Explores how our culture’s narrow definition of masculinity is harming our boys, men and society at large and unveils what we can do about it.
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.
Research shows that compared to girls, boys in the U.S. are more likely to be diagnosed with a behavior disorder, prescribed stimulant medications, fail out of school, binge drink, commit a violent crime, and/or take their own lives.
I’m here to tell you, if you have not seen this film, you need to make a date with Netflix stat. If you have sons, it will change the way you parent. If you don’t have sons, it will change the way you think about and interact with the boys and men in your life, whether it’s your nephew, the teenager down the street, or your husband.
Be warned though, this film will give you all the feels. All of them. Not only was I sobbing or on the verge of tears for the entire 90 minutes, I also couldn’t stop thinking about the film for days and weeks afterward.
As its website states, The Mask You Live In follows boys and young men as they struggle to live an authentic life while navigating America’s narrow definition of masculinity. The film interviews parents, boys, teens, youth advocates, teachers, mentors, coaches, and men in the prison system to assess the damage caused by our harmful social constructs of masculinity and what it means to be a man in our society.
I couldn’t possibly summarize the entire movie for you in a thousand words, but much of the film focuses on dissecting the way we tell our boys that “being a man” means shunning everything that could possibly be seen as feminine (sensitivity, emotions, connection, and softness) because these aren’t just feminine characteristics, but human characteristics. By telling our sons to ignore these characteristics, we are depriving them of an essential piece of their nature while, at the same time, establishing a hierarchy over women that can contribute to issues like sexism, rape culture, and violence.
Even though the film got some lukewarm reviews for its cursory examination of complex societal problems, we need to start somewhere ASAP, and The Mask You Live In opens the dialogue on this essential topic. With violence, mass shootings, and sexual assault at epic levels, we all need to take responsibility for the ways we are perpetuating, or dismantling, a culture that breeds unhealthy hyper-masculinity.
Our sons deserve better; we deserve better.
Our little boys will one day turn into men, and even though it seems like this happens overnight, in the blink of eye, it does not. It takes years and many people to raise a boy into a man. In some ways, it takes an entire world to raise a child. Those sweet, doe-eyed little boys who sucked their thumb and slept with a blankie will one day become men with jobs and families of their own, and it’s up to us to help them be their best, most authentic self. We can either keep telling them to “man up” and push them out into the world, or we can tell them to “be you” and hold their hand along the way.
How will you make changes to build a better world? Tell us in the comments.
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