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Tough Guise

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"We're going to murder those lousy Hun bastards by the bushel." "Never show weakness. Only pain that matters is the pain you inflict." "It's the roughest and toughest show on TV: the American Gladiators." "You gotta out-tough people when you get down there, its man-on-man down there." "Police say boys ages thirteen and eleven were arrested near the school carrying guns and wearing camouflage." "Two in three million American women are battered in their home every year, more than 4,000 are.." [♪ Pearl Jam: Better Man ♪] ♪ Talkin’ to herself, there’s no one else who needs to know ♪ ♪ She tells herself, oh... ♪ ♪ Memories back when she was bold and strong ♪ ♪ And waiting for the world to come along ♪ ♪ Swears she knew it, now she swears he’s gone ♪ ♪ She lies and says she’s in love with him, can’t find a better man ♪ ♪ She dreams in color, she dreams in red, can’t find a better man ♪ ♪ She lies and says she still loves him, can’t find a better man ♪ ♪ She dreams in color, she dreams in red, can’t find a better man ♪ ♪ Can’t find a better man… ♪ Oz has spoken! Who are you? Oh I -- I am the great and powerful Wizard of Oz. You’re a very bad man. Oh no, my dear, I’m a very good man. I’m just a very bad wizard. JACKSON KATZ: The climactic scene where Toto pulls back the curtain to reveal a nervous, tragic man, pretending to be the great and powerful Oz, represents more than just the classic moment in American cinematic history, rather, it also gave us a metaphor for looking at masculinity in a new way. Not as a fixed, inevitable state of being, but rather as a projection, a pose, a guise, an act, a mask that men often wear to shield our vulnerability and hide our humanity. This mask can take a lot of forms but one that’s really important to look at in our culture at the millennium is what I call the Tough Guise. The front that so many men put up that’s based on an extreme notion of masculinity that emphasizes toughness and physical strength and gaining the respect and admiration of others through violence or the implicit threat of it. Boys and young men learn early on that being a so-called "real man" means you have to take on the "tough guise," in other words you have to show the world only certain parts of yourself that the dominant culture has defined as manly. You can find out what those qualities are if you just listen to young men themselves: A real man is physical. Strong. Independent. He's powerful. Physical. Intimidating. Strong. Independent. In control. Rugged. Scares people. Powerful. Respected. Hard. A stud. Athletic. He's muscular. A real man is tough. Tough. Tough. KATZ: And just as most young men know what our culture expects of a so-called "real man," they also know very well what you get called if you don’t measure up: You get called a pussy. A bitch. A fag. Queer. Soft. You're a little momma's boy. Emotional. Girly. A wimp. Bitch. Queer. You get called weak. Wuss. Sissy. A fag. A fag. Fag. You're a fag. KATZ: So for boys, and this is true for every racial and ethnic background, and every socioeconomic group, to be a real man – to be tough, strong, independent, respected – means fitting into this narrow box that defines manhood. The terms that are the opposite of that: wuss, wimp, fag, sissy are insults that are used to keep boys boxed in, so if you're a boy it's pretty clear there's a lot of pressure on you to conform, to put up the act, to be just one of the guys. So the next question is, where do boys learn this? Obviously they learn it in many different places. They learn it from their families, their community. but one of the most important places they learn it is the powerful and pervasive media system which provides a steady stream of images that define manhood as connected with dominance, power and control. This is true across all racial and ethnic groups but it’s even more pronounced for men of color because there’s so little diversity of images for them, to begin with in media culture. For example, Latino men are almost always presented either as boxers, criminals, or tough guys in the barrio, and Asian-American men are disproportionately portrayed as martial artists or violent criminals. But transcending race, what the media do is help to construct violent masculinity as a cultural norm. In other words, violence isn’t so much a deviation, as an accepted part of masculinity. We have to start examining this system and offering alternatives because one of the major consequences of all of this is that there’s been a growing connection made in our society between being a man and being violent. In fact, some of the most serious problems in contemporary American society, especially those connected with violence, can be looked at as essentially problems in contemporary American masculinity. For example, over 85% of the people who commit murder are men, and the women that do often do so as defense against men who are battering them. 90% of people who commit violent physical assault are men. 95% of serious domestic violence is perpetrated by males, and it's been estimated that 1 in 4 men will use violence against a partner in their lifetime. Over 95% of dating violence is committed by men, and very often it’s young men in their teens. Studies have found that men are responsible for between 85% and 95% of child sexual abuse whether the victim is female or male. And 99.8% of people in prison convicted of rape, are men. What this shows is that an awful lot of boys and men are inflicting an incredible level of pain and suffering, both on themselves and on others. And we know that much of the violence is cyclical, that many boys who are abused as children grow up and become perpetrators themselves. So calling attention to the way that masculinity is connected to these problems is not anti-male – it’s just being honest about what’s going on in boys’ and men’s lives. And while women have been at the forefront of change and trying to talk about these issues in the culture, it’s not just women who will benefit if men’s lives are transformed. In fact, while men commit a shameful level of violence against women in our society, statistically speaking, the major victims of men’s violence are other males. There are millions of male trauma survivors walking around today, men who were bullied as adolescents, or abused physically or sexually as children. Thousands more men and boys are murdered or assaulted every year – usually by other men. So, men have a stake in dealing with these problems and not just those of us who have been victims, but also those men who are violent, or who have taken on the tough guise, they do so also at the expense of their emotional and relational lives. Some of my friends, they just walk around like they’re better than everybody and they're tough and all that stuff. And then I’ll be alone with them, and they’ll be like the biggest babies. If they have like a problem with a girlfriend or something, they’ll be like crying and stuff, but when they’re around a lot of people they’ve got that big front, they’ve gotta be tough. KATZ: I deal with this front all the time in my own work as an anti-violence educator. I’ve worked with literally thousands of boys and men on high school, college, and professional sports teams, in the United States military, in juvenile detention centers. I’ve seen an awful lot of men and young men put on this tough guise. In many ways, they’re putting it on as a survival mechanism – they have to do it to survive in whatever peer culture they happen to be in. But putting on the tough guise comes with a cost and that is a cost in terms of damage to their psyches and their ability to be decent human beings. So it’s in everyone’s interest to examine masculinity, to pull back the curtain on the tough guy posing, and see what’s really going on underneath.

Video Details

Duration: 9 minutes and 41 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 311
Posted by: atrctech on Apr 7, 2011

Tough Guise

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