Unveiling the Mask: Check out movie tonight addressing male expectations

By: Allie Taiber

This Thursday, Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m. in the high school choir room, Women’s Leadership is presenting a thought provoking 2015 documentary titled “The Mask You Live In.” Food, friends and great discussion will all be provided as everyone is welcome.

“The Mask You Live In” follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity.

For years the American society has pressed unreasonable expectations and norms upon men causing them to crumble. Pressured by the the media, their peers and the tradition of male pursuit, men and young boys have been encouraged to disconnect from their emotions, devalue authentic relationships and resolve conflicts through violence.

Boys and men learn “appropriate” gender roles in accordance to the masculine expectations of their given society. This means that from very early on, boys get messages on what it means to be a boy.

Common terms often linked to masculinity such as strong, war, tough, self reliant, sexual, hero, rich, winning and dominant are examples of the messages being poured into the minds of young boys that work to shape boys into true “men.”

This restrictive model of manhood is often presented as something natural, with the suggestion that men are just born this way, and that a “real man” doesn’t have to work at being a man.

In reality, men learning to “become a man” isn’t the product of their biology. In growing up, men and boys learn to live and be compared to this idealized model, soon finding out if they are not acting in a way considered manly enough.

When there’s a failure to follow these norms, boys and men are punished (often by other boys and men) in a particularly gendered manner.

For example, if boys and men do not meet the expectations of being a man, they are often called homophobic or feminizing slurs. These degradations work to police the boundaries of what is acceptable appearance and behavior for boys and men, which is one explanation as to why gender roles in our society are still rigidly defined and vigilantly enforced.

The film shows men from various backgrounds sharing the impact of their upbringing, relationships with their fathers, their struggles and the deliberate choices they’ve made in raising their own children.

Experts in the field, including authors, doctors and educators, provide research as well as observations on the challenges men and boys face in our society’s unrealistic expectations of hyper-masculinity.

“The Mask You Live In” ultimately illustrates how we, as a society, can work to raise a healthier generation of boys and young men.

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