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A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl--and how we might re-imagine gender for the twenty-first century. Vivek Shraya has reason to be afraid. Throughout her life she's endured acts of cruelty and aggression for being too feminine as a boy and not feminine enough as a girl. In order to survive childhood, she A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl--and how we might re-imagine gender for the twenty-first century. Vivek Shraya has reason to be afraid. Throughout her life she's endured acts of cruelty and aggression for being too feminine as a boy and not feminine enough as a girl. In order to survive childhood, she had to learn to convincingly perform masculinity. As an adult, she makes daily compromises to steel herself against everything from verbal attacks to heartbreak. With raw honesty, Shraya delivers an important record of the cumulative damage caused by misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, releasing trauma from a body that has always refused to assimilate. I'm Afraid of Men is a journey from camouflage to a riot of color and a blueprint for how we might cherish all that makes us different and conquer all that makes us afraid.


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A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl--and how we might re-imagine gender for the twenty-first century. Vivek Shraya has reason to be afraid. Throughout her life she's endured acts of cruelty and aggression for being too feminine as a boy and not feminine enough as a girl. In order to survive childhood, she A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl--and how we might re-imagine gender for the twenty-first century. Vivek Shraya has reason to be afraid. Throughout her life she's endured acts of cruelty and aggression for being too feminine as a boy and not feminine enough as a girl. In order to survive childhood, she had to learn to convincingly perform masculinity. As an adult, she makes daily compromises to steel herself against everything from verbal attacks to heartbreak. With raw honesty, Shraya delivers an important record of the cumulative damage caused by misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, releasing trauma from a body that has always refused to assimilate. I'm Afraid of Men is a journey from camouflage to a riot of color and a blueprint for how we might cherish all that makes us different and conquer all that makes us afraid.

30 review for I'm Afraid of Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    A short yet sobering book written with raw honesty and valuable insights of how we treat women and people within the LGBT+ community. I was surprised to find myself gaining new perspectives based on the questions that Shraya asks, particularly with how we put men on a binary between “good”/“bad”, and the distinction between identifying as LGBT+ and being expected to have no boundaries. I think if this were a full-length memoir, I would have easily rated it 5 stars; however, this 96-page book cou A short yet sobering book written with raw honesty and valuable insights of how we treat women and people within the LGBT+ community. I was surprised to find myself gaining new perspectives based on the questions that Shraya asks, particularly with how we put men on a binary between “good”/“bad”, and the distinction between identifying as LGBT+ and being expected to have no boundaries. I think if this were a full-length memoir, I would have easily rated it 5 stars; however, this 96-page book could improve with being more cohesive and organized. Dividing the writing into sections like “Me” and “You” feels arbitrary, especially when she jumps between different timelines as she recalls experiences. I think the book would have been better if she had organized them either chronologically or by subject matter; instead, it feels like a random series of thoughts (even though they are important).

  2. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    A vulnerable, powerful examination of gender and masculinity from trans artist Vivek Shraya. I’m Afraid of Men reminded me of We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as Shraya uses her personal experiences of sexism and harassment to build a case for why we need to redefine and rebuild masculinity as well as gender overall. She shares her lived experience as a trans person of color with courage and incision, both the pain she has felt at the hands of men and misogynistic wome A vulnerable, powerful examination of gender and masculinity from trans artist Vivek Shraya. I’m Afraid of Men reminded me of We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as Shraya uses her personal experiences of sexism and harassment to build a case for why we need to redefine and rebuild masculinity as well as gender overall. She shares her lived experience as a trans person of color with courage and incision, both the pain she has felt at the hands of men and misogynistic women and how she wants us all to move forward to create a better world. A short paragraph in which she reflects on what she wishes she had learned growing up as a boy: "When I was learning to be a man, I wish that instead of the coaching I received to take up space, I had been taught to be respectful of space. To be ever conscious of and ever grateful to those whose sacred land I inhabit. To be mindful of the space and bodies of others, especially feminine bodies. To never presume that I am permitted to touch the body of another, no matter how queer the space. To give up or create space when I am afforded more than others." Though this book falls on the shorter side, Shraya shares many insights that I wish more people thought of. She discusses how our expectations for men are way too low, how the idea of a “good man” prevents us from positively reinforcing specific behaviors men should practice more, and how the gender binary makes us all feel afraid. I’m Afraid of Men has both intellectual and emotional honesty. As someone who has also felt afraid of men throughout his life because of how they have hurt me, I appreciated Shraya’s personal disclosures a lot and they made me feel connected and less alone, despite the differences in our social identities. Recommended to anyone who wants a succinct yet compelling exploration of gender, as well as for people who have a difficulty trusting men. I’ll end this review with another earnest passage toward the end of the book: "I wonder what my life might have been like if my so-called feminine tendencies, such as being sensitive, or my interests, such as wearing my mother's clothing, or even my body had not been gendered or designated as either feminine or masculine at all. Despite the ways in which my gender felt enforced, I sometimes miss elements of my masculine past, like the thickness of my beard or the once impressive width of my biceps. Maybe this missing is actually mourning in disguise, for having to surrender aspects of my appearance I worked hard to achieve. Or maybe I'm mourning a life that I still don't get to fully live because it's one I continue to have to defend and authenticate. What if I didn't have to give up any characteristics, especially ones I like, to outwardly prove I am a girl? What if living my truth now didn't immediately render everything that came before, namely my manhood, a lie?"

