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The Gender Knot - Allan Johnson

WMST-L has carried many requests for recommended books that would 
appeal to men and/or to those who "just don't get" feminism. One book 
frequently mentioned, always very positively, is Allan Johnson's 
_The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy_.  Allan, a WMST-L 
subscriber, announced his book's publication in 1997.  Below is his 
announcement and a number of other messages in which the book is 
prominently mentioned or discussed.  Also included is a message from 
Allan in 2005 announcing publication of a second text in which he applies
the framework he developed in _The Gender Knot_.  The file's second page
offers a 2006 discussion of _The Gender Knot_.  For other WMST-L files
now available on the Web, see the WMST-L File Collection.

Date: Sun, 13 Apr 1997 11:25:14 EDT
From: "Allan G. Johnson" <agjohnson AT UHAVAX.HARTFORD.EDU>
Subject: Unraveling Patriarchy
Mindful of the difficulty that many people--especially men--have
seeing and accepting the reality of patriarchy, I've written a book
that Temple University Press has just published.  It's called "The
Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy."  In writing it, I
have tried to provide a resource that is clear and accessible, that
doesn't flinch from the reality of patriarchy and gender oppression,
but that also talks about them in ways that avoid paralyzing cycles of
individual guilt and blame.  My goal has been to describe how
patriarchy works in ways that can include both men and women in the
conversation and in the solution.

I am a sociologist and a writer who has worked on issues of gender
inequality and patriarchy for more than twenty years.

If you'd like to know more about the book, you can see the Table of
Contents, excerpts from the Preface and Chapter 1, and how to order
free exam copies at the following web site:

If you don't have access to the web, I can send you the text from the
site via E-mail.  To order a free exam copy, call Temple University
Press at 1-800-447-1656. You can also E-mail your request to
tempress    AT

[Added in separate posting: I forgot to mention in my earlier post that the list 
price for "The Gender Knot" is $19.95.  The hardcover edition is primarily for 
libraries and priced at something over $50.]

Allan Johnson
Sociology and Women's Studies
Hartford College for Women
agjohnson    AT
Date: Sat, 28 Mar 1998 13:05:18 -0800
From: "Allan G. Johnson" <agjohnson AT MAIL.HARTFORD.EDU>
Subject: "Male Oppression" as Denial & Defense
    I think Kelley Crouse's dilemma around "male oppression" is
rooted primarily in the definition she used for 'oppression.'  Since
oppression is about dominant and subordinate relations between groups,
a society cannot oppress a group.  To say that it can hopelessly
distorts the meaning of both 'oppression' and 'society.'
        On another level, it's also important to be aware of the
circumstances in which the assertion that men are oppressed is made.
It's typically a defensive reaction offered as a kind of balancing
"counter-suit" to assertions of women's oppressed status under
patriarchy.  In that way, it's similar to the mythic "male bashing"
claim.  It's usually not said as a call to action since the vast
majority of men show little interest in actually changing the society
that they say oppresses them.  Instead, the claim serves as a way to
silence women and draw their sympathetic attention away from women and
back to men which, in a male-centered patriarchy, is where women's
attention properly belongs.
        There is no doubt that men are in considerable pain as a result
of patriarchal dynamics.  But 'oppression' isn't the word for it.
        The middle portion of my book, "The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our
Patriarchal Legacy" (Temple University Press, 1997) is devoted to the
many ways that the reality of patriarchy is obscured and denied,
including the claim that men are oppressed.  It might help male
students to hear about it from another man.  For more, see

Allan Johnson
Sociology & Women's Studies
Hartford College for Women
agjohnson    AT
(860) 768-5605
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 16:44:15 -0400
From: Christine Smith <CSMITH AT VMS.CIS.PITT.EDU>
Subject: The Gender Knot
I am considering the book "The Gender Knot" by Allan Johnson for my course on
Women and Men in American Society.  Has anyone used this (or considered using
it)?  And feedback would be appreciated.
Christine Smith
Lewis & Clark College
casmith    AT
csmith    AT
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 16:08:23 -0400
From: Edrie J Sobstyl <esobstyl AT UTDALLAS.EDU>
Subject: Re: The Gender Knot

    I used excerpts from Johnson's book in a course on Women and
Western Thought last term; I found it very helpful both in terms of
explicating complicated notions like patriarchy, and in terms of
showing students (who by then had read piles of the negative
pronouncements on women found in the philosophical tradition and were
damned angry)that it's possible for men *not* to just adopt these
uncritical attitudes. There were no males in the class this time
around, which is one of the reasons why I had originally included
Johnson, so I can't speak to their experience of the text. It is clear
and although not "perfect", what is? It's a useful starting point for

    Hope this helps.

