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The Descent of Man

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  6,762 ratings  ·  648 reviews
Grayson Perry has been thinking about masculinity - what it is, how it operates, why little boys are thought to be made of slugs and snails - since he was a boy. Now, in this funny and necessary book, he turns round to look at men with a clear eye and ask, what sort of men would make the world a better place, for everyone?

What would happen if we rethought the old, macho, o
Hardcover, 151 pages
Published October 20th 2016 by Allen Lane
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Catalina Well what I think you are referring to is the shelving, but that is a very personal, subjective way users shelve the book they read and not an objecti…moreWell what I think you are referring to is the shelving, but that is a very personal, subjective way users shelve the book they read and not an objective way to categorize a book.
Now if you want to talk about genre, this book is an essay: the author's take on masculinity and how to "improve it", with a very strong autobiographical character, but not a autobiography.
In my view this cannot ever be a psychology book because the author does not abide by science, psychology, human nature and whatnot. Also I hope this won't be consider a study of masculinity because it is not; again I feel the need to insist on the fact that this is a subjective view on masculinity and some idealized, mostly modern feminist ways of improving it! (less)

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Sep 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gender-stuff
What with this and Robert Webb's recent How Not To Be a Boy, it feels pleasantly like the UK is having a prominent polite debate about what masculinity is. This makes me happy, because I've always felt that gender relations in the society I grew up in were less polarised and less weaponised than they are in the cultural America to which, as an expat, I am now primarily exposed when I engage with the Anglosphere via mass media or the internet. The subject is notoriously fraught, though. As Perry ...more
Emily B
May 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m highly recommending this, particularly if you have an interest in gender. It’s accessible, interesting and amusing while it addresses important issues surrounding gender expectations. Grayson recalls his own experiences with honesty and self awareness which makes it more personal and relatable.
Feb 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

Greyson Perry is honestly self-reflective in this treatise on masculinity. As a transvestite, he sees himself as having been contemplating his own responses to ideas of femininity and masculinity from a young age, and therefore as particularly capable of identifying the problematic gender constructions of modern society. For this is book is not about the failure of men, but rather the issues in how maleness is defined and determined by society. From blue baby clothes and toy fire trucks
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: masculinity
3.5 stars rounded up
Rather brief and pertinent little book about the history, nature and future of masculinity wound around Grayson Perry’s own struggle with his masculinity. There are no references and Perry can be repetitive, but there is some great artwork as you would expect from one of our foremost artists.
The best part of the book is when Perry talks about his own life, the abuse from his stepfather, his teenage self as a skinhead and skateboarder, his passion for motor biking and mountai
3.5 stars. This was interesting but I didn’t completely agree with everything Perry says in the book. It’s definitely good to read other people’s opinions so I’m glad I decided to try it out. It’s also a fairly short audiobook so I didn’t get bored even though nearly all the chapters talk about very similar things leading back to the same points. Would recommend.
Julie Ehlers
As Philadelphia writer R. Eric Thomas is fond of saying, "masculinity is a prison." By now it should come as no surprise to anyone that rigid gender roles limit everyone, and while women have made some advances in areas previously seen as "male," men generally seem more reluctant to embrace their so-called feminine side, despite the obvious drawbacks to having to be seen as hypermasculine all the time. It's not clear how much farther the project of gender equality can go without men being fully ...more
Emily May
Jan 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2017, arc
The most pervasive aspect of the Default Man identity is that it masquerades very efficiently as 'normal' - and 'normal' along with 'natural', is a dangerous word, often at the root of hateful prejudice.

Grayson Perry is known mostly for his artwork and transvestism. Here he draws on his own experiences with masculinity and femininity to explore traditional ideas about what it means to be masculine, and challenge those ideas. It's an easy, interesting read, complete with some great artwork.

Jun 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Hilary by: Found in the library
I did enjoy reading Grayson's thoughts about masculinity and what men can do to change the stereotypes that are there. I found his memories of childhood interesting and he comes across as someone I would love to talk to and really like as a person. He seems like a really nice guy. Overall the ideas in the book were perhaps too polarised, black and white and neatly tied up to be interesting to someone who generally agrees with them. Also I feel he will be preaching to the converted, will someone ...more
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Trish by: Warwick
Until a friend recently pointed him out, I’d never heard of Grayson Perry. I have since looked at his artwork online and am as impressed over his painting and his clothing choices as anyone would be. They are quite…wildly spectacular and suggestive…of a world where sexuality is a choice.

