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So, I had the opportunity to introduce the documentary, The Mask You Live In, to students and faculty at Miami University Hamilton for its screening and discussion thereafter. I’m absolutely terrified of public speaking, but I’m passionate about this subject, so I said yes. I thought I’d share with you my speech and I highly recommend tracking down a copy of this documentary. 

Hello, I’m Brett Milam and I’m in Dr. Kulbaga Women’s Gender Studies course and I’m glad to see people come out for a screening of, The Mask You Live In, a documentary about masculinity, as it’s an important topic.

The documentary was released last year in 2015 and is directed, written and produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom. She also wrote, directed and produced 2011’s award-winning film Miss Representation, exploring the ways culture “misrepresents” women.

The Mask You Live In aims to examine how America’s narrow definition of masculinity is harming boys, men, and society at large. The messages from the media and other boys and men, including fathers, that encourages them to be emotionless, to objectify and degrade women and to resolve conflict through a show of strength and violence.

And the expectations of this sort of masculinity cuts across race, class and other identity issues, all wrapped up into what is thought to be a “real” man.

The documentary is arguing, in short, that we can raise boys and men on a much healthier conception of masculinity rather than the current toxic one, which is a creating a crisis among our boys.

It’s somewhat ironic that I’m presenting this film about masculinity to you today because I’m doing so in response to a challenge to my masculinity. Even being aware of this issue, reading the work of Jackson Katz or Michael Kimmel, two authorities on the subject as there ever were, I still find myself often navigating the expectations of this narrow road of masculinity.

I’m terrified of public speaking and I had to give a presentation in my philosophy seminar class two weeks ago. To avoid speaking in front of literally six people and the professor, I made a goofy YouTube video instead. I was told that was “chickening out.” That I was a “pussy.” So, when Dr. Kulbaga asked me to introduce this film, I said yes, even though it terrifies me to be standing up here today, but I did so as a direct response to this “calling out of my masculinity.”

Through much of my life, in fact, I’ve had to react to and deal with the “policing” of my masculinity. Am I man enough? Am I allowed to cry? Am I allowed to just be a human being without worrying about being masculine enough?

The worst one to me is being called a girl, signifying some sort of lack of toughness. Not because I am offended to be called a girl, but because the strongest people I know in my life are all women and one of them is also the mother to two boys. Two boys — my nephews — I hope that grow up in a less macho saturated society.

This is why I’m looking forward to this documentary, as it sheds light on this issue I’m sure many boys and men, quietly or vocally, can relate to and perhaps can recall their own moments when they were thought to be less than man enough.

Thank you for listening to me and I hope you enjoy the documentary and have lots of thoughts and questions afterwards, as I’ll help to lead the discussion on the film.

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