  3. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

    So am I. Vivek Shraya has written a timely essay about her and the world's struggle with masculinity. What we accept as normal behavior in boys is pretty unsettling when you write it down. Femininity is seen as a negative in our world, so if a boy displays feminine traits, he is automatically denigrated. She talks about how she was not accepted with either sex. Boys and girls made fun of her; one creep spit on her back, as Vivek was waiting at a bus stop, while the creep's girlfriend giggled. Sh So am I. Vivek Shraya has written a timely essay about her and the world's struggle with masculinity. What we accept as normal behavior in boys is pretty unsettling when you write it down. Femininity is seen as a negative in our world, so if a boy displays feminine traits, he is automatically denigrated. She talks about how she was not accepted with either sex. Boys and girls made fun of her; one creep spit on her back, as Vivek was waiting at a bus stop, while the creep's girlfriend giggled. She is so afraid of getting attacked in the street that she has health problems from the anxiety that creates. This is a brave and unsettling piece of writing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian

    4.5! Moving, accessible, important: that's what this book is! I loved it. My only complaint is that it was so short! I think this is a great intro-ish level book on feminism. "What if you were to challenge yourself every time you feel afraid of me, and all of us who are pushing against gendered expectations and restrictions? What if you cherished us as archetypes of realized potential? What if you were to surrender to sublime possibility, yours and mine? Might you then free me at last of my fear 4.5! Moving, accessible, important: that's what this book is! I loved it. My only complaint is that it was so short! I think this is a great intro-ish level book on feminism. "What if you were to challenge yourself every time you feel afraid of me, and all of us who are pushing against gendered expectations and restrictions? What if you cherished us as archetypes of realized potential? What if you were to surrender to sublime possibility, yours and mine? Might you then free me at last of my fear and of your own?"

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    This was such a powerful book - I must admit: I knew very little about transsexuals - and I had no idea how many different ways rejection impacted their perception of self and identity. To constantly have to 'check' yourself as far as a 'gender meter' (am I too feminine for this group - too masculine for this group) seems to me to be a burden that would be overwhelming. Vivek is raw and honest about how life treats this community and how quickly allies can turn away from you if you do not meet t This was such a powerful book - I must admit: I knew very little about transsexuals - and I had no idea how many different ways rejection impacted their perception of self and identity. To constantly have to 'check' yourself as far as a 'gender meter' (am I too feminine for this group - too masculine for this group) seems to me to be a burden that would be overwhelming. Vivek is raw and honest about how life treats this community and how quickly allies can turn away from you if you do not meet their expectations - a powerful and important book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    l.