Somehow, despite Perry telling us that he experienced and acted out of a deep well of rage in his youth, we feel comfortable with him telling us what he thinks we’re misunderstanding about sexuality and gender di
Viv JM
Men's Rights (according to Grayson Perry's manifesto):

The right to be vulnerable
The right to be weak
The right to be wrong
The right to be intuitive
The right not to know
The right to be uncertain
The right to be flexible
The right not to be ashamed of any of these

Hard to argue with that.

In The Descent of Man, Grayson Perry argues that the current concept of masculinity needs to change. He approaches the subject with warmth and wit. I enjoyed this book, and will encourage my husband and sons to read
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The "Descent of Man" is a critical analysis of masculinity, disguised as personal anecdote. While feminism is much discussed, masculinity is not. That alone makes the book worth reading. Grayson Perry defines masculinity as "a construct of conditioned feelings around people with penises." and is on a mission to rescue men from a predisposition to violence, self-harm, depression and cruelty.

For non-UK readers, Grayson Perry is a man and a famous British artist. He has been a transvestite since he
Apr 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to PenguinRandom House for the ARC of this book.

Read this book along with the most updated version of "The Beauty Myth" by Naomi Klein. And have the whole thought narrative turn you sideways.

Perry questions what masculinity is and why certain types of behaviour are associated with it. And also, how can masculinity be adapted to the 21st century world. But all in all, what makes a man?
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essential-fact
An essential, accessible read that everyone should have on their bookshelves. This does not blame, it shows where responsibility lies and the damage forcing men into the patriarchal narrow box of toxic masculinity does to everyone. Written with humour and bite, a wonderful book!
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: society
"I smelt a basic feeling looking for a rationale... and then came up with a semi-plausible motive"

There were so many problems with this book that I don't know where to start. I liked a recent Grayson Perry documentary about Brexit and thought he brought an even-handed perspective to a divisive issue, and assumed he would execute this book in a similar manner. I am not a particularly masculine man, as a cursory look at my reading history can attest to, so whilst I am not immune to having the trai
You'd think I'd be burnt out on reading about gender and feminism as I'm currently writing my Masters dissertation on the topic, but I couldn't resist giving this a go when my friend offered to lend it to me.

To those with more than a passing interest in the topic won't find too many new ideas here, but they were written about from a fresh perspective and with other ideas interspersed, making it a wholly engaging read. I found Grayson Perry's ideas about masculinity particularly thought provoking
Ali Benam
Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the best thing I have read this year so far. It was on organizer to my messy thoughts around masculinity. There was a clear vision of what it is, what's wrong with it, and what direction it should be headed at. This is the ideal book for me, something that makes me want to read more on the subject. ...more
Katie Lumsden
Jul 15, 2017 rated it liked it
This was an interesting exploration of masculinity, though possibly more interesting than enlightening. I enjoyed reading it, and found several of the facts, statics and Perry's thoughts, engaging and interesting to read, though I am not certain that much of it was new to me. ...more
Wiebke (1book1review)
Very interesting take on masculinity and what it means for today's society.

