Thursday, October 24, 2013

'Tough Guise 2': The Ongoing Crisis of Violent Masculinity

Hmmm . . . There were some things I liked about the original Tough Guise, and there were some things that really bothered me about that film. It felt to me that Jackson Katz fails to understand the complexity of the issue he was addressing. I wrote this back in 2009:
I have my 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.
So I'm not sure how I feel about his making of a sequel, from which there is a short clip below. Maybe over the past 14 years he has become more accepting that there are some masculine traits that are results of our biology and hormones . . . and evolution. That we still have these traits when they have ceased be relevant does not mean that they are wrong.

Whether violence is wrong or necessary depends on the context.

'Tough Guise 2': The Ongoing Crisis of Violent Masculinity

In a follow-up to his powerful 1999 documentary, Jackson Katz argues that men are actively taught to be violent creatures.

October 24, 2013 • By Lisa Wade

A still from Tough Guise 2. (PHOTO: COURTESY OF JACKSON KATZ)
In 1999 Jackson Katz headlined a documentary that powerfully revealed the mask of masculinity, a pretense of stoicism and readiness for violence that many men feel compelled to put on, at least part of the time. The film, Tough Guise: Violence, Manhood, and American Culture, became a staple in classes on gender across the country.
It’s no use arguing whether the media, the military, or the gun industry are responsible for rates of violence, he observes, since they’re in cahoots.
Last week marked the release of Tough Guise 2 and SocImages was given the honor of debuting an exclusive clip from the new film. In the segment below, Katz explains that men aren’t naturally violent but, instead, often learn how to be so. Focusing on socialization, however, threatens to make invisible the socialization agents. In other words, Katz argues, men don’t just learn to be more violent than they otherwise would be—they are actively taught.

He begins with the fact that the video game and film industries both take money from companies that make firearms to feature their products. The U.S. military then uses the video game Call of Duty for recruitment and training. It’s no use arguing whether the media, the military, or the gun industry are responsible for rates of violence, he observes, since they’re in cahoots. These extreme examples intersect with the everyday, mundane lessons about the importance of being “real men” that boys and men receive from the media and their peers, parents, coaches, and more.

This update of the original will tell the compelling story about manhood and violence to a new generation and remind older ones of the ongoing crisis of masculinity in America.

This post originally appeared on Sociological Images, a Pacific Standard partner site.

No comments: