We live in an era in which many of the men occupying the highest seats of power–from the movie producer’s chair to the desk chair of the Oval Office–think misogyny is perfectly permissible. The same dynamics repeat themselves at every scale. And yet, while we may criticise the vulgarity and violence of these men, much of our society at best gives the behaviour a pass, or at worst, subscribes to an ideology that actively permits it. And whether one approves of or loathes the behaviour, in most cases it’s still explained as men being men, either with a “boys will be boys” wink, or a disapproving description of Donald Trump’s high testosterone levels (from Frank Bruni in the New York Times) or a claim that Barack Obama’s were too low (from Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post).
In Are Men Animals?, anthropologist Matthew Gutmann argues that biology alone is an insufficient explanation for bad behaviour–and turns everything we thought we knew about masculinity, testosterone, and the modern male on its head. The trick, he reveals, is to figure out where the line between nature and nurture really lies. To find out, Gutmann embarks on a global investigation of machismo spanning from Mexico City to Shanghai, from close-knit communities to sprawling college campuses, from rehab programmes in Oakland to the frontlines of war in Iraq. Along the way, he questions the extent to which we think men’s bodies control their destinies, and how that changes how we understand matters like competition, conflict, and international combat. Ultimately, Gutmann implores us to expand our ideas of what a modern man should or could look like, for the benefit of our society as a whole.
Provocative and incredibly timely, this book will be the definitive manifesto for a revamped understanding of modern masculinity, one that every man–and woman–needs.