Violence Against Women and Family Movies

Brittany Juliano

I was surprised to see Jackson Katz when Tough Guise 2 started. I immediately recognized him from his TEDx talk where he discusses violence against women. He insists that while this is certainly a women’s issue, it is primarily a men’s issue because the problem lies in men of our culture. Several of the points he makes throughout the film echo in his TEDx presentation and I encourage all of you to follow up the film with this discussion of violence against women. The film does a fantastic job of presenting men’s issues of masculinity, but this separate discussion elaborates on the consequences of violent masculinity for women.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTvSfeCRxe8

Because I recognized several of the messages Tough Guise 2 discusses, I felt like an informed viewer until I realized many of the movies shown as examples are ones the I personally love. Films like Taken, Die Hard or The Godfather are amazing films that I had never taken the time to question. I will still love classic gangster and action films, but it is useful to see them in the way that Tough Guise 2 portrays them. It is interesting to see how each of these films uses extreme violence and law-breaking to create an anti-hero that we all root for. The audience is encouraged to valorize these forceful tactics and thereby encourage this identity of masculinity. Boys grow up with these role models to look at, role models who show that aggression and sheer force is the most effective way to gain power and exert your will.

Growing up in an Italian family with lots of boys, these type of movies are family favorites and films like The Godfather are considered staples of our movie collection. Over winter vacation, my family sat down to watch Jack Reacher, yet another action film featuring Tom Cruise. During one particularly gruesome scene where a villain is getting his head bashed in, my mom chastised me, “Brittany, how can you watch this?!” She was referring to the fact that during this scene I had not turned away in disgust, but continued to watch as normal. My gut reaction to this was to point out that my dad and brothers had also continued to watch the scene, to which she had no response. What she could not express was that she opposed a girl witnessing and being influenced by such violence. The guys, on the other hand, were expected to handle such violent behavior in a naturalized way. This anecdote has stuck with me because it clearly shows how violence is associated with men specifically where women are expected to fear that masculine aggression.

In Dreamworlds 3, the parallel images of women in music videos and women being assaulted on the streets of NYC shocked me the most. When I see girls getting slapped or drinks poured on them by male artists in music videos my first reaction is always, “yeah, because they must enjoy that” (in the most sarcastic way possible). It is so strange that the women appear to enjoy it when their butts are repeated grabbed, slapped and used as an inanimate play toy, even more so when they have things dumped on them. What surprised me about the movie was the comparison between this fantasy world within music videos and the reality of men’s actions. It seems that the videos, where abuse against women is highly prevalent, justify real-life men’s behaviors. The scenes from New York City depict disturbingly similar images of women being slapped and drenched by the mob of men around them. The mistake here is that these men feel justified in their actions because the model for them is clearly presented in the videos marketed towards that demographic. The entertainment industry, not just music videos, markets songs, movies and the like towards men by exerting masculine power at the expense of women and the result is a very real phenomenon of men attempting to prove that same masculinity.

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