Saturday, October 19, 2013

Redefining Masculinity For the Sake of Abused Men

                                                       Final Project Proposal  
 For my final project, I take inspiration from bell hooks' "The Will to Change" and the first class presentation using Guante's youtube response to the Miller Light Man Up commercials, but also from more personal family experiences. I would like to make a documentary on the effects of patriarchal masculinity on sexually and/or physically abused men. I would like to tell the stories of men (by interviewing men who have been through these sorts of trauma) that have been abused and how they have dealt with it. I would also like to go into the limited options we give men for reacting to traumas such as these (i.e. drinking and/or being aggressive) by examining how our media (movies, tv, commercials, ads etc.) defines manhood, especially how manhood can be sustained in the presence of trauma. I would like to discuss how this brand of masculinity presented to us in our ads, our movies and in our own homes, from our mothers’ and fathers’ mouths gives men no other way to deal with trauma except in ways that destruct them and the ones around them, primarily through excessive drink, violence or both.

Specifically, I would like to tell the story of my brother and my step father, who were both sexually molested/abused as children, just as I was, but I was given the option to openly discuss the issues I had with my friends (because it was more socially acceptable, though still negatively judged) and when I finally got the courage at 16 with my mother. Both my brother and step father were never given the option to talk openly about it for fear they would compromise the static definition of masculinity that exists in our society. Instead, both resorted to drinking and other self-destructive/destructive acts. Neither one has agreed to being in my short film but I hope to do this project for them and for so many men out there that experience this but have no options of healthy outlets and live in constant fear or anger. 
See when it's appropriate to cry (as a guy-funerals people, that's it) and how to drink "like a man":

I would like to argue that this socially constructed (largely through media) idea of masculinity has led them and many others to act out and react in this way. The patriarchal masculinity that my brother, my step father and most men suffer from gives them no other options when dealt with a trauma. I would argue that this type of masculinity is killing men because it makes them alcoholics and sexual and violent abusers of themselves and others. I would like to find a new way to define masculinity and manhood that does not kill the man.


§  October: I will put up posters requesting guys to participate in my project. I will interview the people that reply and try to pick out a handful. Age is not necessarily something I want to be a limit in this project but since I will be asking at my college, I presume to get college-aged men. I will limit the men to anyone who was raised in the U.S. even if they are of multiple backgrounds, ethnicities, sexualities etc. I want to examine this issue with all the layers in between, examining American men as they really are not as the media perceives them to be (white, heterosexual, middle class etc). During this time, I will also start discussing the project idea more and more on my blog and on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

§  November: I would like to get at least three guys who would be interested in telling their stories of sexual and/or physical abuse and the ways they dealt with it. I will ask them why they dealt with their traumas in the way that they did and if they felt their masculinity or manhood had anything to do with the choices they made in that regard. I will ask them to define masculinity in their own words and see how much media has constructed their definitions (by comparing what they say to what is presented in the media).

§  Middle of Nov to End: I will post the video to YouTube, Vimeo and share on Facebook and Twitter. I will get more help on distribution from my aunt who makes documentaries in Hungary.

§  December and After: I will get feedback on what works and what doesn't and improve the documentary, the stories and make the message stronger in any way I can and keep working on this topic. I will blog about this idea and get more involved in programs that are already working on this. As a human being and activist, this fits into my portfolio of work. Hopefully, as a journalist/writer, one day I will be discussing this topic for larger audiences and it will become a more mainstream concept with the actual possibility for change.
Articles, videos and websites found in my research so far:

Becoming “Real Men”: Adolescent Masculinity Challenges and Sexual Violence

Slow Motion: Changing Masculinity


  1. I think this topic is an important one, and I'm glad that you're addressing it. I'm sure you will do so with the appropriate degree of confidentiality, respect, and seriousness (no seriously, I'm sure you will; it sounds condescending but I mean it). You have tons of research and a well defined timeline. Hopefully you will be able to find individuals willing to come forward and speak about such a sensitive issue. Good luck!

  2. the sports world probably gave you all the information you need for this project in the past week. If you aren't familiar with it, google Richie Incognito bullying, and you will see tons of stories about events of alleged bullying that has taken place in the Miami Dolphins locker room.

    But also look for the reactions, you will see a bunch of opinions on this story, with people how believe the bully victim (Jonathan Martin, a 6'5" 320lb football player) should've "man-ed up" and stood up to his bully. Good luck