The audiobook was really well narrated and it was a joy to listen to it.
Alex Sarll
Grayson Perry is a bit like Marmite or Mansun; I quite like him, while getting the feeling that most other people who like him like him much more than I do. So too with this illustrated essay on masculinity, its travails and possible ways of allaying same. I suspect many will love it, as they did the Channel 4 shows on a similar theme which I never quite got around to watching; meanwhile, the usual suspects will be as outraged as ever when Perry points out the emperor is naked and not half so 'a ...more
Alice Lippart
Interesting enough, but a bit too basic for me.
Tanja Berg
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to explore stereotypes
Shelves: feminism, non-fiction
Men's rights
The right to be vulnerable
The right to be weak
The right to be wrong
The right to be intuitive
The right not to know
The right to be uncertain
The right to be flexible
The right not be ashamed of any of these
I am a declared feminist in the sense that I consider equal rights and opportunities between the sexes a given. Women's rights are human rights. It's quite refreshing to read a Greyason Perry's thoughtful little book on how masculinity is bad for everyone - particularly men. The cons
A book on masculinity by a famous artist and a cross-dresser? Yes please! I loved this perspective. The book reads like a manual on gender and masculinity, although it felt a bit basic at times; he never explicitly says that misogyny is at the root of why men deny their own emotions. He is an artist and stays an artist, even as a writer, which was interesting to me - all the witty illustrations et cetera. Would recommend this to anyone interested in emotional intelligence and gender.
Dylan Kakoulli
Apr 15, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021
“The Decent Of Man” is an illustrated manifesto by Contemporary British artist, Grayson Perry. Exploring the roles of traditional Masculinity and the barriers (thoughts, behaviours, ideas and expectations) that HAVE to be dismantled, in order for true societal progress and gender equality to be made.

Drawing from his own experiences with masculinity, and femininity -through his transvestism, Perry explores interesting issues of, power, violence and emotions under the umbrella of masculinity. Thou
Rebecca Gransden
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Rating a reflection of how much I enjoyed my time spent with this. Not perfect but worth it.
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
It takes a bit of nerve to use the same title for your book as Charles Darwin did for his 1871 study, but in a way Grayson Perry seems to be saying that modern men are fully capable of evolving, and for the better. It should be possible for them to transition from their traditional dinosaur-like sense of what it is to be a man towards something more fitting for the future, more so now that we are in the era of #MeToo and with urgent demands for well overdue gender parity.

Who is Grayson Perry? Th
Apr 08, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was an interesting examination of masculinity and its wider impact on society.

I will admit that (intuitively) I am more of an individualist than is fashionable at the moment, but Grayson Perry makes some excellent points and this was an eloquent, readable work that provided me with lots of food for thought.

Recommended for those interested in gender dynamics and the moving Zeitgeist.
Jan 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The Caitlin Moran quote on the back initially deterred me...(https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...)

Not all bad though. Not all great either.

Grayson Perry is known for his eccentric artistry, television documentaries and his transvestitism. He is not known for his writing, and it will probably stay that way.

Perry provides us with a feminism-lite deconstruction of modern masculinity. It goes through everything you already know, whether you've read it elsewhere or because you're not an idiot. H
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2018
As Perry states matter-of-factly towards the end of this short, but hugely insightful and entertaining, book: 'Masculinity is mainly a construct of conditioned feelings around people with penises'. Sounds simple, right? Try to unpack that from gender politics to societal norms and even crime stats, and you realise what a minefield traditional 'masculinity' really is. A lot of what Perry says here, from teenagers being able to channel their testosterone into activities benefiting society rather t ...more
Oct 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, kindle
Very easy to read and although Perry's not saying anything particularly new, it's doesn't reduce the importance of the message surrounding the nature of masculinity - particularly in an ever increasingly automated age and future. Particularly interesting to read after watching his recent documentaries on the same subjects which he touched upon in detail surprisingly little here.

As short as it is, it still feels a little overstretched near the close and I'm not sure I agree with all his conclusio
Gisela Hafezparast
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Really thoughtful and thought provoking book about what it is to be a man and what our current predominant model of manhood means not only for men but also for all of us. Grayson shows how so many problems we currently have, are directly correlated to the still predominant idea of manhood, which values, brute strength, dominance, power, rivalry and success more than understanding ones own and other people's feelings, being able to negotiate positions and teamwork. Do we still need a man to be ab ...more
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Grayson Perry CBE RA is an English contemporary artist, writer and broadcaster.

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“Men’s rights The right to be vulnerable The right to be weak The right to be wrong The right to be intuitive The right not to know The right to be uncertain The right to be flexible The right not to be ashamed of any of these” 7 likes
“Fulfilment of masculinity is often sold on the strength of peak experiences: winning battles, pulling women, pure adrenaline, moments of ecstasy. But life ain’t like that. We rarely, if ever, take our car (masculinity) on to a racetrack, so maybe we need a version that works doing the everyday things. We need a masculinity that’s easy to park, with a big boot, child seats and low fuel consumption. Men need to learn to equip themselves for peace.” 6 likes
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