    Tbh Vivek just isn’t in command of her material here. The way Vivek continually conflates femininity and women is extremely irritating and I’m fed up of trans writers doing this. I’m tried of people substituting the word feminine for female - which Vivek does repeatedly. They’re not interchangeable. If you can discuss male privilege and behaviours, you can acknowledge that female people exist. We are not just non-males. Really the book’s biggest problem is that it claims to be about misogyny but Tbh Vivek just isn’t in command of her material here. The way Vivek continually conflates femininity and women is extremely irritating and I’m fed up of trans writers doing this. I’m tried of people substituting the word feminine for female - which Vivek does repeatedly. They’re not interchangeable. If you can discuss male privilege and behaviours, you can acknowledge that female people exist. We are not just non-males. Really the book’s biggest problem is that it claims to be about misogyny but really it’s on toxic masculinity. I don’t believe that toxic masculinity is a useful concept but that is what this book is about. For example, calling gay men groping gay men in a gay bar misogyny.... it’s not. Also, the whole homophobia is just misogyny point is one I find irritating. Maybe homophobia is based in misogyny, but how is saying that helpful, how is it clarifying. How is calling men shaming other men for not being muscular misogyny helpful? Here, it comes across as an attempt to argue that male people - including cis men - suffer from misogyny just as much as women. An attempt by Vivek to wrap up a bunch of their negative experiences by labelling them all the product of misogyny. Pass. Being a gender non conforming person is scary and lonely and hard but this analysis is Just Bad. Because some of you are illiterate and I'm trying to help you guys out, some issues that you all should have flagged when reading this: 1) "And yet, back in our home, in the years before and after Shemeena’s grandmother’s funeral, I had no issue with sitting on our own couch while she cooked us dinner. My job was to wash the dishes, but I don’t know that this division of labour was ever as balanced as I had convinced myself it was. Although I pushed against traditional gender roles even when I was male, I still expected and accepted feminine labour even in my most intimate relationship." Why does Shraya discuss cooking as 'feminine' instead of 'female' labour? If Shemeena was a masculine woman, would that make that division of labour cutting-edge? Or would it just another instance of male people expecting that service from female people? Why is there no further reflection on how Sharaya's gender non-conformity didn't extend to things outside appearance? 2) "After assessing the available options, eventually I decided on Manpreet. Manpreet’s long single braid, fuzzy sideburns, and tucked-in madras shirts placed her on the unpopular end of the nascent status spectrum. Sporting a mint-green string to hold up my glasses (at my parents’ insistence), I was not much more popular than she was, but I sensed that she liked me, or at least looked up to me, since we were among the few brown kids in our split-grade classroom. She was also younger than me. She was the perfect target. Every night in bed, I plotted how I would approach Manpreet on the playground at recess and somehow coerce her to kiss me, my hands holding either side of her head to prevent her from escaping. The day I decided to make my move, I found her near the bike racks under the light rain. I bumbled on about class for a while, waiting for the opportunity to follow through with my plan, disarmed by the adoration in her brown eyes." Shraya admits this is a male way of looking at female people. Shraya is obviously haunted by having had this plan but there's no further reflection on the process of unlearning that entitlement. Shraya wonders whether she still has that kind of capacity in her but nothing more. There's also no reflection on how Shraya chose this girl not simply because she was female, but because she was brown and female and younger and unpopular - how those characters combined led to her being seen as an acceptable target, even by another brown kid. How it feels to know that even other unpopular brown kids if they're male can't be trusted as a female brown kid. Shraya wonders how "a forced first kiss have influenced Manpreet’s future attitudes toward her own sexuality" but not how living in that state of vulnerability from male violence from earliest childhood as a brown girl impacts us. The focus is always in this book on Shraya. And that's fine as diary stuff, but not as a book that's supposed to be examining the way gender has hurt us all. 3) "When my therapist asked me to talk about what I noticed in my recollection, I was surprised that my focus wasn’t entirely on the boy. Instead, it was partly on his girlfriend, who laughed throughout the experience. Those giggles reverberate in my ears as permanently as the boy’s spit blemished my mother’s jacket. Why did she encourage him with her laughter? Why didn’t she—or anyone who witnessed what was happening—tell him to stop? Why did my friend call my high school crush a “sweetheart” after he’d threatened to hurt me? Why hadn’t she told him that his intentions were vicious? Why didn’t my other friend tell me it was not okay for a stranger to grab me in the bar? Why hadn’t she tried to see who it was so she could tell him to stop on my behalf, or even just walk out of the bar with me?" Another flag in this book that the analysis is bad: the word homophobia is never mentioned. The reason why the women in the first two incidents don't step up is not because women are inherently untrustworthy but because women can also be homophobes and racists. There is almost certainly a racist aspect to the spitting. I find it a little annoying that the third incident - of not calling out someone for groping Shraya is packaged in with the other two as it's completely different. Women are so used to being groped, in bars and out of bars, that the fact that she didn't here is not a betrayal in the sense that the others are; she just may have found it expected behaviour. I mean then the other questions: did Shraya talk with her about it? How did she respond? The hurt is there; the analysis is not. 4) "The history and current state of Western masculinity is predicated on diminishing and desecrating the feminine. Therefore, a healthier masculinity must be one that honours and embraces femininity, as many non-Western cultures have long prescribed." I'm so bored of these little asides. Stop misleading dumb white people into believing that misogyny doesn't exist in our cultures. 5) "Male aggression has often been linked to various kinds of repression, including of emotions and sexuality, but much of the misery I experienced in my twenties stemmed from feeling forced to wear only neutral colours, because even bright colours are associated with femininity." No offence, but lol. 6) " I’m afraid of women who adopt masculine traits and then feel compelled to dominate or silence me at dinner parties. I’m afraid of women who see me as a predator and whose comfort I consequently put before my own by using male locker rooms. I’m afraid of women who have internalized their experiences of misogyny so deeply that they make me their punching bag." That first sentence paired with the others... I'm just going to say it. Shraya has a misogyny problem. What is that language: "adopt masculine traits"? Because our nature is feminine? "Feel compelled to dominate or silence me at dinner parties"? What is this? With no further context on what these conversations are about, it seems like Shraya just fears and resents women who don't agree with her or fail to centre her, which seems to be something of a theme. From someone who literally wrote just a few pages ago about how she had to be as careful as possible when writing emails to not seem aggressive, that awareness of that aspect of misogyny, of racialized misogyny goes straight out the door when thinking about the experiences of female people. The way these sentences are linked is manipulative: women having opinions at a dinner party somehow connects to women wanting Shraya to be at risk of male violence. As to the last sentence, again, no discussion of homophobia. 7) When I played the demo for a close friend, eager for her opinion, I was shocked that she found the track misogynistic. “What’s the line about beating someone?” she asked. “‘I must have to just beat it out of you’? That’s not about literally beating a woman! It’s a play on the expression ‘beat it out of you.’ Plus the song is about a lesbian relationship." “But when you sing it as a man, the audience hears you singing about beating a woman. Even if you’re queer.” Feeling defensive, I told myself that my friend’s critique was a symptom of her tendency to overanalyze, a leftover from her women’s studies degree. My strongest defence was that I adored women. Ew. 8) "I wonder what my life might have been like if my so-called feminine tendencies, such as being sensitive, or my interests, such as wearing my mother’s clothing, or even my body had not been gendered or designated as either feminine or masculine at all." Sex-based oppression would still exist, you would just be a full beneficiary.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    A worthwhile, sobering account of Shraya's own experiences with toxic masculinity and societal expectations of gender roles; hardly unfamiliar topics if you read a lot of this kind of nonfiction, but Shraya's perspective as a queer trans woman of color is a valuable addition to the discourse, and I'd highly recommend this over a lot of similar books, especially if you're looking for something short and punchy.  My only issue is that at 96 pages (or under 2 hours on audio, which is how I consumed A worthwhile, sobering account of Shraya's own experiences with toxic masculinity and societal expectations of gender roles; hardly unfamiliar topics if you read a lot of this kind of nonfiction, but Shraya's perspective as a queer trans woman of color is a valuable addition to the discourse, and I'd highly recommend this over a lot of similar books, especially if you're looking for something short and punchy.  My only issue is that at 96 pages (or under 2 hours on audio, which is how I consumed it) this text sort of awkwardly sits in between long-form article and book in a way that suffers occasionally for its brevity.  Shraya's societal observations are where this book shines, consistently; it's in the details of her own life that the reader is left a bit wanting.  But as this is more essay than memoir it's hard to fault it too much for that.  This was a very eye-opening read that I can see myself revisiting again and again.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me fear. I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the word girl by turning it into a weapon they used to hurt me. I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me to hate and eventually destroy my femininity. I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the extraordinary parts of myself. As per her current author blurb, “Vivek Shraya is an artist whose body of work crosses the boundaries of music, poetry, fiction, v I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me fear. I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the word girl by turning it into a weapon they used to hurt me. I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me to hate and eventually destroy my femininity. I'm afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the extraordinary parts of myself. As per her current author blurb, “Vivek Shraya is an artist whose body of work crosses the boundaries of music, poetry, fiction, visual art, and film”, and in I'm Afraid of Men – truly more a long essay than a full-length book – she uses stories from her unusual life to illustrate her journey from being born a boy who was always accused of being too feminine, to coming out as a gay man – who was then accused of not being buff enough to fit into the gay culture – to eventually transitioning into a woman, who is now accused of not being feminine enough. Throughout this process of self-discovery, Shraya has learned to be afraid of men (and women, too) who would confront nonconformity with violence, and while some of her declarative statements weren't quite self-evident to me, I think that hers is an important voice to add to any conversation about gender or sexual nonconformity. Hearing stories about how other people live helps to move them into familiar territory; familiarity must lead to acceptance and safety; here's to a world in which Shraya is no longer afraid of men. (Note: I read an ARC and quotes may not be in their final forms.) I have to admit that it challenges me to have Shraya describe her time when she presented as a gay man – someone who was butch and buff, spoke in a low register, dressed in neutrals and plaid – and then say that she spent ten of those years in a relationship with a woman. Ultimately describing herself as “a queer trans girl”, Shraya was still presenting as this butch gay man when she met her current boyfriend, and was together with him for a while before she even realised she wanted to transition; it challenges me to think that this boyfriend would stay along for the ride as his male partner became a female (or rather, began to outwardly express that part of herself). Yet, I like being challenged in this thinking; who or how other people decide to love doesn't affect me at all. Even so, some of Shraya's most politically progressive statements made me raise an eyebrow: • On the heirarchy of harassment, staring is the least violent consequence for my gender nonconformity that I could hope for. • In this particular relationship, the process of exposure is especially protracted by how jarring it feels to see my (brown) skin against your pale skin, the skin of the oppressor. • Whether it's through an emphasis on being large and muscular, or asserting dominance by an extended or intimidating stride on sidewalks, being loud in bars, manspreading on public transit, or enacting harm or violence on others, taking up space is a form of misogyny because so often the space that men try to seize and dominate belongs to women and gender-nonconforming people. But again, I'd rather be challenged in my thinking than read only things that chime with what I already think I believe; and this book gives me plenty to think on. As for what solutions Shraya offers, that was challenging as well: Out of this fear comes a desire not only to reimagine masculinity but to blur gendered boundaries altogether and celebrate gender creativity. It's not enough to let go of the misplaced hope for a good or a better man. It's not enough to honour femininity. Both of these options might offer a momentary respite from the dangers of masculinity, but in the end they only perpetuate a binary and the pressure that bears down when we live at different ends of the spectrum. Just as Shraya now appreciates the “chest hair – a black flame rising from my bra – more than I ever did when I was a boy who regularly waxed and trimmed to adhere to the '90s standard”, she can see a future where “gender creativity” is celebrated and everyone walks down the street, expressing themselves fluidly and without fear of violence. I don't know if I can quite see that future, but I do firmly believe that the first step in any cultural revolution is listening to the stories of others and embracing them as part of the larger human story. I wish for Shraya that fear-free future.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ilana

