A compelling approach to gender inequality that empowers both men and women to be part of the solution instead of just part of the problem

The Gender Knot

Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy

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Revised and Updated Edition

Allan G. Johnson

"Allan Johnson has written one of the best, most readable, and most comprehensive accounts of patriarchy that is available in print and this revised edition makes this important book even more useful and relevant."
Paula Rothenberg, editor, Race, Class, and Gender in the United States

The Gender Knot, Allan Johnson's response to the pain and confusion that men and women experience by living with gender inequality, explains what patriarchy is and isn't, how it works, and what gets in the way of understanding and doing something about it. Johnson's simple yet powerful approach avoids the paralyzing trap of guilt, blame, anger, and defensive denial that often result from conversations about gender. He shows how we all participate in an oppressive system we didn't create and how each of us can contribute towards its dissolution. He argues persuasively that something much better is possible and that our individual choices matter more than we can ever know.

This revised, and updated edition features expanded discussions of:

  • the core characteristics of patriarchy and its power as a social system

  • the relationship between individuals and social systems

  • "men's movement" assessments of patriarchy and gender inequality

  • key—and controversial—terms such as sexism, privilege, and political correctness



Read Chapter 1 (pdf).



Praise for the first edition:

"A powerful approach to gender inequality that empowers both men and women to be part of the solution instead of just part of the problem. The Gender Knot belongs on the reading list of every course in sexual politics that encourages students to engage (if not 'smash') patriarchy meaningfully."
Men and Masculinities

"As any knitter will tell you, the way to untangle a knot is not to pull hard on one end, but gently shake the entire skein until all the threads are loosened. In this book, Allan Johnson gently and patiently shakes the patriarchal knot until each of the constituent threads becomes analytically clear. In doing so, he gives men a way to be part of unraveling that oppressive knot, rather than simply tugging defensively on their end."
Michael Kimmel, author of Manhood in America: A Cultural History

"This is a good book. Why is it good? It's well written, well argued, and nails all the key issues right on the head. It's the best book I've seen in this genre."
Michael Schwalbe, author of Unlocking the Iron Cage: The Men's Movement, Gender Politics, and American Culture

"[A] brilliant account of patriarchy."
Off Our Backs

"I love Johnson's book. It is beautifully written and thoughtful, and provides compelling analyses of patriarchy and the powerful ideology that supports it and inhibits change..... it is a guidebook for a life-changing adventure."
Contemporary Sociology

"...a unique book that fills a void in the literature on gender. Highly accessible and a pleasure to read, Johnson never oversimplifies the complex issues he explores. His engaging, conversational style will appeal to a wide audience and will be particularly useful for the classroom."
Gender and Society


Visit Allan Johnson's website:

  Also available in e-book



Preface and Acknowledgments

Part I: What Is This Thing Called Patriarchy?
1. Where Are We?
2. Patriarchy, the System: An It Not a He, a Them, or an Us
3. Why Patriarchy?
4. Ideology, Myth, and Magic: Femininity, Masculinity, and "Gender Roles"
5. Feminists and Feminism

Part II: Sustaining Illusions, Barriers to Change
6. Thinking About Patriarchy: War, Sex, and Work
7. What Patriarchy?
8. It Must Be Women

Part III: Unraveling the Patriarchal Legacy
9. Shame, Guilt, and Responsibility
10. Unraveling the Gender Knot

Appendix: Resources for Unraveling the Knot


About the Author(s)

Allan G. Johnson is a writer and sociologist with more than thirty years of college teaching experience. The author of numerous books, including The Forest and the Trees: Sociology as Life, Practice, and Promise (Temple), he speaks on issues of inequality and privilege on campuses all over the United States.

Subject Categories

Gender Studies
Women's Studies



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