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The Will to Change

Men, Masculinity, and Love

By bell hooks
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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The Will to Change by bell hooks

The Will to Change (2004) is about the social norms that cause men to dominate society. These blinks explain the social basis for masculinity, offer insight into why men can’t get in touch with their feelings and explain why it’s important for them to do exactly that in order to heal.

Key idea 1 of 7

Patriarchy prevents men from loving and getting in touch with their feelings.

Most people know that boys just don’t play with dolls, but do you ever wonder why this is such a deeply ingrained social norm? It’s an assumption that comes from how the patriarchy, a system that instructs the behavior of men, affects our thinking.

The patriarchy is everywhere you look. It’s a power structure that tells men they should be in charge, dominate those around them and feel superior, especially toward women.

Indoctrination into this system begins in early childhood when parents teach their kids behavioral rules. During this time, gender determines the norms that kids are taught. Girls are taught to serve and nurture while boys are taught to suppress their feelings and provide financially for their families, but not to care for others in different ways.

Because of this early teaching, every social setting is afflicted by patriarchal logic. No matter if it’s religious, educational and so on. In every instance, both kids and adults are reminded that breaking the rules of patriarchy will result in punishment.

Just consider the author, who would always win when she played marbles with her brother. Her father considered it inappropriate for her to be better and more aggressive than her brother, so he forbid her from playing. When she rebelled, he responded by beating her and sending her to her room.

So, the patriarchy affects everything, and the situation is dire. After all, as long as men are trapped in this system, they won’t truly be able to love or be in touch with their emotions.

That’s because the patriarchy denies men access to their feelings and therefore to emotional well-being. Just consider the common saying, “boys don’t cry.” Many people haven’t seen a man cry, and that’s a result of the patriarchy telling men it wouldn’t be manly to feel emotions.

As long as men are disconnected from their feelings in this way, they’ll be deprived of love, both for themselves and for others.

Next up, you’ll learn more about the consequences of this emotional denial.

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