Book Review: ‘Women, Men & The Whole Damn Thing’

David Leser is a brave man. He has thrown himself, in an eight-month writing sprint, into a global review of the #MeToo movement—covering both its roots and branches in Women, Men & The Whole Damn Thing. The book grew from an article he wrote for Australia’s Good Weekend magazine that went viral. An enlightened, liberal journalist, the book is also a record of his personal journey towards woke-ness, with an admission that he thought he awoke long ago. He invites other men to read it and journey in his footsteps.

That may be a tall order.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great book. Women, especially engaged feminists, will love it. It’s always a pleasure for women to feel their outrage and disbelief is shared by everyone. Leser has interviewed pretty well every gender expert on record (full disclosure: including me) and gives an eminently readable summary of the state of our gender disunion. How appallingly women are treated in almost any country you care to point a map at. How awful this is. The details of the statistics, the horrors and the abuses. It should be essential reading for everyone.

Or should it?

There are obvious benefits and challenges to having a man write a book about women, men, and #MeToo. Women have written entire libraries about women, from Middlemarch to We Should All Be Feminists, via the Feminine Mystique. Men are starting to write books about men and masculinity (in addition to almost every history book). There are some really good ones, like Michael Kimmel’s Guyland or Grayson Perry’s Descent of Man. Women have written about men, as Susan Faludi did decades ago with the seminal Stiffed. But going the other way, or trying to encapsulate it all, is tricky.

I feel a certain discomfort in having a man portray women primarily as victims. The outrage, empathy and compassion clear on every page don’t temper my concern. Why is it that an enlightened man writing in 2019 focuses only on the outrages and sexism still on tap? When the really frightening thing for men is that women are stronger, more educated and more financially independent in more countries than they have been in the last couple of thousand years of human history?

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