Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men Hardcover – Aug 19 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
To a growing list of books about the myths and mysteries of American boys and young males, Kimmel, a sociologist and author of Manhood In America, adds this deft exploration grounded in research. Based on more than 400 interviews, over a four-year span, with young men ages 16–26, Kimmel's study shows that the guys who live in Guyland are mostly white, middle-class, totally confused and cannot commit to their relationships, work or lives. Although they seem baffled by the riddles of manhood and responsibility, they submit to the Guy Code, where locker-room behaviors, sexual conquests, bullying, violence and assuming a cocky jock pose can rule over the sacrifice and conformity of marriage and family. Obsessed with never wanting to grow up, this demographic, which is 22 million strong, craves video games, sports and depersonalized sexual relationships. In the end, Kimmel offers a highly practical guide to male youth. (Sept.)
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“[A] deft exploration grounded in research....Kimmel offers a highly practical guide to male youth.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Engaging...provocative....The book raises important questions....A useful, highly readable overview of an important social phenomenon.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Michael Kimmel’s Guyland could save the humanity of many young men-and the sanity of their friends and parents-by explaining the forces behind a newly extended adolesence. With accuracy and empathy, he names the problem and offers compassionate bridges to adulthood.” (Gloria Steinem)
“Just as Reviving Ophelia introduced readers to the culture of teenage girls, Guyland takes us to the land of young men.” (Mary Pipher, Ph.D., author of Reviving Ophelia)
“An absolute bombshell of a book. A disturbing, but mandatory wake-up call for all of us who are boys, love boys or raise boys.” (Madeline Levine, Ph.D., author of The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids)
Kimmel calls on us all to see the boy in the pseudo-man, to break the silence with which we surround them, and do what it takes to help them grow into real men.” (Arlie Hochschild, author of The Second Shift, The Time Bind, and The Commercialization of Intimate Life)
“For anyone who has ever longed to know what’s really going on in a young man’s life, rejoice: Guyland is a compassionate, unflinching dispatch from deep in the heart of young masculinity. Required reading for people who raise, teach, and love guys.” (Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in GirlsRachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls)
“Every parent who is about to write a check for college tuition should read this book first and discuss it with his or her son...and daughter.” (Michael G. Thompson, Ph.D., co-author of Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys)
“Guyland takes up where Real Boys left off...a must-read for parents, teachers, coaches, young women who are so confused by the guys in their midst-and for guys themselves who yearn to break free of unwritten rules that leave them half a man, rather than a whole person.” (William Pollack, author of Real Boys)
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Top Customer Reviews
Ostensibly a concerned but kindly portrait of young American males, the book is actually a scathing, unforgiving indictment. Indeed, an in-depth analysis of how adroitly Kimmel has crafted his monumental insult of young American males and impugned their dignity -- while patting himself on the back for being simultaneously insightful and avuncular -- is the stuff of a doctor's thesis with potential to run for more pages than the book itself. This review constitutes but a brief glance at a few of the salient points that such a thesis would highlight.
It is through a combination of neatly interwoven tacks that Kimmel navigates the tricky process of passing off a brutal -- and very shallow -- portrait of young males as a thoughtful assessment.
The overall structure of the book, in and of itself, constitutes Kimmel's primary tack. Focusing, in sequence, upon various unseemly aspects of Guyland -- the term Kimmel has coined to demark the social and psychological world of males approximately 16 to 26 years in age -- he carefully cushions his words with polite disclaimers.
The basic gist of what Kimmel initially tell us is this: The wonderful young man you care about probably is not like what you'll be reading here. But you should know about the "disturbing undercurrent" (p. 9) of the realm in which he spends much of his time.
