Tough Guise: Violence and Masculinity in the Media

Tough GuiseThis last week I was part of a panel for Gordon’s Faculty Film Series for the film Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity. Narrator and anti-violence educator Jackson Katz talks about the construction of masculinity through the media, particularly a masculinity where men are defined as tough, not “soft,” aggressive, etc. Here’s the summary of the film (from the study guide referenced below):

The idea that manhood or masculinity represents a fixed, inevitable, natural state of being is a myth. What a culture embraces as “masculine” can be better understood as an ideal or a standard – a projection, a pose, or a guise that boys and men often adopt to shield their vulnerability and adapt to the local values and expectations of their immediate and more abstract social environments. This projection or pose can take myriad forms, but one that’s crucial to examine is the “tough guise”: a persona based on an extreme notion of masculinity that links the credibility of males to toughness, physical strength, and the threat or use of violence.

There is a substantial study guide that goes with the film, which notes:

The central argument of Tough Guise is that violence in America is overwhelmingly a gendered phenomenon, and that any attempt to understand violence therefore requires that we understand its relationship to cultural codes and ideals of masculinity and manhood. Central to the video’s argument are the following:

» Masculinity is made, not given – as opposed to one’s biological sex;

» Media are the primary narrative and pedagogical forces of our time;

» Media images of manhood therefore play a pivotal role in making, shaping and privileging certain
cultural and personal attitudes about manhood;

» A critical examination of privileged media images of manhood reveals a widespread and disturbing equation of masculinity with pathological control and violence;

» Looking critically at constructed ideals of manhood – at how, why and in whose interests they are  constructed differently in different historical, social and cultural contexts – denaturalizes and diminishes the potential of these imagined ideals to shape our perceptions of ourselves, our world and each other.

The film was difficult to watch, not just because I have young boys, but because how masculinity is so often constructed in this society (have to be in control, must be physically overpowering, can’t cry or show emotion, etc.) causes damage to both men and women.

There’s quite a bit to digest in the study guide, which could be beneficial even without the movie. You can watch the whole film here. More about it is here.

Apocalyptic Dialogue with my 5-Year-Old Son

flaming plane

It went like this:

Me: These Duplos have eyes all over them. It’s like a creature from Revelation.

He: What’s Revelation?

Me: It’s a book in the Bible. There are all sorts of creatures in it. Dragons, too. It will be a great book for you to read sometime, maybe when you are older.

He: Why?

Me: It’s a little bit scary.

He: Is there a movie?

Well, yes, son, there is a movie. Quite a lot of them, in fact. But we’ll start with the book first.

He’s started on chapter books with us, though, so we’ve been able to begin tackling some fun stories, like this. Revelation, perhaps, later.

Traveling Mercies

K-J tree table
Thing 1 and Thing 2

The first thing I noticed when we got to my parents’ new home in South Carolina was the smell of the pines. The boys spent time outside there almost every day these last two weeks–the “cold” days there were high 40s, low 50s. It was truly good to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s with beloved and loving family. I thought I’d miss “our” beach, but the woods made a fine substitute.

(Of course, as I watch the sun rise over the water and type back at home, I’m grateful for the living room ocean view.)

One cause for prayer before traveling to see family is traveling logistics. How will the kids do on the plane? In the car on the way to the airport? Will they skip naps due to travel, and will this mean utter mayhem later?

But on the way home yesterday, on the plane, this happened:

K-Js sleeping on plane
Thing 3 sleeps on Thing 2, who sleeps on me

Great logistics, great trip. I’m thankful for my family, and so glad we K-Js got to be with them these last two weeks.

Details on upcoming Honest Toddler book, due out in May

(Alex Motrenko/Thinkstock, via The Globe and Mail)

Honest Toddler has just announced a few details of his/her (?) upcoming book (!):

In other news, I’m writing a book (Scribner USA-Simon & Schuster imprint, HarperCollins Canada, and Orion UK); a parenting guide for those of you disappointing your toddlers on a regular basis.

You probably need it if:

  1. You’ve ever told someone you love to look with their eyes.
  2. You think Ferber is a great man. Actually, Dr. Richard Ferber is a recluse who lives in an abandoned barn. He never intended his ramblings to be published.
  3. You believe in salad even though all the research points to the contrary.
  4. You’d rather watch Game of Thrones and eat Wheat Thins than take your toddler to an indoor play center.

The book will come out in May and will be available at all the stores (real and online). It’ll cost six or seven quarters, I don’t know. If you don’t have that much money just rip out the pages that apply to you and and take them to the cash register for prorating. Don’t mention my name if you get arrested. Part of being an adult is taking responsibility for your actions.

I’ve posted plenty about HT before. So I’m excited to read this upcoming book, especially since I do believe (strongly) in salad.

The family bedtime rules

BedrailNot long ago we began instituting “the bedtime rules” for our two boys. The idea was to have a sequence of rules (steps, really) for the boys to follow once in bed that would provide consistency and direction each night. They were:

1. Put your head on your pillow.

2. Close your eyes.

3. Go to sleep.

Our 5-year-old added a couple, so now they read:

1. Put your head on your pillow.

2. Close your eyes.

3. Put your arms and your legs down.

4. Close your mouth.

5. Go to sleep.

Some nights, by the time I’m done with bedtime, I think the bedtime rules really just sound like:

1. Please stop talking.

2. Stop talking.

3. Stop talking right now.

4. Stop talking or I’m not going to sing to you anymore tonight.

5. SHHHH!!!!!

They will put themselves to sleep on their own eventually, right?

My 5-year-old son reviews Wild Kratts

My 4-year-old son is now my 5-year-old son. We thought it would be a good idea for him to review his new favorite show, Wild Kratts. Here he is:

I watched it on TV and then I noticed it on there, and it became my favorite movie to watch.

It’s about Martin and Chris, and they are the Wild Kratts. Their colors are blue and green. Chris is green; Martin is blue.

Aviva, Koki, and Jimmy are in Wild Kratts, too. Aviva makes motions, like materials to help the Wild Kratts. Koki writes stuff up and checks what’s happening around the world. Jimmy controls his controller and it gets the miniaturizer to do stuff. Like, he pushed the top level button and it just, like, gets the miniaturizer to get going.

People stand on it and turn it on, and when you turn it on, it goes shoop! and then you’re that small. One of them or the other of them or two of them [Chris and Martin] get small. When they get small they check out little creatures, like a worm. That was one of them that they did a miniaturizer for.

My favorite part about the show is seeing new animals, like: a spider, a hort-hog [AKJ: warthog, he means], and… a horse. I don’t know if they have a horse one.

The tortuga is a flying kind of turtle. They get in it and it helps them fly around. They fly to wherever the rescue needs to be. (They rescue creatures.)

It’s on at 3:30 on channel number 3, PBS Kids Go. All those kids movies are called PBS Kids Go.

My brother likes it. He really sings it a lot. Now I think he really likes that one.