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This review is taken from PN Review 81, Volume 18 Number 1, September - October 1991.

EFFEMINISTS Engendering Men: The Question of Male Feminist Criticism, edited by Joseph A. Boone and Michael Cadden, (New York and London: Routledge, 1990) £35, £9.95 pb

In one of the essays in this book, Robert K. Martin calls the examination of masculinity in its social and historical contexts 'the essential task facing men as feminists', a task 'made possible by the feminist critique of gender and culture'. Wayne Koestenbaum goes a little further: 'Male feminist criticism means to articulate maleness as strange, outcast, and impermissible'. Virility is a condition of anxiety. It asks, am I in danger of collapse? Virility is fear of effeminacy. It asks, is my slip showing?

This preoccupation, not surprisingly, causes havoc in men's relations with women. Luce Irigaray has dismissed male heterosexuality (that apparent oxymoron) as 'just an alibi for the smooth working of man's relation with himself, of relations among men'. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has followed the same line of thought with her intricate and innovative textual readings in Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (1985). Women have been reduced to a negotiant currency for passing from man to man.

Like heterosexual relations themselves, the alliance between feminist women and sympathetic men has always been an uneasy affair. In the academic world, most men have resisted feminism, seeking to outstare its impertinence with their own obstinacy. Others, subtler and more sinuous, have appropriated the new feminist discourse for use in their conference papers and books, to further their careers, without bothering to modernize their own domestic arrangements. No \vonder women have grown sceptical about men's attempts to 'help'. No wonder they have often ...


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