Sanctifying Misandry: Goddess Ideology and the Fall of Man.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Bradley, Jon G.
Pub Date: 01/01/2012
Publication: Name: The Journal of Men's Studies Publisher: Men's Studies Press Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Men's Studies Press ISSN: 1060-8265
Issue: Date: Wntr, 2012 Source Volume: 20 Source Issue: 1
Topic: NamedWork: Sanctifying Misandry: Goddess Ideology and the Fall of Man (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Young, Katherine K.; Nathanson, Paul
Accession Number: 283455190
Full Text: SANCTIFYING MISANDRY: GODDESS IDEOLOGY AND THE FALL OF MAN, by Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson. Montreal, QC: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2010, xiv + 407 pages. ISBN: 978-0-7735-3615-9

The original trilogy envisioned by Young and Nathanson has been temporarily interrupted by this volume. The initial book, Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture, appeared in 2001 to academic acclaim and was subsequently reviewed in the JMS. The second of the projected three volumes, Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination Against Men, is an extremely detailed treatise of some 650 pages and appeared in 2006. The sequence has been temporarily interrupted by this most current book.

In a nut shell, Spreading Misandry reopened the issue of 'rights' by investigating recent contemporary views of men as depicted through popular culture. Young and Nathanson demonstrated how most male role models were found wanting, lacked moral fibre, and generally played a less significant role than their female counterpoints. The authors generally concluded that negative stereotypes of men illustrated a deeper societal malaise. Legalizing Misandry more pointedly examined how laws and institutions have been used to regularize and embed discrimination against men; as a group and as role models. By drawing on popular contemporary myths (women as care giver, women as needing protection from aggressive males, and the like), the authors demonstrated a consistent and systematic pattern of discrimination against men that, in their view, has no real foundation.

Sanctifying Misandr3, is not the third volume in this trilogy. Rather, it is a sort of standalone book that leaps right into the maelstrom of religion by suggesting that religious feminism has rewritten history and skewed the Bible and other religious themes so as to degrade men and downplay their role within society. Using blockbuster recent tomes (such as The Chalice and the Blade and The Da Vinci Code) as an overarching popular cultural framework, Young and Nathanson challenge contemporary views of religion and the place of men and women within that landscape. Perhaps the authors best summed the central issues themselves when they penned:

Clinton Machann closed his review of Spreading Misandry in the volume 11, number 3 issue of the JMS by noting that "this trilogy will be controversial" (p. 342). This is as it should be! As educators and academics we simply cannot become too complacent; we must argue and debate so as to re-examine points-of-view to account for evolving contemporary realities. There is no question that Young and Nathanson have given us much to ponder and it is to their credit that their intellectual stances are so well articulated and grounded.

In his 1933 opus How We Think, American philosopher John Dewey attempted to make a distinction between what he categorized as empirical thinking and scientific thinking. Dewey grounded his ideas within a notion of personal experience and the need for individuals to engage and learn from these many and varied experiences with the constant addition of new information. Dewey's aim was, if you will, to free people from prejudges, habits, and invalid traditional modes of thought.

The following brief synopsis attempts to walk a fine line. On the one hand, I wish to give the reader a taste of what is in this book. On the other hand, I do not want to reveal too much so as to take away from each individual discovery. So, structurally, Sanctifying Misandry is divided into two main parts preceded by a short introduction and followed by an appendix, extensive endnotes, and a detailed index. In part one, "From Goddess to Witches (and back): rewriting the Bible" the authors challenge fundamental Biblical interpretations by illustrating how historical stories have been rewritten and reinterpreted to create a so-called 'new age' for women and feminism at the expense of males and their place in history. In their view, the author's contend that this is a deliberate and focused rewriting of the historical record to illuminate women.

Part two ("From Reform to revolution: Restoring the Goddess") deals with the practical and moral implications that naturally arise from this skewed reinterpretation. Specifically, Young and Nathanson take on some of the heavyweights in feminist religious theology and pointedly note their weaknesses in both the religious dogma and the emerging narratives. The authors argue that there is an underlying political agenda to these newly revised emerging narratives and that the goal is not a larger grand narrative; rather, it is a narrowly focused ideological narrative that places women upon a pedicle of heightened spirituality.

A major strength of this book is the over one-hundred pages of detailed endnotes. It is clear to any reader that the base data is well referenced and open to further intellectual scrutiny. In a small way, these endnotes were bothersome as I kept interrupting my main text reading to scoot to the back to delve into the notations.

In many ways, this is a book about separation, division, and missed opportunities. It is also about a view to rewriting a history that skews a male orientated perspective into a male hating perspective. One can clearly argue that past narratives have been penned from a male perspective; it is quite another to suggest that such a perspective was evil and based in a lack of morality. Instead of seeking opportunities for cooperation, shared experiences, and commonality, Nathanson and Young demonstrate how a small element of radical feminist scholars have high-jacked a grand narrative and turned positives for all into positives for only some. It may be one thing to make it positives for some and neutral for others, but the reality is that these stories and the resulting practical myths and traditions now paint a picture of positives for females and negatives for males.

Echoing Machann's controversial admonishment and keeping in mind Dewey's reflection, I suggest that Young and Nathansaon have embodied the best of the philosophical tradition by examining that which many would like to see remain sedentary. They have shined a light into a darkened corner and, by doing so, have given all of us complex issues to ponder and intellectual constructs to debate.

Jon G. Bradley is an Associate Professor with the Faculty of Education of McGill University. [mail] jonathan.bradley@magill.ca
Those twenty years (1980's and 1990's) marked an expansive turning
   point in the history of feminism, including the separation of
   ideological feminism, let alone goddess ideology, from egalitarian
   feminism. (p. 16)
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