Well, as the residents of the Hundred Acre Wood might say, this was Not What I Expected.
I really, really wanted to like this book. But I was continually, um, Rather Surprised that I didn’t. It was a little Heavy Handed. I felt rather Beat Upon The Brow With An Iron Skillet.
I haven’t read The Tao of Pooh (and I’d still like to, even though I was sadly disappointed in Piglet’s book), but for the uninitiated, basically these are books explaining the main tenets of Taoism through the simple stories of Pooh And Friends. A wee bit precious, but I love classic Pooh, so I thought, why not?
Piglet, being A Very Small Animal, apparently embodies the taoist principle of Virtue very well. Being small, brave (in spite of being afraid), being helpful to everyone and not Making A Big Deal of things… all piglet-y goodness. I can get behind all this.
However, the author, Benjamin Hoff, seems to be rather on A High Horse throughout, railing against Confucianism, feminism, capitalism, conservatives, critics, computers… for all his talk about avoiding the Eeyores of the world, I started to wonder if the pot was perhaps calling the kettle a Wee Bit Black.
My first clue was when he started talking about the Eeyore Amazons. (really? Amazons?) “They are emotionally descended from the Puritans — those grim souls who considered femininity No Good, along with art, music, dancing, singing, the natural world, and practically everything else that makes life enjoyable.” Ok, so far, so good (sort of). But then he goes on to say, “As do a number of other people (us included), the Eeyore Amazons call themselves feminists. But the word doesn’t quite fit them, somehow. They don’t like femininity. Instead, they covet masculinity. Strange. Very strange.”
We might also say, “Condescending. Very condescending.” Basically, he doesn’t like the so-called Femi-nazis (a term which really bugs me anyway — he doesn’t use this term, but clearly this is the group he’s talking about). “Beyond their antimasculine words, it’s Over-Masculinity as usual… they break up Men’s Clubs… then they establish Women’s Clubs, to which men are not invited. They accuse men of being sexist, but then they behave like sexists. They say they want Sensitive Men. When they encounter such men, they shove them about.”
Wow. I didn’t and don’t even know what to think about this. I’m all for women (and men) embracing both sides of the coin: masculine and feminine. I’m all for men being softer and more grounded, and women being more powerful and in-charge (while still being able to do a damn cross-stitch if they feel like it). But while I agree that certain militant feminists are obnoxious and kind of perpetuate the problem, I’m not really sure why they are drawing such ire, since the reason that most extremely strong feminists feel they must overcompensate is because, hello, the balance of power is still heavily weighted in the corner of Men, sensitive or no.
I don’t know if this story reinforces or negates my point, but it reminded me rather strongly and uncomfortably of a time when I was in college and had made friends with the leader of the rather small and goofy LGBT group on campus. I liked her at first, and then… well, the tide sort of shifted and pretty soon I was being recruited to help with the Take Back The Night event. I am ALL for these sorts of events — women (and everyone) should feel safe walking to their cars, etc. at night. But she wanted to ban men from the event, which just seemed silly to me. She asked me for my opinion about whether or not men should come (looking for support, I assume), and I said that I felt like we needed all the help we can get, so men should be involved. Well. That was the end of that friendship. Which is stupid.
So I don’t know what my point is, except to say that it annoyed me (both that event and this book). It even annoyed me when he railed against things upon which I actually agreed with him, such as the hypocrisy of (many) conservatives, the Gulf War(s), anti-environmentalism, etc. Mostly because he was using this sort of light, charming, fluffy shell (Piglet) to really be quite vitriolic in his own way against these groups. Which seems to me to be Kind Of The Same Thing.
While I was hoping for some Enlightenment, I got a Rant. I would put this Rant in the same category as Woozles and Heffalumps. “To Be Avoided.”
The author might want to take a look at the Eeyore-mindset his is railing against, and then look in the mirror.
Speaking of Eeyore, Hoff is pretty hard on our favorite gloomy donkey. I felt like he was taking this character and twisting it and making Eeyore somehow unlovable. Come on! We all love Eeyore! We want to snuggle him! Not vilify him! Yes, he’s gloomy and sad, but isn’t compassion one of the main points of Taoism?
Anyway. I ended up not liking this book at all, although I did enjoy the actual Taoist stories, and I do want to read the Tao of Pooh. I also was reminded that there is a Taoist Center in Oakland and I want to go try their free meditation classes.
So, if you are feeling like you want an ally to rant with, by all means, pick up Te of Piglet. But otherwise, I’d skip it.