A book about setting men free
by Steve Biddulph,
Finch Publishing, Sydney
Paperback, 212 pages.
ISBN 0 646 17303 0
Steve Biddulph is best known as the author of "The
Secret of Happy Children", a very popular book about raising
children published in 1984 and still selling well. Since then
he has written "The Making of Love" and "More secrets
of happy children".
Steve Biddulph has a great talent for sifting through other thinkers'
ideas, picking out the good bits, drawing on his own personal
and professional experience to fill in the gaps, and, most importantly,
expressing the result using no more words than necessary.
Manhood is no exception. Once again, he has distilled the best
elements out of the works of leading thinkers in the field, added
some original ideas, and put them down in a form that every reader
can immediately understand.
The book takes the form of a practical guide for men who want
to transform their lives by taking what the author calls the "Seven
Steps to Manhood" -
- "Fixing it" with your father
- Finding sacredness in your sexuality
- Meeting your wife on equal terms
- Engaging actively with your kids
- Learning to have real male friends
- Finding your heart in your work
- Freeing your wild spirit
Each step is covered by a chapter ending with a summary of the
key points, and, most importantly, a clear list of suggested actions.
Manhood is a good introduction to the men's movement in all its
diversity. Steve Biddulph draws heavily on the work of Robert
Bly, best known as author of Iron John. By analysing the mythical
story of Iron John, Bly explores the process by which boys become
fully-functional men. The relationship between boys or men and
their fathers is the main focus of the story - boys need a father-figure
to show them how to become a man; the modern reality is that boys
are raised by women and don't get the fathering they need. "Father
hunger" is an important concept for men to come to terms
with, but I found the language and sheer volume of Iron John rather
heavy going. I fear most readers would give up before Bly gets
to the point.
Steve Biddulph, however, captures the gist of Bly in a very down-to-earth
way. He does not require his readers to be academic, poetic or
New Age in order to relate to his material. He addresses the common
denominators of manhood in a profoundly practical and approachable
way. For example, he tells the reader in simple terms how to satisfy
their father hunger.
I also found that Manhood echoed a lot of the ideas presented
by Warren Farrell in The Myth of Male Power. Again, Steve Biddulph
manages to explain in a few paragraphs what Farrell took hundreds
of pages to say. Steve Biddulph says that "men are not winners.
There are very few happy men. Men and women are co-victims in
a pattern of living and relating that is in drastic need of revision.
Simply blaming men doesn't change a thing. We need help to change
ourselves. That is where the Men's Movement comes in." Unlike
Warren Farrell, Steve Biddulph makes his point without setting
men up as victims, and his tone is neither apologetic nor angry.
In keeping with his earlier books, Steve Biddulph could well have
called this book "The secret of happy men". He knows
that many of the major social crises we are now facing will not
go away until men stop feeling lost, trapped and miserable. I
recommend this book to both men and women who are open to learning
the "Secret of happy men". Selected quotes from
Quotes from Manhood, by Steve Biddulph
"... men, too, need to become orgasmic, as opposed to just
ejaculatory. One way to start is by placing less emphasis on the
mechanical outer performances or actions, and more on the inner
qualities of sensory and emotional experience. We men feel pretty
lucky if our partner asks what we would like to do in bed. But
the most magical women is the one who asks what we would like
"It's not possible to build a new identity on an inferiority
complex. We had black pride, gay pride, women's pride but men
were supposed to start out with shame."
"The result of this lack of male contact [for boys] is a
problem we are all aware of: that in today's world, little boys
just grow into bigger little boys. These emotional children in
adult bodies then spend their lives pretending. The loneliness
of this and the confusion - not knowing how to be comfortable
with one's feelings or how to be close to others just makes the
pretending more compulsive and more isolating. The loneliness
of men is something women rarely understand."
"Good friends [at times of relationship crisis] will listen
to you talk about your problems but they also have fun, take you
'up the bush', eat, cook and play. They will also - when the time
is right - point out that it's time you got back to your family
and sorted things out. It's as if male friends and elders bathe
your wounds, refresh you, give you a hug and then throw you back
into the ring!"
"If your father is dead, then you might have to 'dig him
up'. Here are some ways:
- Write a letter to him as if he were alive.
- Visit the significant places in his life.
- Talk to others who might know more about him.
- Decide to dream about him.
- Talk with a male counsellor about him, in order to reactivate
your feelings and recollections."
© Copyright 1995.