    Apparently women are responsible for protecting feminine men from other men. We are, according to this author, failing as human shields and that makes us bad people. I read this because it won’t be said I live in my own little echo chamber and that I don’t listen to trans & nonbinary people. Yep, that’s how I roll. My transcription from the audiobook: “I’m especially afraid of women because my history has taught me that I can’t fully rely upon other women for sisterhood or allyship or protection— Apparently women are responsible for protecting feminine men from other men. We are, according to this author, failing as human shields and that makes us bad people. I read this because it won’t be said I live in my own little echo chamber and that I don’t listen to trans & nonbinary people. Yep, that’s how I roll. My transcription from the audiobook: “I’m especially afraid of women because my history has taught me that I can’t fully rely upon other women for sisterhood or allyship or protection—from men. Out of this fear comes a desire not only to reimagine masculinity but to blur gendered boundaries altogether and celebrate gender creativity. It’s not enough to let go of the misplaced hope for a good or a better man. It’s not enough to honour femininity. Both of these options might offer a momentary respite from the dangers of masculinity but in the end they only perpetuate a binary and the pressure that bears down when we live at different ends of the spectrum. I wonder what my life might have been like if my so called feminine tendencies such as being sensitive, or my interests, such as wearing my mother’s clothing, or even my body had not been gendered or designated as either feminine or masculine at all. Despite the ways in which my gender felt enforced, I sometimes miss elements of my masculine past, like the thickness of my beard, or the once impressive width of my biceps. Maybe this missing is actually mourning in disguise for having to surrender aspects of my appearance I worked hard to achieve. Or maybe I’m mourning a life that I still don’t get to fully live, because it’s one I continue to have to defend and authenticate. What if I didn’t have to give up any characteristics especially ones I like to outwardly prove I’m a girl? What if living my truth now didn’t render everything that came before—namely my manhood—a lie? As a girl, I’ve grown to appreciate my chest hair, a black flame rising from my bra, more than I ever did when I was a boy who regularly waxed & trimmed to adhere to the 90s standard. Unfortunately any ambiguity & nonconformity, especially when it comes to gender, conjures terror. This is precisely why men are afraid of me, why women are afraid of me too. But your fear is not only hurting me, it’s hurting you. Limiting you from being everything you could be. Consider how often you have dismissed your own appearance, behaviours, emotion and aspirations for being too feminine or masculine? What might your life be if you didn’t impose those designations on youself? Let alone on me? What if you were to challenge yourself every time you feel afraid of me and all of us who are pushing against gendered expectations and restrictions. What if you cherished us as archetipes of realized potential? What if you were to surrender to sublime possibly, yours and mine. Might you then free me at last of my fear and your own?” My question is, why couldn’t you just live as you are and redefine manhood to include feeling and wanting to present as “feminine” instead of insisting you’re a woman, while also missing your manhood? Also: only a narcissist would call themselves an archetype of anything and that alone is reason enough for me to say a resounding NO, I just don’t fuxking think so. * A note to all social justice warriors and/or trans rights activists: I do not negotiate with emotional terrorists. Ever. I will not have a discussion with anyone calling me or women in general cis, terf, bigoted, liars or any others such nonsense. Or anyone bringing up the Oppression Olympics, for that matter. End of.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kiki

