Good article from Christina Sommers at Time Magazine:
Are school shooters and mass murderers born out of an aggressive emphasis on masculinity in our society? The trailer for filmmaker and feminist activist Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s new documentary, “The Mask You Live In,” would have us think so.
The recently released trailer has attracted 1 million views on YouTube. It argues that American boys are captive to a rigid and harmful social code of masculinity. From the earliest age, they are told to “Be a Man!” “Don’t Cry!” “Stop with the emotion!” and “Man up!” This “guy code” suppresses their humanity, excites their drive for dominance, and renders many of them dangerous. The trailer features adolescent men describing their isolation, despair, and thoughts of suicide, artfully interspersed with terrifying images of school shooters and mass murderers.
I admire Newsom for using her considerable talent to advocate for boys. But I worry that she is less concerned with helping boys than with re-engineering their masculinity according to specifications from some out-of-date gender studies textbook. The trailer is suffused with “males-are-toxic” ideology but shows little appreciation for how boys’ nature can be distinctively good. “The Mask You Live In” is scheduled to be released later this year. Let’s hope there is still time for edits.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Recognize that masculinity is more than a “mask.” The title and content of the film suggest that masculinity is a cultural creation. That is only marginally true. A lot of typical boy behavior, such as rough-and-tumble play, risk-taking, and fascination with gadgets rather than dolls, appears to have a basis in biology. Researchers have found, for example, that female monkeys play with dolls much more than their brothers, who prefer toy cars and trucks. Are male monkeys captive to a “guy code?” A recent study on sex differences by researchers from the University of Turin and the University of Manchester confirms what most of us see with our eyes: with some exceptions, women tend to be more sensitive, esthetic, sentimental, intuitive, and tender-minded, while men tend to be more utilitarian, objective, unsentimental, and tough-minded. We do not yet fully understand the biological underpinnings of these universal tendencies, but that is no reason to deny they exist.