Monday, October 12, 2009

Deconstructing Jackson Katz’s “Tough Guise”

I have my own issues with Jackson Katz’s “Tough Guise” video - it feels to me like the pathological side of the postmodern, relativist developmental stage, otherwise known as the Mean Green Meme in integral circles. I'm not sure such a beast actually exists (see here), but there does seem to be a tendency in this developmental stage - which is focused on group harmony, expression of emotion, and other communal manifestations of development - to reject any and all expressions of violence. I'm not sure this is realistic.

While as a Buddhist I reject violence, this is not necessarily a universal belief, even among Buddhists. Many hundreds of years have shown that Buddhists will take violent action in order to protect the weak and the dharma - the killing of a few to save the many has been the argument.

When the Chinese invaded Tibet, the few "soldiers" that existed tried in vain to fight off the invaders. This might be seen as the dark side of the complete opposition to violence and force. If they had taken seriously the realities of a world in which not everyone shares their values of peace and compassion, they might have been more prepared to defend those values by whatever means necessary.

Perhaps this is not good Buddhist doctrine. Or perhaps this is a more integral understanding of the need for right use of force. The "right use" part is crucial - I am not for the glorification of violence in film and TV. I do not think that boys should be taught that violence is how to resolve issues. I do not think that the military should be deployed unless our borders are threatened or unless we can protect the weak from genocide by the few who are ignorant and violent.

But I do know that we should be able to defend ourselves and those we love if there is no other option. Is there ever a time when there is no other option? I'm not sure.

Anyway, all of this is just to say that Jack Donovan at The Spearhead, has written a pretty cogent deconstruction of the "Tough Guise" video and its message. First the video:

Now the deconstruction of it:

Masculinity has always been associated with violence.

Jackson Katz’s “Tough Guise” video was produced in 1999, so it is almost 10 years old, but it’s still in circulation. The YouTube clip posted by The Media Education Foundation in 2006 shows 149,033 views, and 1,118 comments, with new views and responses every day. Katz’s web site boasts that “Tough Guise” :

“…has become a staple in college communication, sociology, gender studies, psychology, criminology and linguistics courses, as well as numerous high school courses. It is regularly used by educators in the battered women’s and rape crisis movements, and counselors in the batterer intervention field. It has been seen by over 3 million people.”

Katz still presents similar material, and his speaking calendar is booked solid two months in advance. He’ll be educating young people at a wide variety of state universities and, notably, one Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego.

People take Katz seriously. Attached is a clip from his tour-de-force, “Tough Guise.”

Jackson Katz believes that there is a national crisis in masculinity because young men believe a man should be tough, strong, independent and respected. The US Government is paying him to educate Marines.

I always assumed the idea that men should be tough, strong, independent and respected was why young men joined the Marines in the first place. They prove that they’re strong and tough enough to be among the few and the proud, and thereby earn respect.

But, according to Katz, the idea that men should be tough, strong, independent and respected is a crisis in masculinity perpetuated by the media. And Jean-Claude Van Damme. He shows clips from contemporary films and claims that they help to construct violent masculinity as a social norm. His use of “construct” here pegs him as a blank slate, noble savage liberal who believes that if we pay enough educators like him to re-educate students and bring the media to heel, men will eventually stop associating violence with manhood.

I guess when we’ve purged violence from the planet, we’ll all sit around, hold hands and sing “Imagine.”

Surely Katz has studied some history. This makes his claim that the modern media is responsible for these very old ideas about manliness even more dissonant. Blaming the modern media for male violence is like holding Martha Stewart accountable for the habits of all women who enjoy cooking and decorating.

Read the whole post.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

well.... you're retarded

WH said...

gee, thanks for the enlightening addition to the conversation.

Anonymous said...

Jackson Katz is great and does great important work,with the other related topics you have posted on your site,I really can't understand how you could say these kinds of ignorant inaccurate things about Jackson.

His book,The Macho Pradox:How Some Men Hurt Women And How All Men Can Help is also great,and he recognizes how harmful,sexist, and woman-hating pornography really is. And as he said whether the real problem is the misogynistic vision of women's sexuality and men's power that the multi-billion dollar porn industry has sold to the public as normal and even liberating.And he said pornography is clearly a key area in the culture where"normal" boys learn to objectify girls and women.

And he admits that in his teens and early 20's before he became a anti-sexist anti-violence educator,he used pornography and went to strip shows himself. But he points out that the pornography today is even more overtly degrading,woman-hating and violent.