What Guys Won’t Admit

The Mask You Live In

The Mask You Live In

A guy sent me a link to a post called, “The One Thing All Men Feel, But Never Admit.”

He attached a note:

I can relate.

What is this thing that so many men feel but cannot say? 

They doubt they measure up to being “a man.”

Yet each thinks he is alone.

Since we rank men above women, guys must constantly prove that they deserve their high status.

The harmful messages are unrelenting:

Be a man. Stop being such a fag. Grow a pair. You’re such a girl. Man up.

The phrases put down women and girls, and any man who shows his feminine side – a side that all humans have but that men feel they must repress.

Don’t be:

Sensitive, expressive, vulnerable…

Real men must bolster their most destructive traits.


Rough, tough, aggressive, violent, dominating…

But this “manhood” mask can be an uncomfortable fit.

No wonder so many boys grow up to become lonely, anxious men, darkened by pain. Compared with girls they’re more likely to develop behavioral problems, binge drink, drop out of school, commit violent crimes and commit suicide.

The Masks Men Live In

The Masks Men Live In

Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who produced the documentary, Miss Representation, is now taking on the harmful messages boys receive in her new film, “The Mask You Live In.”

When she first began the project she explained:

As I traveled the world talking about “Miss Representation” people consistently asked me, what is going on with our boys? At the time I was pregnant with my son Hunter, and increasingly sensitive to the extremes of masculinity that would be imposed on my own son.

Hunter is 2 now — loving and empathic and joyful like so many boys are at this age. But I worry about how he will respond to the expectations and stereotypes he’s likely to encounter as he grows.

Say “The Mask You Live In” quickly and it sounds like “masculine.”

How fitting.

The Mask You Live In premieres this weekend at the Sundance Film Festival.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on January 21, 2015, in feminism, men, psychology, sexism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 58 Comments.

  1. I’m thinking about writing a post or two on it and then following it up with a blog post by you: your thoughts on the topic, Which you have written down here (I’ll edit it a bit). What do you think of that?”

    I’,m thinking like you said that this is probably biology mixed with culture for me. As I know there are plenty of men who don’t view things like that and just shrug off something that’s bothered them and then move on or more easy going. I think it’s compounded for a man if he’s analytical so more likely to stew over something over and over and maybe make him more negative to situations. I think a lot of it is anxiety related, which is something very common for men and women to have. But it seems women and men deal with anxiety differently sometimes.

    Maybe a man fears losing control or power or failure that it’s harder for him to cope or for more of a violent, aggressive, vengeful retaliation. It’s also ego related too. But I think while culture can effect that, I do that’s personality and innate too based on the individual man. Perhaps circumstances aid in stroking a man’s ego more, when it was already very big or ego driven. I mean look at Donal Trump, he’s always said crazy things, but when you hear him talk, he’s definitely a narcissist and completely all about himself. I get that from kanye West too, who is a d bag, though both, but especially kanye west really does seem rooted from insecurity.

    • Yes, you definitely find gender differences in the way you described. I’ll have to discuss the movies — like tough guise, that discuss some of the social forces that lie behind it.

  2. I found bits of tough guise 2. I wish they had the whole clip somewhere, but couldn’t find it. Anyways I found this while looking for it. It showed some parts of tough guise 2, but also it’s a review and discussion of it and interesting. It’s a professor showing clips of it and dissecting it and talking about it in a class. Comm 288. Study telecommunications in college I had some COMM classes too, though never saw the tough guise 2 clip though I think it’s because the video came out when I was already out of college. But check this out.

    • Thanks for the link, I’ll have to check it out. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this movie. How was speaks to you.

      • Well I wish I saw the second one, but couldn’t find the whole video anywhere. I was able to see the whole video of the first tough guise on youtube. I remember it from class too. The second one from the small clips looks better than the first. I think it’s interesting. I think a lot of what is driving the violence is the pressure of men holding in their anxiety and anger because it’s the tough thing to do and not talking about it when it can help a lot.

