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The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  8,901 ratings  ·  1,199 reviews
Everyone needs to love and be loved -- even men. But to know love, men must be able to look at the ways that patriarchal culture keeps them from knowing themselves, from being in touch with their feelings, from loving. In The Will to Change, bell hooks gets to the heart of the matter and shows men how to express the emotions that are a fundamental part of who they are -- ...more
Paperback, 188 pages
Published December 21st 2004 by Washington Square Press (first published December 30th 2003)
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Shelly 100% is still relevant. The ideas and stories will still impact you and make you re-evaluate your own perceptions of men, masculinity, and love. The p…more100% is still relevant. The ideas and stories will still impact you and make you re-evaluate your own perceptions of men, masculinity, and love. The patriarchy still has a stronghold on us. The only major thing that strikes me as lacking is the inclusion of the impact on non-binary, trans, etc. individuals, but nonetheless, most people can still see the benefit of the internal conversation this book will spark. (less)

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Jul 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Every man, and everyone who loves a man, should read this book. The Will to Change carries a revolution in its pages. bell hooks argues with fierce eloquence about how we socialize men to numb their emotions, to only express anger and rage. She conveys honest compassion by contending that we must socialize everyone to honor male pain so that men will treat others with loving kindness, lest they forever repress their feelings to live up to the awful standards of toxic masculinity. One of the seve ...more
Apr 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: feminism
I have profound respect for bell hooks. She is and will probably always be one of the most clear minded and insightful feminist theorists for years to come. Her works and lectures can be both mind blowing and humbling.
And a book like this is important because men need a better understanding of their place in the movement as allies and we need to be reminded at times that they can and should be better.
That being said, it was clear that this book was going to be far more likely to appeal to a ma
Nov 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: patriarchy, favorites
bell hooks defines this project as an attempt to love men enough to understand how patriarchy affects them, and understand how their pain can help them transform and challenge patriarchy. For me it was a profound experience reading this because it touched on so many aspects of my life as a male, from childhood, to school, to sex and relationships, to friendships, etc. It allowed me to see old memories in new ways, and understand that my feelings of pain, confusion and shame were a result of the ...more
Feb 01, 2022 rated it really liked it
I honestly do not know how to talk about bell hooks. This is only the second book by her that I've read, and my reaction to the first one, Feminism is for Everybody, wasn't a favourable one. I was naive and approached it with all sorts of wrong expectations and honestly, the book wasn't palatable. But I've watched countless interviews of her over the years, because she has such a soothing voice, it's almost as if she is cooing even when she's taking someone down (like that one interview in which ...more
Dec 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Important and original. I appreciate how much space hooks spends on quoting and citing other authors (especially psychotherapists, which made me happy); it's the mark of a great thinker who isn't afraid to give credit where credit is due. This is one of the rare books on masculinity that addresses the topic with sensitivity and also without blaming women or feminism for all of the problems.

My two main criticisms are:

1) hooks seems very gender-essentialist. She continually expresses her arguments
Dec 28, 2020 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about this book.

This is the second book I’ve read from bell hooks. The first, All About Love, felt like a revolution. I re-read it 3 times. I bought copies for friends. After seeing the title The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love, I immediately purchased a copy, excited to absorb more of hooks’s wisdom.

Let’s begin with the good: hooks presents a scathing critique of patriarchy. She outlines the ways it harms men, from emotional repression to higher rates of suicide
Sagar Jethani
Aug 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: philosophy
I am disappointed with this book-- not least because the author is one who many of my friends have admired for years. While I generally agree with her premise, she does not represent it well. Insightful criticism of white male patriarchy is quickly supplanted by ridiculous arguments which undermine her case.

Harry Potter as a prototypical example of white male warmongering?

Facile claims that all males harbor killing rage within them because they are all infected with patriarchical thinking?

May 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminism
When I developed my feminist sensibilities in the 1990s, it was bell hooks who was first to validate not only my place as a feminist man but to ardently argue for my space as a comrade in feminist work. It was going to take feminist women and feminist men collaborating together in order to do the work so desperately needed.

