I am frequently asked by clients to recommend books that I think are particularly helpful and informative; I wrote this review of my colleague's book a few years ago, and decided to share it here on my blog. I do so because it is some of the best writing I have found that is both accessible and deals with the complexity of relationships.
Making Love, Playing Power: Men, Women and the Rewards of Intimate Justice, by Ken Dolan Del-Vecchio
Those of us who transgress the lines between doing ‘therapy' and social justice work try to open our clients and families to new ways of seeing their lives. In my clinical work, I pursue the questions that might help someone see possibility where previously there was none. In this book, Ken provides a clear map of how gender, race, class and sexual orientation influence power in a relationship - and how the imbalance of power is at the root of most conflict. This dynamic is generally not talked about - even by supposed ‘experts'. Ken helps focus our understandings of how we are taught to be male or female, and what cost that exacts from relationships with those we love. This book enacts the revolutionary ideas that men are fully capable of deep intimacy and connection, and women, of empowerment and self-love.
With so many self-help books on the market, it is so refreshing to find one that has a chapter entitled "What Patriarchy Teaches Men." AND it is written by a man. I can only begin to imagine the ways in which sharing this book will enhance my clinical work with couples and families. The dominant psychology of our culture teaches us to look inside the person or relationship for "the problem." Yet "the problem" is so often outside of the relationship - and the tricky thing is, we don't talk about it. As a culture, we don't acknowledge the ways in which the presence or absence of racism, poverty, gender privilege, or heterosexism (to name a few) shape and give meaning to our lives. Instead, we couch the struggles in pseudo-diagnostic terms: "communication problems", "anger management," "codependency." We thus never get to talk about or take action against the structures that support these hierarchies of privilege and oppression within which all families live.
As the mother of a teenage boy, I am also deeply concerned about the ways in which he is taught by our culture to be a man. Can he stay the big-hearted, emotional and tender person I have known? Must he become indoctrinated into the traditional world of masculinity? I know all of the rhetoric about how men have changed, but has the culture of masculinity? (that's a whole other blog!) I see the extreme self reliance, the inability to ask for help or be viewed as dependent, in many "younger" men in my practice. I know Ken shares that concern for his son and speaks to that in his dedication: "For your generation, may you know love more than domination and truth more than fear."
Making Love, Playing Power: Men, Women and the Rewards of Intimate Justice is the relationship guide we have been waiting for. It is one to read, savor, and share with those you love.
Published on November 8, 2010 by Jacqueline Hudak, M.Ed., Ph.D., LMFT in FamilyLife Copyright JHudak