If you want to understand the gender inequity and violence crisis in our culture, look no further than The Mask You Live in.

Boys are herded into our hypermasculinized culture from the moment they’re told to toughen up. Stop with the tears–in other words, stop feeling.

The corrosive and dangerous effects of indoctrinating boys into the Man Code has been clearly documented in studies of violence perpetrated by men. Jackson Katz is a pioneer at the forefront of changing the narrative around violence against women as a men’s issue. His most well known contribution being his viral TedTalk. Websites like The Good Men Project are finally having the conversations about the struggles of men who don’t want to subscribe to the Man Code but are afraid of being humiliated and ejected from their peer group.

According to the Man Code, you must be big and strong and you can’t show any emotion except for anger. You’re not allowed to ask for help because it makes you look weak. You must be sexually aggressive because you will be judged by other men on how many conquests you’ve had and if you haven’t put enough notches in your belt, other men will question your masculinity.

You must put success and influence before relationships and never cry no matter how much it hurts. Having power and being powerful is critical to being perceived as a “real man” and should be the single-point focus of your life. You are also expected to constantly prove how powerful you are. If something devastating has happened to you, you’re expected to man up and repress the real emotional damage that has been done. Living this way is the emotional equivalent of pulling the pin on a grenade and swallowing it.

The Man Code is not attainable or sustainable. It’s destructive because it attempts to strip men of their humanity, which is central to being a heathy and emotionally functional person. Anyone who tries to live up to these unrealistic ideals will find it difficult to maintain relationships and will be plagued by a variety of emotional and/or physical problems. When a man inevitably fails to live up to these impossible standards, he will feel ashamed. Shame is highly associated with aggression, bullying, violence, depression and suicide.

As a woman working to help find a compassionate path to gender equity and collaboration, I see the Man Code indoctrination as the epicenter of the dysfunction and disconnect between men and their tender, expansive and strong hearts. How could they possibly support and collaborate with an intuitively strong, smart female if they are sequestered and kept in constant isolation from their own intuitive intelligence?

The gender violence and inequity crisis continues to plague our country because men aren’t given positive modeling to show them how to be a [good] man and have empathy and women are so busy trying to navigate male privilege invested waters, there’s time for little else.

The problem is a complex melange of socio-econonomic, political and cultural practices all wrapped up in a lowest common denominator media machine that pukes out racially and gender limiting blockbusters faster than a teenager after their first experiment with Ron Rico Rum straight from the bottle.

What can you do? If you’re a parent, do not feed your child a steady diet of movies, television and VIDEO GAMES that support misogyny and casual violence. Don’t feed the beast. It’s up to us as parents to limit the exposure of this poison to impressionable minds. When they leave the house, it’s up to them, but use every moment of the time they’re with you to encourage intelligent conversations about these issues and why they aren’t allowed to play Grand Theft Auto.

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