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The Unmade Bed: The Messy Truth about Men and Women in the 21st Century

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In one of the most talked about books of the year, provocative cultural commentator Stephen Marche examines the state of male-female relations in the 21st century, with commentary from his wife, Toronto Life editor-in-chief Sarah Fulford. On a warm spring morning in New York City, Stephen Marche, then a new father and tenure-track professor, got the call: his wife had b In one of the most talked about books of the year, provocative cultural commentator Stephen Marche examines the state of male-female relations in the 21st century, with commentary from his wife, Toronto Life editor-in-chief Sarah Fulford. On a warm spring morning in New York City, Stephen Marche, then a new father and tenure-track professor, got the call: his wife had been offered her dream job . . . in Toronto. Their mutual decision to move home, prioritizing her career over his, shed new light on the gender roles in their marriage. It also provoked a surprising and divided response from the world around them. In The Unmade Bed, Marche explores the phenomena that define our modern conversations on gender, from mansplaining to parenting to the division of domestic labour. As his view is only one half of the story, Marche’s wife and Toronto Life editor-in-chief Sarah Fulford provides footnote commentary throughout. The result is a uniquely balanced and acutely personal exploration into the moments in everyday life where men and women meet. Going beyond who does the laundry, Marche provocatively argues that we are no longer engaged in a war of the sexes, but rather stuck together in a labyrinth of contradictions. And these contradictions are keeping women from power and confounding male identity. The Unmade Bed has ignited an international conversation about the complex and shifting landscape of gender relations.  


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In one of the most talked about books of the year, provocative cultural commentator Stephen Marche examines the state of male-female relations in the 21st century, with commentary from his wife, Toronto Life editor-in-chief Sarah Fulford. On a warm spring morning in New York City, Stephen Marche, then a new father and tenure-track professor, got the call: his wife had b In one of the most talked about books of the year, provocative cultural commentator Stephen Marche examines the state of male-female relations in the 21st century, with commentary from his wife, Toronto Life editor-in-chief Sarah Fulford. On a warm spring morning in New York City, Stephen Marche, then a new father and tenure-track professor, got the call: his wife had been offered her dream job . . . in Toronto. Their mutual decision to move home, prioritizing her career over his, shed new light on the gender roles in their marriage. It also provoked a surprising and divided response from the world around them. In The Unmade Bed, Marche explores the phenomena that define our modern conversations on gender, from mansplaining to parenting to the division of domestic labour. As his view is only one half of the story, Marche’s wife and Toronto Life editor-in-chief Sarah Fulford provides footnote commentary throughout. The result is a uniquely balanced and acutely personal exploration into the moments in everyday life where men and women meet. Going beyond who does the laundry, Marche provocatively argues that we are no longer engaged in a war of the sexes, but rather stuck together in a labyrinth of contradictions. And these contradictions are keeping women from power and confounding male identity. The Unmade Bed has ignited an international conversation about the complex and shifting landscape of gender relations.  

30 review for The Unmade Bed: The Messy Truth about Men and Women in the 21st Century

  1. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    The cavalcade of sexual harassment accusations beginning with the Weinstein revelations brought the writing of Stephen Marche to my attention. In an op-ed piece published in the NYT (Nov 25, 2017), Marche asks us to confront “The Unexamined Brutality of the Male Libido.” “The men I know,” he writes, “don’t actively discuss changing sexual norms…Men just aren’t interested. They don’t know where to start.” If anything were designed to intrigue me, it would be this conundrum: that men cannot or will The cavalcade of sexual harassment accusations beginning with the Weinstein revelations brought the writing of Stephen Marche to my attention. In an op-ed piece published in the NYT (Nov 25, 2017), Marche asks us to confront “The Unexamined Brutality of the Male Libido.” “The men I know,” he writes, “don’t actively discuss changing sexual norms…Men just aren’t interested. They don’t know where to start.” If anything were designed to intrigue me, it would be this conundrum: that men cannot or will not or are not interested in fruitfully engaging on anything about gender roles except where to stick it. Marche makes reference to the fact that of all the people who interviewed him about his new book this year, The Unmade Bed, only a minuscule number were men. “A healthy sexual existence requires a continuing education,” he writes. I am remiss here, only discovering upon reading his work recent studies which determine that gender can only really be defined on a spectrum. I hadn’t realized this was accepted thought, or becoming so (though GR friends have told me before). I haven’t kept up with my continuing ed in this field, including the apparently widely quoted study result “that men who do housework have less sex than men who don’t, and men who do more traditional ‘work around the house,’ like yard work, have more sex than men who don’t.”That’s me not keeping up, though the results don’t particularly surprise me. Why it is so is what makes Marche’s work interesting. Marche began his fascinating perspective on our changing gender relations with a chapter on mansplaining, a term inspired by an essay of Rebecca Solnit to describe someone who insists upon detailing a concept his listener knows more about. In “How Much Should a Man Speak?” Marche suggests that the mansplainer bore at a party or at work is probably the end result of years of cultural training to make men more willing to express their thoughts—a weird perversion of intimacy. Maybe. I think we might have more examples of mansplaining as just straight-on sexist thought, though like he says, men also experience mansplaining. We’ll just have to agree that such behavior in conversation describes a deeply insecure personality and view each on a case-by-case basis. This book came about when Marche left his teaching position in NYC to move to Toronto when his wife landed a high-powered, high-paying job as editor of a national magazine. His role as house husband became far more family-centric once his son and eventually his daughter were born. Never strong on the role of housekeeping (“my gonads shrink into my body a bit”), Marche describes how he came to think about his marriage, fatherhood, and sexuality. There are many moments I would describe as deeply insightful, perfectly thoughtful continuing ed which actually includes notes from his wife, the editor, giving her perspective of his comments. But what if men are not interested in reading about what he has learned about changing gender roles? Maybe now is the time to point out he has a chapter on pornography, including a description of the image that first electrified him. But there is also the notion that “Masculine maturity is inherently a lonely thing to possess. That’s why maturity and despair go together for men. The splendid isolation of masculinity has emerged from so much iconography—the cowboy, the astronaut, the gangster—that almost every hero in the past fifty years has been a figure of loneliness. Current pop culture is even more extreme: it doesn’t merely celebrate the lonely man; it despises men in groups. That contempt runs counter to male biology. Men, every iota as much as women, are social creatures who live in a permanent state of interdependence and require connection for basic happiness. In periods of vulnerability the male suicide rates spike.”The cover blurb on Stephen Marche describes him as a cultural commentator. He is that, every bit as much as the feminist writers he critiques. In his NYT piece, Marche suggests that some people think “men need to be better feminists,” but in this book he tells us “the world doesn’t need male feminists…It needs decent guys.” That sounds right by me. Finally, I leave you with one of Marche’s paragraphs I know you will enjoy, given the exposure men like Louis C.K. have chosen as their contribution to the gender conversation. “Diogenes the Cynic masturbated in the marketplace and called it philosophy. Of all the wisdom available in ancient Athens, his was the earthiest, the most practical. He refused to condemn the body out of social propriety. If he was built to ejaculate, he should ejaculate, and therefore he ejaculated where everyone could see him. The Athenians loved him for his frankness, which provoked laughter as much as disgust. When asked why he masturbated in public, he answered, “Would that by rubbing my belly I could get rid of hunger.” Diogenes offered the pagan view of masturbation: Why be ashamed of the easiest expression of masculine desire? Why fear the erasure of male sexual appetite by the lightest, the most harmless of gestures?”

