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I'm Afraid of Men

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  6,776 ratings  ·  1,002 reviews
A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl--and how we might re-imagine gender for the twenty-first century.

Vivek Shraya has reason to be afraid. Throughout her life she's endured acts of cruelty and aggression for being too feminine as a boy and not feminine enough as a girl. In order to survive childhood, she
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published August 28th 2018 by Penguin Books Canada
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Kristen Transphobia, homophobia, and misogyny are probably the big ones. There is no graphic sexual or violent content.

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May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
A short yet sobering book written with raw honesty and valuable insights of how we treat women and people within the LGBT+ community. I was surprised to find myself gaining new perspectives based on the questions that Shraya asks, particularly with how we put men on a binary between “good”/“bad”, and the distinction between identifying as LGBT+ and being expected to have no boundaries. I think if this were a full-length memoir, I would have easily rated it 5 stars; however, this 96-page book cou ...more
A vulnerable, powerful examination of gender and masculinity from trans artist Vivek Shraya. I’m Afraid of Men reminded me of We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as Shraya uses her personal experiences of sexism and harassment to build a case for why we need to redefine and rebuild masculinity as well as gender overall. She shares her lived experience as a trans person of color with courage and incision, both the pain she has felt at the hands of men and misogynistic wome ...more
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
So am I. Vivek Shraya has written a timely essay about her and the world's struggle with masculinity. What we accept as normal behavior in boys is pretty unsettling when you write it down. Femininity is seen as a negative in our world, so if a boy displays feminine traits, he is automatically denigrated. She talks about how she was not accepted with either sex. Boys and girls made fun of her; one creep spit on her back, as Vivek was waiting at a bus stop, while the creep's girlfriend giggled. Sh ...more
Jon Nakapalau
This was such a powerful book - I must admit: I knew very little about transsexuals - and I had no idea how many different ways rejection impacted their perception of self and identity. To constantly have to 'check' yourself as far as a 'gender meter' (am I too feminine for this group - too masculine for this group) seems to me to be a burden that would be overwhelming. Vivek is raw and honest about how life treats this community and how quickly allies can turn away from you if you do not meet t ...more
Tbh Vivek just isn’t in command of her material here. The way Vivek continually conflates femininity and women is extremely irritating and I’m fed up of trans writers doing this. I’m tried of people substituting the word feminine for female - which Vivek does repeatedly. They’re not interchangeable. If you can discuss male privilege and behaviours, you can acknowledge that female people exist. We are not just non-males.

Really the book’s biggest problem is that it claims to be about misogyny but
4.5! Moving, accessible, important: that's what this book is! I loved it. My only complaint is that it was so short! I think this is a great intro-ish level book on feminism.

"What if you were to challenge yourself every time you feel afraid of me, and all of us who are pushing against gendered expectations and restrictions? What if you cherished us as archetypes of realized potential? What if you were to surrender to sublime possibility, yours and mine? Might you then free me at last of my fear
“Sexist comments, intimidation, groping, violating boundaries, and aggression are merely seen as ‘typical’ for men. But ‘typical’ is dangerously interchangeable with ‘acceptable’. ‘Boys will be boys’, after all.”

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Pavel Nedelcu
Jun 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction

Vivek is a trans singer, who during her life has had negative experiences with several men (and women), who took full advantage of the privilege given to them by the patriarchal society to offend and attack her for her sexual preferences, appearance or gender uncertainty.

The chapters in the book are a series of second-person stories - the author speaks directly to the people she has dealt with and reveals their misbehavior and its effects on her.

An ess
I remember reading this book and having no words whatsoever when I got to the very last page. I tried to write and rewrite a review before eventually settling on just adding this to my shelves.

The only reason why I'm revisiting this book now is because earlier this day, a friend of mine and I had a very insightful conversation about this very memoir. I wouldn't go to depths of said conversation to bore you as little as possible but this friend found this book lacking in some way and needless to
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
A worthwhile, sobering account of Shraya's own experiences with toxic masculinity and societal expectations of gender roles; hardly unfamiliar topics if you read a lot of this kind of nonfiction, but Shraya's perspective as a queer trans woman of color is a valuable addition to the discourse, and I'd highly recommend this over a lot of similar books, especially if you're looking for something short and punchy. 

