Perspectives on The Mask You Live In

Our Village community recently hosted a viewing and panel discussion of “The Mask You Live In”, a film about how the stereotype of masculinity in our society impacts our youth. Read below a recap and personal reflection from one of the panelists; hear some of our Village parents’ reactions to the screening; and then review some introspective questions designed to help foster discussion with your children. Also, for those of you who want to learn more, below are links to additional resources and suggested readings on this topic.


A Recap and Personal Reflection

By Lynn L., MFT, LPCC and mother to Awesome Avocado Emilia

Thanks to Aine O’Donovan, the Positive School Climate Team and our wonderful Village community, we hosted a viewing of The Mask You Live In with a panel discussion afterwards. I was honored to be a part of this amazing panel. The panelists included Judy Chu, Ed.D., Geoff Nugent, Ph.D., LMFT, LPCC, BCPC and Principal David Wilce. If you have not seen this movie, I would encourage you to watch it. It is thought provoking and eye opening. Whether you are a parent of a son or daughter, we are all affected by this issue and have a role to play to help correct these harmful stereotypes.

The movie is a documentary about masculinity in our society. It highlights the many struggles our boys and men face on a daily basis. From their early years, boys are told to “be a man” and “man up.” They are taught early on not to show emotions or they will be seen as weak, a wimp or sissy. This message is then reinforced through society and the media. Our boys are exposed to images of violence and sex (intentional or by accident) through the media, Internet and video games, thus giving them an unhealthy perspective of what being a man is.

The notion of “what is a man” is then discussed. How do we define masculinity? Are we contributing to the negative stereotype that limits boys and men? The movie interviews boys and men who have been positively and negatively affected by these stereotypes.  You will hear about the pressures a boy or man feels to be tough, needing to prove himself and wanting to be accepted by others. You will also hear about the positive influences individuals have had with educators, coaches and mentors and how it has helped them to be better men, give back to society and learn to develop all aspects of their personality.

The Mask You Live In brings awareness to an issue that must be addressed. This is not a new issue, but without awareness, things will only get worse and as a society we will be the ones suffering. This movie leaves us with many feelings, but mostly with the feeling of “what can we do?” The good thing is that there is a lot we can do and at Village we are already off to a great start.

At Village, we have programs such as No Bully, Positive Discipline, Project Cornerstone and ABC readers. We encourage peer support through reading buddies and we teach our children that we are a community that respects and helps one another. We have both moms and dads working at the school. We encourage our children to share their feelings and are present and available for them. We are very fortunate. However, we need to continue to create awareness and we need to continue to have this conversation, not just at Village but also in our neighborhoods, with our personal communities and at our Middle and High Schools. It is important that we aim to reach and support all children both at Village and in our community.

The take-home message for me is, as parents and community member, we need to be available to our youth. We need to let them know it is okay to share feelings, to have feelings and to be who you are. We need to be aware of the stereotypes that we might be perpetuating and make appropriate changes and adjustments. We need to be vigilant about who our children are around, what they are watching on television and the Internet, what games they are playing and who they are talking and texting with. We also need to be positive role models for our children and lead by example. Most importantly, be supportive and allow them to have many different experiences so that they can develop into well-rounded individuals.


Parent Responses to the Film Viewing

“I thought the timing of my seeing it was particularly striking since I had actually been grappling with this general subject yet again in my life. Not long ago I had an encounter at the gym where I was intimidated by someone much physically larger than me and was ashamed of my backing down, ‘wimpish’ response.

I’ve never technically been in a physical fight and this has been a shameful thing for me as a man. Now that I am 44 and wiser and more mature I thought I was beyond childish ideas of manhood, but apparently, as this recent incident reminds me, I am still entangled in this idea.

I had been thinking that I did not want my son to go through his life in a similar fashion. And one way to avoid this would be to actually get him comfortable with the idea and practice of fighting so when threatened in some fashion it would be easy for him to do the ‘manly thing’ and fight. Crazy, huh?  And then for the movie to open up basically in that way…

But then sometime after this gym incident and processing with others I was on a hike and had a more gentle epiphany. My dad was generally very gentle. Heidi’s dad is very sweet and gentle too. Chad is also generally very gentle, sweet, loving. My epiphany was why don’t I encourage that, be there for him and support him through the times he doesn’t feel like a ‘man’.

This is a big subject and glad it is being discussed.”