Then, as the book progresses, Kimmel's disclaimers become less cautious. Eventually they are mere passing mentions and finally they all but completely disappear. In this manner, slowly over dozens of pages, Kimmel stealthily escalates his unwary readers' ire as he heats up his criticism.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
What I don't appreciate is the shaming tone of the writing and the antiquated definition of a grown man. Marriage and children are not the only barometers for maturity. And as much as the bullies need to be held responsible for the violence they cause, "guys" including said bullies also need more real-life, healthy role-models and real compassion. The violence that erupts in boys most likely has very long roots. Think about it. Most boys are steered clear out of their feeling at about age 5 with the classic statement, "big boys don't cry!" and goes on from there. Factor in that boys receive less quality attention in general than their girl counterparts and the messages in popular culture and it's no surprise they're acting out.
I was also very disappointed that a little less than one-fifth of the book towards the end was dedicated to solutions. I've also got to believe that there are more stories of kids, like myself, who have led great alternative lives to "guyland" and who've never set foot on a sports team or a fraternity. I tried a number of times to enter these social groups in high school and college and simply found that their company was just not very entertaining.
My one small solution for helping guys in guyland and mankind in general is attending Men's Groups in the style of Robert Bly. I discovered my Men's Group in college in 1991 and have been attending them ever since. It's amazing what kind of support, learning, and healing can happen when few men meet twice a month to just talk about what's going on in their lives. In these groups I've met men who became the role models I'd longed for in my youth. In these groups I exorcised the many fears I had about wether I was "man" enough.
Principal among them was the desire to have more platonic affection with men, ie hugs. It took me a few years of groups to really let go of both the shame of desiring the warm embraces and fully letting in the pleasure it brought me. (For the record I am heterosexual)
As a full grown adult I hope to bring this compassionate awareness to other young men and let them know that being a man is a whole lot more than being successful with money and women and avoiding acting "gay." Hopefully someone can write that book.
A few of my observations are listed below:
1. As a social-science researcher I, too, wish that Kimmel would have been more specific in detailing his methodology. Those criticizing his research design, lack of comments about about Human Subjects committees, etc, could make the same claim for MANY other research-based books that don't want to bore the average reader this information. It is quite common for those conducting sociological research in more unexplored areas to use qualitative designs - those that just provide observations on a particular group of people. This doesn't make them unscientific, however we should be careful not to generalize these findings to all groups of young men. Kimmel does state early on that most of his observations were about young white middle-class men. Some readers and social-science researchers might like to know a little more about what he actually did. The book in many ways is a phenomenological study that has some limitations, but also much to consider. The "mapping" he has produced is a good starting point for further research.
2. Although this book might describe the majority of white young men, there was little noted about the exceptions to the problems. There are young men out there who live differently...who aren't getting drunk every weekend, hooking up with a different sorority girl each weeknight, or playing video games until 4 in the morning. How do we explain what's going on with them? Probably beyond the scope of the book but readers shouldn't give up complete hope on young men...there are some who are making different choices than those described in the book.
3. Some may criticize the fact that the book lacked Solutions. However, I don't think this was the intent of Kimmel's book. Actually, I would have been disappointed if Kimmel's last chapter was something to the effect of - "Kimmel's 10 steps to better manhood." This is a complex sociological, psychological, economic, educational, family, and dare I suggest, spiritual problem. Solutions won't come from one man or woman, but rather groups of interested parties who are willing to put their jobs and reputations on the line to push for changes in how we interact with boys and young men.
As a 30-something guy who has experienced much of what Kimmel wrote about, I found the book a little spooky. Were his observations about today's young men or did he pull out some data from the years I was in college? At moments, I wondered if Kimmel was writing about my experiences as a fraternity member and college athlete in the early 90's. His observations are not just about today's generation... much of this has been happening for decades. However, the "conspiracy of silence" Kimmel talks has kept many men in the closet about what we experienced or in denial... defensive and pissed off when someone attempts to provide a different understanding of the experience.
Potential readers should be warned. If you think everything is great in Guyland - that American young men are in perfect shape (emotionally, spiritually and physically) with no need to change and you aren't open to reading about patterns of behavior, that are troubling in the least, then don't bother reading this book.
