By JJ Bola
Pluto Press, 2019
JJ Bola’s Mask Off is a text of many faces. From personal accounts about his upbringing in London, over the statistics on gender based violence to male entitlement and critique of capitalism and imperialism, the author draws a link discussing the manyfold ways masculinity is penetrating our lives.
Although Bola envisioned young men as his target audience, it also delivers some interesting ideas for anarchist movements. His account of patriarchy draws upon an intersectional approach, taking not only gender, but also sexuality and race in consideration when he discusses oppression throughout the book. While his advice, how to overcome patriarchal oppression is often simple (consent education, reading, writing diaries), the strength of the book consists in its ability to bring together a wide range of writings and cultural references (movies, online trends, music), that support the critical engagement with gender based oppression. Overall this book provides a great resource as an introduction to an understanding of masculinities, combining scientific research, personal accounts and political analysis.
As the anti-feminist book market is booming (yes I am talking about Jordan Peterson here), Mask Off fills a dangeriously open gap of approaching masculinities in its diversity, opposing the authoritive voice, that tries to guide through the supposed crisis of mannhood. As anarchist & communists aspire a world that overcomes all forms of oppression, the book provides some stimulating ideas challenging patriarchal and masculinity norms in activist movements. Concepts like “talk zones”, “consent education” and “male support groups” can be a great help in establishing more diverse political groups, encouraging people of all genders to join the fight for social and climate justice.
If you are interested and would like to learn more about the book, JJ Bola wrote a short article addressing some of his ideas in the article Men don’t cry & other myths: confronting outdated ideas of masculinity.
Review by TK