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The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  485 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Explains what patriarchy is (and isn't), how it works, and what gets in the way of understanding and doing something about it.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 29th 2005 by Temple University Press (first published 1997)
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Ross Blocher
Allan G. Johnson's The Gender Knot: Unraveling our Patriarchal Legacy, is a mixed bag. I'll start with the good, but first: the obvious. It's a book about the patriarchy written by a white man, and I am another white man writing a review of his work. Fun! His identity aside, Johnson does a good job of defining patriarchy* and privilege and highlights these phenomena as structural attributes of our society that need to change. And hey, a man can offer useful insights on what it feels like to have de fac ...more
May 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
I was a little skeptical at first when I saw that we were reading a book about patriarchy written by a man (a white man, to say the least! Come on, Multicultural Ed class! Get out of the system!). After reading it, though, I think that Johnson actually brought a lot of his experiences as a man to bear in ways that showed how patriarchy operates as a system, not as just individuals who need to feel guilty and be re-educated. His primary point is that both men and women find themselves in a social system o ...more
Jun 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This took a while for me to get through, but I'm glad I did. It is an eye-opening, awareness-inducing book, and has made me interested in reading more feminist literature.
Oct 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, feminism
This is good for an introduction, although it has some annoying features.

Firstly, there is too much (for my taste) emphasis on polemical engagement with the MRA movement. Given that MRA has no solid theoretical basis (which shows splendidly in Johnson's presentation), spending pages upon pages on engaging with them might seem like a straw-man to people who do not buy into MRA, but nevertheless buy into patriarchy, or are ambivalent towards feminism.

Secondly, certain issue
Dec 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The best book on feminism for men that I have ever read. Johnson's depth of understanding and clear prose are wonderful, but the GK might not be the easiest introduction to the topic for the beginner (bell hook's Feminism is for Everybody might be better for that). Johnson's elucidation of patriarchy as a system and the responsibility of individual men within that system is particularly valuable. A truly wonderful book.
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rereading
It was hard to accept that a man could write such a good book about feminism, but now that I've read it twice, it makes sense that a man could understand and explain issues such as sexism, oppression, and male domination. His ideas apply to white privilege as well as male privilege. This was the first and best explanation for that connection that I had ever encountered. I especially appreciated his familiarity with the work of Marilyn French, author of Beyond Power.

This guy gets it!
Faye Woodcock
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read this book. I’m impressed by how a white male American - ie the top of the privilege pyramid - was able to articulately break down and explain gender inequality and patriarchy.
Logan Lovelace
Jan 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting ideas on patriarchy. This book changed the way I viewed a lot of things in our society.
Jul 31, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I finished this a couple of months ago, but for some reason I now feel compelled to actually write something about it.

It's interesting, for sure.

But there's this vague implication that as long as our society is based on control and power, it will always be a patriarchy, and this notion makes me uncomfortable. Uncomfortable in the sense that this idea strikes me as buying into patriarchy, a little bit. (I mean, I guess everyone does buy into the patriarchy at least a littl
Jun 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: the entire human race
this is the clearest book I've read on gender. It is explained sociologically and encompasses everything, everything that we are dealing with right now. This book gave me the ability to really talk to people who knock feminism as if though there is not relevance right now for feminist thought. What this book made me realize is that those dismissive comments come from a very calculated place that most people don't even realize is outside of them.
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Eye-opening, life-changing
Nov 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book gave me a lot of information to chew on and think over. I've been kind of aware of gender issues in the past. I've had classes on it and the like. I suppose this was just another reminder.

Before I get into my personal opinion on the book I want to get the technical out of the way.

Clearly and well written. There was a lot of repetition, sometimes to the point that I thought he must be copy and pasting... I don't really like that, but it seems to be common in informational b
Oct 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Allan Johnson navigates the treacherous waters of gender politics in our culture with skill and sensitivity in "The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy." Johnson's premise -- that the "patriarchy" is not so much about benefiting all men at the expense of all women as it is about a culture of control -- is mind-expanding and crucial if we are to move forward as a society, and as a species, toward a sustainable, joyful way of living together on this planet.

As Johnson points out, men an
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Invaluable for its vocabulary, arguments, continuing effectiveness in responding to Jungian men's movements, and interaction with feminist writers who are often under-read. This is a short book that points to a large library, and as such, does not say much more than it should. My few complaints have to do with sections of chapters 3, 4, and 8. I would have liked to see a more direct analysis of the (often uncritical) assumption that what is "natural" is a good indicator of what is "moral." But c ...more
Jordan James
Nov 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Extremely thoughtful and engaging look at patriarchy, its formation, and its (hopeful) deconstruction.
Recommendations aren’t excellent, only in that they mostly consider how those with privilege can dismantle power systems, and does not create recommendations for how minority populations can work to end patriarchy in safe ways. This could however, be considered a strength, if he is only attempting to speak to those in power about recognizing their privilege and using it for change.
Carol Merritt
Apr 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A broad and solid intro to patriarchy. We are using it in the Doctor of Ministry course that I'm co-teaching. I appreciate Johnson's understanding of patriarchy as a system and the practical advice on how to unravel.
Abby Covington
Apr 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Solid introduction to the patriarchy and sexism. Wish I had more time to study it, but it's my friend's textbook so I kinda need to give it back.
Elizabeth Sierra
Sep 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Another book that I was forced to read for a Gender Studies class. It made a lot of great points, but wasn't very helpful on solutions to problems. Almost felt like circular, redundant reading.
Apr 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: college
From an enlightened male point of view in support of feminism, the author breaks down the system of patriarchy in even ways men may respond to. A must read for any modern woman and her modern men!
Aug 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The most influential book I've read about feminism and gender, read during my senior year of high school. All the more important because it was written by a man.
Aug 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
good primer for boys. :)
Max Urai
The content here is fine, although a bit outdated, in the sense that I feel that a lot of this will be rather obvious and familiar to most people who have spent any time at all on the internet. Patriarchy is the problem, not individuals; small acts can have big consequences; men are central in our culture. Gotcha. My bigger problem is that Johnson is just not that good a writer. Impassioned, yeah, but also pretty dry, academic and just humourless. For someone who keeps repeating how long he has ...more
Steve Kreidler
Sep 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Important but dated review of the impact of a patriarchal society on women. Johnson sometimes spends a chapter on a notion clearly and impactfully described in two pages, but otherwise this is seminal writing to those who care about gender equity in our society. First published in the late nineties, only an update to 2005 has so far been offered. I would enjoy another tome that brought together events and data from the past 15 years to light.
Amy Rollason
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Essential reading for the 21st century feminist.
Raymond Chan
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social
A great introductory book on the patriarchal society.
Ram Lee
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best
Read the 3rd edition (2014).
Very impressive. Best book on patriarchy I've come accross.
I hope many people will read this, preferably men.
B. T. Night
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I had to highlight every passage I thought was important, entire pages— even entire chapters— would be covered. A very important book I feel everyone should read.
Sep 30, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting view of the past state of affairs in the area of the American academic feminism, that is, if you can get past the first chapter full of unsourced generalizations. The author refutes the unfounded hypotheses about the male environment and male upbringing in the past of several prominent researchers of that period - late 80ies early 90ies and laments the lack of understanding and acceptance of the idea of the 'patriarchy' from the establishment. The book itself is a detailed documen ...more
Jun 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: gender studies students
Recommended to Ahmie by: gender studies professor
Shelves: read-for-class
A book on patriarchy written by a man... there were times when reading this I felt like he didn't totally get it, and that he wasn't separating out the value add-ons he got from also being white and higher-than-working class and heterosexual. Johnson touches on these things, but then at other points of the book I found myself doing repeated facepalms when he just completely missed how his own viewpoint was furthering those disparities. The book was assigned reading for a graduate level Sociology ...more
Aug 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Best construct of gender I've read- and woo-hoo written by a white male. I saw this scrotom toter speak in october of 2006 at a university supported social justice symposium in Duluth. His live presentation is so similar to what he conveys in his text. Radically honest look at his own white life and our society.
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Allan G. Johnson is a novelist, nonfiction writer, sociologist, teacher, and public speaker who has spent much of his life trying to understand the human condition, especially as shaped by issues of gender, race, and social class. His nonfiction books have been translated into several languages, and his first novel, The First Thing and the Last, was recognized in 2010 by Publishers Weekly as a notable debut ...more
“It is easier to allow a few women to occupy positions of authority and dominance than to question whether social life should be organized around principles of hierarchy, control, and dominance at all, to allow a few women to reach the heights of the corporate hierarchy rather than question whether people's needs should depend on an economic system based on dominance, control, and competition. It is easier to allow women to practice law than to question adversarial conflict as a model for resolving disputes and achieving justice. It has even been easier to admit women to military combat roles than to question the acceptability of warfare and its attendant images of patriarchal masculine power and heroism as instruments of national policy. And it has been easier to elevate and applaud a few women than to confront the cultural misogyny that is never far off, waiting in the wings and available for anyone who wants to use it to bring women down and put them in their place.” 5 likes
“The public response to feminism has been ferociously defensive precisely because feminism touches such a deep nerve of truth and the denial that keeps us from it. If feminism were truly ridiculous, it would be ignored. But it isn't ridiculous, and so provokes a vigorous backlash.” 4 likes
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