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The Descent of Man – Grayson Perry

This slim book is Perry’s take on modern masculinity, where it’s harming everyone, and ideas for moving it forward in a way that would be better for both men and women. It’s brilliant. This is a book where I couldn’t stop myself from highlighting roughly every other sentence. Go and read this book!


Because I highlighted almost all of these 151 pages, I’m finding it really difficult to review. It was all really interesting and worth reading. What a helpful review! This is actually going to be my worst review ever. If you don’t want to bother reading the rest of it, it basically says: Amazing amazing amazing read it read it read it.

From the introduction:

I hope that in picking up this book you have already acknowledged that masculinity needs to be questioned, that gender inequality is a huge issue for all of us and that the world would be a better place without it.

I was already a Grayson Perry fan before reading The Descent of Man.

One of the central issues here, and the reason this book is called The Descent of Man, is that as women rise to their just level of power, then so shall some men fall.

Some themes covered include: Default Man and all that is bad with him, identity, prejudice, being a transvestite, clothes declaring tribal status, the male body, gender fluidity, anger, mental health, male suicide, attitudes to women, checking privilege, positive discrimination as way to force change towards a gender-equal society,

Also, it’s really funny. Ties are ‘colourful textile phalluses hanging round their necks.’

I found it hard to chose a favourite other funny bit, because there are so many:

Several times I have asked audiences to put up their hand if they have sexual fantasies where the central theme is gender equality. No one ever raises their hand. (Who would? Nick Clegg maybe?) … No one gets aroused by thinking about holding hands in matching fleeces while shopping for sofas or sharing childcare, do they?

There are amazing, funny cartoons littered throughout the book too. It’s worth reading it just to see these. If you are reading on a black and grey only kindle, make sure you open it up in kindle cloud reader on a computer to see the cartoons in full colour.

I love this quote:

A lot of men are sold the narrative of male domination, but lead lives of frustration and servitude. No wonder they get angry.

and this one:

The ‘ideal’ future might just be increasing tolerance and celebration of a spectrum of masculinities born out of increasing awareness of what feels good for the individual and for society.

Well that would be just great wouldn’t it?