Barbara Ehrenreich's The Hearts of Men

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Barbara Ehrenreich's The Hearts of Men

Barbara Ehrenreich, in The Hearts Of Men, illustrates how gender roles have highly constricted men, not just women, and therefore have inhibited American society from developing its full potential. She deviates from conventional wisdom, which says that gender roles have been largely detrimental to only half the population, which is simultaneously confined to working in the domestic sphere and prevented from participating in the public realm. Her theory says that Americans subscribe to a "sexuo-economic system" which reduces men to "mere earning mechanisms" and forces women to "become parasitic wives" (6, 4). As she explains, members of both sexes adhere to a system which forces them to succumb to specific gender roles, which in turn prevent them from becoming their true selves. Thus, every American has a vested interest in restructuring the ways men and women interact.

The most striking element of Ehrenreich 's argument, however, lies in the her assertion that men have suffered more than women from their gender role. This provides a compelling incentive for the American patriarchal power structure to want an end to stifling gender roles. The power of her argument comes from the union that would occur, if men agreed a change must be made with women who have felt this way for centuries. Ehrenreich hopes that men and women "might meet as rebels-not against each other but against a social order that condemns so many of us to degrading or meaningless work in return for a glimpse of commodified pleasures" (182).

The most illuminating element of The Hearts of Men is the unique approach Ehrenreich takes in evaluating the effect gender roles have on men financially. She takes the fact that ...

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...ts Amendment it was women who voice the loudest protest. For anti-ERA women like Phyllis Schlafly, "the interests of the sexes are irreconcilably opposed; the survival of women depends on the subjugation of men; the most intimate relationships can be used as instruments of a larger coercive scheme" (168).

Ehrenreich looks at the issue of gender equality from a unique, untraditional perspective. Instead of focusing on female benefits, The Hearts of Men demonstrates how much men stand to gain through gender equality. "Men will have to give up ruling-class privileges, but in return they will no longer be the only ones to support the family, get drafted, or bear the strain of power and responsibility" (116). An article was written in Time in 1970, entitled "What would it be like if women won?" Ehrenreich book "strongly suggests in would be like men had won too" (116).

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