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Max Dupain's portrait of Jean Lorraine, a favourite model among Sydney’s artists and photographers of the 1930s and 1940s, graces the elegant cover of Paul Dalgarno’s Prudish Nation. All that gives a somewhat misleading impression of the nature of this book. It is not a work of history. Nor is it an investigation of whether Australia is a notably prudish nation. The variety of gender and sexual identities examined certainly does not leave an impression of prudishness. If Australia was once prudish, it is obviously less so now.

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A History of Masculinity begins with the observation that we live in a global patriarchy that restricts the rights and freedoms of women, and that remedying this situation is a matter of urgent concern. To that end, ‘we need egalitarian men who care more about respect than power’. Ivan Jablonka acknowledges the accusation that men who are active in the feminist movement simply amplify sexist dynamics by ‘speaking in women’s place, as usual’, only to dismiss it summarily. He believes that a book such as his is vital because the feminist cause is ‘a fight that men have shunned’ until now. He hopes to correct his own failings and encourage other men to be ‘good guys’ in the battle for gender justice.

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