        The social aspect for men makes things harder, just because of how men communicate with each other. For example, even guys who are good friends might talk a little ,but guy;s typically don’t have much heart to heart talks or start after a relationship and just go talking like girls. There isn’t that like social support or network with just how girls are just innate or culturally conditioned to just be more about talking and helping each other or share their feelings. I understand it, because it’s just built in to me, to eventually be like “alright man up” and just I don;t want to just cry over spilled milk. It’s hard to look past that and I just don’t like talking too much or too long about a problem or with another guy about something, because it feels pointless, because like you;re stewing over it and ith’s happened you can’t chage the past so get up, dust yourself off and just get back on the saddle. I don’t mean as in relationship but just in general. I do realize how sharing you feelings and talking helps, but sometimes you just so upset and impatient that you don’tt want to.

        I don’t like opening up or it takes awhile, especially if it really bothers me and something tough to fix or that would take time. I’m impatient so thinking about something that I can;t fix or takes time, just bothers me. I don’t like my mind, which talking about it does…to go back to what frustrated me or pissed me off. I try to block it out, but that’s where i can fesrer and grow for men, as it’s never completely gone usually. I hate talking about it, because I don’t like my day ruined when I might otherwise be in a decent or good mood. Once, I think about what regret I have, then that anger and anxiety comes out again and that anger emotion will over come me and if I’m talking about it to someone, they might hear my voice raise, cussing and swearing and me getting really pissed. It’s not a pretty sight and have a hot temper so I don;t like my emotions ramped up so I will block out something bothering me as I don’t want to get ramped up.

        The anger wouldn’t be actually toward the person I’m talking about it to of course, but a general anger that I’d still lash out about a person or situation or what I didn’t do in my life that I wish I did and still have that regret and haven;t fixed yet and don’t know how to. They say women are more emotional, but I don’t know how women can talk with each other and be fine “purging” their emotions to each other and handle it better than men. I mean sure some girls and woemn might cry if it bothers them when talking about something that bothered or hurt them whereas, guys usually don’t do that as much. But it depends on what it is for me to talk about. If it’s something that made me sad, I am more likely to talk about whereas, a burning regret or great frustration and anger from disrespect or something that is pride related. Then I’m reluctant to talk, because doing so will put this stress on my emotions. It’s not fun talking about something when you’re fine and it brings up those buried emotions and where you were fine, not you want to punch a whole in a wall, because you’re reliving that anger again since you’re talking about it again.

      • I finally had a chance to look at the video — it doesn’t seem to come up on the blog but I copied the code and viewed it that way. It’s really good. (although he spends too much time rambling right at first)

        I’m thinking about writing a post or two on it and then following it up with a blog post by you: your thoughts on the topic, Which you have written down here (I’ll edit it a bit). What do you think of that?

      • What do you think of the video?

      • I’m planning on responding to your comments soon, But I’m going to need a little free time to watch the video and think about them. Just wanted you to know that I haven’t forgotten.

  3. Can you help me figure out the video. I wonder if you’ve seen it before, I thought you would because it’s about men and pressure men feel. I saw it years ago in health class. I was called something “mask”. I though it was mask of masculinity, but that’s not it. You remember the name of the video? It’s like a documentary that shows and talks about men hiding their vulnerable emotionas and society that focuses on men being macho. It talks about minorities with gang violence because of this powerlessness. It’s a good video. I remember the opening of the video starting with like a scene or clip of a picture, a black and white picture I think of young boys flexing and the music is “better man” by pearl jam. I’ve been talking about this stuff to someone and I wanted to show it. I’ve looked on google, but I can’t find it, because I don’t remember the title of it. I thought I did, but I must not be right or forgot it.

    • Actually, there is more than one. Tough Guise 1 & 2. And also “The Mask You Live In.” But I think that last one is this post isn’t it?

      • Yeah it;s tough guise. There’s a tough guise 2? I didn’t know that. Is it just the second part of the video or this a sequel as in made a few years later? Yeah tough guise is good and interesting. I remember my teacher showing it to the class back during my first semester at my community college years ago.

      • It’s an update of the first movie.

