In the 1999 film, “Tough Guise”, anti-violence educator, Jackson Katz, takes viewers through the penalties of violence, media, and the crisis in masculinity. He explains masculinity as a “mask” worn by men to shield vulnerability and hide their humanity. This “mask” has taken a lot forms but the one Katz argues to be the most important is what he refers to as the “tough guise”. First I will explain Katz’s analysis and argument about the nature of “tough guise”, then the many variables and social dynamics that sustain the “tough guise” over time; next, the various psychological and sociological consequences that result from the “tough guise”; and finally, I will describe how the “tough guise” is rooted in uncritical thinking.
First, let’s take a deep look into Katz’s analysis and arguments about the nature of “tough guise”. He explains it as a “front that so many men put up that’s based on an extreme notion of masculinity that emphasizes toughness, and physical strength, and gaining the respect and admiration of others through violence with an implicit threat of it” (Katz). At an early age, males link a connection between being a “real man” and putting up a “tough guise”. Meaning, in order for a male to be looked at as “manly”, he can only show the world certain parts of himself that culture taught him as correct When Katz interviewed young men and asked them what qualities make a male a “real man”, he got answers such as independent, strong, intimidating, powerful, rugged, respected, muscular, athletic, and most common, tough. In contrast, he then asked the same boys what they would get called if they would not measure up to being a “real man”. Some Wanders 2
of their answers included: pussy, b*tch, mommy’s boy, girly, wimp, queer, sissy and most common, fag. Katz then concludes that no matter if a man is rich, poor, African American, Caucasian, or any other race, to be a “real man” is all looked at in the same way. It means to fit into a narrow box that defines manhood and to remain forced inside that box by society. Next comes the question: Where do boys learn this? Katz argues that boys learn a connection between manhood, dominance, power, and control from their family, community, and most important, the media. The media system has a giant influence on everyone because it is literally everywhere: whether you are watching television or just walking down the street and you see a giant poster. The media has made the mistake of giving the world the wrong impression of what masculinity is supposed to be. They idealize men with large muscles, big guns, and an aggressive personality by making those type of men get the most beautiful women, best jobs, nice cars, and many other things. All this is doing is making the men of our culture think that if they look and act like all the men they see in the movies, that they are going to receive all those same perks. Katz also mentions that men of different races get the idea from the media that they are below the superior white race in the world. For example, in most movies and shows, African American’s and Latino’s are shown as the criminals and it makes it seem that the African American’s and Latino’s in our world need to act that way so they can feel dominant and masculine because the white culture has stripped them of that. Another argument Katz makes is the drastic change in body types of what is considered to be a masculine body type over the last fifty years. If you compare the body types of superheroes, pro-wrestlers, and toy action figures, from the 1960’s to today’s society, you will see a dramatic difference. Researchers studied that the GI Joe’s bicep, in real life equivalence, Wanders 3
has increased from 12.2 inches to 26.8 inches from the 1960’s to 1998. Katz connects the physical size of men to taking up symbolic space; making them feel more powerful and superior. Not only has body images changed dramatically over the last 50 years, but so has...
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