‘The Mask You Live In’ Does For Boys What ‘Miss Representation’ Did For Girls

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 2.59.28 PM“The three most destructive words that every man receives when he’s a boy is when he’s told to ‘be a man.’” So starts the trailer for the new project by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the mind behind the film Miss Representation. The Mask You Live In speaks to what gender stereotypes are doing to impact American children and teenagers. This time she focuses on “injustices created by gender stereotypes” and how they affect boys. 

This is such important work. I already think constantly about the messages I send my son. People seem to flow so easily into saying things like look at that big, strong boy! or that doesn’t hurt does it?  You’re such a strong little man! I hate that. I don’t want him to grow up thinking he needs to project some macho exterior all time, just as I don’t want my daughter to grow up trying to fulfill some equally frustrating gender stereotype. How do we rescue our kids from these outcomes? Films like this provide conversation starters – they are catalysts for change.

The Representation Project is doing some very important work:

The Representation Project is a movement that uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people’s consciousness towards change. Interactive campaigns, strategic partnerships and education initiatives inspire individuals and communities to challenge the status quo and ultimately transform culture so everyone, regardless of gender, race, class, age, or circumstance can fulfill their potential.

Dr. Michael Kimmel says at the start of the trailer, “We’ve constructed an idea of masculinity in the United States that doesn’t give young boys a way to feel secure in their masculinity – so we make them go prove it all the time.” How do we support our young men? How do we teach them to turn their backs on stereotypes that aren’t doing anyone any good – but still have a firm hold on our culture? Watching this film is a good start, as is supporting The Representation Project.

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  • Kay_Sue

    As a mom of two boys, this really hits home. Thanks for sharing.

  • Leah

    I think we are all guilty of focusing a lot on girls and not enough on boys. We talk a lot a bout empowering girls but we don’t talk as much about boys and things like what they need, abuse, violence, etc.

  • http://carrie-murphy.com/ Carrie Murphy

    I actually have a weird thing about calling boys or boy babies “little man.” Like, would you call a little baby girl a “little woman?” No, you wouldn’t Because that’s creepy, and she’s not a woman, she’s a girl. A boy is not a little man. He’s a boy.

    • jane

      I get what you’re saying, but people call girls “little lady” all the time.

    • http://carrie-murphy.com/ Carrie Murphy

      True, but I feel like “lady” has a different connotation than woman. Like, does “lady” have a male equivalent? I don’t know.

    • Elisa Probert

      Dude. I hear a lot of little boys being called “Little dude”

    • brebay

      Thank you so much. I have always hated “little man” and no one can ever understand why. I also hate it when people tell a boy whose dad has dies or moves out that he’s now the “man of the house.” Congratulations kid, you just lost a dad, for on encore, there goes your childhood! A couple dolts told my son this when I got divorced. I told him “No, you still get to be the kid of the house. This house doesn’t have a man in it at the moment, and your dad’s new place doesn’t have a woman in it, and both houses will do just fine, and you still get to be a kid in both of them.”

    • Alicia Kiner

      I used to call my son little man because he’s always trying to be like daddy. It started when he was a toddler, and we gradually stopped.

  • brebay

    Finally! Woot for boys!!

  • SarahJesness

    I like it. This is a kind of sexism that often gets overlooked, it’s nice to have people trying to spread the word without downplaying or ignoring the sexism that women and girls deal with. Can’t we acknowledge that both groups have problems, and know that acknowledging one isn’t automatically ignoring the other? I look forward to this film.

  • Moony

    People constantly focus on girls when it comes to sexism, which I hate. Because the fact of the matter is that, during childhood, girls are given far more liberties than boys. Girls can like pink or blue, they can have long or short hair, they can love barbie as well as hot wheels, they can dress up as princesses or batman etc. – boys only get one side of all that. Anything more and they’re told they’re not “real boys”, an are shamed and humiliated as a result. Femininity is never going to be on par with masculinity until femininity is considered OK for both sexes.

    Stop the sexism. Let’s make everything OK for everyone.