Gun Violence, Masculinity, and the Body

By Emma Weisberg

            Both Tough Guise 2 and Dreamworlds 3 were incredibly sickening to watch.  Perhaps it was because I viewed them back-to-back, but I really did feel this sense of pain and horror as I learned how men and women—even from very young ages—are socialized to behave.

It was especially horrifying to watch the segments on gun violence.  Since this past October, there have been three suicides in my hometown: two of them were less than two weeks apart, and one was just last week.  Tough Guise 2 really captured a lot of the issues that I’ve been dealing with since then, especially how these stories have been covered in the news.  When the first girl went missing in October—I knew her sister, so I was seeing alerts all over Facebook—and then when she had been found, I noticed that almost all of these messages included the fact that she was dealing with depression and bulimia.  And I couldn’t help but wonder, if she were a teenage boy, would the alert be so open about her mental illnesses?  After the two girls passed in October, there was a strong movement to do something to help all those who were grieving.  There’s a wonderful new campaign called “Get Real 617” determined to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness.  Some of my friends still in high school also arranged a body confidence day in January.  While I’m so incredibly proud of what they’ve done so far, I really wish there was a day about masculinity.  Currently, there is a annual program about bullying, but it never goes far enough with the analysis to explain why bullying happens and how it can affect the survivors (I don’t want to say “victims”).  Just as Kimmel wrote in Guyland, there is a palpable guy code that is making men feel stuck and voiceless.

I also liked how at the end of the coverage of gun violence Tough Guise, Jackson Katz talks about how suicide is an act of “inward violence.”  It’s a physical act of pain and hurt that a person takes against him or herself.  And while he/she is not literally hurting his/her peers, emotionally he/she is.  This act of violence still affects his/her friends, family, and even students who may not know him/her but still are impacted.

Speaking more towards body confidence—or the lack thereof that most, if not all, women feel when watching music videos—Dreamworlds 3 discusses how women’s bodies and sexuality are constantly being controlled by men and the male gaze.  I honestly felt sick to my stomach as I watched this hour long string of vivid and sexually degrading images of women bounce across the screen.  It all was so monotonous to me, so I especially liked when the narrator mentioned storytelling.  He posed the question, “Whose story is being told?” followed up by a number of questions including, “Whose fantasies are these?” These questions resonated with me, as I realized all of these music videos were by men and for men.  That thought completely disgusted me, to know that women were ultimately just accessories for male pleasure.  However, the narrator goes on to say that there are not enough differing stories about sexuality, which got me thinking: while there are many issues with the television show, “Girls,” I still can’t get over Lena Dunham’s strength as a narrator.  She imagined a show by a woman and especially for women, which is not to say that men don’t enjoy “Girls.” She wanted to put herself onscreen naked, something that should not have been that groundbreaking, but it was to so many people.  There were so many discussions online, in press, and so on about how Lena was not “traditionally sized”—meaning she was not a size 0 or 2 or whatever we’re down to now—she looked like a real, non-Hollywood woman.  So I applaud her for raising her head up high, not giving a care in the world if some random viewer called her “fat.”  She wanted to tell her own story, and that’s what she’s doing.

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