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The Mask You Live In: An Analysis on the Issue of Masculinity

Updated on August 21, 2019
Rhylee Suyom profile image

Rhylee Suyom has hopped in three different worlds: the academe, the corporate, and the media. He enjoys being with nature and his family.

The Mask You Live In


The Mask You Live In: An Analysis on the Issue of Masculinity

The film depicts the cultural definition of masculinity which is significant in shaping the perception of boys and girls on the matter. The documentary was inspired by the director herself as she becomes pregnant with her son and yearns to raise a son who could have his own identity as a person and as a man without having to live through the pressures of proving himself and his masculinity. The definition of masculinity in the Western culture has something to do with the rejection of anything that is feminine as what Caroline Heldman, a political scientist points out.

Masculinity in Language

Language has been a strong manifestation of affirming masculinity. It is a common observation among boys to utter words such as “f**k” and “s**t” and other slurs to denigrate other boys or even girls just to show that they are more manly than them. Drinking and taking drugs are also adapted seemingly as somewhat a rite of passage for boys to establish their masculinity. In the film masculinity has been depicted in the context of involvement of boys in drinking, homophobia, depression, bullying, the stigmatization of male intimacy, crime, video games, pornography and campus sexual assault or even worst rape (Common Sense Media, 2015).

Masculinity in the Family

The family is the immediate source of the concept of masculinity, fathers and other male family members becomes the models of what a real man is. On the daily basis the way boys witness how their older counterpart treat women and assert their masculinity becomes also their idea of how they should be acting in society as men. One clear example of this is the expectation that boys ought to play sports. It was an anticipated event always whenever there is a sports game and people enjoy watching men battle each other on the field just to show who is better or stronger. But the greatest influence on the culture’s perception of masculinity is the media. Boys are raised to be men who must hide their natural, vulnerable and emphatic feelings. Masculinity is never showing one’s vulnerability and sensibility. Media portrays masculine men are supposed to be the stronger person, they should not cry and had to be a man. Masculinity is about disconnecting one’s self from their emotions and the only accepted emotion for them is anger. This is also often seen in the context of movies and TV series where the hero always must be the men, holding up guns and putting up a fight. When they are under stress or feeling intense emotions, they resort to drinking. To foster a sense of belonging, boys must get involved in sports or else they will be doubts on their gender (Kenigsberg, 2015).

Stereotyping Masculinity

The culture of masculinity and the way society perceive masculinity needs to be changed first. Stereotyping must be eliminated, double standards and gender biases. Women particularly mothers have the significant role in reshaping this thought. The way they nurture and raise their sons and daughters will give a better insight on masculinity. The identity of their son should be more important than what society expects from them, that emotions are integral part of their personality and boys should never be ashamed of showing their vulnerability. This could also address the issue on the suicide cases among boys. Since they cannot express their real emotions and they fear the rejection of society once they show emotions and feelings boys direct their pent-up emotions to drinking and drugs and eventually to committing suicide.


Masculinity is not bad; it is inherent to establishing self-identity. What makes it toxic or bad is the way expectations and behaviors depicting masculinity are not properly defined. It does not make a boy a real man if he abuses other people especially girls. To date the notion of masculinity is still based on athletic and physical prowess and physique, economic success and money, and sexual conquest (Heldman, 2015).

A better way to do it is to veer away from shadow masculinity, or the imbalance form of masculinity. It is not just about the physical but also the emotional strength of boys. IN order to establish true masculinity in society men should be nurtured not to dominate but to behave accordingly and be subservient to laws.


Common Sense Media. 2015. 12 November 2018 <>.

Kenigsberg, Ben. "Film Review: The Mask You Live In." Variety 6 February 2015.

The Mask You Live In. Dir. Jennifer Siebel Newsom. Perf. Caroline Heldman. 2015.

The Mask You Live In


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