A few years ago, I mentored a group of teen girls at a small, alternative high school. The whole point of the group was just to give these young women a safe space to talk, express themselves, and feel heard and validated. I will never forget how eager the girls were to let their emotions out. I will also never forget all the boys that would linger around the doorway of our little classroom, making jokes and craning necks to get a peek at what was happening inside. They were so transparent, in that unique way that teenagers are, in their desire for the same thing — an opportunity to let their guards down and open up.
By the time my mentoring program was over, I felt good about the help we’d given the girls, but I was left with a terrible feeling: what about the boys? Not only did they not have a similar group to express themselves within their school, the rules of “being a man” prohibited them from opening up in any area of their lives. I’d heard it from my boyfriend, brothers, father, friends: our society’s construct of masculinity is stifling. Young men — all men — deserve better.
In 2014, the brilliant folks behind Miss Representation are coming out with a documentary that explores the topic of masculinity in America, called “The Mask You Live In.” Check out the trailer above, which includes observations from sociologists and candid discussions with young men. They all agree on one thing: the current definition of masculinity hurts everyone. Hopefully this movie sparks a cultural conversation about manhood that is long, long overdue. I can’t wait to see it. [YouTube]