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!
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.