An assortment of essays, mostly quite good, about commitment & relationships. It's sort of a sequel to The Bitch in the House, which I haven't read, and similarly marketed as "representatives of the opposite sex reveal the TRUTH about how they feel." As I say, these are good essays, some even brilliant, but if they strike you as containing any earth-shattering revelations, you haven't been paying enough attention to the aforesaid opposite sex as people, instead of stereotypes.
Which leads to the most striking passage (to me), in the foreward, where Cathi Hanauer (editor of Bitch in the House) describes the reactions people had to the concept for this book:
I was told, "It'll never work." "Men don't think." "Men have no interest in self-exploration or revelation." "Men don't feel things." "Men won't say anything negative about their wives." "Men have no interior lives." "Men just want to watch TV and read the paper." I didn't believe it. Okay, I believed some of it. But not all of it, not really.
Now take those sentences & replace "men" with "women," "blacks," "Asians," "gays," or any other group, and add whatever negative stereotypes you think of. (Although it's kind of tough to imagine something more sweepingly insulting than "don't think" and "don't feel things!") Can you see the new paragraph appearing as-is in a book issued by a major publisher, with no more emphatic commentary than the last bit?
I can't say I'm surprised by this, unfortunately, but it bothers me a lot. It's a symptom of why on the whole I prefer to identify myself as an egalitarian (all humans deserve the same rights and access to opportunities) rather than a feminist (since that focuses specifically on women's rights, although I don't discount the importance of the feminist movement in the 20th century). Would the world be a better place if it were run by women? I doubt it; I think it would be bad in different ways (just like when any previously-oppressed group comes to power). We're all human beings, after all, basically monkeys with language and culture, and we struggle with similar problems and tensions.
Nevertheless, certainly in American culture there are some generalizations that can be made about the roles of men and women (keeping in mind that no generalization should be used to predict an individual's behavior or attitudes). Over the past 40 or 50 years, there's been an enormous change in the expectations--both women's and men's--of how a man could and should act. The essays in Bastard on the Couch don't shed any blinding light on this topic, but they do offer some interesting, poignant, and thought-provoking flashlight beams on a few areas.