20 January 2016 | drohucimup
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What does it mean to be a man, exactly? Why shouldn't boys cry? Why can't fathers share their emotions? Why are men allowed to communicate their anger towards others but not their love for their friends? Why are young men taught to view women as sexual conquests instead of people or friends?
Questions such as these lie at the heart of this documentary, which argues that our society's definition of masculinity is deeply flawed. This is done through a wide array of interviews and case studies. Though the film is clearly informed by feminist theory and an academic foundation, the case studies put a face on concepts and humanizes the ideas found in textbooks. It is an accessible and clear introduction to the fact that feminists care deeply about men's issues. I would strongly discourage people from avoiding the film simply because of this theoretical orientation, however.
I was able to easily relate to the narratives and case studies presented in the film. The process of socialization for boys is something I experienced first hand, and the film organizes things in an insightful and cogent way. Similarly, it does an excellent job of capturing when things begin to go off the rails. For instance, one of the experts that is interviewed notes that kindergarten boys are eager to talk and participate, while by sixth grade boys had become increasingly reticent. This reticence is, partly, because of an avoidance of being nerdy (weak, effeminate) in favor of projecting a tough "I don't care, none of this effects me" attitude. Example upon example is piled on to create a compelling diagnosis of a problem.
The primary issue of the film, or perhaps an area for future discussion or analysis, is that it does not explicitly broach how masculinity overlaps with race and class. It is portrayed, but not explicitly explored. There is some mention of how sexuality and masculinity are intrinsically connected, but those other axis of oppression are largely ignored. As a result the concept of masculinity used in this film might seem overgeneralized to viewers. Fortunately, the film wisely sticks to the most universal threads such as aggression, dominance, and control.
Just a final note: If you have read this film as attempting to demonize "maleness," you've missed the point. It's about the performance of manhood, which is a matter of gender, not sex. Gender is highly malleable and varies across cultures in a variety of ways, and this movie highlights the possibility for change towards a more open and loving form of masculinity in the future. That is a fantastic message and I would encourage any men who find themselves feeling defensive or threatened by the contents of this film to really question why they feel that way. There is an enormous opportunity for self- introspection and growth in this film.