Book Review
: Men: The Darker Continent by Heather 
Formaini.

Published by Mandarin, 1990
. 195 pages. Price IR£5.55 ISBN 07493
0601 7


This is a book of psychological analysis, using mainly psychoanalytic concepts, and
 written from a feminist standpoint. It leans fairly heavily on the work of Dorothy 
Dinnerstein. The author has interviewed 120 men in writing this book, but it is not put
 out as a research project, and there does not seem to be any serious attempt at a qualitative or quantitative analysis of these interviews: they are simply used as illustrative
 quotes.

There is a definite thesis being argued in this book. It is that men are seriously flawed. 
Their consciousness has been distorted by patriarchal pressures from their early family
 situation. This early family situation is one where boys find that the mother is extraordinarily powerful, but that her power has to be overthrown and a male power substituted.
 Both of these moments are crucial in the formation of male consciousness as it exists 
today. And both of them stem from a convention that it is the mother who has the dom
inant role in caring for young babies, but it is the father (in the shape of father figures
 and father substitutes if the actual father is not there) who becomes dominant in later
 childhood.

The answer to this, as the author repeats several times in this book, is that men and
 women must take a much more equal part in child care, particularly in the earliest years.
 Genuinely shared child care is the only way to change the pattern by which men’s consciousness is formed.

This thesis is argued from a number of different angles, and there are chapters here
 on sexuality, friendship, love, marriage, violence, work, fathering, religion and so on.
 The final chapter is entitled – “Is there a future for men?” and it underlines yet again 
the message: Only if they buckle down to shared child care at the baby stage.

It didn’t really speak to me very strongly, nor did I feel that it would be a good book
 to reoommend to men. Perhaps it might be more use to women, if they wanted to understand men and why they are as they are. But somehow the author always seems to be
 describing someone else, rather than giving me that shock of recognition which I get
 from Kappeller, Daly or Reynaud.

John Rowan

February 1990