This is a guest post by Luna, Women’s Center Administrative and Programs Assistant.
In case you missed it, last Monday night was the screening of The Mask You Live In, in the Mayo Auditorium. The film, produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, comes out of The Representation Project, the same organization that brought us Miss. Representation (2011).
The film explores masculinity and its toxic effects on men and boys in our society. From a young age, boy are told to “be a man” without being told what that means or entails – media, gruff parenting, friends, and countless other factors lead to a picture of masculinity that involves being big, strong, good at sports, emotionally void, and brutal or objectifying to women (especially sexually). Because men do not feel secure in their masculinity, the film asserts, they are stuck trying to “prove” it all the time in acts of arrogance, sexual ‘conquest’, athletic ability, and violence (hence the ‘mask’ mentioned in the title). Because our society feminizes emotions like compassion, close relationships with friends, and emotion in general, and boys and men do not want to be associated with the anything ‘feminine’, because it is, unfortunately, associated with weakness. In performing masculinity, men isolate themselves from the close connections with friends they previously found acceptable, comforting, and fun. Such isolation causes depression that can take turns for the worse.
After the film, we had a fantastic panel moderated by Gavin Grivna, the Assistant Director at the Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education. Featured panelists were George Darvehn Jr., student and Vice President of the Pi Eta Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. (the Pi Eta chapter hosted an event on toxic masculinity in the fall that was featured in the Daily), Chemistry Professor and Chair of Chemistry Diversity Committee and parent R. Lee Penn, and MLK Academic Advisor and author Stephanie Chrismon. The panelists gave important answers to questions about the masks we wear on a daily basis, and how to better do the work of breaking down gender stereotypes for the better.
The event was hosted by the GLBTA Programs Office and Women’s Center, both units in the Office for Equity and Diversity at the U of M, and was made possible with generous sponsorship from the University of Minnesota Libraries, The Aurora Center, TCF Bank, Queer Student Cultural Center, Minneapolis Public Schools, and Out4Good.
For anyone interested in gender, psychology, media, the social constructions of identity, and more, look for The Mask You Live In, coming out in April. You can check out the trailer for the film here, and look out for it in the UMN libraries within a couple of months!
Pictured below: The Mayo Auditorium, packed with guests. Assistant Director of the Women’s Center Uyenthi Tran Myhre and Assistant Director of the GLBTA Programs Office, Jason Jackson, leading the audience through opening guidelines.