The Mask You Live In.

The Mask You Live In is a documentary made in America in 2015 by The Representation Team. Although it discusses difficult situations specific to America, bullying tactics within American Football (47.18) , per se, it presents many quandaries similar to that of British culture. From the outset accounts of how men are moulded into what they need to be in order to be a man (0.08-1.21) and the recognition this leads them to crave, the acknowledgement from another man of their masculinity and how it feels when they feel like they are always short of the mark. The introduction is hard-hitting as news clippings and confession style admissions are made by numerous males highlighting the damage that is done when emotions are expected to be kept hidden and not discussed (1.21-4.20).

From the fear of being called a sissy or being seen as weak from a young age (4.38), how interviewees learned masculinity (6.38), how masculinity is associated with athletic ability (7.23), economic success (8.27), sexual conquest (9.27), and many more throughout the film, society becomes all the more obvious. Constructs have consequences. Self-medicating using alcohol is discussed, how women being viewed as objects in the media, and the dissociation of any feminine trait gives an understanding of the culture while also highlighting the dangers. Workshops are facilitated where participants are asked to write on two sides of a piece of paper. The front, over a mask shape, they are asked to write the persona they put on for the public to see. On the back they share how they really feel inside. After throwing their papers across the room as a means to staying anonymous, they are read out. The similarities are laid bare leading to some becoming overwhelmed (37.55).

Dr Lise Eliot (Neuroscientist) explains how sex is the biological term and gender is the construct (12.30) and how in reality masculinity and femininity are spectrums, they are not bipolar, they crossover. Dr Michael Thomson (Psychologist) (!3.02) states how males and females are predominantly the same. He proceeds to explain that if a psychological experiment was conducted with 50,000 girls and  50,000 boys, the results would overlap by 90%. The 10% that protrude over each of the sides are what forms the stereotypes for gender constructs. Eliot reiterates how people see the brain as a fixed state so any difference between the sexes must be ingrained as it is biological, where in reality it is malleable and changes due to experience. Therefore whatever the child, regardless of gender, spends their time practicing or being interested in, this is what they will excel in. Pediatrician Dr Nadine Burke-Harris reaffirms this by explaining how the brain works and strengthens the connections it uses and dampens down the others (13.43)

Overall this documentary may be distressing. There needs to be acknowledgement that of all the experiences told this may not be true of all masculine understanding, however, it does give food for thought.


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