  2. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    Honestly, I was disappointed with this book. It started off well, I learned some new things. However, as the book dragged on I found myself a bit confused by it all. So many elements were missing. For instance...Stephen can't seem to decide (at least IMO) whether or not gender stereotypes are biological or not... What I got from it was "boys will be boys and play with trucks...the best we can do is teach them to be decent". His reasoning is, amongst other things, "Well, *I* didn't teach him to p Honestly, I was disappointed with this book. It started off well, I learned some new things. However, as the book dragged on I found myself a bit confused by it all. So many elements were missing. For instance...Stephen can't seem to decide (at least IMO) whether or not gender stereotypes are biological or not... What I got from it was "boys will be boys and play with trucks...the best we can do is teach them to be decent". His reasoning is, amongst other things, "Well, *I* didn't teach him to play with trucks, therefore it's a biological thing". Again, that was the impression I got. I found this perplexing and wanted to run to Toronto and scream "Did you factor in your kid's TV shows? Did you factor in the influence of their friends, extended family, kids they see at the park? What about commercial advertisements?" Stephen even admits he's not he neatest person...for all I know he could have left a "man's man" magazine lying around that his son saw. Kids are sponges, they absorb EVERYTHING around them. The only way to truly know if biology is truly what the traditionalists say it is, is to trap a kid from birth in a little box with no colour, windows, etc, teach them nothing and then have them select toys to "play" (I put that in quotations because they probably won't even know what "play" is). Of course, that would be cruelty against a human being so it's completely out of the question. Anyway, long story short I don't buy the idea that it's biological as Stephen argues it. There are too many factors to examine. As a little girl, I had no problem playing with trucks. I had a few of them. I also had dolls. My brother played with dolls and trucks too. My sister, she preferred gender neutral toys like barney and furby. Point is, toys are used to ignite the imagination. If you can sell an interesting story attached to a toy truck to girls, girls are going to want it. So many girls wanted Barbie's SUV and it wasn't solely because it was pink. Same thing goes with boys. If it weren't possible gender neutral toys like Tickle-me-Elmo wouldn't exist. Last comment before I ramble myself to death - last chapter about housework was useless and a bunch of bull. Women would rather sleep with a man who can hammer some wood than one who can clean? Sorry, but I disagree. What women would possibly find a man who thinks he's too good to operate on her level sexy? No thanks, I think equality is sexy. I'd much rather invite the man who's not afraid to do dishes into my bed over the man who leaves said dishes on the table to get moldy. I'm not afraid to fix a leaky tap, so I expect my future spouse to not be afraid to fold the laundry...but hey, I come from a line of people who believe it's wrong to ask someone to do something you'd be unwilling to do yourself.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    Growing up, I had a father so badass that in rural Idaho, when he led a Brownie troop, ran bake sales and taught my brother's Home Ec class for a couple of months, snide comment died fast. I was thus spoiled for the current state of gender relations, as modern two-career couple struggle with chore delegation, status of being a trailing spouse and take shit from their families about defying tradition in taking married names or staying at home with kids. Marche, whose column I have read in Esquire Growing up, I had a father so badass that in rural Idaho, when he led a Brownie troop, ran bake sales and taught my brother's Home Ec class for a couple of months, snide comment died fast. I was thus spoiled for the current state of gender relations, as modern two-career couple struggle with chore delegation, status of being a trailing spouse and take shit from their families about defying tradition in taking married names or staying at home with kids. Marche, whose column I have read in Esquire, followed his wife to her much better job in Toronto, and offers a frank appreciation of both the improved world of women's participation in the workforce and modern society, as we all of the difficulties of the backlash and the hollow nature of inclusion without power at the top. He only loses me when he complains that he just *doesn't see* the sock on the floor--that's not gender essentialism, dude, that's just being a jerk over something you can damn well learn to notice. Also, this book introduced me to the concept of a Shanghai husband--competent and nurturing house spouses who marry high powered and ruthless Chinese professional woman.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    This goes on my abandoned shelf. It's not for me. My culture, my society, my life- not an inkling of connection. There are NO mansplainers in sight or ear around my life. Self involved 1st world problems. Parental self-analyzing to the nausea degree, IMHO. Man/woman relationship criteria for the long educated crowd? The wife's notes were ok, although she too has been carefully, carefully taught. Where is the joy or energy of family life and connection as pivotal to the onus to have a relationship This goes on my abandoned shelf. It's not for me. My culture, my society, my life- not an inkling of connection. There are NO mansplainers in sight or ear around my life. Self involved 1st world problems. Parental self-analyzing to the nausea degree, IMHO. Man/woman relationship criteria for the long educated crowd? The wife's notes were ok, although she too has been carefully, carefully taught. Where is the joy or energy of family life and connection as pivotal to the onus to have a relationship at all??? Their poor kids! There will never be a "work fulfillment level" or meshing to a "fit" that will satisfy. Regardless of how they eventually redefine "satisfy". Whine, whine, whine and negotiate your way to love. LOL! Thank God, and I do thank Him, that I had my life in the era I did (despite getting fired for being pregnant) and experienced life with my children young enough and filled with such energy that I could go down the slide WITH them, and not catch them in a safety approved appliance at the end.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jonna Higgins-Freese

