The two documentaries we watched for this week Dreamworlds 3 and Tough Guise 2 showed a clear connection between the way the media promotes and defines gender and the normalization of these scripted roles in society. Both videos compiled images that when observed in context don’t even make us flinch anymore, but when compiled together and observed without the backdrop of music videos become a terrifying testament to the callousness and disrespect our society cultures.
I first watched Tough Guise 2 and was struck by the importance of the linguistics of ideology in shaping our perception of masculinity and masculine credibility. We label assault as “violence against women” which only acknowledges the pain of the victim, but not necessarily the guilt of the (often male) perpetrator. We tell “boys to be boys” and expect them to get a little too aggressive or carried away with their play. We have told men that they aren’t “real men” unless they can prove their masculinity through violent thoughts, words, and actions.And through all of this, we acknowledge that this behavior is “learned” but never talk about it being taught. One of my favorite scenes of the documentary was the scene from Gran Torino where Clint Eastwood teaches the boy “how to talk like a man.” How true that when men get together they feel the need to be overly aggressive and degrading in their speech, and while much of this is a socially constructed ritual, the connection between such poisonous thoughts and words to actions is undeniable. Another aspect of the masculine identity in America that struck me as entirely absurd (aside from the words “economic girlyman”) was the idea of the “wussification of America.” What does that even mean? After a few quick google searches I discovered that Fox News considered yoga in schools and fines for poor sportsmanship to be completely undermining the core values of what it means to be a man (link below). My personal favorite is offering yoga in school systems, because in a world riddled by ADD, who would want their child to learn healthy techniques to manage stress and maintain concentration?
I also found an interesting Woman’s Day article about raising a “good man” the most interesting portion spoke about the “Father Factor” which essentially said that boys learn how to be a man from the male influences in their life, which is fairly intuitive. The three most important things a Dad can do according to this article are 1. Be There, 2.Treat Women Well, and 3. Get Physical. This immediately brought me back to the Adams and Coltrane article from last week Boys and Men in Families where we learned that many men are having a hard time reconciling traditional ideals of masculinity with the demands of a 21st century family and how many children grow up without a positive male influence. This only perpetuates the cycle of scripted masculinity and violence through media images and gender norms. Boys who do not see a real-life man in their life will have to measure up to unrealistic ideals which promote aggression and stoicism.
The second documentary Dreamworlds 3 focused on the portrayal of male and female genders and bodies in the music industry. While none of the classic camera shots used to fragments and objectify women were new to me, the evolution of woman artists throughout their careers and the representations of marginalized races in reaction to their societally emasculated roles.One example that really spoke to me was the evolution of Mariah Carey in the early 90’s singing songs like Vision of Love to her as a hypersexualized singer operating fully within the pornographic confines of the music industry. The best example of this transformation comes in the song Obsessed where Mimi mocks Eminem by making light of a classic case of stalking. While goading the listener with lines like “got you all fired up, with your Napoleon complex” Mariah makes it clear in the video that while the stalking is not explicitly desired, her sexual prowess and desirability cast a spell over men which almost excuses their creepy behavior, since they obviously can’t help themselves. This unfortunate transformation is just one example of female artists having to trivialize and hypersexualize themselves and their music in order to reach their consumer base. This portrayal of women perpetuates an environment in which gang assaults on women and domestic violence become normal, as is visible in the Puerto Rican Pride and Mardi Gras assault videos.