  4. I do agree and believe that men will do anything to not show their emotions. I have a close friend and he is a male. He has told me so much on how his family pressures him so much to be a man, be tough, be rough, and not to be sensitive. He told me he has never had deep conversations with his father. His dad has never expressed his feeling to anyone and when his brother past away he told his family that he needs to be a man and make all the arrangements. My friend was devastated about his uncle and also with his dad because he believes that he didn’t grieve. So I believe that men feel pressured by society not to show their feelings.

  5. Thank you for posting this article. I’ve seen these kinds of things since I was a little girl at home, my father used to say many of those words to my two brothers, even now, sometimes I do expecting things from my husband or assume that he can handle things, only by the fact that he is “the man”. I never thought this could be so harmful to them, and consequently, to the society, where both, man and woman are labeled. Unfortunately, I grew up in this sexist culture, where man must behave as a “man” and women must conform that it will never be “like a man”.
    Perhaps we can switch this pattern in our society, by changing our minds, putting less pressure on men regarding their masculinity while we need to value more the women and not underestimate their femininity.

  6. I find this topic very interesting; because it is true to say men don’t express their self to their potential. Men are told to be strong, don’t cry, man up, don’t show emotions since there are little boys. I have watched and experienced it firsthand growing up around boys. Any sign of emotions shows that they are weak and no man wants to be viewed as weak. But what we aren’t realizing is that by not allowing them to express their feeling we are hindering them for their future. We wonder why when it time to ask a man to express his feelings he is closed off, guarded, or even gets angry. Just because a man express himself doesn’t mean he is any less of a man. It shows that he has control over his real emotions instead of having to hide from how h really feels inside. Let the men and boys express their feelings.

  7. I agree that society puts so much pressure on a man “being a man” that men feel that they can’t show emotion or have feelings without being compared to a woman. its sad that being compared to a woman is such a threat to men though. It sort of down plays woman and I don’t like that. Great thoughts though.

  8. I agree with the fact that men are taught to be strong and not show emotion. I’ve heard women say men that cry have no back bone, which I strongly disagree that has nothing to do with them having a back bone. Men have just the right to show emotion as women do. My brother who is older with a family came over and started talking to me and broke down in tears of course I didn’t expect that coming from him because like it said above men don’t show emotion but of course I was there for him to comfort him. My point is that Men have a lot of good traits and behavior I feel that it is a stereotype that people think they all need to be strong and show no emotion. I feel like it is only okay for men to show emotion in appropriate times in women’s eyes.

  9. Growing up, I was taught to be a man and always hold back my feelings. I grew up acting rough and tough around my friends and even around my family. However, as I grew older and I became closer to my sisters, I began to notice how the whole “rough and tough” act does not make you that much more of a man than expressing your feelings do. My sisters told me that a tough man may get the woman at first, but after a month or so, the act gets old. Obviously, around my teammates and on the field, feelings will not be a topic of discussion, however, being tough is not some act I put on. Being tough is visible on the field when I am playing my best, but this toughness and violence does not have to carry over into everyday life. To me, a man is seen as tough when they are able to balance their feelings and their tough side. I hope as generations pass, boys can learn that balance and avoid the discomfort of hiding your feelings.

  10. Aram Moshkounian

    I found this piece to be really interesting and was also able to connect it to my life. My parents were both born and raised in Armenia so when they moved to America and had me and my brother they decided that they will raise us with their methods back home. In Armenia, women really didn’t have much power or opportunities to chase their dreams and goals. Since I was a little kid my parents taught me that a man is supposed to take care of the women in his family and always be strong and never show emotion. Although these ideals were instilled into me since I was a little kid it’s not something that I live by today. The person that I believe I have become is someone who will do anything for his family whether they are male or female. I also am a person who doesn’t repress my emotions just because I am a male. I believe that the society we live in today that judges males for showing emotions or not acting tough is really sad. People need to understand that gender in this world shouldn’t matter because everyone has their own emotions and ways of expressing themselves. Although sayings like “being a man” and “men don’t show emotions” still exist I truly do believe that we have improved a lot as a society. We still do have a long ways to go but I think in the future we will be able to get rid of these standards and unwritten rules that we put on genders. I am truly honored to say that I am proud of my parents and how far they were able to come in this world. Coming to America was so different from what they had experienced their whole lives in Armenia. My dad was able to throw away all the sexist views that he had and was able to have an open mind towards my mom working and following her dreams. Although it took him some time to open his mind to this new way of life he was finally able to change. Today my mom works at a school, volunteers for many organizations and couldn’t be happier. I believe that if people who were born in different countries are able to change their mindset towards the male and female gender then people in America can change to. Hopefully in the future we can live in a world where men and women are able to say things without getting any negative feedback or harm from others.

