Home' HR Monthly : May 2017 Contents BOOKS
A cloak of masculinity
Amanda Woodard on a book that questions our fixed notion of gender.
THE DESCENT OF MAN
BY GRAYSON PERRY PENGUIN, 2017
Over the past few years, Grayson Perry
has gravitated towards ‘best-loved’
status among the British public, a
position only previously enjoyed by
David Attenborough. So it was fitting
that Perry recently walked off with the best presenter and
best documentary series at the Royal Television Society
awards in London for his series Grayson Perry – All Man,
which investigates the state of contemporary masculinity.
Perry is in a unique position to survey his sex.
Besides being a Turner Prize-winning artist, he is also a
flamboyant transvestite often dressing as ‘Clare’ his alter-
ego. Perry is also happily married and has one daughter.
His book The Descent of Man takes a philosophical
and reflective approach in attempting to understand a
world still dominated by the ‘Great White Male’. This is
a man who “continues to colonize the high-status, high-
earning, high-power roles”, says Perry. “His combination
of good education, manners, charm, confidence and
sexual attractiveness (or ‘money’, as I like to call it) means
he has a strong grip on the keys to power.”
The only problem, as Perry lays bare, is that the cloak
of masculinity isn’t working for the majority of men.
“Boys grow up steeped in a culture that say that they
have fewer and simpler feelings than girls’; boys are more
robust, they don’t care about things so much. But this
downplaying of their emotional complexity is the aspect
of masculinity that we most urgently need to change,”
argues Perry. Allowing men more emotional space would
have a massive positive change for the world, not least by
reducing rampant war-mongering, he says.
It could also turn the tide on the male suicide statistics.
Globally, about twice as many men kill themselves as
women, in developed countries it is three times as many.
“For many, masculinity is a fatal burden,” says Perry.
But Perry isn’t arguing that there is no place for
traditional masculinity, far from it. (He ad mits to being
as hugely competitive and desperate to be right as the
nex t man). Rather, he wants a more nuanced, variable
masculinity that breaks out of its current constrictions.
To achieve that, men may have to step out of the public
eye and spend more time in the domestic sphere to create
more caring, sharing role models.
Change will not happen unless society invests in the
idea, he admits. Masculinity doesn’t exist in isolation
and unless the economic, cultural and social conditions
welcome change, men are likely to remain in strait-jackets.
But he’s hopeful. “ We men need to stop thinking of
masculinity as immutable. One thing that therapy has
taught me is that you can change how you feel about
things... it just takes motivation, education and time.
Men can learn how not to fear the alternatives.
“An emergent masculinity may be one that prizes
tolerance, f lexibility, plurality and emotional literacy in
the same way that strength, certainty and stoicism have
been celebrated in the past. Give boys a finishing line and
maybe they will race to cross it.”
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DRIVEN BY DIFFERENCE:
HOW GREAT COMPANIES
FUEL INNOVATION THROUGH
BY DAVID LIVERMORE
AMACOM, 2016 $39.25 (Booktopia)
Corporate culture expert Livermore
argues that diversity matters only if it contributes to an
organisation’s mission. Refreshingly, he derides political
correctness and suggests that people should embrace their
differences instead of seeking commonalities. There’s
practical advice on showing respect, gaining clarity and
arriving at consensus.
THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE
ROOM: WHY SCIENCE IS STILL
A BOYS’ CLUB
BY EILEEN POLLACK BEACON PRESS,
2015 $34.99 (Dymocks)
Despite graduating with a BSc in physics
from Yale, Pollack became a writer
instead. As a child, she wanted to learn math and science,
but teachers discouraged her because of her gender.
Pollack examines her education as a case history to
understand why women abandon science careers and
weaves in interviews with women in science to explore
how to prevent their continuing exodus.
May 2017 HRM magazine 39
21/04/2017 12:45 PM
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