    There were good things about this book - important things, things I hadn't seen anyone else say. And then there was a lot of polished blather -- as I've said in other reviews, the kind of magazine writing that is pointed and polished and poetic and makes you feel as though something is being said until you stop to ask yourself what, exactly, that might be and realize it's: nothing. The overall message, and it's one that can get lost in apocalyptic narratives, is important: the world has changed, There were good things about this book - important things, things I hadn't seen anyone else say. And then there was a lot of polished blather -- as I've said in other reviews, the kind of magazine writing that is pointed and polished and poetic and makes you feel as though something is being said until you stop to ask yourself what, exactly, that might be and realize it's: nothing. The overall message, and it's one that can get lost in apocalyptic narratives, is important: the world has changed, for both women and men, in good ways. It's less sexist than it used to be. Whether it's cause, correlation, effect, or none of the above, a 2006 OECD study demonstrates that "the countries where women flourish are the most stable, the most technologically advanced, the most peaceful, the richest, the most powerful" (28). But he also says things that seem profound, and perhaps are, but are not critically examined, nor even acknowledged to require critical examination: he cites a 2013 report from the IMF demonstrating that "raising the female labor force participation rate . . . to country-specific male levels would raise GDP in the US by 5 percent, in Japan by 9 percent . . . " etc. (28). Um, hold the phone. What? Bunch of assumptions here: that raising female labor force participation would (a) not impact male earnings/labor force participation (b) that work is not a zero sum game -- that more work for women just means more work overall, rather than less for men. Maybe these things are true. But to me, they require demonstration. The increasing employment and earnings of women appear also to be accompanied by declining earnings for men, and wage stagnation overall. This shows up both statistically and anecdotally: I make much more than my husband does. My mother did not. However, as a unit, my parents were much better off financially, had much more job security, and much fewer worries about bankruptcy through medical bills (i.e., none) than my husband and I do, despite the fact that they had an aggregate six years less education than we do. Another good point: we (in the US) have done or are doing a lot of the hard, overt stuff: seeing women as capable of doing any job a man can do, seeing that men can be nurturing and women can be powerful. And yet. Yet there is still a glass ceiling, too little real power for women, too much violence against women (though less all the time). The first waves of feminism required and provided broadly oppositional struggles: "women against men, young against old, feminists against the existing power structures." To overturn the "hollow patriarchy" requires instead "the negotiation of complex contradictions by men and women together, an infinitely thornier, more difficult process requiring compassion rather than force, empathy rather than outrage." Maybe. This seems to be perhaps to be the case on the personal level: my husband isn't the enemy in any way. Nor does he struggle with his gender role, as far as I can see. Our conflicts aren't due to gender issues, but personal ones: why does he *do* that has nothing to do with that he's a man, but that he's a different person from me. Marche has some things to say about fatherhood and manhood that are true, and that I haven't seen anyone else say: "fatherhood has never mattered more ["according to a 2014 Harvard study, the fraction of children living in single-parent households is the strongest correlate of upward mobility among all the variables we explored" (56)] . . . the demise of other markers of masculine inclusion has left fatherhood with outsize importance. The old religious rituals gave way long ago. The postdynamic capitalism of the moment has taken away other methods of proving yourself. Making a living is principally a sign of good luck. Owning property is a sign of inheritance more than individual strengths. Combat . . . is . . . gender-neutral." Redefining who women are has redefined who men are: "since 1965 the amount of time fathers spend with their children has tripled" (55). He acknowledges that this doesn't make them particularly worthy of adulation, "One of my editors at Esquire remembers returning home from a shopping trip in the East Village, toting a bag of groceries and . . . his newborn son . . . . 'You're a good father,' two ladies passing by muttered to him. 'I was buying fucking milk,' is how he put it to me." Yet fathers are also increasingly absent, "without single mothers the streets would run with feral children. And yet the single mother is the preferred scapegoat for the world's remaining scolds. Political parties have built major affiliations on the simple premise that the state should give less to single mothers . . . Attacking single mothers is the moralists' alternative to blaming poor people for their poverty" (59). He had profound, meaningful things to say about the meaning of parents, and death, and what their deaths mean: "The Harvard study of upward mobility does not say that _good_ fathers are the strongest correlate [of upward mobility] . . . family structure is. Being there - mere, dumb being - is the difference. Presence is what matters . . . . I needed my father to advise me how to deal with his death. I needed my father to tell me how to tell my son that he wasn't there anymore. I needed to hear, as I had heard so many times before, his slow intake of breath, a half-sigh, as he considered whatever question I had brought him. I needed to see his eyes closed in thought, his thick hands folded together in momentary meditation. I needed to see him thinking up solutions to the problems at hand, maybe more than I needed to hear the solutions themselves. He had experience and he had remained cheerful about it - a powerful combination, and no mean attainment" (61). Then he says things that are so general as to be meaningless, or such generalizations as to have no content, but they sound polished and pointed: "the act of citation has become the act of power" (huh?) "The tiny crack between image and identity may be nearly invisible, but it is the whole point of empowered cultural practice" (whatever "empowered cultural practice" might be when it's at home) There's a long section on masculinity and what it means and how you do it, in which he principally cites movies as demonstrations of the poverty of male friendships and community. Some actual statistics would have been helpful here. From my own experience, the men I know have longer, richer, more durable friendships than I do. Maybe it's because the men I am privileged to know are good men. The section on pornography had some interesting insights, but again too fast and glib. There was this: "The monstrosity of pornography is a sign of how civilized we have become" (141). Maybe. He does make the excellent point that those concerned about the victimization of the makers of pornography are perhaps hypocritical: suffering lies at the heart of almost every supply chain these days. Some of it just seemed to me hyperventilated: "Men and women living together as equals is not easy; it reveals new asymmetries rather than destroys old ones . . . the approach to equality is filled with turbulence, not equilibrium." Perhaps that is true as a lens to analyze overall societal trends. To a (admittedly middle class, admittedly white) woman living in a very much equal/partnership/companionate marriage, it seems like much ado about nothing. On the ways in which boys are left out now: "My sun never combs his hair. He runs in, smelling of mud and rain, and throws his jacket and shoes on the floor as he rushes upstairs. . . he doesn't want to sit. He doesn't want to do crafts . . . He wants to play video games and wrestle on the beach." (167). And perhaps this is the main point -- when Marche's prose is actually tied to his personal experience (his father's death, his grandfather's life, his experiences with his wife and children), he has some interesting things to say. But his prose and claims otherwise tend to come untethered, to become stratospheric so quickly that they become ethereal. To wit -- again from his own experience, of educated people who were first nurturists, then had children and became convinced there was a genetic basis to the differences between girls and boys: researchers offered vervet monkeys and rhesus monkeys a set of 6 toys: a ball, a police car [categorized masculine], a doll and a cooking pot [categorized feminine], a picture book and a stuffed dog [categorized neutral]. Male monkeys played more with the boy toys and female monkeys played more with the girl toys. (177) Much of his stuff about housework did not resonate with my experience -- living with a man who does way more house work and child care than I do, who is neater and more attentive to housework than I am, who would *never,* as Marche does, not see dirty socks on the floor, I just couldn't relate. The main point: the second shift seems to be solved mostly by women doing less, not by men doing more. I liked his notion of the "house beast," voracious and demanding. And then there was this: "Intimacy wants gifts. Even in households with domestic contracts, what both sides desire is a give over and above the contract, the necessary but not required, obvious but not expected gesture." (199). Maybe. And some beautiful reflections: Perhaps what is most surprising about the merging of the personal and political over the past 50 years is how natural it has felt. "It would not have seemed possible that working mothers would be as attentive and responsive and satisfied in their family lives as stay-at-home mothers, but they are. It would not have seemed possible that fathers would fight to spend more time with their kids, but they do" (213). "Any serious consideration of the trends as they appear at the moment has to be more than optimistic; it should be delirious with hope. Equality is coming, bumpily but surely. Women's economic and political clout is constantly increasing; violence against women is constantly declining; family roles are constantly broadening; the housework gap is constantly narrowing." Though he reminds us that the philosophical changes trailed the practical: women entered the workforce because they wanted to and had to, and the theories followed. More than 80 percent of Americans feel their family is as close or closer than the family they grew up in, and only 5 percent feel their family is less close.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Luke Crawford

