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Documentary on the Crisis of Masculinity in the Media

December 18th, 2007 by Ryan

Tough Guise is documentary that discusses the links between violence in the media and society’s idea of masculinity.

Although the film is a bit dated, the problems discussed still ring true  about the trouble that men are experiencing in understanding their own masculinity.

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Jackson Katz, who describes himeself as “one of America’s leading anti-sexist male activists,” talks about the idea of a “tough guise” that men put on as a mask to hide their deeper vulnerabilities and emotions.

The film discusses how this idea came about and how masculinity is often portrayed in the media as physical and mental strength, power over others, and violence while traits such as vulnerability, emotion, and compassion are seen as weak and unmanly.

While its true that that many men misunderstand these ideas about masculinity, I don’t think we can just place all the blame on the media as the root cause of this “crisis” (although it definitely perpetuates the “tough guise”), but rather, the media is a response to something else, mainly a lack of authentic and mature masculine power.

The documentary spends about a good amount of time discussing the areas where masculinity is distorted in the media, then spends only the last few minutes talking about ways to improve the situation.

Although this film probably does accomplish a lot as far as improving our awareness as men, it does not give a clear direction as to where to go next.  That is pretty much where the “tough guys” find themselves in their own life; not sure where to go next or how to really be a man.

This film was definitely spot-on in describing the problems men face and is enjoyable to watch.  All in all, it will improve your awareness of the situation and is a good first step out of the old view of the macho man.

A good next step for many men, may be to get in touch with their authentic self through their own Wild man and Warrior.  Robert Bly goes into depth on this, in his Iron John story and in the Documentary “A Gathering of Men.”

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15 Responses to “Documentary on the Crisis of Masculinity in the Media”

  1. Evan Hadkins Says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I think the media have a high opinion of themselves. I think it’s our friends and families that have most influence on how we see ourselves.

    My struggle wasn’t to undo Sean Connery’s James Bond but the way my father related to my mother.

    I think this is both hopeful and difficult. Each of us can maybe bring change to a few. Society wide transformation won’t come about just from a few TV programs preaching the message (if only it were so easy!)

  2. Seeker Says:

    Thank you for the video – its an interesting watch 🙂

  3. bigsend Says:

    That was an excellent video! Great points were made

  4. Ryan Says:

    Evan that’s a great point. Change starts with each person and their sphere of influence, especially in families and raising youth. I admire people that live the change they want to see rather then protesting and trying to force others or society to change.

    Bigsend, what up man!

  5. Bart Says:

    Evan, I like what you said about undoing. How we relate to the feminine is largely dependent on first-hand experiences.

    I’m fond of the idea that if you present a problem, you should also present a possible solution (no matter how helpful you think it might be). There is a lack of masculinity, but what do we do about it?

    One thing off the top of my head is to get more men to to participate more in hard physical labor. There is something about the active use of physical strength that nurtures the masculine.

    What comes to your mind?

  6. gale Says:

    ryan,
    found your blog through blogcatalog and am very impressed with your blog (great design and content! love the header btw). i’ll have to check this video out, as a lot of my guy friends actually put on a tough guise – they’re the macho type, you can say. i think masculinity is pretty skewed in the media when it comes to music videos of rap stars and thugs, but not so much in the sphere of comedies such as The Office etc. i also enjoy discussing masculinity on my blog, hope to stay in touch on the blogosphere!

  7. Evan Hadkins Says:

    Hi Bart,

    A stray thought I have had for years is the teaching of the art of driving – easily the most dangerous thing that most of us do in our daily lives.

    A good place to explore skill, receptivity to what is going on around and how to negotiate our way.

    An exercise to try is ‘talk cavemen’ (only to be tried with those who understand and are willing): skip the politeness just say “gimme . . . ” or “want . . .” I’ve done this and the experience can be quite profound.

    Anyone got any other ideas?

  8. Ryan Says:

    Hey Seeker, thanks for good words. Bart, physical activity is definitely good to get you into your body though I wouldn’t limit it to only hard labor, things like you mentioned in the other thread like sculpting can improve the masculine also.

    Anything where a man can focus his energy into purpose, and utilize his unique gifts (his highly tuned skills), to create something useful can feel very masculine.

    Physical strength is very empowering though, and being healthy in general allows us to be more in balance which lets our core energy shine through us.

    Gale, Thanks for the comment, I like your blog. Good to see other bloggers on a similar topic.

    Hey Evan, that’s an interesting thought about the art of driving. I don’t know much about it, how could we use it to our advantage?

    Meditation has helped me become more masculine. The ability to turn off your mind allows for less bs from the mind to come up during your interactions with other people. There’s something about silence and being stationary that is very masculine.

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    […] thing that this documentary on the problems of masculinity pointed out was that the mask many men wear to conceal their emotions is actually a form of […]

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    […] thing that this documentary on the problems of masculinity pointed out was that the mask many men wear to conceal their emotions is actually a form of […]

  11. business stationary Says:

    Cool video, and I agree that many people take masculinity differently than they should. I could list 100 examples in 5 minutes, but want to save my time 🙂

  12. Verna Winebaugh Says:

    This is from a gal, but I would like to add some ideas that are very old, indeed.

    Carl Jung has written extensively about this. Men are naturally martial (Mars) when young, and like Jupiter – softer, more jovial, and peace loving when they’re older.

    Women are very Venusian when young – sexy, passive, and enchanting which does much to help them get married, but once she reaches middle age, she starts to take after Hera or Juno, Jupiter’s wife – devious and power hungry.

    Jung noticed that the sexes change places somewhat as they age.

    So, to sum up, a mature man, even if you are a young, but emotionally mature man, loves peace, but only gets tough when it’s really called for.

    So, when you see a man becoming irrational, irritable, and control hungry, you’ll now notice that he’s really behaving like a middle aged woman. Dig? Make any sense?

  13. Roy Says:

    @Verna That is a very wise contribution and puts well what I have also observed over the years. It also helps to explain why marriages between more mature men and younger women can work well in cultures where they are not surrounded by jealous people of all ages.

  14. Anya Says:

    This is a very interesting topic. I ran across a study done of male elephants that were orphaned and then raised by females. The young male elephants were surrounded by females as there were no bull elephants in the nursery

    These young male elephant became extremely violent, they became belligerent to caregivers, destructive and lazy (which prompted the research), much more so than young males in the wild.

    This made me wonder if society itself is causing the human masculinity crisis because so many young boys grow up in homes without the father figure present.

    Just my 2 cents…

  15. Ryan Says:

    Verna, That’s very insightful, I’ve noticed the same phenomena happening (and I’ve also studied Jung’s work which is great). Both sexes have to integrate their opposite aspect (men have to integrate the feminine while women have to integrate the masculine). This ties in perfect with what Anya was saying about the lack of men in young boys….

    Men definitely become more violent and aggressive when they lack the mature masculine energy from older, stronger, wiser men. Being locked in the boy-psychology (as represented by the perception of domination by females such as mom or teacher), the boy becomes violent, trying to break free and claim his power (but doesn’t know how to).

    Once he is available to the experience, a mature man can come into his life and cut his psychological ties to Mother and all other comforts – finally FREEING him to be a man. Until that time, he will mistreat women, disrespecting and manipulating them for his own ends since he’s still stuck in the power struggle. The key in our culture is that he has to initiate the initiation into manhood even though it freaks him out.

    See the post about Awakening the Wild Man & Iron John.

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