Women, Men and the Whole Damn Thing by David Leser

Journalist David Leser has written a timely and passionate contribution to the public discourse that is emerging in the wake of the #MeToo movement. It’s the contribution of, in his own words, ‘a straight, white, middle-class male who has breathed the untroubled air of privilege all [his] life’, an identity that represents the core demographic that has had the rug pulled out from under it in the wake of revelations in Hollywood and beyond. Building on his well-regarded article of the same name published in the Good Weekend in February 2017, Leser has produced a wide-ranging examination of the enormity and scale of violences against women at home and abroad, synthesizing many different resources to provide both context and a just-in-time history for the record; for this, the book will be an invaluable resource for teachers and parents – indeed, anyone wanting to get a handle on what has been happening – and will help start productive conversations about the banal ideology of toxic masculinity.

It should also be the first port of call for people who have been shocked or surprised by the revelations of ‘misconduct’ that have dominated the news, and are seeking some explanation of how sexual violence against women has been accepted and normalised for so long. Mining sources as diverse as the Bible, Aristotle, and Kristen Roupenian’s short story, ‘Cat Person’, and full of personal correspondence with activist and academic figures (not all of them immune to controversies of their own), it’s a fast-paced account which makes for compelling reading. While close readers may query some of the uses of theoretical perspectives, and the juxtaposition of misogyny in different cultural contexts, the book’s key strengths lie in its discussions of the many grey areas of an issue that is sometimes reduced to black and white, and in its invitation to – indeed its demand for – men to participate positively in the belated social change being incited in our times.

Alison Huber is the head book buyer at Readings.