A Media Literacy Series
Unplugged is a blog series by the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault that critically observes, analyzes, and deconstructs various forms of media through the lens of our media literacy prevention strategy. It is important to note that everyone interprets and consumes media differently and our analyses are just one examination of many.
“Be a man!” “MAN UP!!” “GROW A PAIR!!!”
Vague and dangerous messages like these have forced young men and boys into a rigid and limiting identity. In 2015, The Representation Project released a follow-up film to their award-winning documentary Miss Representation, which examines the representation of women in the media. Their latest film, The Mask You Live In, focuses on the portrayal of men and masculinity in our media and a call to action to redefine traditional masculinity. Deconstructing – or breaking down – toxic masculinity is a powerful part of ending power-based personal violence. To be clear, masculinity itself isn’t bad, but dominant traditions and expectations placed on men and boys have made it hard for them to express a range of emotions and have meaningful relationships with other men, women, and children.
The good news? We’re starting to see a real shift in how men and boys are portrayed on film, TV, and in real life.
For example, we’ve witnessed a positive turn-around from the stereotypical image of a clueless, incompetent spouse/father who is unable to take care of himself or his children. This depiction of a father has been used over and over in our media.
- Dove Men+Care released a commercial that highlighted the importance of men expressing compassion and care for their families and children.
- The Flash, which airs on The CW, portrays a superhero who embraces empathy and openness with his emotions.
- Many men in the public eye have spoken up about embracing gender equity and redefining masculinity, such as Aziz Ansari, Matt McGorry, Channing Tatum, John Legend, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, to name a few.
- This year, Huggies broadcasted a commercial for Father’s Day showcasing dads caring for their infant babies.
When we have more diverse representations of masculinity in our media, it creates broader models of masculinity and what “Be a man!” can mean. We can strive to support representations of individuals who embrace positive, non-violent traits across the spectrum of masculinity and femininity, and perhaps ultimately create a world where traits and behaviors are not gendered at all! Wider representation can promote acceptance and celebration of a variety of characteristics outside of limiting societal norms.
Let’s work together to push back against limiting narratives and support a more inclusive range of representation.