Ever since then, bell hooks has been a huge part in my growth as a feminist, teacher, and man. And since the publication of The Will to Change in 2004, I've probably returned
Nov 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book has answered almost every question I've ever had about men and why they are the way they are. It has helped restore my faith in men as a sex. Instead of just pointing out the injustices of patriarchy, Hooks explains, step by step, exactly how men are socialized to be violent, and given misguided notions about what it means to be 'male.' For the first time, I was introduced to the idea that men suffer from patriarchy even as they are privileged by it. Because of Hooks, I've been inspire ...more
I first heard of this book on an episode of the podcast Pass The Mic in 2020. One of the hosts Tyler Burns highly and passionately recommended that Black men read this book and a group of us did in the Black Men Read book club. bell hooks teaches us in this book that patriarchy is a problem. For men its starts when we are boys and are told to not express our emotions, "be a man", be tough, etc. What that teaches men is to bottle up our emotions, but hooks says that when boys/men do this the end ...more
Jesse Richards
May 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a profound book that I will now list as one of the most life-changing I have ever read.

Its singular message is that patriarchy harms men almost as much as it harms women (though in different ways). Feminism is not women working against men, but women and men who value love working against men and women who value domination.

I haven't loved the previous hooks books I've read, even though I agreed with them, because I didn't find her writing style clear or elegant enough. But this one reso
chantel nouseforaname
Wow, the amount of times I started, stopped and restarted this book I didn’t think I’d ever finish it.

The first couple of chapters from 1-5 triggered me repeatedly. It’s not complicated to say why, but it is! There’s something about looking into and attempting to understand the fluctuating emotional state of men and patriarchy that is uncomfortable and yet simultaneously necessary.

I always turn to bell hooks when I’m looking for internal peace around certain topics and she always offers up the
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book changed my life. Everyone on Earth should read it. A feminist book about alleviating the burden of men seems inconceivable to feminism's many detractors but inside this book is an answer to all the loneliness, heartache and angry emotions that men feel. It provides a solution that isn't tamping them down in silence or being more rigorous with your rage. There is so much care and compassion inside that it truly transformed the way I think about myself and the choices I make. It strikes ...more
Moriah Russo
Oct 31, 2016 rated it liked it
I love and respect bell hooks, but this book was a disappointment.

It takes a huge step away from From Margin to Center, in which hooks writes about male suffering under patriarchy that “Feminist activists should acknowledge that hurt… It does not erase or lesson male responsibility for supporting and perpetuating their power under patriarchy to exploit and oppress women in a manner far more grievous than the serious psychological stress and emotional pain caused by male conforming to rigid sexi
Ben Zimmerman
Apr 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I have complicated feelings about this book. I really strongly agreed with parts of it, but there were also parts that completely missed the mark for me. I wonder if some of the gap between myself and the author is generational. The men that have been present throughout my life are not nearly so callus or emotionally blocked off as the ones described in the book. It also emphasized spirituality and the soul too much for my taste, and I felt that those aspects strongly undermined the arguments in ...more
Walter Briggs
Mar 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book absolutely changed my life. How often do you get to say that? Even better, it was a gift from one of my daughters (who was then surprised that I read it!)

It told me more about myself, my upbringing, and my place in the world than I could have imagined. If this were required reading for every member of modern society, the world would be a more habitable place. It could literally end war…

It's not easy, but neither is life. Women and men will both gain new insight into how we are all perp
Jul 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
Many people write in the reviews: "all men should read this". Well, I am a man and I read it.

None of the advice given in the book is actionable. Even the author complains about the lack of advice for men in literature but provides none herself.

All you get from this book is a introduction into the authors feminist ideology and world view. She is never self critical and proofs her views only by anecdotal evidence. She never cites any study or scientific publication but only other authors opinions
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
hooks has a way of rejecting the ideas of what masculinity has meant over the millennia to encompass it in a domain that is much more realistic and humanly, enabling men and women alike to love and know men better, and in turn, love them better.
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a human being bell hooks is. Despite being a female, she pierced my depressed and troubled soul fraught with self-inflicted wounds from masculinity. Every chapter was a journey with different aspects of myself, and I often put the book down to ruminate on her words and wisdom. She lays bare, clear for anybody to see, the contradictions of masculinity and patriarchy, and how they harm men and women. Above of all, it is the severance of men from their emotional self that harms society, that c ...more
Jun 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was surprised at this book. I was looking for a book that I could hold up to someone's face and say: "look--I'm right and you're wrong!" But it wasn't the case. bell hooks is really is a complex writer who challenges everybody. This book is not just for men who want to look deeply into themselves and see how Patriarchy effects and privileges their existence, but it also explains why men have so much less depth of emotions. It also forces women to see how we uphold patriarchy just as much as me ...more
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Timeless. Essential reading on toxic masculinity and men's role in destroying patriarchy. ...more
Z. F.
“Our work of love should be to reclaim masculinity and not allow it to be held hostage to patriarchal domination. There is a creative, life-sustaining, life-enhancing place for the masculine in a nondominator culture. And those of us committed to ending patriarchy can touch the hearts of real men where they live, not by demanding that they give up manhood or maleness, but by asking that they allow its meaning to be transformed, that they become disloyal to patriarchal masculinity in order to fin ...more
Dec 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"If we cannot heal what we cannot feel, by supporting patriarchal culture that socializes men to deny feelings, we doom them to live in states of emotional numbness."

