While waiting for my publisher’s proofreader to challenge my editor’s changes to my latest manuscript, I have had time to reflect on a reader’s review of my first novel, The Book of Ruin.
The reader wrote, “JAYZUS! I wish i were a WOMAN !!!!! THEN I COULD TOO BE THE GREATEST PILOT WHO EVER LIVED IN ALL THE GALAXY!!!!…This book was SO FCKNG BAD, I stopped reading at Page 12 and returned it (sic).”
He was referring to a scene early in the novel where my protagonist, a veteran senior chief, says this about a rookie ranger: “…(She) had shown Weir some of the best piloting he had seen in years. He couldn’t tell her that, for it would fuel her cockiness, but he didn’t want to dampen her spirit…”
While he’s entitled to his opinion, I considered the scene that triggered his bile fairly innocuous. Bewildered, I did some digging. According to his book review platform, he has reviewed 378 books, giving, on average, 1.8 stars. Okay, the guy’s a harsh grader. I’ve had professors like him, but then I looked at his other reviews.
He said this about another novel. “IN MY OPINION, this is just the same old trite bullsht. The wimmins is waaayyyy stronger and smarter than the mens (sic).”
He blasted another book this way. “By reading this I found that the best fighters and scouts in the history of the entire world have always been women. And are women (sic).”
And in another review: “…A WORLD WHERE WOMEN SEEM TO HAVE ALL THE MUSCLES AND BRAINS, and are more soldierly than the crappy Neanderthal men, (sic)…”
“O! M! G! I wish I were a woman!!!! I really need to read more books BY women and ABOUT women!! They hold so many surprises and things I never knew!!! (sic).”
There are more reviews like that.
The reviewer is an older male (like me), and I had two reactions to his words. I disagree with his implied claim that women are incapable of being warriors. In my thirty years policing South Florida streets, I found women cops to be just as tough and smart as men.
I also view his words as evidence of the backlash against women for their progress in filling traditional male roles. The U.S military has opened up combat arms to women. They are fighter pilots, submariners and special ops operators. Females comprise more than sixteen percent of American cops and almost twenty-five percent of Miami-Dade County police officers.
Some have claimed that the collapse of masculine roles in our culture has led to a “hyperbolic male reaction to minuscule improvements to women’s rights.”
I agree with Susan Faludi, who wrote, “(T)he once-valued male attributes of craft, loyalty, and social utility are no longer honored, much less rewarded.”
William Goode, a sociologist, has argued many men view “even small losses of deference, advantages or opportunities (to women) as large threats.”
Many men compensate for their insecurity with toxic masculinity, which emboldens domination, devaluation of women, homophobia and wanton violence.
I got lucky. I found a career that served the greater good through a mutual effort, a beneficial role most men want. However, too few such jobs now exist in our culture, leaving men frustrated and apprehensive. Susan Faludi posed the question our society currently faces in an essay. Will American manhood come down on the side of nurturance or the curled lip and exaggerated snarl of aggrieved aggression?