    interesting and incisive. "We need a men’s movement that understands the rise of women is a triumph for the species, one of the most unalloyed political goods ever achieved in human history, and who can acknowledge that this achievement does not require us to be ashamed of our masculinity." But, I think his central point, and probably one of the more important things we need to understand if you want to understand his ideas of why we don't have the above is his idea of this "hollow patriarchy" "We interesting and incisive. "We need a men’s movement that understands the rise of women is a triumph for the species, one of the most unalloyed political goods ever achieved in human history, and who can acknowledge that this achievement does not require us to be ashamed of our masculinity." But, I think his central point, and probably one of the more important things we need to understand if you want to understand his ideas of why we don't have the above is his idea of this "hollow patriarchy" "We inhabit a hollow patriarchy: the shell is patriarchal, but the insides approach the egalitarian. The contradiction generates strange paradoxes. Even women with servants and houses and powerful jobs, who possess hundreds of millions of dollars, consider themselves victims. And they’re right. Women in the upper reaches of power are limited in ways that men simply are not." His idea is that for most people, there is at least economic equality, and in many places, women have the upper hand. But at the top, Men still have the clear advantage. And maybe that's the case; I don't know. I don't really think that post-highschool, I've been in a situation where I felt like I was at a disadvantage because I was a man, (and I imagine I felt that way about high school mostly because I don't understand how women are cruel to oneanother.) But- maybe that's because I've lived my life in the top quintile income-wise? I mean, unquestionably, in the computer industry, looking male is a big advantage, but would that be true if instead of maintaining servers, I was a server? I wouldn't know. Marche is just a clever writer, too: "Philip Roth, the greatest male novelist of his generation, turned himself into a well-established brand of forgiven misogyny. When Portnoy timidly offers to buy a shiksa a drink, she sneers. When he violently claims he wants to eat her pussy, she approves: “We went to her apartment, where she took off her clothes and said, ‘Go ahead.’ ” This is an amazingly common fantasy: that by being an asshole, you score. The strategy might even work, but here’s the thing: even when it does, you’re still an asshole." Of course, I personally think this quote reveals more about why we currently see such a huge backlash against women than anything logical.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Toyin A

    I am not sure what I expected when I picked this book. I'm sure glad I did. Initially, I thought it would just be a book about the difference between men and women, equality...you know, the usual gender stuff. It was much more. Stephen shows how empowerment of women in certain scenarios are hampered or encouraged depending on the context. He uses his own personal story as the "flex parent" in the relationship with his wife, Sarah. I particularly liked the notes at the end of each chapter by Sarah w I am not sure what I expected when I picked this book. I'm sure glad I did. Initially, I thought it would just be a book about the difference between men and women, equality...you know, the usual gender stuff. It was much more. Stephen shows how empowerment of women in certain scenarios are hampered or encouraged depending on the context. He uses his own personal story as the "flex parent" in the relationship with his wife, Sarah. I particularly liked the notes at the end of each chapter by Sarah which gives the "other side" of the story. A flex parent is one who takes primary care of the children while his/her partner is in the workplace or putting in more hours in their career or workplace. Favourite quote: "When it comes to gender, the internet is a big scolding machine. Any failure in navigating the most complex rearrangement of social existence in history will automatically be greeted with vast choruses of howls."

