8 March 2018
A Fight with Masculinity
Masculinity has changed and developed since the role of men in society was first introduced. Males believe that they have to adhere to social norms in order to survive the persecution of society. Modern-day masculinity roots back to the 19th century, during the industrial revolution. George L. Mosse explains in his book, The Image of Man: The Creation of Modern Masculinity, that media began to really spread its wings in the 19th century due to the fact that magazines and newspapers were being produced at a rapid rate. He explains that men were separated by their social class and their power.
Media has helped create gender norms that people feel compelled to follow because of the language that is used to destroy ideas of belonging. Media has shaped expectations of masculinity and men’s interpretation of what a man is. Men in media are demanded to be powerful and emotionless. Basically, a macho bag of muscles. I’m no exception to trying to fit into these norms. It started the first time I watched the film “Rocky” with my father.
It was a hot summer night. The street light gleamed in through the window, providing our living room with a dim candle-like light. My Dad was sitting in the living room fast-forwarding through the commercials with his feet propped up on the black ottoman. I was sitting on the floor with my legs crossed. My head perked up when I noticed the tv displayed in bold silver letters “ROCKY.” I had always loved watching movies with my Dad, he had this gift where he could choose a movie that really inspired me. I always had trouble connecting with my Dad because we were so different but when we watched movies it was like nothing else mattered. There was one point in the film where Rocky began his montage where he climbs the art museum steps and beats up frozen meat. My Dad said something that struck me:
“That’s a real man. He gets the girl, he’s strong and he never gives up.” I didn’t understand it. Rocky was just a guy who beat up others for entertainment. Then it clicked. A man was someone who liked to be physical with others, in order to show their affection. As the movie continued, Rocky beat up more boxers and appeared to be quite monotone and dulled even at the most hardcore fights. Rocky made me believe that men had to be emotionless and could only care about being the best, and if you weren’t the best you go back to the slums. Emotion meant weakness, and only women were allowed to have emotion, so this created the idea that women had to be weaker than men. Masculinity became this stage of life that numbs a boy.
In my opinion, masculinity is this phase that every boy goes through, where they learn this peculiar lesson that emotions are for girls and all men can do is be violent. It's sort of like a second puberty. And in this time you discover that as a man you must always be in control. For example, Rocky starts off as a bit of a loser. Until he meets Adrian and sort of forcibly tells her not to leave him. Rocky becomes more controlling of his life and he becomes generally happier. It’s the language and messages in films like this that send these beliefs to impressionable boys. What happens to boys when they get lessons like this?
In a New York Times article, Real Men Get Rejected Too, writer Moises Velasquez-Manoff, talks about how men use sexual abuse as a tool of power over women. Manoff explains where this behavior comes from. Manoff says in his article,“Little data exists on whether kids actually listen to what their parents say, he concedes, but if you don’t talk to your children, he argues, they’re left to absorb norms from, most likely, pornography. And what boys learn from porn is that men must dominate and that women like it that way — neither of which is necessarily true.” What Manoff is explaining here is that pornography acts as the guiding factor for boys sexually and why men use sex as a tool. Pornography is a tool of manipulation, Manoff shows that parents are not all to blame for boys that grow up to be sexual abusers but the media that turns sex into an act of power and control. It’s not just about the images used in the media that destroys feelings of belonging but the language is just as important.
We constantly see language like “faggot”, “wimp” or “pussy,” being used by men in media. This language becomes a part of societal norms, meaning, we as males feel compelled to use this language to show our dominance over other males. Its like were primal beasts fighting for control of the land. When a man uses words like “faggot” or “pussy,” towards another man it's because they feel inadequate to see someone with enough courage to express themselves. This idea of masculinity only exists because people in the media feel inadequate, and now this culture is so invested in our everyday lives we can’t just forget or ignore it. This type of language promotes not only a craving for control but a demand for violence.
Male characters in films don’t have a very wide range of characters. Most male characters are drug lords, a martial arts expert or have a special set of skills used for revenge. In a documentary called Tough Guise: “Violence, Media and the Crisis in Masculinity”, by Jackson Katz, Katz explores male characters created in films and the influence they have on their audiences. Katz states, “What the media does is help construct violent masculinity as a cultural norm. In other words, violence isn’t so much a deviation, but an accepted part of masculinity,” (1:59-2:08). What Katz is saying here is that the media uses only a few types of men in films in order to make men believe that violence has to be a part of who they are, no matter which man they chose to be. When Katz says “isn’t so much a deviation,” he believes that men have this idea that they can’t be a man without being violent.
Masculinity is a social construct that society has created in order to make one gender believe they have more dominance and power over another group. The type of masculinity that is presented in films and other media outlets, has made me feel compelled to bottle up my emotions which causes me anxiety and harder for me to connect with others. Masculinity has created this mask for me to put on and I can’t take it off.
ChallengingMedia. “Tough Guise: Violence, Media & the Crisis in Masculinity.” YouTube, YouTube, 4 Oct. 2006, www.youtube.com/watch?v=3exzMPT4nGI.
Opinion | Real Men Get Rejected, Too
In-text: (Velasquez-Manoff, 2018) Your Bibliography: Velasquez-Manoff, M. (2018). Opinion | Real Men Get Rejected, Too. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/24/opinion/sunday/real-men-masculinity-rejected.html [Accessed 8 Mar. 2018].
Mosse, G. (2010). The image of man. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.