Shattered Frames: The truth (but mostly lies) about masculinity
From a young age, we are taught that there is a difference between what boys and girls do.
Studies have shown that teachers are more likely to compliment girls on their looks and manners, whiles boys are more likely to be complimented on their assertiveness and getting answers correct.
Mothers are more likely to reinforce social norms about emotional expression, encouraging their daughters to talk about how they feel more so than their sons.
These are the “masculinity cops” and strangely, the most predominant are sometimes women.
I recently watched the documentary “The Bro Code,” a 2011 film that focuses on how masculinity is framed and defined in current American culture. The filmmaker Thomas Keith argues that masculinity is “framed” through popular television shows, music videos and “masculinity cops,” or other people who reinforce our cultural views of men and women.
It was an interesting and horribly depressing documentary that offered little solutions to this problem.
I searched the top ten highest grossing-films adjusted for inflation are “Gone with the Wind,” “Avatar,” “Star Wars,” “Titanic,” and “The Sound of Music,” to see if they would reflect what we think about men and masculinity.
The first four films all feature male protagonists who embody our culture’s role for men. They are assertive, leaders and essential to the story. The “Sound of Music” stars Julie Andrews and although the film was inducted in the the Library of Congress, the storyline could not exist without the supporting male characters.
The current representation of story lines in films, music videos and novels present a commonly held assumption about gender: stories, essentially the lives of women, cannot exist without white straight men. This model excludes minorities, lesbian couples, asexual people, transgender and gay men.
In the 1999 cult hit, “Fight Club,” the film exemplifies some common stereotypes about men.
The Narrator is presented as a normal boring man who lives out his aggression and angst through his alter-ego, Tyler Durdan. In one scene in the film, Durdan tells the Narrator, “we’re a generation of men raised by women.”
His statement offers an explanation as to why men don’t do “manly” things, and have so much built up emotion–and how this is negative.
Although the men in our generation may raised by women in single-parent households, the socialization and definition of being a man, is predominantly based off of not being a woman.
Men are constantly told to, “man up,” “don’t be a pussy,” and “boys don’t cry.”
Men are seen as the “natural” leaders in our culture. We see extroverts as the exemplary leaders, as pointed out in the 2012 book by non-fiction by Susan Cain.
Men are supposed to be assertive, charismatic, hard-working and knowledgeable–all characteristics of extroverts. If they are socialized and expected to be extroverts and therefore, natural leaders and the insults against men are feminine characters–where does this leave women? Where does this leave men who don’t fit or refuse to to conform to this model?
Who really benefits from this when the product of these frames and expectations have resulted in a culture split and conflicted on gender?
The solution to fix the current problems facing men, is to fix the problems affecting women.
If women are seen as equally capable people, who are important, intelligent, strong, independent, capable and sexual–men and women will stop seeing women as an insult.
Societies are naturally formed by created the “out group,” and socializing people. It’s kind of our thing.
We place people into boxes because of the heuristics systems in our brains.
However, we can choose what boxes we use.
In our society, most of the boxes are old and broken.
Maybe it’s time we clean house.