While I have been educating myself in feminist theories lately, I started thinking about how much energy and emotional real estate I squandered due to misogynistic ideas and words. I have played my part in patriarchal gender norms and let me tell you, it was incredibly toxic. This book really hit close to home for me. Anyhow, I fe
Oct 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
Let me just count down my top "omg omg moments" from while reading this book (listed in a random order here):
1. bell hooks taking a strong stance for advocating feminism as the only way to dismantle patriarchy.
2. The examination of the role of maternal sadism in inciting adult male violence against women. I was totally knocked off by this portion of the book where bell hooks writes about how mothers/female figures within families timely intervening and protecting children from patriarchal violen
Hamza Sarfraz
Jun 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book is my introduction to bell hooks. And what a nice introduction it has been. Like any genuinely good scholar, there are a few things she does in this book that make it worth reading.

First, she offers no definitive answer to the topic at hand. What she instead does is provide us with a framework for understanding patriarchy, masculinity, love, self-esteem, power, and the way these interact. She provides the reader with the tools to explore these themes by themselves. She gives a language
Susan Muehrcke
Apr 13, 2022 rated it did not like it
A guy cited this book as his reason for ending things, so thought I should support him and read it. Turns out he was just hooking up with his ex, so I guess the only thing “willing to change” is my faith in men.
Annie Mahon
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was a paradigm changer for me. If you are interested in understanding the painful ways in which men are socialized to ignore and repress their hearts, and want help knowing what we can do about it - this book is for you. The best book I've read in a while and one I am recommending to everyone. ...more
May 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
"Although therapists tell us that mass media images of male violence and dominance teach boys that violence is alluring and satisfying, when individual boys are violent, especially when they murder randomly, pundits tend to behave as though it were a mystery why boys are so violent." ...more
Mar 08, 2019 rated it liked it
I found valuable insights in this work, but I also found significant flaws. For starters, I was irritated that there were no citations or bibliography for the works hooks quotes. I get that this is intended to be a popular work, but all that scholarly stuff is really easy to ignore in a book if you don't care about it--people do it all the time--and really hard to do without if you want it. I also found a few significant editing errors.

But mostly I was bugged at the frequency with which hooks m
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
I’m going to make this book required reading for any future male suitors.

The issue tackled in this book is essentially Why doesn’t feminism talk about men? Men, like women, are harmed by gender norms and male violence. They have a powerful, central place in feminism, but so often feminism leaves them out, ostracizes them.

Men are taught, via shaming of other expressions of emotion, that the only appropriate outlet for their emotions is anger; and anger is opposed to love, anger occupies the spa
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bell hooks (born Gloria Jean Watkins) was an African-American author, feminist, and social activist. Her writing focused on the interconnectivity of race, class, and gender and their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and domination. She published over thirty books and numerous scholarly and mainstream articles, appeared in several documentary films and participated in various ...more

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24 likes · 5 comments
“To create loving men, we must love males. Loving maleness is different from praising and rewarding males for living up to sexist-defined notions of male identity. Caring about men because of what they do for us is not the same as loving males for simply being. When we love maleness, we extend our love whether males are performing or not. Performance is different from simply being. In patriarchal culture males are not allowed simply to be who they are and to glory in their unique identity. Their value is always determined by what they do. In an anti-patriarchal culture males do not have to prove their value and worth. They know from birth that simply being gives them value, the right to be cherished and loved.” 66 likes
“We need to highlight the role women play in perpetuating and sustaining patriarchal culture so that we will recognize patriarchy as a system women and men support equally, even if men receive more rewards from that system. Dismantling and changing patriarchal culture is work that men and women must do together.” 39 likes
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