“Once upon a time, in a beautiful village called Inside Out, there lived a town full of happy, fulfilled people. They were fulfilled and happy, because they followed their passions and took care of their health, in order to feel good and to continue to do what they love to do. The whole town was like a well-oiled, healthy wheel, because everybody did what they loved and what they were good at, which in turn, contributed to the good of the village.”
The above passage is the opening lines from the play, “Choices,” which we produced in 2014. The story goes on to tell about what happens when inhabitants of Inside Out wander into the deep, dark woods; encountering a very strange and scary place. They find themselves trapped in the world of Outside In, where negative messages come flying at them from every direction, making it difficult for them to be their true selves. Finding their way back to Inside Out is a challenging and treacherous journey. Some never make it.
So… boys and girls enter our world as sweet, innocent babies…full of wonder, curiosity and joy.
And then what?
Think about the first thing that happens when a child enters our world and takes his/her first breath. Hopefully, the newborn is handed to his/her mother and held in her loving arms, ideally with an overjoyed father and a supportive family nearby. Happy friends and family give baby gifts… typically, lots of blue for boys and pink for girls (in the US…other cultures don’t necessarily specify colors for different genders). Gifts for boys may be cute little clothes with trucks and dinosaur prints, and onesies that say “Champ,” “Genius” or “Bro.” Girls are given adorable outfits with ruffles, flowers, hearts, ponies, unicorns, and onesies that say, “I was born to sparkle,” or “Not allowed to date…ever.” (Do a quick search on the internet…you’ll see what I’m talking about.)
Toys are popular gifts for children throughout the years. Think about what toys are targeted at boys vs. girls. For boys? Again, a quick internet search yielded airplanes, trucks, cars, tools, dinosaurs and super heroes. For girls? Castles, doll buggies, kitchen sets, cosmetic sets, hairdryers, dolls, doll houses, lots of sparkles, and of course, lots of pink and purple. There was a doctor kit, but of course, it was also pink and purple. It is alarming what messages boys and girls get from a very early age. To show just how alarming, Remix artist, Jonathan MacIntosh created a tool to show the very different advertising messages aimed at boys versus girls, through mash ups of sound and visuals. Check out an example here. I think you’ll find it hilarious and startling all at once.
In our real world, (like Outside In), constant messages are aimed at us on a daily basis, through our families, peers, ads, music, TV, social media, movies, books, magazines, fashion, food, exercise…the list goes on and on. So just what does happen to those innocent baby boys and girls who enter our world? Well, it depends. Follow us on our journey with The Masculinity Project, and we’ll explore this very topic together.