THE men's movement, symbolized by Robert Bly's...

Salmagundi

March 17, 1992

THE men's movement, symbolized by Robert Bly's best-selling book, "Iron John," may not be such a good thing for women, argued Jill Johnston in a recent issue of the New York Times Book Review:

"Bly, like Jung before him, is caught up in the 'archetypes' of the masculine and the feminine. Men and women are defined by a given nature, fixed and unalterable, cast as opposites . . . in a system reflecting the political status quo . . . . Bly never grasped, it seems, the core concept of feminism, that the attributes of masculinity and feminity are cultural fabrications, rooted in a caste system in which one sex serves the other. You can tell he missed the point and instead imagined that feminism meant the idealization of 'the feminine,' . . . when he says, 'More and more women in recent decades have begun identifying with the female pole, and maintain that everything bad is male, and everything good is female.'

"Under the influence of feminism, that was the unfortunate polarization he made. And now, under the influence of the backlash, he finds that 'everything good' is male, or some mythic good male, now being reclaimed. He would like to reassure us that the Wild Man is no savage or killer, but rather a man of a certain 'fierceness' -- in touch with his elemental nature, a primal masculine force or something. But I think the distinction, whatever it is exactly, is irrelevant to the concerns of women. Women are used to the whole gamut of men -- from savages to soft guys -- and they can't be that impressed with the benefits conferred on them by 'nice ones' when they're still far from having political equality. Perhaps Bly et al. suspect that if their 'new man' is reassuring enough, women will be better persuaded to continue in their historic roles . . . ."

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