I am delighted to share 22 fresh essays on contemporary masculinity, a topic proving to be one of the most important of the 21st century. From Daddy Day Care to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, metrosexual presidential candidates to gay four-star generals, it seems clear that what makes a man is under serious review. Could it be that conventional masculinity, with its stoicism and violence, has become so toxic that men themselves are refusing to take it on?
In search of answers, I interviewed dozens of men about what it means to be a man today and asked 20 of them to write personal, revealing essays about their attempts to challenge the narrowly defined masculinity they were introduced to as children. The result is What Makes a Man: 22 Writers Imagine the Future, a diverse collection that explores the interstices of contemporary masculinity and war, money, sex, marriage, and inner peace, among others.
What I discovered is that most men want to come out as the sensitive, multi-dimensional beings that they are. They want to be loved without having to fight to prove their manhood, without having to hurt others in order to secure their own place at the table. In the same way that women have had to break free of traditional behavior, men too are beginning to reject the idea of a one-size fits all masculinity, and to liberate themselves from the socially acceptable performance that restricts their full human potential.
This book is special to me not just because I edited it with my father, son, brother, and former lovers in mind, but because I believe that the work of redefining what it means to be a man is the work of securing the survival of our species. I have no doubt that when men no longer feel the cultural imperative to dominate a family, an employee, or a country, and when they are free from the fear of expressing their vulnerability, we will be closer to a world in which all people can be assured of their birthright: to live in peace.
As Barbara Ehrenreich graciously writes, "Whether you are a man exploring issues of identity, or a woman who loves one, or you are just a person who believes in the possibility of human evolution, this book is for you."
I urge you to help me get What Makes a Man into the hands of the men and women who need it the most.