How do male role models play a part in your life? What is your mask?
Those were among several questions O’Dowd students contemplated during a Dragon Talk held on February 20 that centered on themes from the film The Mask You Live In. Currently being shown to all students in religion classes as part of the Safe Environment Curriculum, this film explores how narrow definitions of masculinity can harm boys, men and society at large, and how to take action in creating a broader definition of masculinity.
Students in Molleen Dupree-Dominguez’s Justice in Action class organized this Dragon Talk, and panelists included seniors Kenyan Branscomb, Shane Dolan, Xavier Murray, Michael Torres, social studies teachers Tony Green and Matt Lane, and strength and conditioning coach Jay Beito.
Others facilitating the discussion included seniors Sundiata Ayinde, Quinn Brinnon, Ruby Perez and Andi Wiley.
Ayinde and Wiley talked about the cultural forces that define toxic masculinity, and also shared sobering statistics regarding the enormous impact of growing up in a fatherless home. For example, 90 percent of all homeless and runaway children and 71 percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. Without positive models of masculinity, boys turn to toxic definitions of masculinity that evidenced throughout our culture, from advertising, to movies, to videogames, and in sports.
The students said their goal was to challenge the stereotype of the athletic, brute male protagonist that is seen in superhero movies and in the extreme violence of video games.
Advised Green, “You are in control of your own life and you dictate the box you want to be placed in – you don’t let anyone else dictate the box for you.”
Branscomb stepped out of his own comfort zone to reflect on the topic. “In general, I’m a person that bottles up my emotions so talking about them out loud helps me,” he said.
He also feels very fortunate that he has strong male role models in his life, including his father, older cousins and coaches.
“My dad didn’t have a father figure growing up, so he works at home so he can be there for me,” he said.
Dragon Talks are student-led, faculty and staff-supported conversations that seek to address issues related to the health and wellness of our community. All members of the school community are invited to attend and participate in these talks, which seek to create a safe space for everyone to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences.
Previous Dragon Talks have addressed athletes taking a knee during the national anthem, racism in our school and greater community, the culture of sexual assault and the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).