–Ryan M., dad of Courageous Cub Ellie and Magical Pencil Chad

“The documentary’s message was a tough, necessary, and timely message to share about the threats our boys face, both new and old. I found comfort that a lot of the tactics they shared, that we control, are tried and true – modeling, being open and available, showing empathy. The piece I realized I need most work on is defending against what we can’t control – specifically implementing the technology safeguards to limit exposure and access to inappropriate content.”

—Shaun F., dad of Tie-dyed Tiger Ty and Magical Pencils Patrick and Ben, and alumni Sydney

“It was a great conversation starter to go back and reflect on how we grew up and the things we want to improve. It also highlighted how the culture has shifted and is bringing our attention to areas that need to be given thought, so we can help develop skills in our kids to navigate through life.”

—Travis D., dad of CA King Snake Maggie


Questions for Parents

By Judy Chu, Ed.D., one of the panelists and author of the book, When Boys Become Boys

These questions are designed to help parents begin a dialogue with their sons about the pressures they may be experiencing and to help to identify strengths and support in their lives.

What do we mean when we say “Boys will be boys”?

When do we say it?
Why do we say it?
What are the implications? for boys? for adults?

What are the qualities that you admire most and wish to preserve in your sons?

What tends to encourage those qualities? When are those qualities most apparent?

What tends to hinder those qualities? When are those qualities least apparent?

What are the dominant messages about masculinity that your son is hearing at this age?
What qualities get valued/devalued in boys?
What’s gained/lost through learning to act like a “real” boy/man?

How does your son respond to those messages?

What are the key sources of pressure in your son’s life at this age?

What are those pressures about?

How does your son respond to those pressures?

What are the main influences on your son’s thinking and behavior?

What encourages his conformity to group and cultural norms?
What encourages his resistance to group and cultural norms?

What enables/undermines your son’s ability to be fully present/genuinely engaged?

When/Where/With whom does he seem most comfortable/himself?
When/Where/With whom does he feel truly known and accepted?
When/Where/With whom does he feel like he must be something else/more?

What are some of the challenges that you see your son facing at this age?

What are his main questions and concerns?

What kinds of support would you like him to have?

What are some of the challenges you’re facing, as a parent of a boy this age?

What are your main questions and concerns?

What kinds of support would you like to have?

How are your experiences/observations of your son similar to and different from those described in this book?

What are other issues/questions that we should consider in our efforts to support boys’ healthy development?


Related Links

A Call To Men –

Positive Coaching Alliance –

James Steyer –


Suggested Readings

When Boys Become Boys: Development, Relationships, and Masculinity by Judy Chu

Adolescent Boys: Exploring Diverse Cultures of Boyhood by Niobe Way and Judy Chu

InsideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives by Joe Ehrmann

A Biblical Guide to InsideOut Coaching by Joe Ehrmann and Paula Ehrmann

What’s Going On In There?: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life by Lise Eliot

Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps – And What We Can Do About It by Lise Eliot

Joining the Resistance by Carol Gilligan

Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic by James Gilligan

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ by Daniel Goleman

Women and The White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics by Caroline Heldman

The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help by Jackson Katz

Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes The Way We Think And Feel by Jean Kilbourne

Guyland: The Perilous World Where Men Become Boys by Michael Kimmel

Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era by Michael Kimmel

Manhood in America: A Cultural History by Michael Kimmel

Boys Will Be Men: Raising Our Sons for Courage, Caring and Community by Paul Kivel

Men’s Work: How to Stop the Violence That Tears Our Lives Apart by Paul Kivel

Revisioning Men’s Lives: Gender, Intimacy, and Power by Terry Kupers

Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More Than Grades, Trophies, or “Fat Envelopes” by Madeline Levine

Street Soldier by Joseph Marshall

The Trouble with Black Boys: And Other Reflections on Race, Equity, and The Future of Public Education by Pedro Noguera

Schooling for Resilience: Improving the Life Trajectory of Black and Latino Boys by Pedro Noguera

Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons From the Myths of Boyhood by William Pollack

Well Meaning Men: Breaking Out of the Man Box – Ending Violence Against Women by Tony Porter

Talking Back to Facebook: The Common Sense Guide to Raising Kids in the Digital Age by James P. Steyer

The Other Parent: The Inside Effect of the Media’s Effect on Our Children by James P. Steyer

Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection by Niobe Way

The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It by Phil Zimbardo


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