Man Up by Rebecca Asher

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Man Up by Rebecca Asher

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Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Anna Hollingsworth
Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth
Summary: From childhood games to prison to being a father, Man Up discusses the social expectations targeted at men and what it is like to be a boy expected to grow into a ready mold of a man. A parade of statistics and personal experiences, this book is an eye-opener and a must-read for anyone living in modern society.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: May 2017
Publisher: Vintage
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1784701802

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When a couple of years ago my university introduced compulsory consent workshops along with an option of 'good lad' sessions for boys, all debate broke loose. Shouldn't consent be self-evident for everyone? Would the workshops reinforce the stereotype of 'laddish' boys? Would it all be about pointing fingers at boys and victimizing girls? What about non-binary people? In short, how could these workshops be anything else than a mission doomed to failure?

In the end, there was no major catastrophe, and the debates died down. But the initial uproar had opened the stage for more comprehensive discussions about gender-related expectations, stereotypes, and abuse: where the discourse had earlier centered around feminism from a female point of view, now a more male voices were finding their way out into the open.

Rebecca Asher's Man Up follows in the same vein, exploring what it is like to be a boy, expected to grow into a ready mold of a man. Asher discusses the social and cultural expectations targeted at men, and how this is reflected in the male experience of everything from going to school to mental health: she does for men what feminist discourse has been doing for decades for women. To anyone asking why 'good lad' workshops might be needed at university, this book offers a definite answer.

Man Up rolls out a comprehensive discussion of what is expected of the male gender, covering everything from childhood to being a parent. Boys will be boys not necessarily because they want to but because boys must be boys. There are social norms to what toys they should play with (not dolls), who to play with (other boys and not girls), and how to play (rough, sporty games and no domestic 'girly' games). The statistics presented in the book are shocking: it is well known that girls and women are more likely to experience violence and sexual abuse and are paid less for the same jobs than their male colleagues, but it is not mentioned as often how boys are significantly more likely to drop out of school, to achieve overall lower results, and end up in prison. The numbers find an explanation in how society views boys and men. Teachers, for example, are more likely to pay attention to male than female aggression, while peer pressure, media, and the porn industry drive men to certain types of sexual behaviour.

Asher discusses controversial topics with great sensitivity and understanding to all parties involved. A particular highlight is the chapter on male and female relations, where the sexual abuse so many women encounter is contrasted with the pressure men come under to behave in a certain way. No fingers are pointed at anyone, nor are offending men acquitted in any way. It is a well-balanced discussion striving to a deeper understanding, rare in the more general discourse dominated by heated contributions of blaming and victimizing.

What I felt a bit dubious about picking up Man Up was the gender of its author. Could I feel totally comfortably reading a similar account of female experience written by a man? My worries proved profoundly unnecessary. Asher handles her chosen topic with true dexterity. The many statistics and research findings are complemented with interviews with men and boys from all walks of life, bringing in the personal experiences the author herself is lacking. As such, Asher remains more removed from her subject matter than if she were writing of her own experience, and this lends an important layer of objectivity to the narrative, building on the more subjective interviews. The plurality of voices in the book makes Man Up a much more comprehensive account of what is it like to be a man than a single male author could achieve.

Man Up discusses phenomena that glare at us as we go about our everyday lives, yet which we for the most part remain oblivious to. A parade of shocking statistics and heartfelt experiences, Man Up is an eye-opener and must read to anyone interested in gender equality – and in fact anyone living in modern society.

If this book appeals to you, then you might also like to try Women of the Revolution: Forty Years of Feminism by Kira Cochrane (editor).

Buy Man Up by Rebecca Asher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Man Up by Rebecca Asher at

Buy Man Up by Rebecca Asher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Man Up by Rebecca Asher at


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