Being the educator and lifelong learner that I am, I get excited about learning new things. I am thrilled that I now have someone to share this excitement with, my niece Keely. This post is the result of a conversation we had and the subsequent film she asked me to watch, which she saw in one of her college courses.
For you, Keely. The learning never stops, no matter how old you get.
I recently watched the film The Mask You Live In based on a recommendation by my niece. She had watched the film in her college course and texted me, excited to tell me about the film. Though the film came out in 2015, I had never heard of it, but was extremely interested in it as a result of my niece’s excitement about it. If you haven’t heard of it, here is the synopsis from the website:
“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.
Pressured by the media, their peer group, and even the adults in their lives, our protagonists confront messages encouraging them to disconnect from their emotions, devalue authentic friendships, objectify and degrade women, and resolve conflicts through violence. These gender stereotypes interconnect with race, class, and circumstance, creating a maze of identity issues boys and young men must navigate to become “real” men.
Experts in neuroscience, psychology, sociology, sports, education, and media also weigh in, offering empirical evidence of the “boy crisis” and tactics to combat it.
The Mask You Live In ultimately illustrates how we, as a society, can raise a healthier generation of boys and young men.”
I was thoroughly interested in this, not just because of my niece’s excitement about it, but also because I have a son of my own. As a girl growing up, to say I adored Gloria Steinem would be an understatement. I worshiped her and all that she stood for was what I wanted in my own life. I knew, even early on, that I did not want to be confined to the kitchen (or whatever stereotypical “place” a woman should be) and that I would not be what society thought I should be. To not follow the confines of societal pressure was normal for me. But I had not once thought about what that might mean for my son growing up with the pressures of today.
This documentary opened my eyes to the confusing and oftentimes demeaning things we say to our boys. It’s okay for a girl to play both sides: she can be sensitive and emotional and then be tough and competitive. Unfortunately, the same does NOT go for our boys. Boys are only allowed to be tough…competitive…not cry…a MAN…and the list goes on and on. We don’t allow them to “get in touch with their feminine side” but then we wonder why boys are more likely than girls to commit a violent crime, be diagnosed with a behavior disorder and more likely to be kicked out of school. This film explores the reasons for this and the resulting implications of these thoughts on our boys. This and so much more.
This documentary has truly made me think twice about what I say to my kids (both my son and daughter) to ensure that this “mask” of a double standard is not imposed on either of them and that they can grow up in a world where it’s okay for boys to cry and for girls to be CEOs of their own company. It’s time that we ditch the labels and just let everyone BE.
To watch the film, look for The Mask You Live In on Netflix.