“Modern Manhood” Book Review

The #MeToo movement has fundamentally changed the world we live in today. Emmy and Peabody Award-nominated health reporter Cleo Stiller takes on those changes in her new book, Modern Manhood. Drawing on her experiences hosting the TV show Sex.Right.Now, the book covers a wide range of topics– money, sex, dating, work, and even media production and consumption. Along the way, Stiller gives voice to what she calls the “gray areas” men face every day. By sharing conversations with real men and women, Stiller offers insight and a roadmap for how good men and male allies can navigate the post #MeToo landscape for themselves and for the women in their lives.

When asked about her influences for writing the book Stiller said “In the wake of #MeToo, there was a sense that the issues we are grappling with now are somehow new or specific to the #MeToo movement, when we know in fact they’ve been bubbling underneath the surface for a long time. I had seen The Mask You Live In when it premiered in 2015, and as soon as I started the research for Modern Manhood —  which was prompted by men coming to me to talk about their hopes, fears and confessions about what it meant to be ‘a good man’ today — I knew the film would be a critical framework for me as I approached this topic. And it was.” 

In Modern Manhood, Stiller encourages male-identified readers to engage with the women in their lives, a mission we greatly support and believe in. The book confronts those same people with equally honest questions, asking them to dig just a little deeper than the headlines, and it provides ample practical advice for readers. Parents will benefit from examples of how to teach young boys from an early age how to acknowledge and express emotions in a healthy way (cc: The Mask You Live In).

When it comes to sex, Modern Manhood includes important reminders that pornography can be extremely harmful in how consent is portrayed and communicated. When discussing finances, the book cites research on the relationship between sharing bank accounts and a couples’ happiness (spoiler alert, the people who share are happier). This book though is more than just a practical how-to guide; it also helps take us through some of the more esoteric challenges we currently face.

The ground Stiller covers is broad, but she does a great job of engaging in some difficult questions that we face today. She challenges male business leaders to mentor junior workers, and to keep it professional, regardless of their gender, and to that end she debunks the Mike Pence Ruledon’t eat alone with a woman that is not your wife— as absurd. She reminds us that the gender pay gap we most often see cited in the media, is largely for white women— that in truth those numbers are much worse for women of color—who, it should be noted, started the #MeToo movement. Score one for intersectionality!

While books like this, written by a woman, are making these important conversations more approachable and accessible to men, it is men’s behavior which must be addressed and changed to shift the culture away from harmful gender dynamics. Men who are invested in real, substantive change at the workplace, at home, and in their communities will learn and grow by centering the voices of the women in their lives. 

Take Action! In celebration of Men’s Health Month, pick up a copy of Modern Manhood and learn from the conversations about the complicated world of being a good man today.