How to Raise Healthier Males and Change Our National Masculinity Dialogue

There is an American male identity crisis and Jennifer Siebel Newsom is way ahead of the curve in trying to help—as usual. Her documentary film on the subject, “The Mask You Live In,” premiered to rave reviews at Sundance in January and in the Midwest a few days later through the Family Action Network (FAN). The nonprofit she founded to foster healthy social change through media—The Representation Project, (TRP)—funnels support from power sources too—like Maria Shriver, Abigail Disney, Annenberg Foundation and Novo Foundation.

The crisis is that our culture does not foster “healthy, whole masculinity…connecting the heads and hearts of boys and men,” according to Newsom. Instead, it largely promulgates “be a man, be tough” stereotypes that actually damage healthy development. This is particularly true with sports, video games, the entertainment and advertising industries, and even in schools. Furthermore, the film claims that society’s current notion of masculinity is a rejection of femininity, which ultimately dehumanizes women.

Startling statistics provide proof of Newsom’s theory:

  • Skyrocketing numbers of families are without fathers
  • Two times more boys than girls are suffering from depression
  • Three times more boys than girls are struggling with ADHD
  • Four times more boys than girls are dropping out of school

Domestic violence in the NFL and sexual assault on college campuses provide further evidence that our culture promotes a negative male stereotype.

The first step toward a solution is developing a national dialogue and swaying the conversation. This is what Newsom and TRP do extraordinarily well. And this is why you need to see and discuss “The Mask You Live In” with all the age appropriate males in your life and convince your local school districts and youth empowerment organizations to do so as well.

Newsom is a Stanford MBA who worked in the entertainment industry. She’s the mother of three young children and wife of California’s Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (now candidate for Governor too). The 2011 award-winning documentary she wrote, directed and produced about how poorly women are portrayed in media, “Miss Representation,” sparked considerable national debate and led to the founding of TRP.

Newsom takes credit for the improvement in Super Bowl commercials this past month. TRP asked their audience to encourage more respect for women by discouraging the sexualization of them (as seen in the Carl’s Jr. commercial).

They also encouraged  audience talk backs, including tweeting at advertisers like:

With only a few clicks on their cell phones, audience members voted #NotBuyingIt or #MediaWeLikeThat’s power. Learn more about the commercial campaign here.

More importantly though, please learn about the masculinity issue. As Newsom says, “People aren’t talking about masculinity now the way they now discuss femininity.” Without awareness and discussion, change is difficult.

Please learn more about this issue and how you can help make a positive change by watching our MIB TV interview with here:

Please learn more about The Representation Project and “The Mask You Live In” here.


Additional reporting by Katy Nielsen and Maura Flaherty.