The film featured boys at high schools to discuss how societal and cultural pressures and expectations affect young men. Photo: Courtesy of The Representation Project, via YouTube.
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Ottawa-based organization holds film screening and fundraiser at ByTowne

Although fewer people are starting to shy away from the “f-word”, feminism still strikes a bad chord for many—especially men. The Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW), however, believes that a large part of setting the wheels in motion is having men in the equation.

This is why on April 6 OCTEVAW, who have worked with professors and done guest lectures at the University of Ottawa in the past, held a screening of the documentary film, The Mask You Live In, to raise money for their public awareness campaign catered to men, MANifest Change, at the ByTowne Cinema.

Often times, we tell our boys to “man up” or to “tough it out” without thinking of the negative effects these remarks have on their cognitive and emotional growth. The 2015 documentary brought these issues to light by visiting schools, juvenile detention centres, prisons, and people’s homes to discuss the issue with the variety of men featured in the film.

This ties into the mission of MANifest Change, which focuses on empowering and engaging with men to help combat violence against women.

“Tonight’s film was about looking inwards at masculinity so that our efforts to address violence against women are put into the context of… how men are socialized to be men,” said Matt Schaaf, the project manager of the MANifest Change campaign.

Although many people are aware of the societal and cultural pressure women feel to behave and look a certain way, men are often overlooked or not included in the conversation. The portrayal of men in media—from music, to video games and pornography—is often as unattainable as that of women, and perpetuate the idea that men are only valuable in society if they are physically strong, make a lot of money, and non-emotional.

The film addressed the need for men to be recognized by their peers, which is especially common in a university setting. Men feel the need to prove themselves and this has the potential to lead to binge drinking, violence and, sometimes, rape.

“What’s so hard about this for men is that we don’t talk to each other about this stuff,” said Schaaf. He urges men to become agents of change by taking a stand against sexist comments, violence in relationships, and homophobia.

During the question period following the film, a woman asked about whether there’s an age when men can take the most away from MANifest Change workshops. Schaaf answered this by saying the organization mostly focuses on young boys, but that he believes that all men can take away something from the campaign and film.

“One of the takeaways from the film is that for men to have a role in ending gender-based discrimination, we have to be active,” said Schaaf.

The Mask You Live In addressed men’s conditioning from a young age to exert power over women, and the resulting gender-based differences in issues like depression, sexual violence, and bullying due to this socialization. The MANifest Change project is about raising awareness to men that these issues exist and that they have a hand in ending them. 

For more information about the coalition and their project, follow them on Twitter at @OCTEVAW.


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