Reviews

I'm Afraid of Men, by Vivek Shraya

henrydefencesquad's review against another edition

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informative reflective medium-paced

4.5

act_1989's review against another edition

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5.0

This book should be read by every human.

caseyjoreads's review against another edition

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5.0

So many big thoughts for such a small book. Universality through specificity, as Vivek shares specific moments with us in a way that tells a cohesive tale of living in a complex dance with men and misogyny.

p.24 - "What might be crusing can also be contempt."
p. 35 - "queerness is associated with freedom from boundaries. Thus, any boundary is inherently unqueer." - I don't think this holds in all queer community, but there are touching-norm communities where stuff is fucked up.
p. 61 "Why is my humanity only seen or cared about when I share the ways in which I have been victimized and violated?"
p. 69 - "another problem with the idea of the 'good man' - the bar is ultimately a low lone, and men are heralded every day for engaging in basic acts of domestic labour like washing the dishes
And the admission on p. 74: "I'm afraid of myself - of the parts of me that even at a young age felt entitled to experiment with or even exploit a female body."

nictariine's review against another edition

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informative reflective slow-paced

3.0

amaniesami's review against another edition

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5.0

A book about what it means to "reimagine forms of masculinity that don't arouse fear," and to release gender from the boundaries of binary, from the unique position of a queer trans girl. Favorite passages:

"How many sexual desires and fantasies are formed out of potential or actual male violence? Or rather, to what extent is sexuality shaped and constrained by childhood experiences of male violence? What might desire feel like if the construction of sexuality didn't take place in tandem with childhood experiences of violence from men?" (25-26)

"What would my body look like if I didn't want affection from gay men and protection from straight men? What would my body look and feel like if I didn't have to mould it into both a shield and an ornament? How do I love a body that was never fully my own?" (31)

***An interesting passage where she discusses the often unspoken discomfort of maintaining boundaries within the gay community, because "queerness is associated with freedom from boundaries. Thus, any boundary is inherently un-queer" (35). In this case, the emotional and physical boundaries that she claims are criticized by the community she most feels at home with. This makes me think of the various ways that systems of oppression and domination are structural in nature and are reproduced in various spaces, radically queer or not - such as entitlement to body, which bodies matter and which ones don't, etc.

"I have always been disturbed... by the reality that often the only way to capture someone's attention and to encourage them to recognize their own internal biases (and to work to alter them) is to confront them with sensational stories of suffering. Why is my humanity only seen or cared about when I share the ways in which I have been victimized and violated?" (61). I've been thinking about this a lot lately as I review some of my favorite books of the year. I noticed that I leaned toward a lot of stories written by and about people of color, and most of the books were largely about suffering. Combined with a recent Harper's article that how black writing is oriented toward white audiences, this has made me question my relationship to reading. Specifically how I digest and orient myself toward people unlike myself, through the veil of story and pain. That's a form of distancing and sensationalizing that I hadn't realized I was doing, even internally. It's similar to the way that I feel affirmed when I read stories written by people like myself, and my irritation when those narratives so often veer around pain. So this turning in and outward is a fascinating mental shift. The Harper's article: "The Gatekeepers" by Mychal Denzel Smith (https://harpers.org/archive/2018/12/the-burden-of-the-black-public-intellectual/)

"In order to reimagine masculinity, the quest for a good man--for an anomaly, an exception--must be abandoned. The good man is a fiction. Instead of yearning for a good man, what if we made our expectations for men more tangible? What if, for example, we valued a man who communicates?" (63) also revisited a little later: "If we want masculinity to be different, we must confront and tackle the baseline instead of longing for exceptions... If we are invested in perpetuating and glorifying the myth of the "good man," we are also complicit in overlooking, if not permitting, the reprehensible behavior of the "typical man." (70).

"The disdain for women and femininity is insidious, infecting even those who profess to love women, and it takes many forms... the theme of entitlement to space that emerges in many of my recollections of men, and in my own masculine development, is colonial code for claiming someone else's space. Whether it's through an emphasis on being being large and muscular, or asserting power by an extended or intimidating stride on sidewalks, being loud in bars, manspreading on public transit, or enacting harm or violence on others, taking up space is a form of misogyny because so often the space that men try to seize and dominate belongs to women and gender-nonconforming people" (77).

"Out of this fear comes a desire not only to reimagine masculinity but to blur gendered boundaries altogether and celebrate gender creativity." - So seeking an improved masculinity and honoring femininity, for Shraya, is not the goal of the work, because it only perpetuates "a binary and the pressure that bears down when we live at different ends of the spectrum." (83).

"What might your life be if you didn't impose these [gendered] designations on yourself, let alone on me?" (85).

naughty_librarian's review against another edition

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5.0

Beautifully written, intelligent, thought-provoking, and oh-so relatable while also providing a unique perspective. So many lessons to be learned here. I wish I could reach through the pages and give the author a hug for sharing this.

lydiaphillip's review against another edition

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challenging emotional hopeful informative reflective sad fast-paced

4.75

This book was selected for my work book club, and what a beautiful, heart-wrenching piece.  I finished this book in one sitting, it's a small book that packs a lot of punch. I loved the style of Vivek's writing and her storytelling. It's reflective, engaging, and creates a bit of discomfort. It's a beautiful book that is a must-read as it challenges colonial ideals of gender, gender roles, and what is a "good body."

psychephoenix's review against another edition

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5.0

Brilliant truth.

whitandwisdom's review against another edition

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5.0

"I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me fear." This book was SO GOOD.

cianarae's review against another edition

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emotional reflective fast-paced

5.0

Such a digestible, relatable, and analytical book. I learned a lot and also felt very validated.

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