The Mask You Live In
Jennifer Sibel Newsom (2015)
Last night Māori TV showed the Mask You Live In – a documentary about the constant social pressure boys feel to conform to an arbitrary standard of masculinity – and the deep emotional trauma caused by the experience.
Growing up in western society, the greatest fear most boys experience is that they will be found to be weak or “feminine.” The constant pressure (often via school bullying) they experience to “prove” their masculinity forces them to reject all manner of experiences that are artificially labeled as “feminine,” ie sensitivity, self reflection, emotional closeness and intimacy, etc.
The numerous psychologists, educators, coaches and youth advocates featured in the documentary all note a sudden change in boys around 15-16, causing them to suddenly abandon close friendships with other boys. It’s precisely at the point where emotional expression totally drops out of their language that drug and alcohol use, suicide and gang membership skyrockets.
In my view, the best segments of the film are of all boy’s/all men’s groups in schools and prisons that support members in exploring the deep trauma they have experienced from this immense cultural pressure to “man up.”
The film, which can’t be embedded, can be viewed for free at the Māori TV website: