Chatham screens documentary on the struggle of masculinity

Be a man. Stop with the emotions. Man up. Suck it up. Don’t be a sissy. Boys don’t cry. These are the things young men and boys often grow up hearing.  But how does that affect them and what kind of world does it create? How much of masculinity is a reaction to societal norms? What are the consequences for boys and men who spend their lives wearing “the mask?”

On November 13, in Eddy Theater Chatham University’s own Psychology of Gender Research Team screened a film that took on those questions.  Although the experiences and backgrounds differed, the answers came to a grave consensus. As Joe Ehrmann frankly said, “The three most destructive words that every man receives when he is a boy is when he’s told to be a man.”

“The Mask You Live In” is a Documentary made by Jennifer Siebel Newsome of The Representation Project. Venturing into classrooms, playgrounds, locker rooms, college campuses, and even prisons, filmmakers explored what a “real man” has been defined as in America and the consequences for boys and men. Gaining perspectives and hearing the experiences of boys and men all ages and backgrounds, the audience in Eddy gained a look inside of what is behind “the mask.”

What exactly is this mask exactly? Not something apparent to the naked eye, but a façade that young men are told they must wear for most of their lives because what’s often behind it: pain, sadness, loss, and emotion are feminine and not acceptable. Something forces young men to grow up, hiding their pain in helmets and locker rooms.

In a not-often-seen way, the men and boys interviewed shared what was behind their personal masks and how they were made. Grown men spoke of abuse they had experienced at the hands of their fathers and sometimes their mothers.  The film explores how once vulnerable and innocent faces can wind up on the news or in prison for unspeakable crimes.  One of many examples was what one psychologist called “The Great Setup” meaning from a young age boys are taught that to be a girl means inferiority and weakness, yet we as a society are surprised when men and boys behave violently towards women and girls.

Through anecdotes and statistics the documentary sheds light on the danger that has come from linking respect and control to violence. It also challenged quite a few common misconceptions American society has about what young boys need. Showing that contrary to popular belief in some cases having relationships with one’s father is more damaging than having an absent father.

Startling and at times heart wrenching facts were revealed: that boys experience depression and suicidal thoughts at a similar rate to girls, but the difference is in how it’s expressed. The inherent danger in a world where the only emotion men are allowed to express is anger. Substance abuse sometimes occurs with boys and men, not to feel good in some cases, but to feel nothing. Girls hurt themselves; boys hurt others and are less likely to get treatment. Boys and men are highly unlikely to report being abused. Additionally, unfortunately the first places men start to explore masculinity and their “masks” is behind bars.

However this is not always the case. There were men in the films who were able to remove their masks before doing permanent damage to themselves or others. Some chose to be different than their fathers and their fathers’ fathers. The documentary also featured coaches and activists and their takes on how to help boys become well adjusted men.

Jason Lucarelli, a student in the Masters of Psychology program, played a key role in putting together the event and he explained that while growing, despite having a supportive family, he occasionally felt pressure to suppress his own interests because they differed from that of his male peers. Because of his area of study and his background, this film was important for him to show because, “While traditional masculinity has and will in many ways continue to cause the oppression of women, we need to examine the effects of traditional masculinity on men. We need to examine the consequences of distancing oneself from one’s true feelings and emotions in order to convey stoicism.”  

Before its release, the documentary was subject to criticism; it and those who made it were accused of trying to “feminize” boys.

“My first response is that it’s ridiculous and heterosexist and is probably coming from individuals who have little to no understanding of the realities and influences of gender inequality,” said Lucarelli, in response to this criticism. “My other response is that it is a perfect demonstration of how problematic the gender binary can be.  Gender is a social construct and sadly many members in society view sex and gender as the same thing and in doing so confine males and females to stereotypical gender roles.” 

The event was Sponsored by Psi Chi, AWP Pittsburgh, SPW Campus Representatives, and The Women’s Institute, in collaboration with a number of student organizations.

Off the Beaten Page: Film adaptation of “The Girl on the Train” in the works

The popularization of turning thrilling suspense novels into films is one that has been on the surface for the last few years. Novels like “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “Gone Girl,” and “The Martian” have startled their audiences with jarring plot twists and elaborate plot arcs. Now, Paula Hawkins delivers a more domestic thriller that will leave readers on the edge of their seat.

At first, the novel appears to be one that just addresses infidelity, affairs, and polyamorous situations. The peripheral vibe of the novel seems to be one that thrives on jealousy and cheating, but it becomes so much more than that. “The Girl on the Train” is told in the perspective of three different women who are all linked…I refuse to give any spoilers, you just have to read to find out. The book quickly turns from a women’s novel of distress and romantic turmoil to a gripping tale of a mysterious disappearance.

This book covers issues such as misogyny, alcoholism, and nontraditional marriages, which add a psychological layer to the depth of the novel. The novel is also heart-wrenchingly accurate in how the different women are portrayed, each narrative succeeding in the expression of the character. While the convoluted plots may appear to be overzealous at first, they all work well together and balance properly with the very fast pace of the story.

Currently, “The Girl on the Train” is in the works for a film adaptation with Emily Blunt in the lead role. While the film is not set to be released until October 2016, audience are eagerly anticipating the movie. Why? With the success of “Gone Girl,” psychological thrillers have gained a strong appeal with readers and watchers alike. The structure of these novels attack large social issues without even trying.

