Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tough Guise and Not Just a Game

In my Gender Theory class, we recently watched two really fascinating documentaries that dealt really explicitly with the construction of masculinity.

Not Just a Game (2010)

I thought this documentary was sooo interesting. My only criticism is that Dave Zirin talks a lot in the movie and that's kind of awkward unless there are images happening over his speaking parts... but it was really great. Everyone in my class really liked it. It draws some really interesting connections between sports and the construction of hyper-masculinity, politics, consumerism, social norms, and the marginalization of women and minorities. It's really interesting, and I think that even if you're not really a documentary-person (I so am, but I understand this is not a universal love) it's really enjoyable and engaging and easy to understand.

Tough Guise (2007)

I also really enjoyed this one. (I have the same criticism as in Not Just a Game, Jackson Katz is kind of awkward straight on. And this one is older so the editing is eh and it's a little 90s-cheesey, but the material is great. ) It's about how pop culture influences the construction of masculinity. Jackson Katz is a really great male advocate against domestic abuse and male violence, and he makes an interesting point in the documentary about drawing connections between high rates of violence and masculinity. When a woman commits a crime, people freak the crap out. They start writing articles about the downfall of women and what's driving women to kill and why there's this surge in female-initiated violence. However, the majority of violent crime is committed by men, but few people are asking if this might mean that violence and masculinity are connected. This is not to say that all men are violent, or that being masculine necessitates violence. On the contrary, what Katz identifies is that hyper masculinity, which is reproduced and normalized in popular culture, is often at fault for creating the social conditions that teach men that violence is okay. The section on horror movies in here I thought was fascinating. Again, my class really liked it. My professor said that she showed it in a larger (~100 person) class and did not get the same kinds of positive reviews because the first person to comment was a (white, male) student who made some really rude criticisms. But, she also said another student raised his hand and said that he was a gang member and the movie made perfect sense to him, and that he wanted to show it to his brother. So I think that's really cool. Sometimes this stuff gets through... sometimes it doesn't.

I realize that I never finished reviewing Genuine Ken, but I've given up. I watched the finale, except for the last 5 minutes (where they declared the winner, but I knew anyway since I read the comments) because Hulu pooped out and froze and I did not feel like dealing with it anymore. But I really do want to continue writing about masculinity because I think it's really interesting and easy to forget about because men kind of exist with an "invisible" gender.

And I will admit, that when I first started frequenting the women's studies shelves of bookstores in high school, whenever I glanced over and saw the "men's studies" shelves, I was totally uninterested and like, "Ew, yeah right, I bet it's a bunch of weird, sexist crap" (which some of it might be, I don't know), but I'm definitely more open to reading and learning more about the male side of gender studies. And definitely all for reading more Michael Kimmel, because he just makes sense. I think understanding and examining masculinity is important in understanding sexism and inequality and homophobia and gender issues and feminist issues. Gender's a box for everyone, man! We gotta fight the powers that be! Or like, you know, be aware of them and challenge them.

And as a bonus, here's this great youtube video about "Sexism, Strength and Dominance: Masculinity in Disney Films." I saw it awhile ago but it was one of the related videos after Tough Guise, so if you've got 7 minutes, go for it. There are some issues like... for example, some of his examples are the clear villains so they're not portrayed as good people, but at the same, there are children who idolize Disney villains (especially boys). But overall I think it brings up some interesting questions about how gender is portrayed for children.

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