How Western Society Traumatizes Boys

 

The Mask You Live In

Jennifer Sibel Newsom (2015)

Film Review

Last night Māori TV showed the Mask You Live In – a documentary about the constant social pressure boys feel to conform to an arbitrary standard of masculinity – and the deep emotional trauma caused by the experience.

Growing up in western society, the greatest fear most boys experience is that they will be found to be weak or “feminine.” The constant pressure (often via school bullying) they experience to “prove” their masculinity forces them to reject all manner of experiences that are artificially labeled as “feminine,” ie sensitivity, self reflection, emotional closeness and intimacy, etc.

The numerous psychologists, educators, coaches and youth advocates featured in the documentary all note a sudden change in boys around 15-16, causing them to suddenly abandon close friendships with other boys. It’s precisely at the point where emotional expression totally drops out of their language that drug and alcohol use, suicide and gang membership skyrockets.

In my view, the best segments of the film are of all boy’s/all men’s groups in schools and prisons that support members in exploring the deep trauma they have experienced from this immense cultural pressure to “man up.”

The film, which can’t be embedded, can be viewed for free at the Māori TV website:

 The Mask You Live In

Angela Davis on Donald Trump and the Movement to Abolish Prisons

The following is an eye-opening presentation for Martin Luther King Unity Day. In it, long time political activist Angela Davis explores the roots of the electoral college and the death penalty in slavery. Unlike more mainstream liberals, she doesn’t catastrophize about Trump’s recent electoral victory. Instead she faults both Trump and Clinton for failing to mention even once during the campaign the working class, inequality or climate change.

She goes on to emphasize that it isn’t Martin Luther King as an individual we celebrate, but the thousands of people in the civil rights movement who did the real work. She then highlights the myriad of movements Americans have formed to resist the oppression experienced by the working class Americans. She devotes special focus to the movement to abolish prisons in a country that incarcerates more people (in absolute numbers) than any other country in the world. In her view, the majority of inmates in US prisons have been deeply traumatized in childhood. All incarcerating them accomplishes is to irreparably re-traumatize them.

The goal of the prison abolition movement is to replace prisons with a system of restorative justice,* starting with youth prisons.

Davis starts speaking at 1:09.


*Restorative justice is a system of criminal justice which focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large. New Zealand, which has no youth prisons, relies on a restorative justice process to deal with juvenile offenders.