Genre | Nonfiction Memoir Novella
Page #s | 96
Publishing Date | August 2018
A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl–and how we might re-imagine gender for the twenty-first century.
Vivek Shraya has reason to be afraid. Throughout her life she’s endured acts of cruelty and aggression for being too feminine as a boy and not feminine enough as a girl. In order to survive childhood, she had to learn to convincingly perform masculinity. As an adult, she makes daily compromises to steel herself against everything from verbal attacks to heartbreak.
With raw honesty, Shraya delivers an important record of the cumulative damage caused by misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, releasing trauma from a body that has always refused to assimilate. I’m Afraid of Men is a journey from camouflage to a riot of color and a blueprint for how we might cherish all that makes us different and conquer all that makes us afraid.
I loved Shraya’s The Subtweet and decided to check out everything she’s ever done! I’m so glad I did, because it led me to this tiny but mighty memoir dissecting toxic masculinity in simple but powerful anecdotes.
The book is divided into “you” and “me” sections. The “you” second person point of view section forces the reader to take on the abusive, careless roles of men who have bullied, harrassed, and failed Shraya. It is such a smart move on her part to place readers outside of the victim’s perspective, since the ultimate point of the book is that we all exhibit toxic traits, whether male, female, cis or trans.
Shraya’s perspective as a trans woman is especially meaningful, since she describes how toxic masculinity affected her differently when she presented as a man vs. as a woman. Spoilers! It was bad in either case! It is truly impressive how she manages to show the universally terrible impacts of toxic masculinity in under 100 pages.
Although this isn’t necessarily the point of the book, I was really drawn to small hopes for gender expansion toward the end of the book. After transitioning, Shraya finds herself enjoying the freedom to indulge in femininity, but also mentions missing the ability to rock a beard or work toward bulging biceps. I share her hope that someday people will be able to present themselves to the world with any combination of masculine, feminine, or androgynous qualities, for as long as they want.
Who Do I Recommend This Book To?
This is the book to give to your friend who just learned the term “toxic masculinity” if you really want to help them achieve Galaxy Brain.
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