However, if you're like me, someone who's trying to make sense of the young men in your lives - personally or professionally - then this is a must read. More importantly, I think this is a book that people should read with their spouses, colleagues and in the classroom as a way to promote discussion on a very important topic.
This is all established psycho-babble thanks to "Real Boys" and "Raising Cain" and "Reviving Ophelia" (trendsetters that all are mentioned in this work), but Mr. Kimmel takes us from the merely melodramatic to the outrageously insane: to defeat the culture of entitlement (it is true that white middle-class males are all incredibly spoiled), the culture of silence (no one likes a rat, right?), and the culture of protection (is society too tolerant of the misbehavior of males?) that help to spawn the nefarious bleak world that is Guyland, Mr. Kimmel proposes massive school, family, and government intervention. Mr. Kimmel accepts that a large part of urban youth cynicism has to deal with the flagrant irresponsibility and crass greed of America's political and financial elite, and so why would he argue that much of the answer is giving more power to authority figures to dictate how our youth think and behave? The thinking in "Guyland" is just as contorted and confused as the writing.
But on other hand, should all men devote their entire lives to work, work, work to provide for their families as soon as they step out of college for good? Maybe they start wearing neat, well-pressed suits with neckties around the house even in middle of the summer? Then the future generations to come will live happily ever after. :P
Seriously, most kids will always find their entrance into adulthood daunting. That is normal and natural, of course. And they will always find "temporary" sanctuary in lots of pizza, beer, video games, sports, and pretty girls before they are able to take on the responsibilities and demands of adulthood. BUT! -
First, NOT all young men can be squeezed into the culture's current "ideal" mold of what a "real" man should be: a selfless, well-built "Mr. Mom" gentleman with an impressive-looking McMansion housing an IMAX-sized home theater, two gigantic SUVs with all the bells and whistles to keep kids entertained, two well-behaved dogs in the park-like backyard with a mammoth-sized swimming pool, etc. by age 30 or younger any more than a woman can "have it all."
Second, men aren't "required" to get married or have kids these days, let alone have a girlfriend if they aren't interested. And of course, women aren't just baby machines waiting for "Mr. Right" to one day come along and cater to their personal needs, either.
Finally, men can have any kind of interest they like: video gaming, football, Transformers, My Little Pony, anime, even porn, anything - as long as these hobbies don't seriously interfere with a guy's personal life, work, relationships, marriage, parenthood, health, etc., of course.
That aside, boys and young men all need positive role models/messages about their approaching manhood that will not give them a "discouraging" view of the future as well as freedom to be themselves against the staggering (and even lethal) pressure to be "manly" through drinking contests, hazing rituals, and womanizing in college as well as gay-shaming, "toughing it out", and remaining silent when a woman is sexually attacked by one of the so-called "guy" friends - for the sake of "brotherhood", of course. :P
Despite its difficult and loaded content, the NY Time reviewer noted that it was a "good read."
And it is - like a can opener digging deeply into your brain and memory to elict your responses to "What is a man?" Being older, I am way out of touch with today's male world, but Kimmel unlocked several secrets of how men live today: single 35-year-olds living together and the lack of commitment in all of the Appatow comedy films and TV comedies; young boys who endlessly watch a video screen, no matter what it shows; young guy's many hours of "hanging out" and listening to the angry talk radio shows or playing video games, rather than connecting with humanity or facing the responsibility of what they should "be" when they grow up. I was not expecting so many topics - which end up all being pieces of today's "Guyland."
I cannot tell you how many conversations I have had since reading this book with my wife, my children, my male friends. There are those who have criticised the book but I am not certain what they were looking for. A definitive description of a "Man?" A dry and scholarly treatise on "How a man is different from a woman?" Those are "grey" areas already and are shifting and changing as I write this.
I had a wonderful time with the book and thank Mr. Kimmel from getting me away from my electronic addictions. And connecting with other people.