  11. I agree with the author that boys learn to be aggressive and act out in an aggressive manner to get themselves free from uncomfortable messages such as” Stop being such a fag, or Man up”. It is noteworthy to mention that it is the society who labels boys as aggressive, and girls as affectionate. Actually the deep root of all this problems came back to expectations and stereotypes that have been built up in years by our society for our boys and our girls, and consequently, they have to obey these rules if they want to be accepted into society and their community. Accordingly, when the author says; “The Mask You Live In,” I totally will agree with her. Our society had learned us that “the perfect” means “masculine,” and “feminine” corresponds to deficient, which I know is totally false because many girls are more talented and skilled that their male counterparts. I personally think one main reason that has led to more behavioral problems, binge drink, drop out of school, commit violent crimes among boys compared to girls is due to our own fault-spreading and propagating the belief that manhood is same as manly qualities; i.e. destructive traits (rough, tough, aggressive, violent, dominating). Subsequently they have to act in a “man” way otherwise they will get depressed, become lonely or anxious men.

    • And there actually are a lot of positive so-called male traits (male by historic standards): leadership, rational, assertive, Independent… But either actually human traits that women have increasingly taking on, themselves. The traits they have left behind — more negative things like violence, domination and aggression — are now what are considered exclusively male. That’s probably why so many guys feel pressured to take on those negative characteristics. While shunning so much of their humane side that is associated with femininity.

      To change things we are going to have to start valuing women more, So that men won’t feel like they have to latch onto the negative traits and cut off so many positive ones.

  12. Although intended for women, the link below offers excellent advice for any man wanting to balance both his masculine and feminine side…


  13. How can men break out of male gender role limitations without becoming targets of scorn? I know I have a strong feminine side, which I’ve started to embrace. My wife says that I have quirks (She says she loves me not only because of my quirks, but in spite of quirks). Yet It makes me think twice sometimes about how I dress when she makes a remark that ‘that looks very gay’.

    I guess it’s one thing to become comfortable with oneself, yet at the same time a person needs the ones that love them to be comfortable with different aspects of their personality as well. Otherwise, it’s very hard to feel really free as you know others are analyzing your behavior. How can a man show emotion knowing that others are passing a negative judgement.

    I think this is the key to men accepting their feminine side versus constantly repressing it…

    • There needs to be change both individually and socially. And each encourages the other. As each man becomes more accepting of his feminine side and gets out of the closet about it, and the more there is cultural discussion about the need for that to happen, the more things will change. It needs to happen in multiple dimensions. I’m glad that you’re doing your part, both for yourself and for society.

  14. Caroline Dietrich

    Thanks for this post I really liked reading it. I haven’t found much about this topic on the Internet; it was interesting to read. It must be very emasculating being called “ a faggot, or gay, or a pussy” If you are not being “manly” enough. There was a student at my high school school who committed suicide after he came out to his friends and family that he was gay. The scrutiny he received from his friends and family was too hard to handle and it ate away at his self-esteem. It was so depressing watching such a young hearted loving boy transition from beings so happy to so incredibly depressed at such a young age. I think it is really important to bring awareness to the topic and the pressure men are put under.

  15. After reading this I can agree with the fact that many men in today’s time will probably do anything to hide what they really feel. I have a younger brother who is four years old and I agree with what Jennifer Newsom said about her son being loving and joyful. My brother, his like any other kid his age, his is sweet and loving and is always showing how he feels, because that is all kids that age know how to do. If they are happy, they might smile or laugh so hard that, if they’re sad or upset they might cry or stay quite. With everything that we have learned in class so far, I am becoming a bit more fearful of him becoming like all the other men in the world that conform to what everyone else is doing, hiding who they are really. I know that for men it is hard to show emotion because in my entire life I have only ever seen my dad cry twice or three times, and it was only because of the loss of my grandparents (my mom’s parents). They meant so much to him and my entire family that I was surprised when he showed that emotion to me, because he never does that. So I have seen it first hand, that a man will try everything to hide those feelings from everyone, including his family.

