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Tough Guise 2: Summary and Themes of Violence, Media & Manhood

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In Tough Guise 2, cultural theorist and anti-violence activist Jackson Katz reveals the horrors in America rooted in our incapability as a society to surpass outmoded ideals of manhood and the violence that follows it. Through several examples including racial, ethnic, and class lines, Katz examines “mass shootings, day-to-day gun violence, violence against women, bullying, gay bashing, and American militarism” which all play a huge role in the normalization of violent masculinity in our culture. The film divulges the “violent, sexist, and homophobic messages” that young men are constantly absorbing through multiple media outlets. One of Katz’s concerns in the film was to outline the flaws in the role of culture, which abides juvenile men to think that dominating others, and doing as one pleases to avoid being defined as feminine is okay. Tough Guise 2 reasons that men’s violence should be viewed as a gendered spectacle. To understand why this violence occurs, it forces us, society, to diagnostically examine cultural codes that have shaped the ideals of manhood and that is exactly what Katz does in this film.

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In the media coverage of mass shootings or even violent acts, broadcasters go out of their way to discuss acts of violence while maintaining gender-neutral approach. Most mainstream media sources try to defer attention away from the gender of suspects by habitually defining violence committed by boys as “youth violence.” The idea behind manhood is to place a reinforcement level of language on men to make them the dominant group, which in return shields them from receiving any critical reflection. When gender does come under examination in mainstream discussions having to do with men’s violence, their main emphasis turns towards biological reasoning instead of social and cultural explanations. From this, it reinforces the idea that “boys will be boys,” giving them permission to act out different forms of violence. Because the biological makeup entails the acts of rape and murder, it spotlights men’s violence as unavoidable even though it is obvious that a person’s cultural system is responsible for that.

Experts officials on the topic, have been urging that we need focus on the relationship between violence in one’s culture and violence worldwide. The emphasis on the culture of violence in America started to become a serious issue after “Adam Lanza’s murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.” Unfortunately, instead of focusing on the issue at hand, youth violence, media and government officials lead the debates into picking sides between the defenders of the gun industry and defenders of the entertainment industry. Both of these industries combined glorify not only violence but also violent masculinity. Katz refers to a “culture of violence” in America as a culture of violent masculinity. Violence is an actively taught behavior and is not considered a learned behavior. Culture in America instills boys that displaying emotion or being sensitive reflects signs of weakness, while at the same time states that physical hardiness, domination, and control are symbols of being a real man. The results of this type of display are also known as tough guise, which helps protect boy’s vulnerability while proving that they are in manhood. Peers such as coaches, fathers, and male role models have huge impacts on adolescence boys by subconsciously establishing the code of manhood. Men who step outside of this unbending code are at for being labeled as “feminine.” This violent ideal of manhood is reproduced by culture and will continue to be passed down if the code is not rewritten. As the documentary continued, an underlining theme started to develop. There is constant pressure to obey to the cultural ideals of violent masculinity no matter racial, ethnic, and class lines. It has been seen that the liability to fit specific standards is more prevalent among men whose power is at threat.

While masculinity and men’s violence start to become normalized across American culture, society continues to act shocked whenever a man acts violently. Research studies have concluded that men more involved with traditional ideals of manhood, have higher chances of behaving violently towards women or even being homophobic. The Steubenville rape case, sexual assaults in Tahrir Square in Egypt, to the upsetting rise in violent assaults on gay men and homeless men mentioned in the film occur because men feel the sense of being masculine by suppressing minority groups. • Respect is a huge part of a man’s life, filling his ego and proving his masculinity. Men will use violence to hide the humiliation of not being respected, which causes men to think the only way to earn respect is to earn it by fighting, raping, and killing. A number of high-profile mass shootings, from Pearl, Mississippi and Aurora, Colorado to Columbine High School, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the Newtown massacre all were actions taken by men to earn “respect”.

When evaluating violence that ensues due to masculinity, society needs to examine the devastating implications that follow most of these men. A vast majority of the gun violence crimes in America occur because of men, African American men from the ages of 15 to 30 have the highest chance of dying to violence. Violence at young ages can have serious emotional effects especially on men because they are more likely to suffer in silence then express themselves like women. An example used in the film, explained that most of the Vietnam soldiers who returned from war either committed suicide or continued to get involved in violent crimes. Such a preventable situation, if our society did not implicate this manliness code where it is wrong for man to speak of his emotions.

Despite expectable arguments that try to understand violence, Society as a whole need to challenge American culture’s praise of the “tough guise” if there is to ever be changed. It all starts with evaluating the substantial stories of cultures manhood, then demanding more authentic and accurate depictions of personal and societal costs of violent masculinity. Strength is not about proving yourself, rather more about adapting to change and facing adversity. Katz argument stayed the same throughout the whole film. “If we want things to change, we need to work toward a culture-wide re-definition of manhood capable of meeting that challenge.”

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Tough Guise 2 gave an intriguing explanation as to why so much violence has been occurring in today’s world. I believe that the film would have serious effects, for the better, if every person were to view it.

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