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The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private

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3.91  ·  Rating details ·  376 ratings  ·  27 reviews
An exciting new popular study of the male body--fresh, honest, and full of revelations

In this surprising, candid cultural analysis, Susan Bordo begins with a frank, tender look at her own father's body and goes on to perceptively scrutinize the presentation of maleness in everyday life.

Men's (and women's) ideas about men's bodies are heavily influenced by society's expecta
...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published July 15th 2000 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published June 1st 1999)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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Dusty
Jul 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
With reference to famous male bodies -- John Travolta, Michael Jordan, Bill Clinton, and others -- Susan Bordo offers in this book an insightful analysis of how, and why, men at the end of the 20th Century have become equally as insecure about their bodies as women have been for centuries before. She admits that because she is a woman her perspective is both limited and enhanced; she has no penis of her own, but perhaps that means she can more "objectively" analyze the penises of other people.

T
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Elly Tams
Jul 19, 2011 rated it did not like it
The Male Body begins with a moving account of Bordo's memories of her father's body.

After that she charts the changes in culture, especially in the 1990s which have put the male body very much on display. It was written in 2000 and already seems dated. Calvin Klein ads have now been taken over by Armani for example, and the Spawn of Sporno is what we see everywhere we look.

I liked her refs to film in particular with some interesting observations about The Crying Game and Boogie Nights -Dirk Digg
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Amanda
Jun 25, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
Ugh. I picked this up in an airport-- it was on a display table, and I hadn't heard of it before, so thinking it was new and recommended, I grabbed it. A few pages in and I figured out it was published in the late 1990s, so it feels dated, both in terms of the cultural referents Bordo draws on as well as (and more importantly) the ideas. A larger problem, for me, is that Bordo seems inordinately willing to give men a pass on lots of bad behavior because of their repressed shame and sensitivity a ...more
Cody Case
Jul 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who is or has to live with a male body
This is a crazy good read, indeed. I was fortunate enough to haphazardly read this one and bell hook's "the will to change" in the same season. they both occupy that scanty genre of feminist writers giving voice to the theme of "patriarchy against men too."
bordo insightfully surveys such topics as penis size and public portrayl, consumerism and sexuality, sexual harassment, the inevitable fetishization of adolescent females, the responsibility of women to consider their sexual power in apparel,
...more
Stephanie
Jul 31, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: social-science
This book had a lot of potential, but is riddled with simple errors that an editor ought to have caught. Beyond that, the scholarship is not strong, and while it includes some insights the material is generally dull and uninspiring. The topic is still worthwhile, and I would suggest anyone interested in the sociological nature of the male body look to one of the other books on the subject out there.
Missy
Feb 14, 2009 rated it did not like it
Really interesting topic; really dry book. Bummer, I really thought I'd like this one. ...more
Holly
Sep 06, 2018 rated it liked it
This book, published in 1999, has not aged well. Early on, Bordo notes that "If the available categories of social identity are flexible, fewer people will feel themselves--whatever their biological dispositions--in conflict with them. Part of what seems to be going on nowadays is that more people are trying to reconstruct the categories as well as their bodies" (41). That's one of the things Bordo gets right, but her analysis doesn't anticipate at all just how much reconstruction of the categor ...more
Naomi
Dec 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this. It was certainly a bit dated (especially about trans people) but on the whole very interesting and I felt challenged. I didn’t always agree with the amount of sympathy given to men but it was a balanced look at the impact patriarchy has on men’s view of themselves and of women. The chapter on Lolita was so nuanced and interesting, and really gave me a new perspective
Griffnilla
Aug 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Though this came out in 1999, I appreciated the ability to revisit details of the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings, the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky affair, and Bordo's untangling of details and analysis of the complexities in how we define sexual harassment. [See her chapter The Sexual Harasser is a Bully, not a Sex Fiend.] ...more
Michael Martin
Nov 14, 2018 rated it did not like it
About as unfocused and meandering a work of non-fiction that I have ever read. The author needed to stick to the topic of the book.

I finished it, but hated her lack of focus. Pass on this one.
Karmen
Jan 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, partially-read
used it for a course, read partially. It was an interesting topic to read about, though.
Katie
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Loved this. Wish I had taken notes- it's really a textbook worth of information and theory. It's definitely dated, from the ads highlighted to the section on Bill Clinton's manhood (woof), but the sections on classic Hollywood and on the 90s switch to objectifying male bodies in ads were timeless. Made me want to rewatch Streetcar Named Desire and Philadelphia Story asap.
Recommend for any gender theory geeks and/or people who track their lives and development by which movies they saw when.
...more
Darren
Apr 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
I can almost positively say I have never read or thought about the penis as I have in the last week. Usually I can find a focal point that sticks with me in my reading however Professor Bordo’s writing floods the mind with information, imagery, and because I am male reflection as well. I appreciate the difference she highlights between the phallus and the penis. The phallus in ancient times was a highly spiritual symbol and often represented by the sword or dagger while the counterpart the vagin ...more
Jordan
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Somewhere between this and this is Susan Bordo's thesis, that our perceptions of men and masculinity are shaped by the ads we see, by the images we endorse, and by the ways we communicate the concept of "manhood" to our children.