  16. This is a very interesting article. As I male, I guarantee that both male and female have tough times and at least once in their life, they both feel weak, soft, vulnerable, and have no one to shard their thoughts. However, as a women, who are determined as soft and emotional so it’s normal for them to share their problems or even cry. But not for men, men are supposed to be tough, strong, determine, and such. As the result, they are not allowed to show their soft side, otherwise, they are called a fag, wuss, wimp, sissies, and pussy. Therefore, problems keep building up in men and then when it reaches to the point they feel hurt and they want to do something like being aggressive to release the pressure. Just like an idea about privilege hurt the privileged, men have higher rank so that they have higher expectations so that they have to put on the mask to hide their weaknesses. It’s really tough and may be hurtful to wear such a mask like that. It’s a life when a man has to suffer all the problems alone. There is nothing worst than having problems but not allowed to share.

  17. I can understand why they call it a mask. It really depends on where a person lives in society. Some places will not separate the way a person looks in public. If someone is from a strict area in society life is not going to be easy. The way we see ourselves can make us happy and we know that we are real. Some people will not see us the way we do. Categorizing, labeling and placing blame on someone can happen anywhere in the world. Sometimes I like telling a person one thing,”I know what I know”. Being a man can be just living a positive life and striving for excellence at any goal that is chosen. Women can fulfill any role in life that will make them happy.

  18. Personally I would agree to a lot of what this post states .As a man it is true that status is more valuable than women .i feel most people do value men more . It is something we all should change because we are all human, LIke it or not name calling is out there and Labels do hurt people bullying is not the way and Labels shouldn’t be either I feel we are all the same. Man and woman of any age and race should be treated the same all around

  19. I’ve had beratement from my older brother and his friends that have shaped me into who I am today. I do repress some of my emotions,like to get rough and be aggressive and I would consider myself to be a “manly” man. Now I am older and I seem to cherish the traits I have grown up with, which seems to go a long way when dealing with any problem or situation. After reading the article I thought to myself “Am I actually wearing a mask”, but I do not think so since I cherish these aggressive, maybe overly confident masculine values. Some of the “masculine” traits I have gotten accustomed to has actually helped me in countless situations, however I do realise that my lack of certain expressions, and emotions does hurt me as well. I guess it’s all about balance then?

  20. sandra mitchell

    I’m glad to finally read something from the men’s point of view of how they are being forced into gender roles as well. Yes there are plenty of men who believe women should play the role of the housewife and mother, but how much of this belief was forced onto them in their young adult lives. I’ve known a few men in my life to lash out and say demeaning things about women, only to find out they were repressing their own insecurities about themselves. Putting women in their place is supposedly manly, so if guys act out and do this it is proof they are more masculine right? Of course it’s not true, but if you heard a man say something demeaning about a woman’s role, it’s less likely you would think that man feels more comfortable in the role he is talking down about, right? It’s sad to think that due to gender stereotypes there are so many men and women who can’t feel comfortable in their own skin. 

  21. I totally agree. Indeed, men usually try to show the tough side. Specially if the boy lost his dad when he was young and had to be responsible for the women of the family. I am not sure if some even forget their feelings, but my dad told me that his parents got divorced when he was a baby, and he had to live with his dad ( my grand father and his wife. ) and a week after his school graduation his dad went to jail so he had to take care of his dad’s wife. My dad told me that he had to work so hard to sponsor his family and after his dad got out of jail, he had to keep taking care of him because he was already too old to work. My dad is a great man with lots of emotions, he had many lovers, but got one wife ( my mum ) who died after 6 years of their marriage and he never got married again. My dad played the role of mum and dad at the same time, and was our world, however, my dad is a strong man I am not sure if its because he learned it since he was a child, but never expressed his feelings to us. We literally would see him extremely working hard for us and doing his best, but he never told us how much he loves us. And since I moved here to the U.S every time he takes me to the airport I see his tears, but once I arrive here he never talks to me or asks about how I am doing. It hurts me so bad that he doesn’t even know what classes I am taking or if I am feeling good or bad. I really love him but never had any kind of emotional conversation with him or ever told him how much he means to me. We don’t Skype, nor text. The only way we communicate is through Facebook where I message him and he sends me money. As for me, I used to sleep in the same room as he did that’s how close we were and now? I literally see him once a year and that’s when I go back. Its very sad that I feel like I don’t care anymore.

