYONE, INCLUDING MEN
"ONLY A REVOLUTION OF VALUES IN OUR NATION WILL END MALE VIOLENCE AND THAT REVOLUTION WILL NECESSARILY BE BASED ON A LOVE ETHIC. To create loving men, we must love males. Loving maleness is different from praising and rewarding males for living up to sexist-defined notions of male identity. Caring about men because of what they do for us is not the same as loving males for simply beings. ..." (pg 11).
"We can guide, instruct, observe, share information and skills, but we cannot do for boys and men what they must do for themselves. Our love helps, but it alone does not save boys or men. Ultimately boys and men save themselves when they learn the art of loving" (pg 16).
By Jasmine Celeste