January 13 2014

Hoff Sommers: Masculinity Is More than a Mask

Charlotte Hays

A new film by a feminist filmmaker portrays school shootings and mass murders as the result of an emphasis on masculinity.

The film is “The Mask You Live In” by activist Jennifer Siebel and the promotional trailer already has attracted a million views on Youtube. Christina Hoff Sommers characterizes the documentary this way:

It argues that American boys are captive to a rigid and harmful social code of masculinity. From the earliest age, they are told to “Be a Man!” “Don’t Cry!” “Stop with the emotion!” and “Man up!” This “guy code” suppresses their humanity, excites their drive for dominance, and renders many of them dangerous. The trailer features adolescent men describing their isolation, despair, and thoughts of suicide, artfully interspersed with terrifying images of school shooters and mass murderers.

The trailer  for filmmaker and feminist activist Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s new documentary, “The Mask You Live In,” would have us think so.

While Hoff Sommers admires Newsom for using her talent to advocate for boys, she is worried that the documentary is less concerned with helping boys than with “re-engineering their masculinity according to specifications from some out-of-date gender studies textbook.”

Since masculinity has been under attack, I urge you to read this piece, which includes suggestions on how to combat this anti-boy ideology. My favorite:

Recognize that masculinity is more than a “mask.” The title and content of the film suggest that masculinity is a cultural creation. That is only marginally true. A lot of typical boy behavior, such as rough-and-tumble play, risk-taking, and fascination with gadgets rather than dolls, appears to have a basis in biology. Researchers have found, for example, that female monkeys play with dolls much more than their brothers, who prefer toy cars and trucks. Are male monkeys captive to a “guy code?” A recent study on sex differences by researchers from the University of Turin and the University of Manchester confirms what most of us see with our eyes: with some exceptions, women tend to be more sensitive, esthetic, sentimental, intuitive, and tender-minded, while men tend to be more utilitarian, objective, unsentimental, and tough-minded. We do not yet fully understand the biological underpinnings of these universal tendencies, but that is no reason to deny they exist.

There are five suggestions, all worthy and thought-provoking in this must-read article.

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