A book review of Mask off - masculinity redefined By JJ Bola's
The book is relatively short and easy to read. It is made up of 8 chapters, each with playful titles, made from popular song lyrics. The book is highly accessible and easy to digest. As a result, there is intentional missing depth on certain topics. The Author JJ Bola constantly references books and research to support his opinions and first-hand observations, which I am happily frustrated that I need to go off and do further reading. This is an indication of my curiosity of the many subjects covered and a testament to the source material.
JJ Bola's book "Mask off" reflects on the current state of western masculinity. It doesn't cast aspersions about men, It's a highly compassionate book cataloguing the many plights of men, their needs as human's and how patriarchy gets in the way. The book ends with a ten-point plan, which I would clumsily reduce to "feminism" is the solution and I whole heartily agree.
Thankfully I have got to a place in my life where many of the concepts are not surprising to me, I am only in such a place because of the benefit of time. I read a lot of non-fiction, years of reading about feminism, anti-capitalism, mental health and communication skills prepared me for most of the content. This curiosity was fuelled out of despair, frustration and anger. JJ confess he wrote the book he wished he had found as a teenage boy? I too wish I found a book like this when I was younger. It would have soothed me so much. Therefore it's a book I think I would like to keep on my bookshelf and to hand to a young man at some point in the future. The author quotes Fredrick Douglas "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."
I learned many new concepts reading this book, they would jump out at me. The idea that we raise young girls to be domesticated, to cook and clean not out of a desire for self-sufficiency but to prepare to 'be a good wife'. This is a concept common to most but when put into perspective with how we raise boys, it's was an awakening when I think of the men I have encountered who struggle to take care of themselves.
Many powerful moments made me reflect on moments where I have failed to call out misogynistic language, JJ makes the argument. "When misogyny occurs maybe men don't interject because they wanna keep hold of their piece of the patriarchal pie." I will hopefully be reminded of this statement in reflection to my future behaviour and the behaviour of others around me.
I liked learning about gender fluidity, especially that many cultures were at peace with multiple gender identities before colonial influences. This was something new to me, I was aware of tolerance of same-sex relationships in pre-colonial times but the native American's concept of five genders was impressive. I like JJ's argument "... Some people might want to hang onto binary and rigid perceptions of gender and sexual because it reinforces their heteronormative identity and their beliefs in the patriarchal hierarchy."
The book made me reflect on the many men I have interacted with during my life. I need to ask a few how they are doing. The book reminds me that both boys and men need love and affection, to be taken care off and to be physically touched, they can compensate in unhealthy ways but I have an active responsibility to myself as a man and the men I interact with.
I would like to read this book again in a couple of years.
- “Patriarchy can seem ubiquitous. It can feel all-consuming, all-encompassing; controlling every part of your life, from the way you see yourself to the way you see others, from your relationships and friendships, to familial ties, from identity to opportunities and experiences. Yet at the same time, it can also seem invisible.”