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The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  4,544 ratings  ·  560 reviews
With the courage, honesty, and compassion that have made her one of America's most provocative authorities on modern culture, bell hooks takes on the interior lives of men and answers their most intimate questions about love.
Everyone needs to love and be loved -- even men. In this groundbreaking book, bell hooks gets to the heart of the matter and shows men how to expres
Kindle Edition, 208 pages
Published (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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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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Nov 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jesse Richards
May 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sagar Jethani
Aug 15, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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?

Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

It feels inadequate to write a review of this book because for me, reading it was profoundly life-changing. It forced to me to recharacterize my entire childhood and experience of gender.

So I'll just say that it's worth reading for anyone, regardless of gender, who cares about feminism or is interested in making change in Western culture.
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Walter Briggs
Mar 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Hamza Sarfraz
Jun 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Ben Zimmerman
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
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Annie Mahon
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Melissa Stacy
First published in 2004, "The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love," by bell hooks, is a powerhouse work of nonfiction. I can never say enough good things about bell hooks. Her work is a gift.

"The Will to Change" is a short book written in highly accessible prose, but the content is so difficult to take in and grapple with that it took me as long to read this book as Jackson Katz's "The Macho Paradox" (which I also highly recommend).

"The Will to Change" did not repeat material I have read
Apr 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: al(l)i(e)son, kalia, jess, ladies and gents
hooks writes, with care and patience, of the social disease that is patriarchy and its attendant costs for men, women and the relationships that sustain them. in conversational tone, she tells stories of how the ways in which men learn to deny or displace their feelings creates a whole population of emotional cripples, subject to constant suffering. And by avoiding this pain and the ways oppressive systems oppress across all divides, we women are not only doing an injustice to the men in our liv ...more
Timeless. Essential reading on toxic masculinity and men's role in destroying patriarchy. ...more
Oct 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wgss, unlearning
I finished reading this a few days ago, but thought I'd try to write down some half-baked thoughts. People usually think about patriarchy as something that affects women (if they think about it at all), but don't consider the effects that it has on men, too. This is the first place I've seen anyone talk about men as victims of patriarchal violence. And this violence isn't just physical—in fact, it's often psychological, with young boys' being separated emotionally from their mothers too early, p ...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
Sivananthi T
Dec 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this a long time back, at a younger age, when the concept of love was still something small, and limited in my mind. I shrugged off much of this book then, because I could not grasp the profundity of what hooks was talking about. I returned to this same book so many years later, and find that I now understand what she calls us to do, in transforming masculinity, not men, but the concepts of patriarchy which dominate the interpretation of masculinity. And what it demands of us, not only of ...more
Jun 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i feel like a Changed woman after reading this. all of the resentment ive felt towards the men in my life was already dissipating but this wonderful piece of work speeded up the process. i feel more sympathetic towards patriarchal women and men, because i realize now that they cannot give the love they mourn for when they have never experienced that kind of love that’s freeing. i also recognize my own power too, and that my love for others will never reach a capacity because it doesn’t exist. be ...more
Bianca Mogos
A must read for every man and woman. Opened a whole new world for me.
Conor Ahern
Masculinity: what a burden! Let's tear it all down and let boys be human. ...more
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish all men — or maybe just everyone — would read this.
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bell hooks (born Gloria Jean Watkins) is an African-American author, feminist, and social activist. Her writing has focused on the interconnectivity of race, class, and gender and their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and domination. She has published over thirty books and numerous scholarly and mainstream articles, appeared in several documentary films and participated in ...more

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133 likes · 18 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.” 43 likes
“Most gay men are as sexist in their thinking as are heterosexuals. Their patriarchal thinking leads them to construct paradigms of desirable sexual behaviour that is similar to that of patriarchal straight men.” 26 likes
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