The Descent of Man, by Grayson Perry

Filled with irony, cynicism and more than a touch of humour, The Descent of Man is a very enjoyable yet thought-provoking read on a subject that continues to have a major influence on society as we know it today. Masculinity.

From the bravado of sport and competition, to the strangled nature of male emotions, The Descent of Man takes the reader on a journey covering all aspects of the modern man. Reflecting on his own experiences, Perry lends a poignant observation on masculinity in today’s world, exploring it’s history and the predominantly damaging nature it has upon how half the population think and act.

The 21st century has proclaimed itself as innovative and forward-thinking. As a result, topics such as feminism and gender have very much become household phrases, with more and more people beginning to seriously consider the issues around gender inequality. Having had very little exposure to studies in these areas before, I found this novel proved to be a short but enlightening insight into an area of the gender debate that is often overlooked and misunderstood.

Many men often distance themselves from feminism, or even worse see it as an attack on themselves, and are therefore all too happy to disregard it. By approaching this topic from a much more relatable area, Perry highlights many aspects of masculinity that many will not have even considered before. More importantly, he describes how there are many parts not only damaging to the other sex, but also to men themselves.

Perry considers how masculinity is well and truly intertwined with nearly all aspects of our society. He explores a number of dated perceptions, highlighting how these are harmful to both males and females alike. As the modern world continues to adapt to new technologies and societal norms, so too, Perry argues, must our views on the role of men and women.

Overall, The Descent of Man is a short read with a lot to offer. I would highly recommend it for anyone interested in developing an understanding of what is largely an unspoken topic, especially for men themselves. This is not a book on feminism, rather it is an honest plea for men to look inwards, and consider whether their efforts in maintaining a dated perception of masculinity are really more harmful than good. This book does not offer a perfect solution to the issues around gender. Instead, it ultimately highlights how with some effort, sacrifice and openness, we might all live in a better world.

Length: 160 (Penguin)

Overall rating: 5 stars

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Author: Jack Jakins

A recent graduate of history, now an aspiring writer and general cynicist

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