My only issue is that at 96 pages (or under 2 hours on audio, which is how I consumed
Apparently women are responsible for protecting feminine men from other men. We are, according to this author, failing as human shields and that makes us bad people. I read this because it won’t be said I live in my own little echo chamber and that I don’t listen to trans & nonbinary people. Yep, that’s how I roll. My transcription from the audiobook:

“I’m especially afraid of women because my history has taught me that I can’t fully rely upon other women for sisterhood or allyship or protection—
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me fear.

I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the word
girl by turning it into a weapon they used to hurt me. I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me to hate and eventually destroy my femininity. I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the extraordinary parts of myself.

As per her current author blurb, “Vivek Shraya is an artist whose body of work crosses the boundaries of music, poetry, fiction, v
Aug 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
How to describe this book? It's essentially an almanac of whining. Shraya, born into privilege and now a university professor after struggling for many years to achieve fame as a pop star, enumerates the ways in which she's felt oppressed, or even made slightly uncomfortable, by men (and women -- basically everyone) through the years. I was excited for something substantive, but this was insufferable. ...more
chantel nouseforaname
This was a hard and very instigating read for me that I could and couldn’t relate to on LEVELS. I have many issues with so many concepts in this book and they mainly stem from the pointed questions, relating to her own experience, that Vivek uses to paint cis-gendered woman in this almost-as-bad as men sort of dynamic, towards the end..which may be true in some cases, but to have it depicted that way.. you know, it’s alienating. Maybe, that’s what she wants, to shake shit up, but I didn’t like i ...more
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I would be lying if I said that the title didn’t have a huge influence on my intrigue in this initially, however, this book ended up giving me way more insight than I could have ever guessed. Exploring masculinity from the perspective of a trans woman through her experiences both pre and post transition, Vivek Shraya delivers a very raw take on how misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia has impacted her life.

A particularly insightful part in this for me was Shraya’s take on the ‘good man’:

Callum McLaughlin
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Phenomenal. This book should be required reading. To say so much, so succinctly, about the pervasive harm of masculine energy, whilst offering hope for a better future, is frankly awe inspiring.

I am neither trans nor a person of colour, as Shraya is. For that reason, I would never deign to suggest I understand the extent of fear and suppression she has experienced. That said, as a gay man, I still felt so seen by this book. I don’t hate that I’m gay, but I hate that being gay makes me constantly
MissBecka Gee
I enjoyed Vivek's internal awareness both of the things she has done and had done to her and the consequences of both sides of that.
It was eloquent. I've just read much grittier work from people dealing with similar problems.
Overall it's okay and a very quick read, so check it out.
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I'd LIKE to consider myself somewhat 'woke', this slim volume (it can literally be read in under an hour) makes me realize how far I have to go in overcoming certain inherent cisgender prejudices. As queer identified, much of this I could identify with, but it did go a long way towards confronting some of my long held misconceptions about trans people. In fact, my only quibble with the book is that it could have gone into much more detail, and there were sections that cried out for more ...more
Jul 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbtqia, 2021
“I’m afraid of men because it was men who taught me to hate and eventually destroy my femininity. I’m afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the extraordinary parts of myself.”

This is an intimate, honest and thought provoking book! Writen as short little essays almost like diary entries, Vivek covers sexism, gender, misogyny, masculinity and feminism.

Vivek recalls incidents both good and bad from their early years as a queer boy to their 20s as a bisexual man and to her 30s, wh
Diane Creeman
Sep 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
I picked up this beautiful little Penguin hardcover with high hopes. I wanted to read a trenchant essay on toxic masculinity. This book is garbage. It's like something someone in grade eight would write in their diary. The gist of it is "this boy in high school I thought was cute told my friend he wanted to beat me up and it scarred me for life and now I don't know how to have sex." It's truly that banal. I don't know how anyone could rhapsodize about this adolescent swill. ...more
Aug 31, 2018 rated it did not like it
Breathtakingly neurotic, self-absorbed person depicts countless incidents of self-consciousness throughout a life defined entirely by how others perceive her. At the end, one gets absolutely no sense that she's found emancipation or balance from her transition. Depressing and so very self-pitying. ...more
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jane by: 154
This book is a necessary antidote to cisgender, white perspectives of feminism in a post-#MeToo era (whatever that even means anymore!). What I found particularly powerful about Shraya's theorizing of masculinity is all the love and hope the narrator (and younger selves) gives the men who hurt her that, throughout the telling, violently gets thwarted and betrayed. We become, then, all the more aware of how the narrator is providing that love and hope herself, how that capacity remains even amids ...more
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
After reading "even this page is white" I never thought I would see my experience as a (gender)queer South Asian person living in Canada so acutely expressed in literature. But "I'm Afraid of Men" has done just that. Vivek Shraya so succinctly and devastatingly recounts how the systemic violence of a forced gender binary robs us of the ability to both be safe and be ourselves.

