Sunday, November 4, 2007

Parenting and Masculinity on Cable TV

Tonight I had the pleasure of catching an episode of Showbiz Tonight on CNN. I had no idea what to expect of an entertainment news show on cable. The ones I get to see on broadcast TV at home are just wicked and I supposed I shouldn't have expected much more of CNN.

Anyway, one of their feature stories was about the actors in the new film American Gangster which I have not heard much about but I am sure it is another pornographic display of romanticized male violence (perhaps I will write more on that film later). Showbiz Tonight interviewed Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Well, mostly it was Denzel lecturing Russell (and anyone else watching) on how to be a father.

Now I should warn readers that I recently finished reading bell hooks' The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love and it has influenced me. A lot.

Denzel Washington talked about a few key things in child-rearing. He said that " the best thing I did." Suggesting that engaging in hyperviolent organized and professional sports is the best thing for children upsets me. Violence is a disease and institutions like professional sports (and I am talking about the football, hockey type sports here) are huge perpetuators of violent behavior.

hooks talks a lot about how men are damaged by patriarchy. She suggests that boys and men are told to turn off their emotions and turn inward at a very young age. Masculinizing institutions like professional sports encourage and reward that type of behavior.

This is only the beginning of Washington's terrifying, patriarchal advice. He also said that he put his son on an inner-city football team and his son hated it. He got a call from the coach saying "Your son is crying." To which Washington said "Be ten times harder on him, if I hear about another tear another whimper I’ll be back down there and put a foot in his behind in front of the team.”

Because when a male child has the audacity to show emotion, to express himself, to dislike absorbing physical violence without a wince, the best thing to do is to kick his ass. I was horrified. That child now knows that men are violent and that he is not a man unless he is violent and if he strays from that hegemonic masculine ideal that he will be harshly punished. I cannot think of worse advice. That is not tough love as Showbiz Tonight so graciously called it, that is abuse.

hooks mission is to teach men and women that their sons need and want love and that when they don't get it they learn a very painful type of masculinity. And it is this blogger's opinion that masculinity is destroying men.

See the video here.

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