Documentary on masculinity challenges students

21Wednesday night, Calvin’s gender equality organization showed a documentary titled “The Mask You Live In” to an audience of 100 students, faculty and alumni as one of the many events during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The documentary argues America’s narrow view of masculinity (to be tough and strong and not to be sensitive) is harmful to young boys — something that ultimately has an effect on grown men and women.

“It really exposed me to the complexity of gender issues in modern society, said  first-year student Chloe Selles, “The roots of these issues are deeper than I expected.”

The film featured men sharing their stories about how this masculine expectation has hurt them and suggested solutions to this problem, such as positive male role models who teach boys that it’s okay to share their feelings and to be sensitive and empathetic.

“I feel that this issue is important because it might help to lessen the gender gap. It’s not some sob story for men who have privilege,” said sophomore Shontavia Weatherly. “This documentary can help you see what can be done to break that privilege down.”

Many of the event’s attendees believed that this documentary, which was made by the same people who created “MisRepresentation,” provided a nuanced perspective of the ways our culture prescribes characteristics on men.

“This documentary was really powerful,” said junior Sierra Savela, leader of the Gender Equality Now organization. “As a feminist, sometimes it’s easy to ignore the issues that are happening at the other end of the spectrum. It really reminded me that the patriarchy is the real problem, not men.”

Across the board, people seem to agree this is a message that men today should be hearing.

“I think more men need to see [the movie],” said sophomore Ian Cline. “I think it’s very applicable to many cases. They need to know that they are not alone. It had a strong connection to me personally.”

The documentary was followed by a 15-minute discussion where people had an opportunity to voice what aspects of the film influenced them or changed their perceptions. Students conversed about things they found surprising. One student mentioned the surprising fact that only 22 states are mandated to have sex education.

The event seemed to have served its purpose — it raised awareness about an issue that affects us all.

“I think it is important for students to be aware that they are growing up and raising their kids in a culture where this is an issue,” said junior Anna Delph.

Contributions by Sierra Savela