Tender And Tough: Being A Man In The 21st Century with Rebecca Walker

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Each of us has a role to play. We're black, we're white, we're Jewish. We're male or we're female. If we decide to step outside the boundaries of the role society has prescribed for us, we often pay a price. Rebecca Walker has confronted those boundaries from the inside, as the Jewish child of a biracial marriage. She also faces them from the outside as the mother of a vulnerable and artistic son trying to understand how to be a man in our culture. In this post-feminist world we sing the praises of the sensitive male, but still celebrate his image as provider, defender and warrior. Ms. Walker wonders, "How do we teach our sons to protect themselves out there physically, but also to protect their tenderness?" Where feminism often criticized the male stereotype, she praises men for what they're doing right, and helps us understand the critical and often painful dilemma they face. Her insights provide a new sense of balance between virility and gentleness that is essential to our continued personal and cultural evolution. Rebecca Walker is the daughter of acclaimed author, Alice Walker. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Rebecca Walker is a cofounder of the Third Wave Foundation, the only national activist, philanthropic organization for young women between the ages of fifteen and thirty.

Her books include:

  • What Makes a Man: 22 Writers Imagine the Future (editor) (Riverhead Books 2004)
  • To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism (editor) (Anchor 1995)
  • Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self (Riverhead Books 2001)

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • What it means to be a beautiful man in a world that says "Toughen up"
  • How can a woman make it easier for a man to break free of conventional expectations
  • Why a man pays a price when he breaks away from our culture's model of masculinity
  • What are the qualities our society asks a man to give up in order to "succeed"
  • What are the psychic, emotional and political restrictions our communities place on each of us
  • How can a woman can do to make it easier for a man to break free of conventional expectations
Host: Justine Willis Toms      Interview Date: 4/7/2004      Program Number: 3043

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