    How to describe this book? It's essentially an almanac of whining. Shraya, born into privilege and now a university professor after struggling for many years to achieve fame as a pop star, enumerates the ways in which she's felt oppressed, or even made slightly uncomfortable, by men (and women -- basically everyone) through the years. I was excited for something substantive, but this was insufferable. How to describe this book? It's essentially an almanac of whining. Shraya, born into privilege and now a university professor after struggling for many years to achieve fame as a pop star, enumerates the ways in which she's felt oppressed, or even made slightly uncomfortable, by men (and women -- basically everyone) through the years. I was excited for something substantive, but this was insufferable.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    I would be lying if I said that the title didn’t have a huge influence on my intrigue in this initially, however, this book ended up giving me way more insight than I could have ever guessed. Exploring masculinity from the perspective of a trans woman through her experiences both pre and post transition, Vivek Shraya delivers a very raw take on how misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia has impacted her life. A particularly insightful part in this for me was Shraya’s take on the ‘good man’: In I would be lying if I said that the title didn’t have a huge influence on my intrigue in this initially, however, this book ended up giving me way more insight than I could have ever guessed. Exploring masculinity from the perspective of a trans woman through her experiences both pre and post transition, Vivek Shraya delivers a very raw take on how misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia has impacted her life. A particularly insightful part in this for me was Shraya’s take on the ‘good man’: In spite of my negative experiences, I’ve maintained a robust attachment to the idea of the “good man.” A common theme in my encounters and relationships is my certainty that the men I have admired were “good”, a synonym for “different from the rest.” The attachment to the promise of goodness is what left me bereft when, in various ways, I discovered that each of these men wasn’t “one of the good guys.” She goes on to talk about how instead of categorizing men (or anyone, really) as ‘good’, that we value specific characteristics one possesses such as communication, dependability, and the like. If we are to focus on specific characteristics as opposed to categorizing people as generally ‘good’, it not only eliminates the elevated image we’ve created of them, but unlike how being ‘good’ cancels out when one does something ‘bad’, these character attributes can coexist alongside one another. Although I can’t speak to experiences one faces in the LGBTQ+ community, I can relate to the experiences and scenarios presented that affect women on a daily basis. What I liked about this was also that it didn’t skip past the fact that women who defend or feed into misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia are equally to blame. Overall, I thought this was very well written, and at 96 pages, the only thing I wish is that it was longer.

  12. 4 out of 5

    chantel nouseforaname

    This was a hard and very instigating read for me that I could and couldn’t relate to on LEVELS. I have many issues with so many concepts in this book and they mainly stem from the pointed questions, relating to her own experience, that Vivek uses to paint cis-gendered woman in this almost-as-bad as men sort of dynamic, towards the end..which may be true in some cases, but to have it depicted that way.. you know, it’s alienating. Maybe, that’s what she wants, to shake shit up, but I didn’t like i This was a hard and very instigating read for me that I could and couldn’t relate to on LEVELS. I have many issues with so many concepts in this book and they mainly stem from the pointed questions, relating to her own experience, that Vivek uses to paint cis-gendered woman in this almost-as-bad as men sort of dynamic, towards the end..which may be true in some cases, but to have it depicted that way.. you know, it’s alienating. Maybe, that’s what she wants, to shake shit up, but I didn’t like it and I wonder if I’m just being too critical of the diss and that’s just really the way trans women experience other women, generally speaking. However, hailing from a similarly marginalized intersection of women, I don’t believe that shit for a second.. Real talk, how problematic she describes women as being is a possibility, if I’m not being facetious, but I just think it’s irresponsible to put that generic ideology out there in the world. Your truth is your truth tho, so it is what it is. I can’t even get into what I really thought because I honestly feel like there are just so many people in the comments on this book who sum up my issues with this book perfectly. It took me awhile to get through such a short book because of the conflicting energies it brought up out of me. I know what Vivek is saying is true about the experiences of trans women but I think it’s her need for people to cape for her that rubs me the wrong way. It’s idealistic in a way and that wouldn’t typically upset me, but it does here and I think it’s because of my intersection of being a black female reader who never comes from a place where I’ve had the privilege of anyone caping for me or seeing me as cape-worthy, so now when I see other women asking why people ain’t caping for them - I’m like oh girl, that’s an option? You’re kidding, we don’t need that, we keep stepping regardless...why you worried? Oh you think you’re owed safety? Bitch where? (We all should be allowed to live in peace and safety real talk, but...)We ain’t been safe out here since the beginning of time! Why aren’t we challenging that, you ask? Oh well, it’s becausd we haven’t been even given the platform to speak.. why? Oh, because we don’t have the privilege of not having to deal with anti-blackness or having famous white people and white Women on our side to push us! We don’t have the resources my G, so you’re out here with an issue and we’re just trying to survive.. and it’s shit that I think that way but yeah.. It’s sad that that’s how we’ve been conditioned to think because those are the facts and that it informs my perspective of books like this. It’s shitty, because I can honestly state as a black woman, that if I had read this as a book from the intersection of a black trans woman writer and not Vivek, I probably would have had a completely different experience with it. Shitty, but, just like racism’s existence, it’s a true statement. I really just believe that a few elements of entitlement and language around what is and isn’t a feminine trait or female behaviour would have been handled or spoken about differently from a black author. I just really don’t get, my brain is struggling to compute why Vivek wants externals to be the one to ride or die for her, when as a black woman reading this I just felt like, yeah, me too girl, all of us do. Ain’t no one been caping for me. I see you Vivek, I feel you but if you’re afraid of men, why as a quick side-bar on top of this, you want to shit on women who have a hard enough time dealing with the levels of muck we’re buried under too, from any intersection not cis/het & white. To be honest, I’m terrified of men as well, but when in the last few pages she goes on to talk about how she misses her beard and she misses elements of masculinity my interactions with this book became more and more conflicted. I know also that reasonably speaking, Vivek missing elements of her masculinity doesn’t have to be a one or the other.. and that of course one of the unique elements of being trans is the conflicting thoughts and emotions stylistically and emotionally that many trans people have to work through regarding their appearance. Knowing a few trans women and men, this book didn’t sit too right with me. There was something about it I couldn’t click with. I do respect, on a base-level the fact that she shared this piece with the world. She definitely got me thinking and in the headspace where I want to examine my own viewpoints, about what it means to be female/feminine and what it does and doesn’t mean to be those things separately and together. I do believe that it’s that mix that threw me; the amalgamation of how Vivek portrays what she has experienced or thinks it is to be female/feminine herself in relation to other women, cis, trans & non-binary. It’s a conflicting read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Konstantin

    Very raw and honest.

