Mask of masculinity

Courtesy+of+therepresentationproject.org

Courtesy of therepresentationproject.org

The struggles that boys face in attempt to meet masculine stereotypes are the focus of The Mask You Live In, a documentary created by The Representation Project, an organization that uses various visual media to gain worldwide understanding of gender stereotypes and their destructive affects.
The film depicts how young boys are pressured “to disconnect from their emotions, devalue authentic friendships, objectify and degrade women, and resolve conflicts through violence,” according to therepresentationproject.org

Courtesy of therepresentationproject.org
Courtesy of therepresentationproject.org

King Low Heywood Thomas School senior Alexander Currie, older brother of Convent of the Sacred Heart junior Lydia Currie, discussed the importance of actively showing emotions.
“Men do not vent as much as women because they feel they are supposed to be the strong ones, but personally I feel that that is changing with our generation. I vent to my friends when I am vulnerable, and they vent to me. The adult men of the world struggle to admit emotions, but I feel todays’ young males are much more comfortable with demonstrating emotion,” Alex said. “With that said, I don’t think males today are as comfortable showing their vulnerable side as women, but I do certainly feel it is getting better.”
The Representation Project released its first documentary, Miss Representation, in 2011, which analyzes how the media contributes to a low number of women in powerful positions in America, according to therepresentationproject.org. The film demonstrates how women and girls are portrayed in today’s society and social media, and the expectations they face as they age.
Miss Representation examines how “media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms. The collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader,” according to therepresentationproject.org. 
Along with a group of middle school students, Middle School English Teacher Mrs. Jennifer Rathkopf created Sacred Heart’s student-run club, Turn Beauty Inside Out (TBIO), with a motivation similar to that of The Representation Project. Using advertising, media, television, and movies such as Miss Representation, the club members explore how women and men are portrayed in society today and try to redefine beauty. 
In 2012, TBIO hosted an all-school screening of Miss Representation. Club members aim to have more all-school screenings in the future, with students from all grades.
Mrs. Rathkopf explained the problems that are caused because of the way women and men are being portrayed in media today, as discussed in Miss Representation.
“Women are often led to believe that the most important thing about them is the way they look.  Boys are told from an early age that power and control are some of the most important aspects of being a man. So, we have a generation of young women and men trying to live up to outdated and damaging ideals,” Mrs. Rathkopf said.
The Mask You Live In is directed by film maker and social justice advocate Ms. Jennifer Siebel Newsom. Ms. Newsom was the director, writer, and producer of Miss Representation, and founder of The Representation Project organization, according to indiewire.com
Ms. Newsom hopes that the messages of both documentaries will spread worldwide.
“Our ultimate goal is for everyone, regardless of gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation or circumstance, to have the opportunity to fulfill their human potential,” Ms. Newsom said, according to indiewire.com. 
Mr. Mike Stanitski, Middle School English Teacher and Coordinator of Middle School Publications, discussed the importance of moving towards equality in sports, arts, and life.
“We as a society long ago moved beyond the notion that it’s unfeminine for a girl to be devoted to athletics, but I’m not sure we’ve made the same kind of progress regarding boys who are devoted to the arts,” Mr. Stanitski said. “In high school, my main non-academic interest was theatre.  In college, my main interest was athletics, specifically, rowing. I don’t regard either of those as being more or less masculine than the other, but I’m not sure American society feels the same way.”
Currently the documentary can only be viewed through hosting or attending a local screening. According to the organization’s website, they are hoping to release it soon for public viewing.  
The film premiered in the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and has been officially selected for the 2015 San Luis Obispo, Cinequest, Sonoma, and the Women + Film Voices Film Festivals, according to therepresentationproject.org. 
“It’s nice to see the stereotypes of males being recognized, although they without a doubt, pale in comparison to those women, homosexuals, and different races face. I think that the movie sounds pretty spot on, and I would only say that I think this problem is already getting better, maybe it could just be boosted,” Alex said.
-Alexandra Dimitri, Staff Writer