Socially Constructed Masculinity

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.

Works Cited

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.



3 thoughts on “Socially Constructed Masculinity

  1. It’s so interesting that the social construct of masculinity not only has a present effect on women (as they are viewed as inferior, weaker, etc) but also detrimental to a man’s ability to live freely. These social constructs dictate how a man is expected to look, act, behave and present himself in order to “uphold his masculinity”. I personally believe that masculinity should not involve conforming to certain expectations; I think that the most “power” comes from being able to act without hesitation of how your actions will be critiqued according to your gender. For this reason, the idea of traditional masculinity is obsolete and harmful to the adults and children who are being exposed to these constructs. We must truly raise boys and girls in the same way, with total equality and reminders that certain actions and behaviors are not limited by gender.


  2. I agree that masculinity has become socially constructed. Men are taught that power comes in the form of dominance or force and that we can not act “girly” in any way or others will not respect us. Men can’t show emotions that will undermine our “masculinity” because it is seen as a form of weakness which won’t be tolerated in society. Men have to be able to bottle their emotions and keep a tough face on. Men always have to wear the “pants” in the relationship or they are weak. Sometimes that leads men to disrespect women and belittle them. Masculinity as a social construction should be changed and it should not be seen as something that is a necessity.


  3. I am so sadden by the realities that society has put no only on women but on men! I on a personal level can relate to this because I see the term “be a man” being used towards my father when his older sister had passed away. All of his other sisters it was acceptable for them to cry but then when it came to the men the were not allowed to cry. Was she not his sister? is it a gender? because hes a man he cant cry. I cant help but to think what are the solutions to such an issue. One way that I started changing this is by telling my family tat it is acceptable for the men to cry. We all have emotions it is a natural phenomenon that should not be socially constructed into a gender dilemma.


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