A missed opportunity – Reading “Manhood” by Terry Crews

I have never heard before about Terry Crews but I found his name appearing very often on my Facebook newsfeed.

I have never heard before about Terry Crews but I found his name appearing very often on my Facebook newsfeed. “Terry Crews: Modern masculinity can be as damaging as the Taliban”, “You don’t want to miss Terry’s message”, and “Terry Crews: Manhood and Feminism” (short interview). It caught my attention. I clicked on some of the links and I found this guy talking about man code, the struggle of being a man today and the importance of breaking away from gender roles. It resonated with me; I have been reading, writing and talking to whoever wants to listen about manhood and masculinity for the past three years. So perhaps it was time for me to learn more about this Terry guy.

First, I realised that Terry was a former NFL player, an actor and pretty well known for being the protagonist of Old Spice commercials. As I do not own a TV, it made total sense to me now why I had no idea about Terry Crews. Second, it happened that all these noise about his stands on gender issues were “timely” with the release of his book called Manhood. With such title and my known weakness to buy any book that aims to deal with gender issues, I virtually ran to read reviews and order my copy. A book about masculinity, how exciting!

This is a page turner. The narrative is simple yet it allows you to learn about his life and the making of who he is. Terry Crews puts himself out: he shares his vulnerability, his issues, the challenges of a rough upbringing in Flint (MI) and his constant struggle in life to find his place. Crews takes us to the key moments of his life; his realisations descend upon the reader as epiphanies shedding light into his path. It takes courage to recognise openly his issues with pornography and to expose his life to the public scrutiny. Kudos for that Terry!terry crews1

However, the title of the book could have been more accurate if named Redemption rather than Manhood. If asked how to describe this book in one word, it would be cathartic. Terry Crews takes advantage of this opportunity to get all the skeletons out of the closet, which is perfectly valid. It is an honest effort but, in this case, it is misleading. In telling his story, Crews offers interesting reflections on sex, the alpha male conception and the importance of empathy and compassion. Unfortunately for the reader, this effort it is not purposeful and some of the interesting insights about the topic of the book are lost. On top of this, the guy that seemed so candid and cool becomes page after page in an egocentric, narcissist character.

In a book titled Manhood, composed by 276 pages, the author only spends around 6 pages in doing a purposeful effort to offer insights about what it means to be a man from his perspective, masculinity and his experience dealing with traditional gender roles. So if you read the prologue and the last chapter called “manhood”, you are covered. Unfortunately, in all these pages, the author misses the opportunity to present his description about what Manhood means for him. It is like reading Harry Potter and the Secret Chamber without ever making it inside the Chamber. In several instances, when it seems as there is a change and he is getting closer to make a point, Crews ends up reinforcing harmful traditional gender stereotypes such as “the man takes charge of the family” or “the real man” or “ I am a man and I take what I deserve”.

If you want to read about resilience and redemption, buy it. You will find this book appealing. You may not look at the guy in the same way, so you are warned. However, in terms of contributing to enhance the dialogue about prevailing gender roles in society, the construction of masculinity and manhood, it offers some scattered ideas and interesting reflections, but over all, it is a missed opportunity.

A missed opportunity – Reading “Manhood” by Terry Crews
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Gender
Sebastián Molano

Sebastián Molano is a Colombian gender specialist and development worker living in Boston. Currently, he consults for different NGO's on how to promote gender justice and engage men and boys in development projects. You can check here his TEDx Talk in gender isses: [a href="http://bit.ly/TEDxTalk-DefyinGendeRoles"]http://bit.ly/TEDxTalk-DefyinGendeRoles[/a] With the support of his awesome life partner/wife, Sebastián writes about the need to engage men and women in a needed, healthy discussion about new and liberating re-configuration of gender roles. He leads Defying Gender Roles a multi-lingual group that seeks to engage men and women in how to challenge harmful prevailing gender norms and roles. Check it out: http://defyingenderoles.org/
One Comment
  • Roger Hawcroft
    Roger Hawcroft
    16 June 2015 at 11:36 am
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    It seems that the old adage: “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is not just metaphorically valid but literally valid in this case. The same adage might well be just as relevant if “title” were substituted for “cover”. As both a long term user of libraries and a professional librarian, both interpretations resonate with me. It is unfortunate but reality that both titles and covers of books today are often more likely to result from the application of marketing considerations than from any direct connection or relevance to the content.

    One wouldn’t, of course, expect the average reader to apply a set of professional selection criteria to their decisions regarding purchase or even borrowing of a book. Considering the subject material and the likely authority or stance of an author in relation to the material, as well as the audience at which the books is targetted is certainly worthwhile, however. Today, we are fortunate to have access to a wide range of comment and reaction to books through the Internet. This can also provide us with a source for more professional reviews from those knowledgeable in the area – such as that on which I’m commenting. Unfortunately, you didn’t have the benefit of your own review but thank you for writing it for this is an area in which I, too, have a strong interest and you have saved me the time of checking out this title.

    If I can be so bold and meaning no disrespect, might I suggest that your review would have been even more valuable to me (and perhaps others) had you added some alternative titles that you do consider to be worthwhile?

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