Time to Take Off the Mask
Last week I was lucky enough to attend the South Australian premiere of “The Mask You Live In”, a film by Jennifer Siebel Newsom.
“The Mask You Live In” is a documentary that focusses on boys and young men as they struggle to find their identities among our society’s definition of masculinity. The film addresses some important questions and highlights some scary statistics from the USA, many of which I fear closely represent our own statistics in Australia and those in many other countries.
Many times, in previous posts, I’ve raised a lot of the same points. Nearly all of our violent crimes are committed by men, our boys are significantly more likely than girls to have learning issues, boys drop out of school at a much higher rate than girls, the highest number of suicides in our country is by young men… the list goes on. Unfortunately this documentary didn’t have a magic bag full of solutions.
What the film did do, was highlight the conversation. Jennifer Siebel Newsom has captured some extremely powerful stories to narrate this problem. This movie will go a long way to bringing the discussion out of the shadows and into the mainstream.
It’s a discussion that needs to happen. Last night in Adelaide a service was held to remember those that have lost their lives to domestic violence. It is a horrendous realisation that we even need an event like this. But we do, with an average of 2 women a week killed by their current or former partner in Australia this year. Horrifying. It’s easy to see this as someone else’s problem, but realistically and statistically any of our sons can become these men.
“The Mask You Live In” goes a long way to clearing up how we got here. The cultural pressure we put on our boys to ‘man up’ is intense. It’s everywhere. In our sports teams, music, TV, movies… the message says “be tough”… “don’t be a sook”. Most men have at some time either said or have been told to “toughen up”. It has to stop.
This week has given us a strong example of how our society not only promotes an image of ‘toughness’ but also accepts violence against others. Most of our Facebook newsfeeds have been over run by promotions and news stories about the recent Mayweather vs Pacquiao boxing match. I’m not jumping into a debate over the merits of boxing as a sport, but with celebrities lining the front row at the bout, its hard for young boys (or even we men) to ignore the fact that this manly boxing thing draws out the cool people. My big problem here is that one of the contenders, Mayweather, is a convicted wife beater. A witness statement written by his young son has been making the rounds and it is gut wrenching to read. Even with this knowledge, someone (or many people) somewhere has given this guy a chance to earn a share of $300 million (yes million) by beating someone. Not only that, but we have gone out in droves to watch and participate in the hype. In my opinion, we were focussing on the wrong hype. Domestic violence accepted and rewarded. Not good enough.
I don’t know what the answer is (still), but I’m glad the conversation is happening.