  8. 5 out of 5

    Adam Terrell

    A book written by a man who is so okay with being a stay at home dad that he wrote a book to let you know how okay with it he is. The entire book reads with a very "methinks the lady doth protest too much" vibe as Marche presents views that continually only support his view of "alternative" gender roles. This book starts off with a chapter on "mansplaining" and the creation and cultural changes/impact the term has had. Through the remaining eight chapters, Marche mansplains feminism to the reade A book written by a man who is so okay with being a stay at home dad that he wrote a book to let you know how okay with it he is. The entire book reads with a very "methinks the lady doth protest too much" vibe as Marche presents views that continually only support his view of "alternative" gender roles. This book starts off with a chapter on "mansplaining" and the creation and cultural changes/impact the term has had. Through the remaining eight chapters, Marche mansplains feminism to the readers. The only feminist text cited is Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, which while a cornerstone of feminist literature, is like the one book someone would read on feminism. For a book about the roles of Men and Women in the 21st century, Marche seldom explores the individual's roles and only discusses them within the context of relationships, specifically marriage. Outside of this, I think Marche and I have fundamentally different views on what gender roles and relationships look like. Namely his views on the role of pornography, domestic responsibilities, and the point of relationships/marriage as a whole. While I know people that may share his points of view, Marche writes as if these are groundbreaking viewpoints that he has discovered and needs to discriminate. Not only are these not novel, but they are also (I believe) genuinely harmful to anyone along the gender continuum. His wife's commentary and footnotes were enjoyable as the often contradicted his views in a funny, albeit passive-aggressive manner. While I'm sure their relationship suffers interpersonally because of this, it does make for some fun reading.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sasha Boersma

    If you've never put any thought into the different social constructs for men and women, you may find this book insightful. For me, it felt like a diary of a guy coming to terms with being the one to give up his life for his wife's dreams. I became increasingly frustrated with who wife's commentary correcting him as a side note - why did he simply not edit his copy? Too many facts. Not enough real anecdotes or research of stories of others. I have heard the similar topic on a variety of podcasts - t If you've never put any thought into the different social constructs for men and women, you may find this book insightful. For me, it felt like a diary of a guy coming to terms with being the one to give up his life for his wife's dreams. I became increasingly frustrated with who wife's commentary correcting him as a side note - why did he simply not edit his copy? Too many facts. Not enough real anecdotes or research of stories of others. I have heard the similar topic on a variety of podcasts - that usually women are the ones to make sacrifies. So, is this his way of getting approval for doing what he did? To be fair, as much as there has been a push to help women grow in the past 40 years, there hasn't been a lot of coaching for men on what this means in terms of changing dynamic. Maybe if you're a guy struggling with that, this book is for you.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Adam Fearnall

    This was an important book for me to read and by extension, I think, an important book for Marche to write. His willingness to write openly and honestly about his perspective on gender was helpful to read. I often feel discomfort or fear voicing some of my own thoughts about the topics that Marche discusses and have found myself working harder to find meaningful ways to express them since reading his book. Reading Marche's work makes me remember that it is okay to put controversial musings out i This was an important book for me to read and by extension, I think, an important book for Marche to write. His willingness to write openly and honestly about his perspective on gender was helpful to read. I often feel discomfort or fear voicing some of my own thoughts about the topics that Marche discusses and have found myself working harder to find meaningful ways to express them since reading his book. Reading Marche's work makes me remember that it is okay to put controversial musings out into the world as long as you are willing to accept that others (and likely you yourself) will come to disagree with many of the ideas that you propose. I think that the book itself and the ideas within it are likely to be somewhat dated within a fairly short period of time, but I don't see that as a bad thing. I think that it is a time capsule that captures Marche's thoughts at a particular moment in time. I hope that he revisits this conversation over the course of time to see how some of the snapshots of perspective, data, and analysis look as the decades march on. Yet, despite the fact that some of the examples, cultural references, and arguments may evolve significantly I think that the core premise of the book will be an important one to hang onto. Men must have a voice when it comes to gender and the roles that all of us play in the world. To be silent might prevent us from sticking our feet in our mouths, but it might also stop the 'gut level' deep learning that we all need in order to find a more balanced way to relate with one another.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra

    This one generated conflicted feelings in the book club (...and a healthy dose of hostility at the concept of men refusing to contribute more to domestic upkeep in modern times). The idea of suppressing women being bad for capitalism was a new/interesting one to me, and on many subjects it felt like Marche was very thoughtful/"woke," but there was also somehow a level of smugness that we found grating. Additionally, some of the scientific assertions were dubious to me. For example, Marche wanted This one generated conflicted feelings in the book club (...and a healthy dose of hostility at the concept of men refusing to contribute more to domestic upkeep in modern times). The idea of suppressing women being bad for capitalism was a new/interesting one to me, and on many subjects it felt like Marche was very thoughtful/"woke," but there was also somehow a level of smugness that we found grating. Additionally, some of the scientific assertions were dubious to me. For example, Marche wanted to correlate the rise in the availability of pornography and a reduction in rape, and while both of those things might be true, I didn't find them to be convincingly linked/causal. I'm still somewhat puzzled about what the takeaway is intended to be.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    Don't waste your time. This "book" is essentially a rambling blog style of thoughts by a man that seems to be rather uneducated and though he clearly wants to NOT be, pretty set in his gendered ways. Taking in account it is older so some facts are out of date, it was a lot of words that said almost nothing 90% of the time. The other 10% absolutely came across as how hard men have it. The footnotes from the wife were the only redeemable part. Don't waste your time. This "book" is essentially a rambling blog style of thoughts by a man that seems to be rather uneducated and though he clearly wants to NOT be, pretty set in his gendered ways. Taking in account it is older so some facts are out of date, it was a lot of words that said almost nothing 90% of the time. The other 10% absolutely came across as how hard men have it. The footnotes from the wife were the only redeemable part.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elize

