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Men From the notoriously contrarian author of Against Love a witty and probing examination of why badly behaved men have been her lifelong fascination on and off the pageIt's no secret that men often behave in intemperate ways but in recent years we've witnessed so many spectacular public displays of male excess—disgraced politicians erotically desperate professors fallen sports icons—that we're left to wonder whether something has come unwired in the collective male psycheIn the essays collected here Laura Kipnis revisits the archetypes of wayward masculinity that have captured her imagination over the years scrutinizing men who have figured in her own life alongside controversial public examples Slicing through the usual clichés about the differences between the sexes Kipnis mixes intellectual rigor and wit to give us compelling survey of the affinities jealousies longings and erotics that structure the male female bond Laura Kipnis a film studies professor who's made a name for herself in irreverent yet provocative writings on feminism collects a number of essays loosely strung together in this entertaining book I'm not sure that the title theme uite fits all the essays but they flow nicelyThe weakest essay imo Gropers covers material presented in her earlier book The Feminine Thing in which collegiate policy on facultystudent relationships prompts her to attend a training class and lead a mock rebellion of the attendees against the trite platitudes Although presented in chirpingly self congratulatory fashion the complaint about the impossibility in knowing whether advances are unwanted until made felt superficial and glib; the entire thing felt in some sense undeservedly juvenile But in this she develops a theory that melodramatic narrative has come to envelope the student experience and feminism Other essays feel stronger; she manages to flit from branch to branch and circle around to repeatedly nibble at an argument from different perspectives She draws upon both literature and film as references as when she discusses the magazine Hustler as an outlet of Rabelaisian perspective or addresses Sartre's bad faith argument in the context of his own biography as apparently a womanizer I ended up making a small list of books and works I should read based on her references Her background as someone who came of age in second wave feminism and academic Marxism is used to punctuate points in her casual dismissal of capitalism the job marked played women off against men to depress everyone's pay and her Freudian interpretations of pretty much everythingKipnis doesn't have a lot of answers but the essays are provocative and entertaining As she describes in Juicers she may not have infinite wells of outrage to fuel takedowns of moral turpitude and ethical lapses but that gives her just a little bit distance to consider them On a process level Men Notes from an Ongoing Investigation is a successful essay collection Kipnis is a fluid writer with an eye for the mot juste; she varies her sentence structures with grace; nothing she writes ever feels forced If that sounds like faint praise it’s because alas I have a lot of problems with the sentiments Kipnis expresses in her elegant prose Here are the main three1 So Much Freud Lady you are aware that further work has been done in psychology since the mid twentieth century? Kipnis’s references to Freud Oedipal complexes and psychosexual development are so numerous they would make an excellent drinking game condition an idea I am sorry I have only come up with now because I would probably have enjoyed this book if I had been a bit drunk for itSometimes this leads to interesting insights — there’s a reason Freud’s giant shoulders are the ones everyone’s been standing on — but as a theoretical framework it’s sharply limited and you run up against the limits fairly uickly The essay about Dale Peck and how his harsh reviews are his way of enacting the same abuse scenarios to which he was subject as a child is armchair psychology of the most simplistic variety2 Perhaps this is my own limitation but Kipnis doesn’t seem to be in conversation with much of modern feminism She does have an essay about outrage culture framed as a cutesy confession of her own tendencies to moral relativism gag but it’s mostly about something else and in a later essay she says thisYes Dworkin reads like a stampeding dinosaur in our era of bouncy pro sex post feminism Feminist anger isn’t exactly in fashion at the moment these days women just direct their anger inward or carp at individual men typically their hapless husbands and boyfriendsEr What now? There is certainly a strand of bouncy post sex writing but — like Amanda Marcotte Roxane Gay Jessica Valenti Anita Sarkeesian Mychal Denzel Smith Lindy West Jamia Wilson? I’m not even trying hard to think of names of fashionable feminist writers who regularly express anger about feminist issuesAnd relatedly3 Kipnis has an air of being above the fray when it comes to many of the issues that occupy feminist writers and thinkers Since she’s written this book it’s clear that she isn’t above the fray; but she gives the impression that she is far too cool for your petty problems Her reaction to crappy behavior whether it’s Norman Mailer being a shit or Harold Bloom hitting on students is freuently along the lines of “How can you be mad at them when all they want is attention? I just find it rather endearing”Well Neat? I guess? That you feel that way? But that sort of reaction elides and perpetuates the troublesome power dynamics at play It tells the people who are bothered that they are wrong to be And it tells the people doing the bothering that they are okay to continue behaving that way as everyone will just chuckle indulgently And that my friends is how we all end up jumping over missing stairsTo return to the Harold Bloom example Kipnis has a lengthy essay about the absurdity of sexual harassment policies at universities Much of her alarm over these policies feels like received wisdom given that she admits upon reading her own university’s guidelines that they are “far less prohibitive than other places I’d been hearing about” where are these mythologically prohibitive universities? She goes on for a while about how when she was in school everyone slept with their professors and they were totally happy about it because actually the power was uite balanced The students had the power of being young and beautiful and desirable and the professors had the power of you know actual power over the students’ futuresKipnis feels that the tricky part of sexual harassment is that you don’t actually know until you have already groped the student whether that sexual advance is “unwanted” prohibited in school guidelines So what is a professor to do? Here’s one idea just off the top of my head perhaps professors could try the radical strategy of waiting until the class is over and grades are handed out and then to hit on their students by saying “Now that class is over and grades are handed out I wanted to tell you that I think you’re swell and I would love to take you out for dinner sometime if you’re interested” And if that is too much of an emotional challenge for the poor wee vulnerable bunnies in the professorial field I submit that they perchance should find something else to do with their genitalsSigh At one point in my reading Goodreads in its infinite Twitter wisdom sent out the Tweet 88% done with Menwhich my younger brother promptly pounced upon I just wanted to let my little brother know that I am now completely done with MenPS After initially posting my review Goodreads asked me Which of your friends might enjoy Men? Inuiring minds PPS This also just goes to show how important the right title can be The title of this collection almost belies the wide range of topics Kipnis covers across 14 essays The cover is kitschy but the essays are deft especially The Lothario Gropers The Manly Man and Men Who Hate Hillary I appreciate Kipnis' fearlessness in skewering the men she covers while simultaneously poking fun at herself In fact some of the best moments in the collection are when she turns inward or identifies with less savory aspects of the men in uestion she illustrated men performing for a few crumbs of love with a story from her childhood where she pretended to know how to read by memorizing a Peter Rabbit bookincluding exactly when to turn the pages Her points about men's anxieties rewomen controlling the workplace and the home Men Who Hate Hillary and of the power dynamic between teachers and students Gropers feel spot on Overall a solid collection and looking forward to reading from Kipnis

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