Gender, what is gender? There are certainly many different voices regarding gender roles. There are many who argue that gender roles are not constructed by the society because there were gender roles within the animal species, such as female lions taking care of baby lions and male lions taking care of the territories. However, more people are aware of how the gender roles we are familiar with nowadays are strongly constructed by people within the society. For example, pink is a color for girls and blue is a color for boys; girls can cry and boys can’t; girls can ask for help but boys can’t. These are all social constructions created through times. In the documentary, “The Mask You Live In,” produced and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the truth behind American’s masculinity is revealed. It is definitely true that women have to suffer lots of mistreatment and discrimination in this society but men in the American society also struggle to present their true faces. It is quite interesting how a documentary film discussing the narrow definition of masculinity in American culture is produced by a female director. But, the fact that Newsom is a mother who thought about how to raise her son so he can be his true self makes this film touching and relatable to many in the United States.
The documentary featured many professionals such as educators, sociologists and psychologists. They talked about how boys in the American society are educated to be tough and powerful, they have to act out but hold in their sadness and loneliness. It makes it more likely for them to explode when their emotions are held in for so long. It is actually a kind of oppression, too. During the group interviews, few boys mentions how they need to men up because they want to be respected. They have to show their power through violence. The actual voices of young boys shown through group discussions are very impactful because we rarely think about how most of them are not born with an aggressive personality but they are shaped into it. Along with the professional commentaries, former NFL player, Joe Ehrmann states that “be a man” is the most influencing and common phrase to hear when it comes to educating boys. To have the symbol of American masculinity featured in the film certainly makes the documentary relevant within the male population and also makes it impactful. The documentary is not only made for the male population but also everyone within the society because we are all responsible for slangs like, “Men don’t cry” or “You’re a sissy.” I am able to reflect on my attitude towards masculinity through this film and I will rethink how I think about being a real man in the future.
The Mask You Live In. Dir. Jennifer Siebel Newson. Perf. Joe Erhmann. Virgil Films and Entertainment, 2015. Youtube. 2 Feb. 2016. Web. 1 July 2016.