Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry

Reviewer: Barbara Scott Emmett, author of Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion, The Land Beyond Goodbye, and The Man with the Horn.

What We Thought: Following on from his television series on masculinity, Grayson Perry investigates how far society's ills can be laid at the feet of traditional man. Wars, crime, rape, vandalism, competitiveness and corporate bullying are all in the main male activities, he suggests in his new book The Descent of Man. How can men release the tension of these urges (which he acknowledges experiencing himself) without causing havoc?

In a world where aggressive hunting behaviour is no longer necessary for survival, what can men do to defuse their natural male urges? Looking at the role of men in today's society, he considers how Default Man (white, middle class, middle aged, grey-suited) can change and grow and find new avenues for self-realisation.

This is not an anti-man book but it does come out against fixed male gender roles. In the new more gentle model of manhood Perry promotes, men can benefit themselves and their health while benefiting the world. Many perceived norms, he suggests, are actually male behavioural traits but so deeply embedded are they in the mass consciousness, they have gone largely unchallenged. With the greater role of women and alternative males in business and politics these are now being eroded. Attempted adherence to these traditional male identities can cause stress, depression, illness and suicide in men who fit the Default Man mould and in those who do not.

Throughout this thought-provoking book Grayson Perry releases snippets of information about himself and his early life with a bullying stepfather. He acknowledges his own aggression and desire to get one over on other men. He sees this as partly a learned trait but also something in the male psyche that needs to be channelled. Though not going quite so far as to advocate military conscription, Perry does not dismiss the potential advantages inherent in some form of organised release of male aggression.

An easy yet compelling read, this book would make a great stocking filler for any man, especially those who may resist its message.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Popular Psychology, Anthropology and Grayson Perry.

Avoid if you dislike: Anything that challenges male norms.

Ideal accompaniments: A pint of Heavy or a sweet sherry, take your pick.

Genre: Social Sciences/Gender Studies

Available on Amazon

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