  14. 5 out of 5

    MissBecka Gee

    I enjoyed Vivek's internal awareness both of the things she has done and had done to her and the consequences of both sides of that. It was eloquent. I've just read much grittier work from people dealing with similar problems. Overall it's okay and a very quick read, so check it out. I enjoyed Vivek's internal awareness both of the things she has done and had done to her and the consequences of both sides of that. It was eloquent. I've just read much grittier work from people dealing with similar problems. Overall it's okay and a very quick read, so check it out.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Callum McLaughlin

    Phenomenal. This book should be required reading. To say so much, so succinctly, about the pervasive harm of masculine energy, whilst offering hope for a better future, is frankly awe inspiring. I am neither trans nor a person of colour, as Shraya is. For that reason, I would never deign to suggest I understand the extent of fear and suppression she has experienced. That said, as a gay man, I still felt so seen by this book. I don’t hate that I’m gay, but I hate that being gay makes me constantly Phenomenal. This book should be required reading. To say so much, so succinctly, about the pervasive harm of masculine energy, whilst offering hope for a better future, is frankly awe inspiring. I am neither trans nor a person of colour, as Shraya is. For that reason, I would never deign to suggest I understand the extent of fear and suppression she has experienced. That said, as a gay man, I still felt so seen by this book. I don’t hate that I’m gay, but I hate that being gay makes me constantly police my own body language, appearance, and behaviour, through fear of ridicule, aggression and intimidation (all of which I have experienced as a queer person). I’ve never seen an author capture so eloquently and vividly how exhausting and frustrating it is to feel compelled to live your life this way, nor the kind of self-loathing it incites. This, in itself, helps to systematically uphold the patriarchy, the fear teaching us to publicly reject the parts of ourselves that ascribe to traditional feminine norms. The use of direct address when relaying stories lends the book an intense immediacy. I also adored how nuanced and intersectional it is. No one is spared their rightful lampooning, with Shraya highlighting the kind of prejudices brought on by life under a misogynistic regime that plague us all: The gay men who are repulsed by the thought of vaginas; cis people who refuse to accept their trans counterparts; the ones who invalidate bisexual relationships; the straight women who have internalised misogyny to such an extent that they actively uphold heteronormative societal roles, and stand by in the face of injustice. The book is also very self-aware, Shraya pointing out that queer and non-conforming people don’t want pity, and shouldn’t have to share experiences of trauma to earn respect or understanding. And yet, here we are, the shock of reality sometimes all we have to fall back on to be given a platform or taken seriously. Shraya ultimately asks us to destroy the pedestal that upholds the concept of ‘The Good Man’. With the standard of ‘goodness’ in cis/straight men set so low, it excuses the failings of the typical man. We all have to strive for better. By dismissing gendered expectations, we will all be free to explore and express ourselves as individuals. After all, if there are no set roles to conform to, there can be no fear of non-conformity. Frank, compact, perceptive, and eye-opening, I implore you all to read this absolute gem.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    This book is a necessary antidote to cisgender, white perspectives of feminism in a post-#MeToo era (whatever that even means anymore!). What I found particularly powerful about Shraya's theorizing of masculinity is all the love and hope the narrator (and younger selves) gives the men who hurt her that, throughout the telling, violently gets thwarted and betrayed. We become, then, all the more aware of how the narrator is providing that love and hope herself, how that capacity remains even amids This book is a necessary antidote to cisgender, white perspectives of feminism in a post-#MeToo era (whatever that even means anymore!). What I found particularly powerful about Shraya's theorizing of masculinity is all the love and hope the narrator (and younger selves) gives the men who hurt her that, throughout the telling, violently gets thwarted and betrayed. We become, then, all the more aware of how the narrator is providing that love and hope herself, how that capacity remains even amidst violence. There's a palindrome-like quality to the way the book is written that works really well with its theory and storytelling (which is also seen in how the book cover is designed!). I would recommend it to anyone who's new to queer, racialized forms of feminism or anyone who wants to be reaffirmed. For me, it's interesting to trace my own responses as someone with incredibly different experiences, how the story ebbs and flows from places that are deeply universal while still being specific to the author's social location.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    Although I'd LIKE to consider myself somewhat 'woke', this slim volume (it can literally be read in under an hour) makes me realize how far I have to go in overcoming certain inherent cisgender prejudices. As queer identified, much of this I could identify with, but it did go a long way towards confronting some of my long held misconceptions about trans people. In fact, my only quibble with the book is that it could have gone into much more detail, and there were sections that cried out for more Although I'd LIKE to consider myself somewhat 'woke', this slim volume (it can literally be read in under an hour) makes me realize how far I have to go in overcoming certain inherent cisgender prejudices. As queer identified, much of this I could identify with, but it did go a long way towards confronting some of my long held misconceptions about trans people. In fact, my only quibble with the book is that it could have gone into much more detail, and there were sections that cried out for more explication; for example, about halfway through the book, the author suddenly identifies as bisexual, and then a bit further on casually mentions a 10 year relationship with a woman (while at that point still identifying as male), that gets very little space within the narrative, and would seem to be crucial in figuring out Sharma's journey. Regardless, this was an illuminating read ... and if interested, here's the artist's own composition (she's a composer/singer as well as an author) with the same title as the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDLqZ....