    I am sorry for my long comment, but I dont know how to deal with my dad, I cannot say he is heartless but he doesn’t show any kind of emotions.

  22. I totally agree. I do dare to think though, that things are improving. Case in point: Back to the Future. That long-beloved movie was on somewhere or other a couple days ago, and we all had to laugh at its fundamental message that punching people will win you the respect of everyone, especially The Girl.

    We’re at least getting a bit more nuanced about it (which opens the old question of “Was it better when it was rampant and honest?” but I’m going to cling to my hope today.

  23. As Men We have Plenty of pride sometimes too much, but Its Just In Us To Not Show emotions or any kind of sensitivity. In addition we don’t admit; most of the time we don’t admit our faults.

  24. First, I want to commend you on this piece. Great job!!!

    I think the single biggest problem we men have is this thingy about “being a man.” While it does the greatest harm to men, women too suffer. Regardless of the source, be it patriarchy or whatever, it is really harmful to men.

    As humans we all desire love, appreciation, etc. What “being a man” translates into for most men is: I am not a man unless I am desired, loved, and appreciated by a woman. So, we men do all these things in life in pursuit of “being a man” overwhelmingly to obtain praise and attention from women.

    As men we need to step back from this approach to living. It is harmful and toxic. We must start living in the moment everyday. Our aim should be to make the best of each and everyday by: doing work on ourselves AND focusing on giving of ourselves to help others. Not to get praise but to feel better about ourselves.

    Also, men need to start focusing on being more balanced people. By this I mean being more complete and multidimensional. For example, men don’t read enough. Hence, we really cannot be as engaging in conversation as women. I visit my local public library several times a week. The vast majority of the patron are women (and kids). The men are largely absent. The men who are present are principally either reading magazines or surfing the web!

    We can still do the “manly” things. But to this we men need to add the feminine.

    Once we start doing these things, we men will become mentally and emotionally healthier people. This will also benefit both sexes and society.

    • I’m glad you like the piece. And I don’t doubt that many men base their worth on what women think of them. But men are just as concerned about what men think of them. If men go outside of gender norms and show a tender side, vulnerability, emotional expression… They can be put down by other men for not being tough enough. Guys constantly have to prove manhood to other men: driving dangerously to impress the guys, Drinking other guys under the table, and just general pressure to put on a tough façade.

      It’s not so much that men or women, as a whole, are the problem here. The problem is gender expectations that some men and some women police, and which keep men in a box. We all tend to internalize cultural expectations and re-create them. But all of us really need a lot more freedom to be who we authentically are. And stop cutting off part of our humanity because it doesn’t fit some dumb gender expectation.

  25. can’t wait to see it. I found that I cultivated better relationships with men once I let go of the conditioning I’d internalized of how I thought they should be. I believe that a lot of men, if given the opportunity, would welcome women and other men allowing them the liberation of their own fullness rather than limiting them to the imbalanced stereotypes of who a “real” man is supposed to be.

  26. Mask and dualism are a trend these days.Have a wonderful day.jaalal

  27. Society needs to start valuing feminine traits more, then men would not be so ashamed of their feminine side and would maybe start to embrace and value their femininity…

  28. Since I’m regarded cover boy handsome-at age 61-and possess a 160-range IQ,even in high school,I didn’t worry about dull-normal dudes’ opinion of me!!!

  29. Yep. And so many of these men take this cultural pressure into their relationships. The minute they feel vulnerable or attached to a woman they hide it and bolt.

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