Over 150 people attended the screening of The Mask You Live In on Thursday, January 28, at an event sponsored by Reimagine Masculinity and the Student Alliance for Sexual Safety.
Quinn Thereaux is the founder of Reimagine Masculinity, an education project seeking to promote healthy notions of masculinity. His goal is to expose men to the idea of socialization.
“We [men] aren’t just magically the way that we are,” said Thereaux.
His organization is working to understand and undermine patriarchal socialization, and he found that watching this short, accessible film is a good place to start.
The documentary explains how men and boys in America navigate our cultural expectations and definitions of masculinity. In the film, psychologists, sociologists, educators and athletes discuss how phrases like “be a man” and accusations of not being “man enough” are destructive and diminish men’s sense of confidence and self-worth.
Adolescent boys in the film said that they struggle with finding people to talk to because they feel they’re not supposed to ask for help. As a result, strong emotions like anger and pain are contained and leave young men feeling vulnerable and unsafe.
According to the film, boys are more likely to suffer from depression, and less than 50 percent of boys and men with mental-health challenges seek help. Feelings of isolation and loneliness drive many to contemplate suicide, with three or more boys committing suicide every day in the U.S. Boys are five times more likely to attempt suicide than girls.
The film clearly proposes a connection between the way boys are taught to be men by using violence to solve problems and earn respect, and the national epidemic of recent shootings.
The film also examines how masculinity is defined in opposition to femininity, teaching boys to disrespect women; brotherhood and loyalty to male friends are typically valued higher than relationships with women, which could facilitate men’s silence on and tolerance of crimes like rape.
“I thought it was an absolutely incredible film,” said audience member Kelsey Barnes. “I think we can focus a lot on the feminist movement and we forget that it has a lot to do with our men and our brothers and our sons and how we treat them.”
Thereaux reached out to Karli Dahl and Madi Hinze, members of SASS, asking them for collaboration assistance in bringing the film to campus.
“Part of our central beliefs is that sexual violence roots in gender norming,” said Hinze. “So obviously this film is very relevant to gender norms and how ideas of gender can affect violence and choices to be violent.”
In an attempt to offer support, solidarity and guidance, Thereaux has started a men’s group that meets downtown every other Thursday from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. He’s also promoting a series of Healthy Masculinity 101 workshops.
The screening was so popular that another screening will be scheduled soon. Check for updates on the event’s Facebook page.