  18. 5 out of 5

    Diane Creeman

    I picked up this beautiful little Penguin hardcover with high hopes. I wanted to read a trenchant essay on toxic masculinity. This book is garbage. It's like something someone in grade eight would write in their diary. The gist of it is "this boy in high school I thought was cute told my friend he wanted to beat me up and it scarred me for life and now I don't know how to have sex." It's truly that banal. I don't know how anyone could rhapsodize about this adolescent swill. I picked up this beautiful little Penguin hardcover with high hopes. I wanted to read a trenchant essay on toxic masculinity. This book is garbage. It's like something someone in grade eight would write in their diary. The gist of it is "this boy in high school I thought was cute told my friend he wanted to beat me up and it scarred me for life and now I don't know how to have sex." It's truly that banal. I don't know how anyone could rhapsodize about this adolescent swill.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    Breathtakingly neurotic, self-absorbed person depicts countless incidents of self-consciousness throughout a life defined entirely by how others perceive her. At the end, one gets absolutely no sense that she's found emancipation or balance from her transition. Depressing and so very self-pitying. Breathtakingly neurotic, self-absorbed person depicts countless incidents of self-consciousness throughout a life defined entirely by how others perceive her. At the end, one gets absolutely no sense that she's found emancipation or balance from her transition. Depressing and so very self-pitying.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Prakash

    After reading "even this page is white" I never thought I would see my experience as a (gender)queer South Asian person living in Canada so acutely expressed in literature. But "I'm Afraid of Men" has done just that. Vivek Shraya so succinctly and devastatingly recounts how the systemic violence of a forced gender binary robs us of the ability to both be safe and be ourselves. I really hope everyone who has ever cared about me reads this book so they can understand what I mean when I too say, "I After reading "even this page is white" I never thought I would see my experience as a (gender)queer South Asian person living in Canada so acutely expressed in literature. But "I'm Afraid of Men" has done just that. Vivek Shraya so succinctly and devastatingly recounts how the systemic violence of a forced gender binary robs us of the ability to both be safe and be ourselves. I really hope everyone who has ever cared about me reads this book so they can understand what I mean when I too say, "I'm afraid of men."

  21. 5 out of 5

    rachel ☾

    my first read of pride! thought-provoking & powerful

  22. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I initially picked up this book hoping to see through the eyes of a trans woman and educate myself on what her path might look like. What I discovered was an insight into a very difficult journey but along with that I was challenged in my own perception of gender conformity. It made me think about our roles in society and I found that it gave me a little bit of strength and encouragement to explore my own feelings on the topic. My can of nonconforming worms has been well and truly opened. And fo I initially picked up this book hoping to see through the eyes of a trans woman and educate myself on what her path might look like. What I discovered was an insight into a very difficult journey but along with that I was challenged in my own perception of gender conformity. It made me think about our roles in society and I found that it gave me a little bit of strength and encouragement to explore my own feelings on the topic. My can of nonconforming worms has been well and truly opened. And for that I’m thankful that Vivek was able to so beautifully articulate her thoughts and share them with us all.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lisa H

    Honestly, everyone should read this book. Shraya examines how masculinity has effected her life, she was too feminine as a boy, and is not feminine enough as a girl. It brings up tough questions about gender and asks us to reconsider what it means to be a "good" man. How do we make good less nebulous? In what ways does the way we think about gender need to change? This books asks hard questions but they are exactly the discussions we need to be having right now. Honestly, everyone should read this book. Shraya examines how masculinity has effected her life, she was too feminine as a boy, and is not feminine enough as a girl. It brings up tough questions about gender and asks us to reconsider what it means to be a "good" man. How do we make good less nebulous? In what ways does the way we think about gender need to change? This books asks hard questions but they are exactly the discussions we need to be having right now.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Starlah

    In this essay, trans artist, Vivek Shraya writes with raw honesty her reasons for being afraid. Throughout her life, she had endured acts of cruelty and aggression. She discusses the damage - on not only herself but on society - that has been caused by misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia. Shraya builds a case for why we need to redefine masculinity and gender as a whole. Truly an amazing, compelling, emotional, and thought-provoking read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    This slim volume is a longish essay about the author’s experiences as a bisexual teen and then later as a trans woman. There aren’t any insights here that anyone up on contemporary feminism would find surprising, but the deeply personal aspect of the essays makes it a compelling read nonetheless. 3.5⭐️

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeth Manley

    Make yourself smaller, invisible, don’t take up too much space, don’t accidentally rub arms with the man next to you on the subway. Don’t make eye contact, or smile, don’t accidentally show an interest that could be seen as “asking for it”, whatever “it” may be. Vivek Shraya speaks to the little things we do every day out of fear, whether we notice we do them or not. She doesn’t only limit this to men, this fear also extends to women; women who encourage these men, women who do not support each Make yourself smaller, invisible, don’t take up too much space, don’t accidentally rub arms with the man next to you on the subway. Don’t make eye contact, or smile, don’t accidentally show an interest that could be seen as “asking for it”, whatever “it” may be. Vivek Shraya speaks to the little things we do every day out of fear, whether we notice we do them or not. She doesn’t only limit this to men, this fear also extends to women; women who encourage these men, women who do not support each other, women who stand by and let abuse happen. A must-read, and it will take you less than an hour to do so. While I can’t relate to the added struggles of being transgendered or gay, the small every day fears expressed in this essay of a book hit close to home and must resonate universally with women everywhere. It not only touches on fear, but also on societal views of a “good man” and the bars we set for men because we just expect them to be inherently bad, and so consequently celebrate them when they are not. Women and men alike should read this, for perspective, so we can create a generation of decent people, regardless of gender.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    Some will be afraid of this book and that’s exactly why they - and you - should read it. It makes you think, it makes you nod in agreement and shake your head at the behaviour of some and most importantly forces you to consider yourself.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jennie Chantal

    This long essay was more memoir than I expected, which is no disappointment! I finished it in just two hours and will be recommending it all around. I do wish it was longer, although I have the sense it’s one I’ll read again and again.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sylwia