    Some interesting thoughts about relationships in the 21st century. I would recommend all couples read this if both partners are working.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    I read this one for our online book club at work, and it was pretty much just OK. I think Stephen Marche made some good points, but I think the book itself could have been more engaging. It was a bit academic and a bit dry. The whole thing was very upper-class hetero white people concerns, and also I think he thinks he's a bit more interesting/important than he really is. The book did give me some things to consider on the front of male-female relations though, and it was less mansplainy than I I read this one for our online book club at work, and it was pretty much just OK. I think Stephen Marche made some good points, but I think the book itself could have been more engaging. It was a bit academic and a bit dry. The whole thing was very upper-class hetero white people concerns, and also I think he thinks he's a bit more interesting/important than he really is. The book did give me some things to consider on the front of male-female relations though, and it was less mansplainy than I expected, so not I guess not bad overall.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Julie Aquilina

    This was fascinating. Almost like reading a theory book again back at uni - however, this was a tad more accessible. I like that each chapter had a unique focus. Definitely had me bringing up some interesting stuff at the dinner table each night.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    The Unmade Bed by Stephen Marche & Sarah Fulford is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early February. A real-life couple, Marche speaks of the coexistence of men and women (i.e. mansplaining as a way to minimize otherwise vital intragender topics, one's parenting style being different from that of their own parents, the availability of one's family having an effect on child delinquency, abundance of any kind of pornography that you can imagine, intimacy vs. desire vs. sexuality, division of h The Unmade Bed by Stephen Marche & Sarah Fulford is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early February. A real-life couple, Marche speaks of the coexistence of men and women (i.e. mansplaining as a way to minimize otherwise vital intragender topics, one's parenting style being different from that of their own parents, the availability of one's family having an effect on child delinquency, abundance of any kind of pornography that you can imagine, intimacy vs. desire vs. sexuality, division of household chores, and external gender stereotypes) while Fulford weighs in on each topics via postscript.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Before I got to page 100, I had flagged so many things that made me miffed about this author that I had to stop reading. Grand generalizations without basis about, such as this: "Of all the grand political fantasies of the twentieth century, the various ideologies that dared to reconfigure humanity, and came and went, leaving behind the fetid stench of their failed utopias, only feminism has left a tangible legacy in everyday life." -- p. 18 What about the civil rights movement, Mr. Marche? Has th Before I got to page 100, I had flagged so many things that made me miffed about this author that I had to stop reading. Grand generalizations without basis about, such as this: "Of all the grand political fantasies of the twentieth century, the various ideologies that dared to reconfigure humanity, and came and went, leaving behind the fetid stench of their failed utopias, only feminism has left a tangible legacy in everyday life." -- p. 18 What about the civil rights movement, Mr. Marche? Has this left a fetid stench of failed utopia? Has there been no legacy in everyday life? This seems a glaring omission, and one that I am surprised his editor wife did not flag. Speaking of, I found the inclusion of his wife's comments as footnotes to be a) the most interesting part of the book yet b) insulting. Marche tries to head off criticism of this decision (and his own mansplaining) by acknowledging at the beginning that essentially, he is damned if he did include her commentary, damned if he didn't. I submit that there is an obvious third option: Dude. Your wife has a way with words, and your writing seriously lacks perspective. What if -- and hear me out here -- your book about men and women was COWRITTEN with your wife? If her perspective is so valuable you couldn't leave it out of the book, how about giving her some space in the running text? Sheesh.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Rosenblum

    I thought this was actually going to be a book about housework and domestic labour. It wasn't, and I was very disappointed. I had other issues with the book it actually turned out to be, but I don't have the energy to enumerate those. FYI in case you also misunderstood the concept. I thought this was actually going to be a book about housework and domestic labour. It wasn't, and I was very disappointed. I had other issues with the book it actually turned out to be, but I don't have the energy to enumerate those. FYI in case you also misunderstood the concept.

  19. 4 out of 5

    William Sedlack

    I enjoy Marche's writings in Esquire and was excited to see this on Netgalley. Thank you to the publisher and to Netgalley. Marche has written a nice book on gender. It is amusing, informative, and well written. I've found myself talking with friends about it. The footnotes by Marche's wife were essential to balancing Marche out. I enjoy Marche's writings in Esquire and was excited to see this on Netgalley. Thank you to the publisher and to Netgalley. Marche has written a nice book on gender. It is amusing, informative, and well written. I've found myself talking with friends about it. The footnotes by Marche's wife were essential to balancing Marche out.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Kost

