The 3 Most Destructive Words a Boy Hears

Be. A. Man.Joe Ehrmann, Coach and Former NFL Player, The Mask I Live In

In 2011, director Jennifer Siebel Newsom produced the feature-length documentary Miss Representation, and in so doing begun (or simply contributed – depending on who you ask) a “movement that uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people’s consciousness towards change.”

I chose to screen Miss Representation later that year with a host of colleagues (mostly female) that wanted to explore the issues raised by the film: gender injustices that limit girls in modern Western culture; media and advertising and its effects on girls, for examples. It provided for much post-film dialogue where we facilitated some very intense discussion groups. The thinking was that more of these kinds of conversations were needed.

Yet, that is only one side of this issue’s coin. The other acknowledges that much work needs to be done in order to address and challenge the same destructive narrative for Western society’s boys and men: the bravado, the code, the veiling of true emotions we’ve been told aren’t “manly”. They are absolutely on point for highlighting that the intersectionality of this conversation needs to be in focus. Not doing so would make Miss Representation an effort in vain.

Enter The Mask You Live In

I am very much looking forward to this film, its potential impact in the English-speaking world, and for the conversations it will spark. When we (all) feel encouraged and supported in being vulnerable enough to share our true thoughts, emotions, and ideas in a safe and positive space – that which is so close to our hearts – true understanding can really occur. I know, this sounds all soft and easy, but trust me, it’s not. If the cultural norms and fronts that have stayed the course of time are still with us, it’s clearly not.

While much of the themes can hold true across cultures, we need to be mindful that this documentary should not serve as a blanket for masculinity world-wide. Let’s understand that this conversation talks largely about American masculinity. In fact, the protective, dominant, and detached male archetype has endured this long for a reason. It’s just time we revisit it’s purpose in our modern society.

What do you think are the most destructive words or phrases a boy or man hears?

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6 comments

  1. Great post on a topic that I haven’t given much thought to recently. It was really powerful to have the testimony from the former NFL player in addition to the other academics and professionals in the movie trailer.

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  2. I overheard an older man (grandfather I’m guessing) tell a young boy – 3 or 4, tops – to “stop crying! boys don’t cry!” on the streetcar a few weeks ago after the boy had bonked his head on the pole. I wish I’d had the guts to say something….though I’m not sure what I would’ve said.

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  3. This is a great post, and an important topic to think about. I’m sure you’ve seen Emma’s Watson’s UN speech from a few weeks back (if not, it’s totally worth a watch) – one of my favorite quotes from that speech is “It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals.” This post reminded me of that. Thanks for sharing!

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