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Barbie’s on winter holiday so I decided I’d take time to get to know the Joe. He’s had some physical overhauls in the past few years if you haven’t noticed.

In his movie “Tough Guise,” Jackson Katz explores media images of men, how they affect perceptions of masculinity and push violence. He talks about how men have to put on a front to show they are men, or a mask to hide their vulnerability; they have to take a ‘tough guise.’

So,… The Real American Hero, he’s changed. Not just rolling with the times, the dude’s been working out. For Katz’s movie in 1999, it was calculated that the real life equivalent of the size of his biceps has increased over the years.

In 1964 Joe’s bicep was 12.2 inches.

In 1974 it was 15.2 inches
In 1994 it was 16.4 inches
In 1998 it was 26.8 inches

To give you an idea: Mark McGuire, the Big Mac, big time baseball guy who was pretty buff. His biceps in 1998- only 20 inches.

We’re about to be in 2012, what are GI Joe’s biceps measuring now? 30.2? 42.2?

It’s a toy you say. It’s all in fun. Is it? These are the stories we are all told about men. Men must be big and buff and tough. It’s the stories we learn about masculinity and about femininity. The media projects images to us to make us believe they are what we need to achieve for ourselves. For men, this means being large and tough to protect themselves from vulnerability, using their bodies as weapons, being violent against other men and against women.

Jackson Katz, talks about all of this in his movie “Tough Guise.” This movie is so important for men and women to get a better handle on how the media portrays men. It is also key to understanding how this affects us all. It’s not just GI Joe, it’s Superman, pro-wrestlers, and it is real men. Our fathers, our sons, our friends, our uncles. The men we know.

Masculinity has also been coupled with guns. Gun imagery has been boomed up. Both men’s bodies and the weapons men use in the media have gotten larger, more threatening. The media violence has increased as has the real world violence, much of it perpetrated by men against men and if not against men, against women.

This 1999 (but still true and important today) movie challenges us to explore how we can “change our definitions of manhood as a key step in reducing violence.”

If you were thinking of going to the theater with all the fancy new holiday releases out right now, save your money, pop some corn and check out “Tough Guise.” This is a 53 minute take from it and the only one that seems to be this length on line. The full film is 82 minutes. If you ever get the chance to watch the entire 82 minutes, it is totally worth it, but for now, I recommend going for the 53 minute version. It may be the single most important movie you ever watch.

Here is the link to the 53 minute version of “Tough Guise.”


If you can’t take 53 minutes, take 7. It’s the abridged abridged. You’ll at least get the jist with it, but seriously go watch the longer version if you can. Here’s the link to the 7 minute one:


Jackson Katz is a non-violence educator who has worked with gazillions of men. He practices and teaches anti-sexism.

He talks about how video games and movies play a part in teaching men to be violent. Everyone always want to blame the games, the movies and the music, but he says that’s a narrow view. Yes they play a part, but the violence is in a larger context where manhood is connected to power, control, and violence.

Women and men are brainwashed to believe that violence is a normal part of being a man and the link between guns and manhood is being made more and more clear to boys and men.

Even in sports, which have so many positives, often the message is “you gain respect by disrespecting someone else. Katz gives the example of pro-wrestling. Aside from the argument whether it’s real or not, he identifies it as a celebration of power and dominance that links being a man with being abusive and dominant.

We are all given the message that men are emotionally sound and don’t need others. That’s a bunch of bull- and how sad- for everyone. These images are part of the patriarchy and they don’t let men be human.

The contrast is of course that men are big, strong, and scary while women are small, submissive, and vulnerable. Images in the media of women have made us dumb, small, sex objects, big eyed like deer in headlights. These also don’t allow us to be human.

The system of patriarchy not only encourages these images, it needs them to survive. It needs us all to buy into it for the system to have some people oppressing others. And for things to change we need to start to stand up to it.

Katz talks about changing the tough guise being something that happens on an individual level and on an institutional level. Micro to macro baby!

“While girls and women are not responsible for men’s violence, they too have an important role to play because the tough guise is attractive to men, in part because they see girls and women validating it. Girls and women have to show that they’re looking for more in men than bad boy posturing and in particular that they value men who reject the tough guise.” -Jackson Katz

Men- Work to claim yourselves back for a more balanced existence.

Women and Men– See beyond the tough guise and stand against it and the power, control, and violence it perpetrates.

GI Joe is pumped up and dangerous for us all. He wants to take away our humanity and kick our asses- Don’t let him. 2012 is the year to start fighting against the patriarchal system that tells men not to feel and women to shut up, that makes men big and scary and women small and vulnerable.