Edrie Sobstyl
School of Arts and Humanities
University of Texas at Dallas
P.O. Box 830688 Richardson Tx 75083-0688
(972) 883-2365
(972) 883-2989 (fax)
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 20:25:08 -0600
From: S Belcher El-Nahhas <smb AT GPU.SRV.UALBERTA.CA>
Subject: HelloRe: The Gender Knot
I used the Gender Knot by Allan Johnson several times in my courses and
found that both men and women liked the book very much. In fact, they liked
it better than several of the other things they read which were writt4en by
women . The combination of structuralist analysis and personal stories of
his own experiences which highlight the structural analysis and yet also
enable readers to realize how individual men are harmed by patriarchy works
very well...

Susan M. Belcher El-Nahhas
Lecturer, Sociology of Education
Dept. of Educational Policy Studies
7-104 Education North
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta
Canada T6G 2E1
Tel. (403) 477-5092
FAX (403) 492-2024
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 22:40:17 -0500
From: Arnie Kahn <kahnas AT JMU.EDU>
Subject: Re: The Gender Knot
My review of Allan Johnson's book, "The Gender Knot," will appear in
the July issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly.  I highly recommend
it.  If you'd like a non-copy-edited version of my review,and if you
can read attachments let me know and I'll send it.


Arnie Kahn   kahnas    AT
Date: Sun, 26 Apr 1998 23:45:20 EDT
From: Bethathena <Bethathena AT AOL.COM>
Subject: Allan Johnson's The Gender Knot
From the perspective of a Women's Studies student I recommend Allan Johnson's
The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy.  I have had the good
fortune to have been taught both The Sociology of Gender and Feminist Theory
by Allan Johnson at Hartford College for Women.  This 1997 book, valued by
both women and men students, is an excellent resource for Women's Studies
courses.  You can read several excerpts from The Gender Knot at 

Beth Horlitz
bethathena    AT
Date: Tue, 23 Jun 1998 20:35:49 -0500
From: Joanne Callahan <jmcalla1 AT AIRMAIL.NET>
Subject: Re: Gender Studies Reader
[most of message deleted]

Deb, I wonder how your students would respond to a book like Allan
Johnson's "The Gender Knot".  It's a great intro to feminism for those
who just don't get it.  I wonder how it would play in an evangelical

Joanne Callahan
jmcalla1    AT
Date: Thu, 25 Jun 1998 10:28:55 -0700
From: Allan Johnson <agjohnson AT MAIL.HARTFORD.EDU>
Subject: The Gender Knot
In response to questions about my book, "The Gender Knot," I'm pleased
to share the following excerpts from recent reviews:

"I actually love Johnson's book.  It is beautifully written and
thoughtful, and provides compelling analyses of contemporary patriarchy
and of the powerful ideology that supports the system and inhibits
change . . . . In addition to the quality scholarship, Johnson makes it
clear throughout that his work is more than an academic exercise.  It is
a guidebook for a life-changing adventure."  Rebecca Bach, Duke
University, in Contemporary Sociology, 27,3 (May 1998), pp. 241-242.

"This book is a worthy addition to the small group of serious writing by
men who understand the oppression of women, who can clearly and without
defensiveness define a system of patriarchy, and who can voice the
participation of both men and women in patriarchy without blaming the
victim.  Written in clear and accessible language . . . this is a good
introduction for women as well as men--but most importantly, it is from
a man who can clearly explain to men what's happening and what they can
do to change it.  Feminist Bookstore News, 20, 3 (September/October

The book's website (below) contains additional comments as well as
excerpts and ordering information.  Temple University Press provides
free exam copies.

Allan Johnson

agjohnson    AT
Date: Sat, 27 Jun 1998 01:11:45 -0500
From: Joanne Callahan <jmcalla1 AT AIRMAIL.NET>
Subject: Re: Gender Knot
> From: Phyllis Holman Weisbard <PWEIS    AT    MACC.WISC.EDU>
> Our reviewer, Jami Carlacio, says of THE GENDER KNOT:
> GENDER KNOT is a useful, accessible text that wil undoubtedly appeal to a
> non-academic audience (Johnson dispenses with the usual critical
> jargon ...)

As a "non-academic" feminist who works for a corporation and lives in
a conservative area, I am not exaggerating when I say The Gender Knot
is manna in the desert.  For several years, I had looked for feminist
books to recommend to relatively open-minded friends of both sexes who
just don't get it.  Some came close, but none really explained how our
patriarchal system works.  So I sort of gave up . . . until Temple
University Press sent me its Spring 1997 catalog and I saw an enticing
ad for The Gender Knot.