I really hope everyone who has ever cared about me reads this book so they can understand what I mean when I too say, "I
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, non-fic, queer, novella
In this essay, trans artist, Vivek Shraya writes with raw honesty her reasons for being afraid. Throughout her life, she had endured acts of cruelty and aggression. She discusses the damage - on not only herself but on society - that has been caused by misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia. Shraya builds a case for why we need to redefine masculinity and gender as a whole. Truly an amazing, compelling, emotional, and thought-provoking read.
rachel ☾
my first read of pride! thought-provoking & powerful
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book more than I did. I think as a memoir it succeeds, but it has the flavour of a manifesto, and I guess that's where I stumbled with it. In summary--I don't think women or anyone assigned female at birth (AFAB) would find any of her experiences surprising. Distressing, of course, but not surprising. I think any woman or AFAB person has lots of similar experiences.
Again, it's memoir and it's hard to questions another person's experiences. The entire first section, where s
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I initially picked up this book hoping to see through the eyes of a trans woman and educate myself on what her path might look like.

What I discovered was an insight into a very difficult journey but along with that I was challenged in my own perception of gender conformity. It made me think about our roles in society and I found that it gave me a little bit of strength and encouragement to explore my own feelings on the topic. My can of nonconforming worms has been well and truly opened.

And fo
Lisa H
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Honestly, everyone should read this book. Shraya examines how masculinity has effected her life, she was too feminine as a boy, and is not feminine enough as a girl. It brings up tough questions about gender and asks us to reconsider what it means to be a "good" man. How do we make good less nebulous? In what ways does the way we think about gender need to change? This books asks hard questions but they are exactly the discussions we need to be having right now. ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This slim volume is a longish essay about the author’s experiences as a bisexual teen and then later as a trans woman. There aren’t any insights here that anyone up on contemporary feminism would find surprising, but the deeply personal aspect of the essays makes it a compelling read nonetheless. 3.5⭐️
Elisabeth Manley
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Make yourself smaller, invisible, don’t take up too much space, don’t accidentally rub arms with the man next to you on the subway. Don’t make eye contact, or smile, don’t accidentally show an interest that could be seen as “asking for it”, whatever “it” may be. Vivek Shraya speaks to the little things we do every day out of fear, whether we notice we do them or not. She doesn’t only limit this to men, this fear also extends to women; women who encourage these men, women who do not support each ...more
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Evergreen Summer ...: Reimagining Gender 1 11 Jul 19, 2019 07:55AM  

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Vivek Shraya is an artist whose body of work crosses the boundaries of music, literature, visual art, theatre, and film. She is the author of The Subtweet, Death Threat, even this page is white, The Boy & The Bindi, She of the Mountains, and God Loves Hair; and her best-selling I’m Afraid of Men was her­ald­ed by Vanity Fair as “cultural rocket fuel”. She is one half of the music duo Too Attac ...more

Articles featuring this book

This June, as we observe LGBTQ Pride Month—the annual celebration of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and...
99 likes · 73 comments
“I have always been disturbed by this transition, by the reality that often the only way to capture someone’s attention and to encourage them to recognize their own internal biases (and to work to alter them) is to confront them with sensational stories of suffering. Why is my humanity only seen or cared about when I share the ways in which I have been victimized and violated?” 23 likes
“I’m afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear. I’m afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the word girl by turning it into a weapon they used to hurt me. I’m afraid of men because it was men who taught me to hate and eventually destroy my femininity. I’m afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the extraordinary parts of myself” 20 likes
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