The Mask You Live In – Combatting toxic social structures through education

Men are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than women. Less than 50 percent of men with mental illness seek help.

According to, men were responsible for 90 percent of the murders committed between 1980 and 2008.

Between Sept. 11, 2001 and 2012, the number of women who were victims of male violence exceeded that of terrorist victims from The World Trade Center and all American soldiers killed in The War on Terror, combined.

Why does it have to be this way?

The answer might be a concept called hypermasculinity. Many consider it toxic, and maybe even deadly, evident by statistics.

The Women’s and Gender Studies Program will host a special screening of the documentary “The Mask You Live In,” made by the Representation Project, which discusses and explores hypermasculinity.

Hypermasculinity is defined as exaggeration of stereotypic male behavior, including things like strength, sexuality and aggression. It also includes the rejection of any stereotypic feminine behavior, like being emotional and showing empathy.

“[Men and boys] really buy into a culture that doesn’t value what we’ve feminized,” said Psychologist and Educator Dr. Niobe Way in the documentary trailer. This, she elaborated, includes empathy, relationships and caring.

The documentary also discusses the ways in which this has an effect on the normalization of male violence toward women, sexual assault, hate crimes against the LGBT community and more.

Dr. Jennifer Thomas, the director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program and an associate  professor of  psychology, encourages students who “have ever wondered or been concerned by the fact that violent acts are overwhelmingly committed by men, and that the best way to shame a man is to call him a ‘girl’” to attend the screening.

“We live in a society that pressures boys to conform to rigid, hypermasculine roles in which strength, aggression, stoicism, sexual prowess and the rejection of characteristics considered to be feminine encompass what it means to be a man,” she explained. “…Men become more accepting of violence against women, they learn to hide their emotions and their relationships suffer.”

She also said that men are more likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol, do more binge drinking and drop out or fail school than women.

“‘The Mask You Live In’ will give you a better understanding of the socialization pressures boys and men face, why those expectations are so dangerous, and how we, as a society, can combat them,” she went on.

If you are concerned with the ways in which societal expectations lead to things like suicide, homicide, domestic violence and drug addiction, join the women’s and gender studies department in the Henry Student Center Ballroom on Oct. 4 at 3 p.m.

For more information, contact Dr. Jennifer Thomas at [email protected]