“The Girl on the Train” observes blatant sexism in the coolest, most nonchalant of ways. It is almost as if we are not supposed to notice it. Women are portrayed as weak to the iron fist of men in this novel, which is intentional on Hawkins’ part. She creates the opposite of a feminist utopia, one where women are devalued to only a spousal pleasure, which makes the reader question their own social standing in relationships.

I encourage readers to pick up this novel before the movie hits theaters in less than a year. It is predicted to be a box-office hit, and after keeping the number one spot on the New York Times Bestseller list for 13 consecutive weeks, I think that is a great possibility.

Stonewall riots documentary opens eyes to past intolerance

To draw LGBT History Month to a close, Chatham University hosted a showing of the documentary “Stonewall Uprising” in Eddy Theater on October 26. The turnout was small, but for those who attended, it was an extremely informative and entertaining experience.

The subject of the documentary, while focusing mainly on the Stonewall Riots, also showed some rather disturbing clips from 1960’s public service announcements, as well as vivid recreations of the police raid of the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, against which members of the gay community rioted. The film featured real-life accounts from multiple parties involved, ranging from club queens, journalists in a building next door, and a police officer who was called to raid the club. These varying perspectives showed just how complex this uprising was, and how the riot caused a revolution.

The film described violent accounts that happened regularly within the club and demonstrated how homosexuality was illegal and understood as a lewd act. The severity of the documentary, whether it was from interviews with people against “legalizing gay” or the brutal dramatizations of the police brutality, left some of the viewers in Eddy speechless.

“It’s just crazy to think that if I lived back in this time, I could’ve gone through this,” said first-year student Delenn Fingerlow about the attacks on the LGBT community at the time. “It’s insane what these people went through.”

“I knew of Stonewall going into this, but now I knew how bad it really was,” said first-year student Hunter Yedlowski. “It was wild.”

In the documentary, one man who witnessed the uprising, a journalist for the “Village Voice” at the time, called the uprising, “a Rosa Parks moment.” The graphic detail used in this documentary was explicit, and what made the stories of these individuals so intense and valid was their passionate recount of a horrible memory in their lives. These were personal stories that were told with the consent of individuals who survived attacks. No gory details were spared. In order to revoke a response, the filmmakers used the stylistic techniques of both actuality and archival footage in order to give a full documentary experience.

The students who attended this event had nothing but good things to say about the film. One student, who chose to remain anonymous, said that “it was a really eye-opening experience.” The point of the film was to evoke an emotional response from the audience, and it did just that.

Filmmaker Michelle Citron screens film, “Daughter Rite,” at Chatham University

On Friday, November 7, in Chatham University’s Sanger Hall; faculty, alumnae, students, and film enthusiasts came to Chatham to watch a film about a common theme: resenting one’s mother.

Viewers watched “Daughter Rite,” a documentary-style movie that explores the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship. Although it was released in 1980, “Daughter Rite” is in many ways timeless as director Michelle Citron forces viewers to acknowledge the often painful difference between the relationships we see in photo albums and videos and relationships as they are in real life; through home movies, actors, and narration.

The event began with cookies, coffee, and a heartfelt introduction by Program Director, professor, and filmmaker Prajna Parasher–who was herself mentored and taught by Dr. Citron at Northwestern University.

The event was co-sponsored by the Pittsburgh Psychoanalytic Center, Three Rivers Film Festival, and Pittsburgh Filmmakers.

After the film, while the film’s director was in the room, University of Pittsburgh’s Jane Feuer and psychoanalyst Christine Fischetti analyzed the themes of the film for those in attendance. They critiqued and analyzed the symbolism, use of feminism, and artistic liberties within the film; and they posed the question of why fathers typically aren’t the subject of their children’s anger.

The audience, after viewing the film, heard Citron herself speak about her motivations and inspirations behind making the film so many years ago.

Dr. Citron is a professor, filmmaker, and author. Part of her inspiration was her own experience after receiving her own family’s home videos.

“The family on the screen had nothing to do with the family in real life,” she said.

“Daughter Rite” is told from the perspective of daughters. It is narrated by a nameless and never seen twenty-eight year old woman who is torn between her fear of becoming her mother and pitying her mother.

Whilst hearing the narrator’s story, the stories of two sisters, Stephanie and Maggie, are also told. These two young women are taking care of their ailing mother could be seen as representative of the different kinds of relationships that daughters can have with their mothers. In the in film, everything that is usually avoided in family conversation is discussed: incest, anger, resentment, financial difficulties, and death.

In addition to “Daughter Rite,” Dr. Citron shared other films she has created. Most of Citron’s films explore the lives of women. One was an interactive narrative about lesbians and their lives at different points and times.

Another titled “Leftovers,” is the story of a lesbian couple who spent majority of their relationship in the closet until (at years apart) their ultimate deaths.The story is told from the perspective of their caretaker.

Following the viewings there was a discussion about the films between the filmmaker and audience. Some audience members shared their own experiences because of the very realistic events in the films. Citron herself shared the autobiographical aspects that went into her films along with extensive research. After questions, laughter, and applause Michelle Citron and Professor Parasher bid the audience goodnight and left them to ponder the things they had seen.

Some of Citron’s works are available for viewing on her website: