Boys Will Be Boys: Sociological Imagination and Male Violence in America

Category: Movie Review
Last Updated: 31 Mar 2023
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Everyone has heard the saying "girls will be girls and boys will be boys". Clichés like these depict social norms in many communities. Social norms are defined as "established rules of behavior or standards of conduct" (Kendall 74). In the United States, these norms are separated, largely based on gender. Girls are expected to be soft-spoken, kind, and gentle. However, if these character traits are found in boys, they are thought to be punks, sissies, and never able to become a "real man". In order to become a real man, boys must be tough, aggressive, and dominant. In Tough Guise 2: Violence, Manhood & American Culture, Jackson Katz argues these hyper- aggressive ideals lead boys to become violent men in America.

The technique Katz uses to make a connection from gender roles to male violence in America is sociological imagination. Sociological imagination is described by sociologist C. Wright Mills as the ability to see the relationship between individual experiences and the larger society. This is especially seen with Katz depiction of young male mass shooters. Young men that commit these atrocities are usually bullied in school because they do not fit the stereotypical persona of a real man. Usually coupled with mental disability, these young men retreat into video games.

These games are usually extremely violent and give these young men a sense of power. Sometimes, however, these video games give these men the courage needed to execute vengeance on those who torment them, even if innocent bystanders get hurt in the process. Katz says the root problem is not the video games or the guns. Although those do play a part, the root problem is the aggressive and bullying behavior society expects from boys and it turns into the societal problem of those who were bullied becoming the attackers.

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Katz also addresses the senseless sport killings by seemingly harmless teenage boys. This is seen in the attacks on homeless men in the early 2000s. In one case of these attacks, Rex Braum, a 49 year old homeless man, was beaten to death with physical force, rocks, and even a barbecue grill by a group of three teenage males who were looking for some fun. Although one of the perpetrators stated that he just wanted to hang out with his friends, he ended participating anyway. These senseless joy killings are seen as representation of our society's nonchalant attitude towards violence due to men being taught that they are violent creatures. The Braum case is an example of groupthink. Groupthink is when a group come to a resolution that most members, privately, believe is not wise. This groupthink technique is also the reason most men follow the stereotypical male ideals.

It is also acknowledged by Katz that all men do not actually fit these stereotypical roles given to them. This invokes the dramaturgical perspective. This perspective is the analysis of social interaction that compares everyday life to a theatrical play. A person's "front stage" actions are the actions that he or she wants to display to a particular audience. A person's "back stage" actions are the ones he or she does when they are comfortable and around people they trust. For men, this is seen as acting tough and dominant in public while showing their true emotions around those that they are close to. This is seen in characters in movies such as Gran Torino, when the protagonist tries to teach the young man how to be tough but instead his gentleness is what saves him in the movie.

In Tough Guise 2: Violence, Manhood & American Culture, Jackson Katz argues these hyper-aggressive ideals lead boys to become violent men in America. "Boys will be boys." Clichés like these depict social norms in many communities. In the United States, girls are expected to be soft-spoken, kind, and gentle. However, if these character traits are found in boys, they are thought to be punks, sissies, and never able to become a "real man". In order to become a real man, boys must be tough, aggressive, and dominant. How do we curve the violence created by this stereotype though? By teaching boys that to be boys you are leaders, kind, independent, and hardworking. Violence does not have to be a part of these characteristics if we choose for them not to be.

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Boys Will Be Boys: Sociological Imagination and Male Violence in America. (2022, Nov 21). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/the-negative-impact-of-the-hyper-aggressive-ideals-to-the-behavior-of-boys-in-jackson-katzs-tough-guise-2-violence-manhood-american-culture/

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