Masculinity — a strong word that brings out strong emotions. But, what is masculinity and its relationship with men and how does it impact them? Is there a link between shame and male violence? What role do women play in defining what is expected from men and masculinity?
Exploring such questions is the new documentary, Beyond Men and Masculinity, which will be screened on February 11 at 5 pm at Museum of Goa (MOG), Pilerne. It is made by filmmaker, Alex Gabbay, who worked for many years as a director for BBC World and Al Jazeera.
In 2009, he launched an independent documentary series bringing together cutting-edge scientists, artists, philosophers, economists, writers and historians to explore subjects that affect our humanity, which this documentary is also a part of.
In conversation with GT, prior its screening, Gabbay spoke about men, masculinity, patriarchy, and what it takes to be a human.
GT: This documentary, Beyond Men and Masculinity, is part of your project, 'Future is Humane'. Can you elaborate on this project and the topic of masculinity.
ALEX GABBAY: The films are part of a film based project I started in 2009 to explore how we, as individuals and society, perceive ourselves and relate to each other. Each of the four films is centred on a singular aspect of this enquiry – how we make sense of the world (consciousness), how we understand another (empathy), how we value each other (fairness) and how we exert control over each other (patriarchy), both The Price of Fairness and Beyond Men and Masculinity are available in Europe on Netflix.
Since you are screening this movie in Goa, I was curious to know whether you have featured men from India for this documentary. If yes, what were your observations, and if not, do you plan to do that in the future?
The film was shot in the USA, Israel, Palestine, Japan and Germany. Unfortunately, COVID-19 happened at the time of shooting, so we worked with what we had shot. India was not featured. A section of the previous film, The Price of Fairness, was shot in India.
Do you believe that masculinity is gender-based or is it a social conditioning that is part of the patriarchal system? How would you define it?
The patriarchal system side steps the full spectrum of human qualities and separates and allocates them according to gender. This amounts to social conditioning for both genders.
What do you have to say about the role of women when it comes to masculinity?
Patriarchy is a clever system, as Carol Gilligan (co-author of the book, Why Does Patriarchy Persist) says in the film. Some women have no choice, but to play their role of supporting the patriarchy, consciously or unconsciously.
Masculinity is always related to violence. Do you think it becomes more evident in today’s polarised world?
I think the root cause of violence in today’s polarised world has more to do to with how we perceive our differences. Violence requires a certain amount of dehumanisation of the ‘other’.
Do you think empathy, vulnerability and compassion are the strengths we need to nurture to make good humans, rather than confining ourselves to norms based on gender?
I think we have arrived at a point where, as individuals, regardless of gender, we all want to be more connected, but just don’t know how. Empathy, vulnerability and compassion should be the new norms for all genders.
‘Beyond Men and Masculinity’ will be screened on February 11 at 5 pm at Museum of Goa, Pilerne. The event is open to all. To register, contact +91 77220 89666.