Women’s Centre tackles gender inequality onscreen

The promise of free popcorn and an educational film brought a small but visibly interested crowd to a screening of the documentary Tough Guise: Violence, Media & the Crisis in Masculinity last Wednesday evening.

Presented by the WLU Women’s Centre as part of the organization’s “Shattering the Silver Screen” film series, the film and the discussion that followed concerned media presentation of masculinity and the potential and real impacts of this portrayal on both men and women.

There was near-equal gender representation in the audience for the screening itself and for the discussion afterwards.

“It’s generally more women, but Tough Guise was more about masculinity which tends to draw more men,” said Laura Hutchinson, the Women’s Centre’s event co-ordinator, who organized this screening within the series.

The film, written and featuring anti-sexism advocate, lecturer and author Jackson Katz, looked at modern ideas of masculinity as a construct of media – especially within popular film.

Film buffs would be interested in this particular film because of its deconstruction of an ideal of masculinity that has been created and perpetuated by popular film and actors – examples of which were used effectively throughout the presentation.

Sylvester Stallone, John Wayne and other iconic actors and their specific roles were used to illustrate the documentary’s point that Hollywood has in many ways contributed to constructing ideas of violent masculinity as a cultural norm.

In the film, writer Jackson Katz goes on to examine themes such as guns in movies, the slasher film and sports in media, as well as news reporting of school shootings and road rage.

All the topics discussed were rooted in Katz’s idea that all masculinity and “masculine” behaviour is a pose and has a performative aspect – an act that can be attributed to representations of masculinity in media.

After the film, there was an extended informal discussion of the film and concepts that arose in it. Facilitated by Bryn Ossington, president of Wilfrid Laurier University Student Publications (WLUSP) and member of Laurier Men Advocating Change (LMAC) that hosts workshops for men about issues of masculinity, the discussion was extensive and expanded on the film’s ideas and overall message.

Of the problems surrounding masculinity faced by males, Ossington began the discussion, quipping, “Does anyone have any thoughts? Anyone want to solve this issue?”

For well over an hour, the discussion ranged from personal experiences with masculinity and male identity to perspectives from Women’s Centre volunteers on the implications for male media images on women.

An open and interesting experience, those who stayed for the discussion left with a better understanding of the concepts examined in the film and the ideas that came up separately afterward.

Hutchinson commented on the size of the group (an estimated 27) that initially came out and those that remained, explaining that “more is great but we want to have discussion, so if we did have a hundred people show up it wouldn’t work.”

This screening was part of a series that began in October; there are more screenings scheduled throughout the rest of the semester. In co-ordination with the WLU Association of Black Students, the next film is “The Secret Life of Bees” on Nov. 23.

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