Applaud Documentary that Challenges Gender Stereotypes


Target: Jennifer Siebel Newsom, director of the documentary The Mask You Live In

Goal: Praise the new documentary, The Mask You Live In, which highlights the societal pressures of masculinity

Director of the documentary Miss Representation, Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s newest film explores how societal norms concerning masculinity can often be toxic and encourage men to become emotionally repressive. The documentary interviews men and boys from all over the country, and finds that they often wear masks and conform to the pressures of imposed concepts of what it means to be a man. Please let Newsom know that her work is very important for opening up a dialogue about gender relations.

According to the documentary’s kickstarter page, research indicates that in the U.S., boys are more likely to be prescribed stimulant medications, diagnosed with a behavior disorder, flunk out of school, binge drink, commit a violent crime, and/or commit suicide. The film inquires how we as a society are failing our boys, referring to the “boy crisis,” which the film’s kickstarter page defines as how boys “often feel compelled to abide by a rigid code of conduct that affects their relationships, narrows their definition of success and, in some cases, leads to acts of violence […] Our society’s failure to recognize and care for the social and emotional well-being of our boys contributes to a nation of young men who navigate adversity and conflict with an incomplete emotional skill set. Whether boys and later men have chosen to resist or conform to this masculine norm, there is loneliness, anxiety, and pain.”

This film is taking on the important task of discussing negative gender stereotypes and its impact on the men in our society. Please let Jennifer Siebel Newsom know that her work is appreciated for its efforts to examine and dismantle societal constructions of gender identity.


Dear Jennifer Siebel Newsom,

I would like to express my praise and gratitude for your new documentary The Mask You Live In and how it probes the negative effects of imposing gender stereotypes upon the boys and men in our society. Discussions about gender equality must include both men and women, and your new film highlights how damaging gender norms can be for all of humankind.

Phrases from the trailer like “Be a man,” “Don’t cry,” “Grow some balls,” and “Don’t be a fag” capture what men and boys at least once throughout the course of their lives will experience in our culture. With that kind of repressive mentality being imposed on boys, it’s no wonder that such stats like the ones on your film’s kickstarter page are the reality. Boys in late adolescence are seven times more likely to commit suicide compared to a girl of the same age, and boys in this country are 30 percent more likely to drop out of school than girls. These are disheartening truths that make your film all the more relevant.

Sociologist Michael Kimmel’s words from the documentary truly capture the emotional stakes of having to conform to a flawed, social construction of masculinity: “If I was to say what is the major emotion of American masculinity, it is anxiety. Why? Because you have to prove your masculinity all the time.” Thank you for this film and please continue opening up the conversation about gender roles in our society.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Miss Representation, Girls Club Entertainment via Wikimedia Commons

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