Michal: Hey this is Michal here, and we were just talking about masculinity, and what it means to us.
Scratch Media Intro:
In this book called 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James, there is this character named Christian Grey who is described as
“No feelings, who are arrogant with no feelings. With impeccable manners”:
And for some reason when we think about masculinity, we envision a person like him. Amanda, if you could describe masculinity how would you describe it? What even is masculinity?
Amanda: For me, I would say that if a man was kind, loving, hard working, trustworthy, supportive, and not afraid to be himself he’d be that perfect imagine of masculinity.
Michal: That’s an interesting definition because when we had an interview with Amer he said,
“What makes me a man, I’m unorganized but that’s what society says. That’s what society made me believe what makes me a man. Whatever is manly to you, however manly you consider yourself, is how manly you are. ”:
It’s funny that our definitions were so different. Amanda’s was stability, and Amer said masculinity was what you make it, regardless of societal expectations.
Amanda: That’s a nice idea, but that is not what we teach young boys, is it? We say, hey, take this action figure, play with it, and aspire to be like it.
Michal: Basically, be the Abercrombie model 99.9 percent of the male population can’t achieve. In an article I read by Alison Fields she says that a good 8.5 percent of men, because we give them an ideal body image as a child, have reoccurring systems of depression when they don’t reach that action figure body with the big shoulders, chest, and the tiny waist.
Amanda: Don’t forget the six pack and the biceps. But I think that’s the message Harrsion Pope was trying to get across in his article about the action figures. We give boys these action figures with disproportioned dimensions, like a body builder, and we punish them if they fall short. That is something that Amer said as well.
“Society will always punish you.”
Michal: This is so true. You are never good enough, or ‘good’ in the eyes society. This is why there is male competition between them. This is why there is an ideal that men fight to obtain. This is also something theatre parallex, a Toronto based theatre company that addresses this idea in their show Kata.
Amanda: Kata introduces a new concept to masculinity that we haven’t spoken about yet which is isolation and violence, because men are taught you can’t cry; you can’t have a support system. As Myta, the show director said,
“Because men are not allowed to be intimate they become extremely isolated. There’s no contact allowed, which only causes them to escalate and bubble and come out in ways like violence”:
Michal: This is where this toxic masculinity comes from: like competition, the physical discipline, and the obsession with perfection.
“The thing about Kata is that it represents an extreme. What we’re trying to show is how far we can push everything. The performers take three months to try and get into peak physical condition, and cut out junk food and vices because we’re trying to demonstrate how difficult it is to become the perfect male form physically, but also the rigorous work of the rehearsal processes always demonstrates how difficult it is mentally to do the subscribe to those things as well. The men have had to get stronger, and the choreography had to get harder too.”
Amanda: From one of the cast of the show, Dylan, he said they try to,
“Adhere to a certain cultural stereotype or stigma of hey you need this body or this body. The dad body or the perfect body, and you can’t be emotional, all of those things. You have to be humorous, if you’re going to be emotional than you have to be humorous and you can’t be sad, and you can’t bring people down, and you always have to bring people up. And that gets exhausting”:
Michal: and something Dylan expresses is that being extreme is exhausting because 1, it can’t last forever, and 2, it’s impossible to keep with for the rest of your life.
Amanda: You burn yourself out just thinking about it.
Michal: So why are they so obsessed with this image? If it’s so painful, and so draining, why bother at all?
Amanda: This is where men’s competition comes in when we were talking to Myta about it and she said,
“From the outside, I can still see a time where there is this sense of competition, and one guys comes in and is like look guys I finally getting abs and everyone is like good for you, they compete with each other, and that’s something’s that we don’t want because a form of toxic masculinity is saying I’m less than you because I don’t have abs yet”:
Michal: Which is ironic, because they’re trying to show this toxic masculinity in a bad light without becoming it, and that is hard because when you’re trying to play that extreme role, and completely submerging yourself in it, it’s hard to keep your distance, but when you are surrounded by it all the time, it’s inescapable.
Amanda: So where do they go from here? If it’s inescapable, and they want it, but it’s painful and unrealistic, they’re pretty much by products of their own doing. They’re hurting themselves through all these things Suzanne Wise goes through in her article about how when mess suppress their emotions its only harmful to them. They constantly tell themselves, and others tell them as well not to feel, and that they should not feel.
Michal: In her article she also talks about the violent tendencies that come out in toxic masculinity. With violent tendencies brings things like rape culture and homophobia. They need to express their feelings somehow. Unfortunately it happens violently. They also are obsessed with being completely independent. They never ask for help, and if they do they feel and are seen as weak. And this is why it’s never spoken about which has allowed it to become such a major problem.
“The problem with the issue is that people don’t talk about it. It’s very much stigmatized; it’s very much an isolated affair. It’s something that you deal with on your own. And mental health is very similar and men’s mental health is full of statistics of men’s rates of suicide and of how high they are. There is no opportunity to air those concerns.
Amanda: But we never do anything to fix the problem because we never know about it.
Michal: Which is terrible, but very true.
Amanda: So how do we fix it? Kata is a nice place to start.
Michal: Kata makes people care.
Amanda: No, Kata makes people think. Kata is impactful; it’s shocking because they talk about it without talking. They use physical movements and sound to get the message and emotions across.
Michal: Kata is a good place to start, but maybe we should be looking at people like Amer, and taking examples from him. As myta said,
“Competition, and each man for themselves is responsible for themselves and their own weakness. Some of the performers click off the emotional stuff, and get angry, and violent, and isolated and quiet and get resentful, and get confident”,
You can’t let turn off emotionally, or you literally become that toxic masculinity.
“You’re not allowed to shut off, stay open and deal with it because if you cut that off your just going to turn into this toxically masculine bro type person”,
Amanda: We can’t let them be that quiet angry man, and it’s even evident and vital in the show.
“Kata brings alertness, and an awareness and a shock that takes people out of their daily habits and routines and makes people see that there is a different way of being.”
Everyone has to work together to unmute the silence and bring the discussion to the forefront. It’s not just their problem. If we start to fight the stigma of men being emotional and teach them it’s okay to be emotional then maybe a change can occur. Being emotional means you’re still strong. We can teach them that it’s okay to care because it still means you’re discipline. We can show them that being this way does not make you a less of a man. I feel like if we open this conversation and show them hey, Christian grey has issues too, he’s actually not perfect-
“When you change one aspect of a dichotomy or a binary the other side has to change as well. You can’t just change one side. It doesn’t work that side. You can’t bring one down to a man’s level you have to being them both to the same level. Men are taught to be oppressive because of the dichotomy woman are automatically taught to be submissive, because men are taught to be so oppressive as well. They both influence each other. By telling men they don’t have to be oppressive by telling men its not a bad thing to be emotional, intimate, to have those ‘feminine’ qualities that are associated with woman it kind of 1 allows women to take up those masculine qualities that people say they’re not allowed to have. And it balances everything out”,
Amanda: If men being to learn to love the body they were given and forget society, regardless of the expectations and demands then maybe we could take a step towards the right direction. A step towards a healthy mental state, the best society can be in. Society will be in a place where feminism truly means equality for both genders instead of lifting one up and bringing the other down. Man will truly be able to be themselves without being ashamed of being all the things society tells them they can’t be.
“We’re all part of the problem, and therefore we are all responsible for the solution.”
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