    ❖ Please ignore my rating, as my ratings are more for me than for you. Thank you! ✌ ❖ Whenever I review, I ask myself the same set of questions, based on my personal standards for novels. I exclude the sections about “characters” and “plot” when reviewing nonfiction, obviously. ;) ❖ I also talk about the books on my BookTube channel. ❖ I make friendships through twitter. ❖ ❖ ❖ DO I RECOMMEND IT? ❖ ❖ ❖ Passionately! ❖ ❖ ❖ REPRESENTATION ❖ ❖ ❖ Who does it represent? The author is a trans gal who guide ❖ Please ignore my rating, as my ratings are more for me than for you. Thank you! ✌ ❖ Whenever I review, I ask myself the same set of questions, based on my personal standards for novels. I exclude the sections about “characters” and “plot” when reviewing nonfiction, obviously. ;) ❖ I also talk about the books on my BookTube channel. ❖ I make friendships through twitter. ❖ ❖ ❖ DO I RECOMMEND IT? ❖ ❖ ❖ Passionately! ❖ ❖ ❖ REPRESENTATION ❖ ❖ ❖ Who does it represent? The author is a trans gal who guides us through what life was like for her before she transitioned, during, and after. There is so much depth to this novel, I believe a lot of folks of varying identities would feel seen reading this. She focuses on common experiences for queer folks, women, and people of color. The author is Canadian and Indian. Though the word "fat" wasn't used, the author did include people of different sized with one sentence, and I appreciated that very much. ❖ ❖ ❖ READER HEALTH ❖ ❖ ❖ Did it perpetuate mentally healthy ideals, including being socially just? Absolutely! The author has a sort of thesis and she does an incredible job making every section either describe an experience, deeply analyze the roots of our ignorance(s?), and talk about how we can move forward. ❖ ❖ ❖ EDUCATION ❖ ❖ ❖ What else does this work teach the reader? Did it teach me anything I didn't already know? Did it make me think at length about any topics? The author takes us on a journey of deep self and societal exploration. It was validating, informative, and thought-provoking. I'm still reflecting about the things she said. ❖ ❖ ❖ WRITING AND STORY-TELLING ❖ ❖ ❖ What was the writing style like, in terms of grammar, "flow", accessibility, and story-telling? The entire novel reads like a set of lengthy poems, while at the same time being a memoir and a work of social justice. ❖ ❖ ❖ ENTERTAINMENT & PLEASURE ❖ ❖ ❖ Was it able to keep my attention? Was it able to entertain me? Did I enjoy reading it? Was I amused? I couldn't put it down and there wasn't a moment of boredom.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I wanted to like this book more than I did. I think as a memoir it succeeds, but it has the flavour of a manifesto, and I guess that's where I stumbled with it. In summary--I don't think women or anyone assigned female at birth (AFAB) would find any of her experiences surprising. Distressing, of course, but not surprising. I think any woman or AFAB person has lots of similar experiences. Again, it's memoir and it's hard to questions another person's experiences. The entire first section, where s I wanted to like this book more than I did. I think as a memoir it succeeds, but it has the flavour of a manifesto, and I guess that's where I stumbled with it. In summary--I don't think women or anyone assigned female at birth (AFAB) would find any of her experiences surprising. Distressing, of course, but not surprising. I think any woman or AFAB person has lots of similar experiences. Again, it's memoir and it's hard to questions another person's experiences. The entire first section, where she recounts a constant vigilance about how, when and where she will encounter men in her day to day life--this is work that's familiar to most women or AFAB people. Constantly parsing your language, your tone, your questions so as not to appear nagging or stupid--this is certainly familiar to me. But there are parts where she makes generalizations that I found grating--like (after describing the ways her boyfriend helps her navigate the world)--"Being a girl has required me to retrain myself to think of depending on others or asking for assistance not as weakness or even as pathetic, but rather as a necessity" (pg 7). I mean I know she's not saying that women are more dependent, but it....kinda sounds something like it. Later in the book she bristles when a cis woman tries to elide their experiences, observing that this woman couldn't know what Shraya's experience is, not being trans herself. So, as we read on we learn that it's not only men she's afraid of, it's also women who have failed to show up for her, or extend friendship, or confront other people on her behalf---basically the gamut of shitty things that people do to one another or don't do, out of ignorance or apathy or lazyness, or just being oblivious. As an example, she wonders why a high school friend didn't confront a boy that Shraya had a crush on, when the boy said he had thought of beating Shraya up. I don't know, I just felt like, yes---we're ALL afraid of men, including lots (and lots!) of men. The book is 85 pages long. You can read it in a couple of hours, with time to think in between. She discusses the phenomenon of the 'good man'--the one who does the bare minimum and is celebrated, only to be displaced or disgraced when he's revealed to be fallible or less than 'good' in some way. This is tricky--again it relies on an understanding of people as either 'good' or 'bad', and made me wish there were more nuance in this analysis. Also--the gender norms she's discussing trap men also--like all genders are existing in the same misogynist culture, and we are all absorbing messages about behaviour in different ways, enacting patriarchal values differently. God knows I'm not an apologist for the patriarchy, but who's done the work of deprogramming all the men? I don't understand why we expect them to even realize they're benefiting from patriarchy--they've been swimming in this water their entire lives too. At one point her partner cheats on her, and in anger she says to her boyfriend, "You're just like every other man, and you made me just another stupid bitch."---this is the last sentence in a chapter! Like, no unpacking of the hornets nest of misogynist self hatred embedded in the phrase, 'just another stupid bitch'---like WHAT???? She concludes by suggesting that non binary people should be considered sort of idealized forerunners in the gender present and future---she's probably right. But after the whole short book was spent only on two sides of the gender binary---it seems like too little too late to ask "What if you cherished us as archetypes of realized potential?"--as though we, the readers, aren't trapped by the same fears she's outlined in the previous pages. I was really conflicted by this book. If it read like a simple memoir, I wouldn't have felt so challenged by it I'm sure. I don't think 85 pages was adequate to untangle all the issues she presents here. And I probably wouldn't have finished it if it had been a lot longer.

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