Violent masculinity, also known as toxic masculinity, has been the topic of vigorous debate in recent years. It is generally considered a negative trait that is associated with many incidents of harm. The film Tough Guise offers insights on the topic of violent masculinity, its origin, and its consequences. Early on, Jackson Katz states that “violence has been gendered masculine” (Tough guise, n.d.). What he means by this statement is that brutal incidents are viewed differently depending on the gender of the perpetrator. People tend to see male criminals as worse people than their female counterparts, regardless of the circumstances or the severity of the incident.
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Katz then makes the point that violent masculinity is not an innate trait that people possess. According to Tough Guise (n.d.), it is a performance that demonstrates cultural norms and beliefs. The meaning of that statement is that masculinity is a pretense that men keep up to conform to specific expectations. Men have traditionally been represented as strong and individualistic people who do not have the feelings of women or the associated weaknesses. This stereotype does not match the reality, and the pressure to be an idealized figure forces men to put on an act, sometimes unconsciously.
The perfect picture of an invulnerable male shows him as someone who does not have to struggle with negative emotions. While he may feel momentarily sad or frustrated by tragic events in his life, the ideal male immediately reaches a resolution and moves on. Such a stereotype may transform into contempt or a dismissive attitude toward the pain of others who are unable to do the same. This second category represents vulnerable people who are unable to do well on their own. Not dismissing pain, both physical and mental, or expressing one’s emotions through overt displays are seen as a sign of weakness.
The diversification of the cultural perception of masculinity is often seen as an essential move to combat its violent manifestations. The reason is that men tend to feel forced into the role because there is a lack of alternatives. Not every man has a father figure nearby that he or she can imitate and view as an ideal. As such, he is going to learn from popular culture, and an increased assortment of options would mean that the person may follow his disinclination to violence if he so wishes.
The film mentions that violent masculinity is not a phenomenon that is limited to white American people and pervades many different cultures. Tough Guise (n.d.) shows examples such as poor black people being inspired by films about the Italian mafia and inspiring white people in turn. The idea of masculinity comes from universal concepts such as militarism and can take root in any culture, which is the cause of humanity’s overwhelmingly patriarchal history. As such, the efforts to eradicate the phenomenon should also be conducted while taking cultural sensitivity and differences into consideration and offering all ethnicities recognition and help.
Males in society can attempt to become “better men” by trying to establish a deeper connection with their emotions and taking others into consideration. The change would help them better understand and stop unconsciously oppressing themselves and others. At the same time, they should reinforce their positive male traits, which can involve retaining their assertiveness or other potentially problematic qualities. This effort is challenging, as self-introspection is not easy, but women can help men by offering them a different perspective and letting them know which areas require improvements.
Tough guise [Video file]. (n.d.). Web.