Discussions of gendered media too often focus only on how detrimental images of women prevail in newspapers, movies and commercials. Men are so often blamed for imposing their patriarchal values on women in media, and denying them their chances of success and self-actualization.
But men and boys haven’t escaped being pigeonholed by the media. Male characterization in media has created a disturbing trend that defines the male as someone who is violent, tough and unyieldingly devoted to their own masculinity. It’s scary and it’s harmful. Bruce Willis, in all his action movie glory, has done nothing but perpetuate this stereotype. They learn that violence is the only way to get their point across.
Tough Guise, an educational film created in 2000, claims the media perpetuates violence in masculinity that isn’t outside the norm but considered a fundamental part of what it means to be a man:
Manhood is defined as connected with dominance, power and control … 90% of physical assault is committed by men. Men are responsible for between 85 and 95% of child sexual abuse. An awful lot of boys are inflicting an awful lot on pain on themselves and on others.
It doesn’t seem possible to be strong, powerful and independent without being violent. It doesn’t seem possible to be successful without limiting the opportunities of others. The film suffers from some over-simplification of the subject, but touches on the unrealistic expectations the media heaps on young men. It does draw attention to the fact that men haven’t necessarily latched on to a cause of eradicating the harmful stereotypes, as many women have. If what it means to be a man means a reliance on power, perhaps the concept of finding an identity undefined by dominance over others, and a society that continually validates this identity, is too frightening to pursue.