However, I didn't buy it until after Mr. Mars&Venus did his Broadway
stint.  I was so depressed by the John Gray cult that I needed something
to cheer me up.  So I bought The Gender Knot.  It exceeded all
expectations.  Finally, I found a book I could recommend without
reservations to both liberal feminist and non-feminist friends of both
sexes.  The Gender Knot is powerful not only because it smoothly
interweaves the author's own personal story with sociological analysis,
but because it shows why we must think *sociologically* about these
issues.  If only we could get all the psythotherapists to read it. :-)

Joanne Callahan
jmcalla1    AT

P.S.  Debra, while these books don't explain our patriarchal system,
they are good, practical "starter" works which your students would
probably enjoy:

Pepper Schwartz, "Love Between Equals:  How Peer Marriage Really Works"
(some progressive Christian marriage counselors are using that book
because it's more honest about power issues than the religiously
oriented works)

Gary Brooks, "The Centerfold Syndrome:  How Men Can Overcome
Objectification and Achieve Intimacy With Women" (Brooks gives some
explanation of patriarchy, but his analysis is not half as good as
Johnson's.  However, the book is still worth reading)
Date: Thu, 13 Aug 1998 12:18:54 -0400
From: Susan Darrah <darrahs AT STORM.BUCKS.EDU>
Subject: Re: classroom strategy question
On Thu, 13 Aug 1998, Kathy Miriam wrote:

> HI,
> does anyone have an effective strategy to examine the claim (as put
> forward by one of my students) that women have power over men?

Having just read _The Gender Knot_ by Allen G. Johnson, I think that's a
good place to start.

Susan Darrah
darrahs    AT
Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 15:21:23 -0800
From: "Trimberger E. KAY" <ektrim AT UCLINK4.BERKELEY.EDU>
Subject: excellent speaker to recommend
I want to tell other Women's Studies and Gender Studies Programs/Departments
about an excellent speaker we had on our campus: Allan Johnson, author of
The Gender Knot (Temple University Press, 1997).  Allan was on our campus
for two days and gave three presentations:
A public lecture entitled, Parenting Under Patriarchy: The New Father, a
class presentation on Ending Men's Violence Against Women, and from 12 noon
and a public workshop on  Ending Violence Against Women: How Men Can Be Part
of the Solution.

I have heard only rave reviews from students (female and male), faculty and
community activists.  Everyone was  were very impressed with how he combined
a clear, systemic and feminist analysis of patriarchy with personal examples
and a warm, responsive style.  In addition, we were persuaded by how he
applied his theoretical analysis to the concrete social issues of violence
against women, shared parenting and the new father.  Students were
appreciative that he respected them enough to urge them to develop their own
strategies for change.  One student wrote: "He showed us what patriarchy is,
and how each one of us is a part of it, but then he allowed each one of us
to apply it to our own lives.  Not once did he say what each person had to do"

You can reach Allan at AllanJ    AT or at 860 693-4893.

Kay Trimberger
E. Kay Trimberger
Coordinator and Professor
Women's Studies Program
Sonoma State University
Rohnert Park, CA. 94928
707 664-2086/2840
Trimberg    AT
ektrim    AT
Date: Mon, 5 Apr 1999 12:24:21 EDT
From: Witben AT AOL.COM
Subject: Re: excellent speaker to recommend
I'd like to second Kay Trimberger's recommendation of Allan Johnson as a
speaker for Women's Studies events. Allan followed up his Sonoma State
presentation with a visit to Saint Mary's, giving a lecture entitled Sleeping
with the Enemy: Loving as Equals in Patriarchy. The talk was well-attended by
female and male students, faculty and staff and Allan's direct and
non-confrontational style was very positively received.  What appealed most
to his listeners was Allan's use of his own experience and relationships to
dramatize and interrogate gender expectations and assumptions; his comments
created a palpable silence and stillness in a student audience usually
characterized by restlessness. I've heard many glowing responses from
students and gratitude from faculty, accompanied by a marked interest in how
men can become more actively involved in gender and women's issues on campus
and in the world.

I'd also like to add a recommendation for Allan's book, The Gender Knot,
excerpts of which I taught in Intro to WS last semester and found highly
usable for introducing complex social theory.  A great resource.

Denise Witzig
Women's Studies Coordinator
Saint Mary's College
Moraga, CA 94575
Date: Sat, 26 Jun 1999 05:27:14 -0500
From: Kathleen Trigiani <ktrig246 AT AIRMAIL.NET>
Subject: Re: gender and communication

WMST-L is supposed to be a feminist listserv and yet, I haven't
heard about how our patriarchal social system influences gender
differences in communication.  Once upon a time, feminists criticized
Tannen's work and they did it with eloquence and style.

These books contain excellent, fun-to-read critiques:

Carol Tavris, "The Mismeasure of Woman"

Allan G. Johnson, "The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal
Legacy" and "The Forest and the Trees:  Sociology as Life, Practice,
and Promise"

Mary Stewart vanLeeuwen (project editor), "After Eden:  Facing the
Challenge of Gender Reconciliation" (warning:  I heard that the book
is out of print--what a shame)

John Stoltenberg, "The End of Manhood:  A Book for Men of Conscience"
(Chapter 16, "Why Do Communications in My Love Life Break Down?" is
a HILARIOUS, hit-the-nail-squarely-on-the-head expose of the *real*
causes of "communication problems" in heterosexual relationships)

Pepper Schwartz, "Love Between Equals:  How Peer Marriage Really

Enjoy!  Remember, it's power, my deah.;-)

Kathleen Trigiani
ktrig246    AT

"Out of the Cave:  Exploring Gray's Anatomy"
You Don't Have to Settle For Mars&Venus!
Date: Fri, 19 Nov 1999 08:49:57 -0500
From: sjacobso <sjacobso AT BROCKPORT.EDU>
Subject: Re: Men in Women's Studies
At SUNY Brockport, all of our students are required to take at least one
Perspective on Women course prior to graduation.  As a result we get a lot of
people, men and women, in our courses who are taking it because they have to.
I warn them up front that if I have done my job right they will not view the
world the same way at the end of the semester as they do at the beginning.  I
do not let anyone feel comfortable, men or women.  It is in working through
the discomfort that people grow.  In my sex and culture class, the students
have been reading amongst other things Johnson's The Gender Knot -- this book
has made them all feel uncomfortable the entire semester.  However, last night
they realized that they had moved beyond a base level of understanding without
even knowing it.  Two of my students talked about jointly confronting one of
their psychology professors who in lecturing about gender, talkled about how
women were to blame for the problems that men were having in the world today
and that men needed to reclaim their masculinity.  The students told me that
he sounded a little too much like Robert Bly for their own comfort.  After
having watched an 88 minute interview with him, they were not up to hearing
anyone else who sounded like him at all.  They offered a feminist critique of
his explanation.  I should say that it was not these two students who told me
about what they did, but two other women in that same class.  They told me for
two reasons: [a] they too disagreed with what he had said and [b] that it was
two of the men from our class that had stood up against another man and
disagreed.  They were so proud of these two men for "breaking rank" as they
put it.  These two men talked about how uncomfortable it was to do that, but
how uncomfortable it also was to listen to something that they knew was wrong
and not say something.  What we teach should not be comfortable, nor should it
be easy, however, in creating this environment for growth we should also
strive to make people feel supported during their discomfort.

Honesty is more than just not being dishonest.  It is an
active choice to be responsible for the choices we make
before we act upon them so that we can stand up for them
and not be tempted to be dishonest.
Sharon Jacobson, Ed. D.
SUNY Brockport
Women's Studies Program
Brockport, NY 14420
sjacobso    AT

Date: Mon, 3 Jun 2002 20:25:59 -0400
From: "Allan G. Johnson" <allangjohnson AT ATTBI.COM>
Subject: Gender Knot Radio Interview
I thought list members might like to know that I was interviewed recently on
WMBR at MIT on their weekly show, "Gender Talk."  The interview runs just over
50" and touches on a wide range of issues related to patriarchy and gender
inequality.  It can be heard online or downloaded as an MP3 file.  As such, it
might be of interest to students in your classes and a good way to stimulate

The URL is  Scroll down to the "Recent Shows" column and
find the entry for "Unraveling Gender Knots" (May 20).  The actual interview
begins 36 minutes into the show, so you might want to fast-forward.

Allan Johnson
Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2005 15:32:36 -0500
From: "Allan G. Johnson" <agjohnson AT HARTFORD.EDU>
Subject: Privilege, Power, and Difference
I'm happy to announce that McGraw-Hill has just published the
second edition of my book, PRIVILEGE, POWER, AND DIFFERENCE,
which applies the framework I developed in my previous book, THE
GENDER KNOT, to privilege based not only only gender, but also
race, sexual orientation, and disability status.

To order an examination copy for course adoption, you can use the
following link:

Allan Johnson
agjohnson  AT

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