Tag Archives: social media

The Representation Project

As I continued my quest to find masculinity presented within the framework of social justice on the internet, I came across The Representation Project. For those of you who are familiar with the documentary “Miss Representation” and the upcoming documentary about masculinity called “The Mask You Live In”, it is a campaign by the very same people. It was really cool to me after watching the video (posted below), because the organization is attempting to break down the traditional definitions of gender established by society. As seen in the video, they are trying to teach men that power is not about having domination over others (namely women), but instead is to be used as a force for justice, equality, and fairness. This is a great message if we can get our men to buy into it. The problem is, how many men are truly ready to give up power, and by power I mean domination? Indeed, as the video shows, the youth of America are fed these extremely limiting narratives on what it means to be a “man” or “woman” in society. If they do not conform to what the media shows what they should be, they are often outcast by their peers. All of this, of course, does not even take into account intersectionalities such as race, sexual identity, ethnicity, etc., so that makes these narratives presented by the media even more limiting.

If you go to the organization’s website listed below, you can find out more of what they are all about. The whole movement is to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shifts people’s consciousness towards change. They have really cool link on there where you can take a pledge to challenge society’s limiting and skewed views on gender (already 100,000 strong!). I just thought all of this should be shared because it is something we can use to show to our students. In doing so, hopefully it can help redefine what gender means to him or her. Videos the organization releases can be important teaching tools we can use at student conferences, organization meetings, university seminar classes, etc. to help students critically think about challenging gender roles created by society.

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Hegemonic Masculinity in TV Commercials

One aspect of the media that has plagued men since they were born are television advertisements. These advertisements frame how a man should act and look. In the examples in the clip below, one can find what men are supposed to look like (strong, ripped, muscular, and tan), what they should desire (“exotic” women), and how they should be the saviors to all of the poor, helpless women.

One aspect of masculinity that I believe is often looked over is male body image. The media often associated body image with women, but when men see commercials like these, there is no doubt that many of them feel as though they should live up to this image. To be sure, I once bought into these ads. I mean, just look at how muscular and physique they are, attracting all of the women! Well that’s what they media shows us, anyways. So I was determined to work out as much as possible in order to have a ripped body like these guys. No matter how hard I tried (many times to the point of extreme exhaustion), I never quite achieved this image, and it was really tough on me. To put this in perspective, if images such as these are constantly shown across various forms of media to young men growing up, they already know what a “real” man should look like. At least if they want to attract the ladies. On a slight tangent going off of this point, all of these commercials take a heteronormative point of view and assume that every male identifies as heterosexual and are only attracted to women. How must this feel to young men struggling with their sexual identity, when they may not be attracted to women, yet are shown by the media that women are who they are supposed to be attracted to?

It is important to help our students understand that they do not have to live up to the image portrayed by the media to be accepted by others. In reality, 99% of people do not look like this anyways. There will surely be times where men consistently feel like they can not live up to these images portrayed by the media, and it is here where we must help them. Do not get me wrong, I am a huge advocate of fitness and healthy living, but not to the point where it is detrimental. So if we come across these students, it is possible we could help connect them with groups that emphasize fitness in a healthy, fun way such as intramural sports, fitness clubs, etc. There, they could meet others who could hopefully be a support/friend base system for them, as well as help debunk myths that all men should look how the media says they should. We just have to be aware that men have been exposed to these images their whole life, so many may be experiencing negative feelings because of this in regard to body image. Many man simply do not have the physical build to look like these men, no matter how hard they work out. I am a prime example of this, as I am not extremely tall for a man, nor do I have a huge body frame. I had to have people help me understand and accept who I am, and that if I wanted to work out that it was fine, but was also told not to overly obsess with it so that it consumed my life. Our college men need people like this in their lives, in order to help debunk these myths and help them be comfortable in their own skin.

A Perusal of Social Media

As I casually peruse my social media accounts, I realize that I can never go a day without seeing blatant messages on how “real men” are expected to act and how they are supposed to treat females. Posted below are three images I screenshot while on my twitter account. Surprisingly, I did not even have to search for these; they were all posted by someone I follow (maybe I need to reexamine who I follow).

Let’s start with the first image eliciting a “joke” on how only men know and determine how a woman can act. This teaches our men and boys from a young age that women are inferior. They are lesser. The message is sent that we, as men, determine how they should act and what they should and should not do. They are subservient and we control them. At least that’s what message is sent to practically every young man in America. The thing about the very skewed image of manhood portrayed by society is that it helps to perpetuate the oppression of women. How can we ever expect to break this cycle if the media holds that women should be submissive to men and that we are inherently more intelligent? From a man’s point of view, we are taught that women are ours to do with what we want. They are an object to be conquered. This first image definitely perpetuates that thought.

Okay, on to the second image. Again, it is showing how men “should” treat women and show them off as an object. Indeed, this image shows men that women are objects, conquered territory, meant to be showed off. Not only that, but according to this image, women actually want to be showed off. So what does this mean, then? First, as mentioned, women are objectified in male culture and are meant to be conquered and showed off. Second, male culture actually makes women want to be showed off by their man. In fact, I got this picture off of a female’s account that I follow from my undergrad, so it shows that many women actually want this and help to perpetuate the objectification unintentionally.

With the final image, does much even need to be said? It is blatantly showing the man as the breadwinner and professional, while the woman is expected to learn cooking skills to please her man and wear nice dresses to impress him. I’m pretty sure everything about this is wrong and it actually disgusts me. It also denies both women and men the expression of their personal identity and individualism by telling them what not to wear. Again, the traditional world men live expect them to get a good job, be a professional, provide for a wife (which assumes that every male identifies as) heterosexual, and be dominating over women. By showing an image saying that women should learn how to cook and get dolled up for their man, it basically shows that women are not capable of doing a “man’s” job and that their place is in the home, at the service of the man.

To put this in my own perspective, I definitely grew up hearing things like this all the time in school and with my friends. Women were very objectified and we were expected to “man up” in order to provide for them and win them over. From a young age, this taught me what I thought I was supposed to do as a man. I basically saw almost every man and woman around me buy into these stereotypes. If the male culture holds that women are meant to be objects and be at the service of men at all times, what hope does this give young girls for the future? It shows them from an early age that they exist to please men and that the best thing they can hope for is a good husband that they live to serve. As student affairs professionals, we must help to get women into roles of power, especially ones that break gender stereotypes. We do not necessarily want to deny a qualified male a position of leadership in a student organization, but we want to make sure we recruit women to our organizations and encourage them to run for offices within them. For men, a thing that would be helpful would be going on “All-Male” retreats, where we redefine what it means to be a “real man”. We must reeducate these young men to show them that women do not exist for their sexual conquest and service, and instead that women are just as capable (if not more capable) as men with almost everything in life. Breaking down gender stereotypes and having “real” conversations with students about gender are essential to our service to students.

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