Corey Wrenn's Reviews > Cool Pose: The Dilemmas of Black Manhood in America

Cool Pose by Richard Majors
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A very useful hypothesis about masculinity and gender performance as it intersects with racial oppression in America. However, it is extremely repetitive; the main idea is provided in just two chapters. The rest of the book repeats the same arguments with a few flourishes. The authors highlight ongoing legacies of gender performance that were very thought-provoking (such as the importance of jive talking and slang as a protectionist measure against white supremacy derived from slavery and Jim Crow oppression), but they also linger on minute cultural points of interest which are often painfully obvious (such as explaining the physical mechanics of a high five and what it means symbolically). This might be a useful anthropological documentation of Black culture for historians living 100-200 years from now, but for someone living just 20 years after the book was written, it was just funny with it's descriptions and corny language (picture your grandpa trying to explain what the cool kids are doing these days)...and often boring. I knew I would get laughed out of the classroom if I assigned this to my students, so I instead will just assign the first chapter.

I also didn't appreciate the "pull up your pants" Bill Cosby approach to dealing with the toxic nature of Black masculinity. The book is grounded in sociological theory and unapologetically addresses the core problem of institutional discrimination, but it also places blame on Black men in some cases. This individualized, blame-the-victim approach is offputting. The near invisibility of women in this narrative was also disappointing. Although this book was obviously about masculinity, masculinity exists in its relationship with femininity, and compartmentalizing the two is a mistake. For that matter, the authors make the curious argument that Black men somehow have it worse than Black women, which is a contentious position to take given the reality of patriarchal privilege and the systematic violence against Black women which exists with just as much severity as does state and interpersonal violence on Black men. The authors do note that toxic masculinity has dangerous implications for Black women, but it was tossed in as an afterthought and the relevant experiences of women who also inhabit this system could use some development.

Given these issues, it is nonetheless worth picking up a copy to spend a few minutes reading the first two chapters, which really are foundational to gender studies. The book is easy to read, and clear in its arguments.
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Reading Progress

April 24, 2016 – Shelved
April 24, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
June 1, 2016 – Started Reading
June 1, 2016 – Finished Reading

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