A great study and introduction to cross-cultural manhood. Gilmore leads the reader to different places around the world to look at different social constructions of manhood and discovers the common themes and universality that exists in them. One of the main points is what he calls, “stressed manhood”. Stressed manhood is essentially a universal concept found in all forms of manhood around the world even in more passive cultures. It means that a young boy growing up must “prove” himself in some manner. Gilmore refutes the notion that manhood is not a nurturing force by saying, “Men nurture their society by shedding blood, their sweat, and their semen, by bringing home food for both child and mother, by producing children, and by dying if necessary in faraway places to provide a safe haven for their people.”
This is significant considering that Gilmore went in to his study “prepared to rediscover the old saw that conventional femininity is nuturing and passive and that masculinity is self-serving, egotistical, and uncaring. But I did not find this.”
He goes on to say, “One of my findings here is that manhood ideologies always include a criterion of selfless generosity, even to the point of sacrifice. Again and again we find that ‘real’ men are those who give more than they take; they serve others. Real men are generous, even to a fault, like the Mehinaku fishermen, the Samburu cattle-herder, or the Sambia or Dodoth Big Man. Non-men are often those stigmatized as stingy and unproductive.”
As a secular piece of literature it is interesting that there are similar characteristics that come out as in Christian literature on manhood—husband, father, lover, provider, and warrior.