It's a damn good book.

While a tad dated in its pop culture today, Bordo is still insightful and humorous as she tackles the phallus, both real and symbolic, and how we are trained to react to it. She considers MEN as defined by Marlon Brando, biblical epics, fashion ad
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Sophia
Aug 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sophia by: vague recollections from college women's studies course called bodies.
Shelves: 2011, gender, non-fiction
The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private is an insightful cultural analysis of how meanings and associations are ascribed to the male body. Although the first few chapters are more specifically about the penis, later chapters (which read a bit like related essays) are more about the ideas embodied by masculinity and how these might be nuanced by history, race, and class. Written in the late 1990s and published in 1999, some of the references—Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas, Monic ...more
Zack
Mar 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Over the course of The Male Body, Susan Bordo takes the reader on a tour through recent American history, exploring how popular images of masculinity – and what they say about our society’s notion of manhood – have developed and changed. While it is unusual to see a feminist work that deals almost exclusively with men’s relationship to the world, Bordo makes it an incredibly fun process. She uses studies of movie stars, ad campaigns and political figures, as well as some very funny personal anec ...more
Gregzeck
This is a fascinating read of the male body from the point of view of a feminist who's frankly attuned to her libido. Bordo surveys male body images in pop culture, going back over the film figures of her teen years, for example, and her own teen coming of age experience. She locates in the films of the '50s (Streetcar Named Desire, Picnic) a tenderness and attention to women's sensual appetites that disappeared, she claims, in the more macho sexual revolution '60s.

Did I mention that Bordo's pr
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leo
Oct 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tearjerkers
Yes, my dears, the book talks about penises and phalli (and their difference). But not only that! Thighs, breasts, hocks, and haunches are dealt with in a delightfully mischievous tone that evokes the author's childhood obsessions, including the Marilyn Monroe calendar hidden away in the back of her father's sock drawer. Aside from an old-hat definition of culture as imaginative work, here you will find quite the exploration of the American substratum of the human species that happens to have li ...more
Oliver Bateman
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Gorgeous insights and wonderful writing, but I actually gave up the ghost on this one around p. 180 or so. If all Bordo was going to do was critique old films and make claims therefrom, well, good for her, but more, much more, could've been done here, particularly given how intelligent she seems at points here and at other points throughout Unbearable Weight (which suffers from many of the same problems). ...more
Zoe
Dec 15, 2008 added it
Once you get past the hundred or so pages of phallus discussion, this book provides an in-depth cultural analysis of masculine portrayal in the media.

...You might almost forget you are reading it for a shitty seminar...
Sara
Jul 31, 2012 rated it liked it
Has some good ideas but a bit on the over-wordy side... I got bored in a lot of the sections. I appreciated some of thing things written- this book made me reconsider a lot of thoughts about men and the male body.
Angie
May 15, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Philosophers of Gender
I remember her speaking of all the phallic symbols in our culture.

Now, every time I see a long blue convertible (like the one in "Thelma and Louise") or a tall building, I think of a penis.

Thanks for visual.
...more
amanda
Jan 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-i-own
Bordo is an amazing writer, but this book ends up being a bit trite and dated. Her exploration of the female and body perception (Unbearable Weight) is excellent
Beth
May 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I love Susan Bordo. And this book is a terrific look at masculinity in late-twentieth century culture (primarily American). Her ideas are compelling and her prose is lucid.
MM
Mar 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
excellent -- Bordo wants to move between materiality and language when thinking about gender and men. Highly recommend it.
Lori
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is one that will always stay with me. I still recall it as one of my favorite texts from a class I took with my mentor. I found the first half of the book more readable than the last half.
A.K.
Oct 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
mmmmmmm, male bodies.
Nia Thomas
rated it it was amazing
Jun 05, 2014
Angie
rated it did not like it
Sep 24, 2007
Daniela
rated it it was amazing
Jul 30, 2007
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Susan Bordo is known for the clarity, accessibility, and contemporary relevance of her writing. Her first book, The Flight to Objectivity, has become a classic of feminist philosophy. In 1993, increasingly aware of our culture's preoccupation with weight and body image, she published Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body, a book that is still widely read and assigned in classe ...more

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