    This book does four things well. It demonstrates that the urban left has become so jarringly provincial that it can’t even see the existence of opposing views, provides excellent examples of how not to use research, shows why it’s imperative to define terms and avoid ivory tower theory argot, and buttresses the worst conservative fears about the rapid devolution of morals in society. It may also illuminate the abysmal state of people's ability to interpret and apply research in the age of abunda This book does four things well. It demonstrates that the urban left has become so jarringly provincial that it can’t even see the existence of opposing views, provides excellent examples of how not to use research, shows why it’s imperative to define terms and avoid ivory tower theory argot, and buttresses the worst conservative fears about the rapid devolution of morals in society. It may also illuminate the abysmal state of people's ability to interpret and apply research in the age of abundant information. Marche is clearly writing only for those within his smug ideological echo chamber and discounts contrary or more balanced views. His claims are so outlandish they make one slam the book down. To wit: the support for gay marriage proceeds from the increasing preponderance of anal [and oral] sex among heterosexual couples, which has decreased “the capacity to hate others for performing those same acts” (68), though Kinsey puts the number at less than 10% of heterosexual couples who have experienced anal sex in the last year. Another: “Almost nobody, except outdated moralists like the Catholic Church, believes that …exchanging sex for money… is inherently wrong” (117), but YouGov reports that 65% of American women say it’s morally wrong. On pornography, Marche reports that the correlation of pornography with violence against women and the trivialization of rape “have been replicated numerous times in the past thirty years and the arguments…have formed a coherent whole” and then begins the next paragraph with the statement, “Except that the opposite happens” (121). He believes he is successfully refuting the thirty years of data with one study examining the relation of high speed Internet access to a decrease in rape and two studies conducted prior to the Internet. His lack of clarity is another reason to use this with students as an example of how not to write. “The act of citation has become the act of power. Models in the pages of Vogue may imitate porn starts without fear of being confused with the real thing because the gesture of citation demonstrates how removed they really are…” (88). There is no explanation of what on earth he means to say with “citation” in this context. We can guess but, Marche, use your words! When writing about gay marriage, we have this vacuous but ostensibly profound pronouncement: “Choice against duty. Engagement against obligation. Respect against traditional roles….Choice and engagement and respect are more powerful than duty and obligation and tradition” (70). My, this reeks of gravitas, but what does he mean with those pregnant terms? They are stillborn. The best parts are Marche’s wife’s occasional commentaries, which are intended to balance the male view, which they do, but they also turned me against him, especially the revelation on pages 191-191 that “in the middle of domestic chaos he can block it out and focus on something important to him” and what that looks like. Yikes. On one page, Marche expresses idea x and a page or two later its contradiction. This may be a key statement: “Total theoretical incoherence is not necessarily a failing; it may be intellectually honest” (170). Earlier, he wrote, “The intellectual incoherence of third-wave feminism, so far from being a weakness, has been a source of strength—an embrace of life’s messiness, a willingness to ride on the surface of things” (90). Ah, so that’s what this is about. It is fitting that Marche, as contributing editor of Esquire engages in what F. Scott Fitzgerald described in its pages in 1936 as “the test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” It’s maddening, but it’s all toward showing that the contemporary status of gender and sex are confusing indeed. And this book doesn’t help clarify it a whit.

  21. 4 out of 5

    David

    if I were more generous, could have gone with 3 stars -- let's say 2.5. fairly interesting juxtaposition of review of academic research on gender with first-person account of his own family, key nontraditional part being that he is the flex parent who squeezes in writing when he can and gave up a tenure-track academic job to move to the location of his wife's plum newspaper editing position. The conclusions didn't seem remarkable [men on average watch a lot of porn online, but that doesn't automa if I were more generous, could have gone with 3 stars -- let's say 2.5. fairly interesting juxtaposition of review of academic research on gender with first-person account of his own family, key nontraditional part being that he is the flex parent who squeezes in writing when he can and gave up a tenure-track academic job to move to the location of his wife's plum newspaper editing position. The conclusions didn't seem remarkable [men on average watch a lot of porn online, but that doesn't automatically make them rapists; playing with your kids is fun but housework often less so; the world won't end if nobody makes the bed [hence the title] rather than ensuring that wife and husband do so with equal frequency; things are getting better on the gender equality front but not as rapidly or seamlessly as one might like.............], and there's a slightly disagreeable tone of self-satisfaction IMO in the personal anecdotes. I've got it knocked, and you can too. Perhaps as a counter-weight to that tendency, he enlisted his wife to write footnoted commentaries from time to time, generally in disagreement with whatever he is saying in the text about their household. These asides livened things up, and I came to look forward to them more than the text itself by the end. Finally, two random observations -- one like and one dislike. p. 94 funny [to me] discussion of the history and sociology of use of the term "bro" including quote from OED to the effect that one of its odd properties is "a certain element of metonymy: by being the sort of person who says 'bro', a person becomes a bro" p. 65 in describing ads showing "new father" types, he alludes to "Drew Breese, star quarterback of the New Orleans Saints". man, come on, it's Brees, and everyone knows who he is! In particular, he's who Captain Kirk Cousins is destined to become. First day of Skins training camp. It's on!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lois Ann

    First I will say, it takes a serious amount of chutzpah to put your married life and child raising out in print form-- solidified in that moment of history forever. I commend the author and his wife for trying to untangle the state of things in this format. But, in the end (spoilers) she's accepting that he doesn't see mess the way she does and hence accepts that he'll never get his dirty socks in the hamper and he says their parental chores are equal because he 'plays' with the kids. Playing is First I will say, it takes a serious amount of chutzpah to put your married life and child raising out in print form-- solidified in that moment of history forever. I commend the author and his wife for trying to untangle the state of things in this format. But, in the end (spoilers) she's accepting that he doesn't see mess the way she does and hence accepts that he'll never get his dirty socks in the hamper and he says their parental chores are equal because he 'plays' with the kids. Playing is not a parental chore. She makes a mental list of all the things she has to achieve before going to work-- arranging after school pick up, gift for a child's friend etc. He has no such list. For me this epitomizes the inequality in parental roles between men and women. But neither of these people seem to understand that. In the end-- I found reading this book interesting but only in so much as it outlines the inequality that exists-- even in relationships where both partners appear to be happy with the state of equality in their roles. They seem blind to their own truth. That is the case for most of us. Hindsight tends to show how far we have to go to find true equality in gender roles in the home.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    I heard the author on MPR and knew I had to read it. Men, women, complications. Written primarily by a man, but with footnotes by his wife, who I wish would have commented more in the book. I didn't necessarily buy into all his explanations, but I appreciated his openness and candor. p. 10: The problem with mansplaining as a term is that men also have to deal with mansplainers. Mention you have a doctorate in Shakespeare, and they'll tell you everything they learned about Romeo and Juliet in junio I heard the author on MPR and knew I had to read it. Men, women, complications. Written primarily by a man, but with footnotes by his wife, who I wish would have commented more in the book. I didn't necessarily buy into all his explanations, but I appreciated his openness and candor. p. 10: The problem with mansplaining as a term is that men also have to deal with mansplainers. Mention you have a doctorate in Shakespeare, and they'll tell you everything they learned about Romeo and Juliet in junior high. mention that you write for magazines, and they'll ruin your evening droning on about what makes a great magazine story, even though they've never written an effective email. The correct response to the guy who told Solnit about her own book is to laugh in his face. laugh at him because he's weak. I recognize that I am now mansplaining mansplaining."

  24. 4 out of 5

    John Medendorp

    I liked it (that’s what 3 stars means!). It’s a challenging and fascinating book. Very postmodern. I think that it could just as easily have been subtitled “My Messy Truth” rather than “THE Messy Truth.” Marche weaves together anecdotes from his own life and history with statistics, study, and reflections on relationships, sexuality, feminism, masculinity, gender roles, and parenting. I don’t really know what he’s aiming for insofar as any “agenda” might be concerned. He definitely has opinions, I liked it (that’s what 3 stars means!). It’s a challenging and fascinating book. Very postmodern. I think that it could just as easily have been subtitled “My Messy Truth” rather than “THE Messy Truth.” Marche weaves together anecdotes from his own life and history with statistics, study, and reflections on relationships, sexuality, feminism, masculinity, gender roles, and parenting. I don’t really know what he’s aiming for insofar as any “agenda” might be concerned. He definitely has opinions, but I don’t feel like he’s trying to convince me to share those opinions. But maybe he’s just sharing his perspective and there isn’t a bigger agenda behind it. And maybe that’s exactly the point.... There is profanity, crudeness, and other things that would make me think twice about recommending it to people, but it is interesting.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Annie Kookie

    Stephen Marche ruminates on males and females and what that means, present day, from our history to our ideas of what will be. One thing that stood out to me (that was not necessarily reflective of the books theme, but also was, in its own way) was the author’s reflection of his own personal moments. He reflected on them so sweetly and really captured the love and intimacy of his own relationships in snippets throughout the book. There were spots in which my eyes glazed over and I lost myself in Stephen Marche ruminates on males and females and what that means, present day, from our history to our ideas of what will be. One thing that stood out to me (that was not necessarily reflective of the books theme, but also was, in its own way) was the author’s reflection of his own personal moments. He reflected on them so sweetly and really captured the love and intimacy of his own relationships in snippets throughout the book. There were spots in which my eyes glazed over and I lost myself in the text, although not many. The writing was intelligent and seemingly well-researched. The author did a good job at looking at the topic from many angles to give a more full picture of the topic.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Fabrizio

    Overall this is a good book to explore the many challenges, heterosexual couples within a certain privileged context, face in our current time. The author is brave enough to explore a set of often controversial topics, through his family life. His candour is commendable. His partner (and editor) provides excellent remarks in footnotes, and it is through her eyes we get to see the challenges working women face now and faced in previous generations. It is also through her eyes, we find balance in Overall this is a good book to explore the many challenges, heterosexual couples within a certain privileged context, face in our current time. The author is brave enough to explore a set of often controversial topics, through his family life. His candour is commendable. His partner (and editor) provides excellent remarks in footnotes, and it is through her eyes we get to see the challenges working women face now and faced in previous generations. It is also through her eyes, we find balance in some of the stories and "mansplaining" Marche often incurs. The critique of a certain type of feminism could be better articulated. The focus on social issues such as absent fathers and its correlation to violence is well argued. Certainly, the case for living in filth (chapter 7), the new parenthood, (chapter 2) and some quite astonishing facts about pornography in Chapter 2 are worth reading :) Overall, the book is a call to re-think how women and men will scape of the current situation, an sort of in-between the old world, and the one we will need to build together.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    An interesting book, at once clever and strange. There are too many dualities here. The author asked his wife to comment on the book, and those comments appear as footnotes. They form a good contrast in perspective. On the other hand, Marche's tendency to overwrite is on display. His use of jargon is greater than necessary, with the result that the meaning of sentences is sometimes lost in the verbiage, whether literary, sociological, or philosophical. And he should have stayed away from the pos An interesting book, at once clever and strange. There are too many dualities here. The author asked his wife to comment on the book, and those comments appear as footnotes. They form a good contrast in perspective. On the other hand, Marche's tendency to overwrite is on display. His use of jargon is greater than necessary, with the result that the meaning of sentences is sometimes lost in the verbiage, whether literary, sociological, or philosophical. And he should have stayed away from the postmodern thinkers.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rieta

    The cover of this book somehow had me believe I might have a light, humorous look at modern relationships. That wasn't the case. Mr. Marche is obviously very intelligent but I would have appreciated a little dumbing down here. He had some good points but I had to read some sentences a couple times to get the gist of his thoughts. I appreciated his chapters on the sharing of housework and the education system in regard to gender. Just lighten up a bit, please. The cover of this book somehow had me believe I might have a light, humorous look at modern relationships. That wasn't the case. Mr. Marche is obviously very intelligent but I would have appreciated a little dumbing down here. He had some good points but I had to read some sentences a couple times to get the gist of his thoughts. I appreciated his chapters on the sharing of housework and the education system in regard to gender. Just lighten up a bit, please.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Qasim Choudhary

    The harsh truth is that this postmodern rant made me cringe and regret the time wasted on it. Like many postmodern thinkers he baselessly insinuates that working mothers have no negative effect on children. I still don’t understand how we can brazenly do away with the traditional household dynamic. Why is the stay at home mother looked as inferior and not celebrated? Anyways, definitely not recommending this to anyone.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Linda Spear

    One of our pandemic readalouds. What I enjoyed most about this book were his wife Sarah's "footnotes" to his musings and declarations. I do wonder if he is aware that with every observation he makes, he's looking only at the upper middle to upper class. The changes in men's and women's roles will not be happening in the working class, for instance. Even though it was well written for what it is, I couldn't get that excited about the premise. One of our pandemic readalouds. What I enjoyed most about this book were his wife Sarah's "footnotes" to his musings and declarations. I do wonder if he is aware that with every observation he makes, he's looking only at the upper middle to upper class. The changes in men's and women's roles will not be happening in the working class, for instance. Even though it was well written for what it is, I couldn't get that excited about the premise.

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