Masculinity In Society Sample College Essay

Toughness is one of the characteristics a man should have in order to be termed and regarded as a real man. Watching the two clips from, the men are always furious in proving what they ought to be in this world. Dominators and conquerors are what we think about them as with Alexander the Great and Hitler that were listed in the History. Men are also thought to be strong, that they can do strenuous activities; independent for they can decide on their own; and respected, either with the fear or dignity they have earned from the start of their manhood. Masculinity in this case is a programmed belief made from generations ago. It can be seen even in the records that men really perform more than of women. From the Bible, leaders are also from the guys who are chosen by God to represent a certain tribe.

The passing – on of the concept of masculinity grows in every generation making women only fit for household chores. The wrestling scenarios in WWE, action movies that portray the harshness and violence of men and computer games that involve killing and assassinations are factors that help mold the society with the thinking that men are superior and powerful. The media is a big part of the socially constructed roles of the men, giving us the idea that men should be someone like a knight in a shining armor who will be rescuing a girl from being abused or maltreated.

In other cases, men are also the cause of atrocities of other men, given that they came from a family that is also violent. Those men who were bullied in their young lives tend to become batterers in their adult life. It is sad though that men who cry in front of the people are termed to be weak, where in fact, they are stronger than those who do not cry for they know when to stop and to share the emotions. The molding of the society is double – sided; the good sides go with the specificity of the roles of men and women, while the bad side tends to limit a man from being a human who also feels something at times.

Works Cited

  1. Kathleen Trigiani. 1999. Masculinity-Femininity: Society’s Difference Dividend. 11 April 2008.            <>

Paul Laurence Dunbar; ‘We Wear The Mask.’ Analysis

Paul Laurence Dunbar; ‘We Wear the Mask.’


We act and interact with people. Our disposition with A is different from that of B. With C it is yet different. We converse with the people with a purpose.  We know what to talk to a particular individual and what not to talk. We change the track of the talk, just like a chameleon changes colors. There is a good admixture of conflict within the co-operation we extend in a given situation. A hidden agenda is part of our declared and published agenda. Even when we pretend to walk on the royal road, we keep in mind the plan of escape through the secret route. Our priorities within and without are mostly different and they are guided by extraneous considerations. The mask is sandwiched between perception and presentation of issues. That’s what Paul Laurence Dunbar means– we wear the mask!

One can’t study a man by studying one’s palms, hair, legs or foot. We can gauge an individual by studying the reactions on one’s face. To hide the true emotions in front of other human beings, for whatever reasons, we wear masks. Knowing fully well that pretense will not pay in the long run, and yet we pretend! The shadow is not the reality of a personality and yet we think about the shadow—the mask! We have a casual approach towards honesty. We pretend to believe others to please them and try to please others by our pretense. We are permanently at war with our own selves and think of victory through guile. We switch-off and switch-on the grin, because it is the grin that is meant to lie.

May be that we wear mask not to outsmart others, but with a genuine feeling to hide our true emotions, the suffering on account of trials and tribulations. We sincerely don’t wish others– our intimate friends and well-wishers– to know about our suffering and sympathize with us. Rather we are inclined to suffer privately. In such situations human beings wear masks to hide the reality of the difficult situation. When we wear masks we are like actors in a drama. What we talk is the rehearsed dialogue written for us by others. Our heart and minds are not involved in those emotions.

After a matter of fact introduction to the mask, the poet comes to the serious aspect– the necessity to wear the mask! He makes an agonized prayer to Christ as he writes, ‘We smile, but O great Christ, our cries To thee from tortured souls arise.’ Here, the poet pleads forgiveness with the Lord while he submits to him the reasons for compulsorily wearing the mask. Because the All-Pervading and the All-knowing Lord can understand the reasons as to why one is obliged to wear the masks to enable one to overcome the hopeless situations in life.

In the lines, ‘We sing, but oh the clay is vile Beneath our feet, and long the mile’-the poet suddenly remembers the past life of American Negroes, their heroism in desperate situations, the inhuman treatment they received  at the hands of their so-called masters, the history of slavery and oppression , escape on foot and death of many salves etc. Yet we wear the mask, (of pretending to be happy) the poet says. Smile even in the face of extreme rebuff and hatred. To overcome a precarious situation we are obliged to wear a mask for protection, he surmises. Mask is a ‘weapon’ of survival on many occasions.


(Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

We can get at the real meaning and import of the poem when we pay attention to the period to which the poet belonged. The bitter race-relations were the dominant issue and the Negro-race was at the receiving end. The atrocities committed on them are too horrible for the printed page to capture. The lines of the poem are indeed poet’s cries in anguish. His utter grief is poignantly expressed in every line. The poem highlights, in the grim situations prevailing in the era to which Dunbar belonged, how the Black Race was obliged to lead a cynical life under extremely trying conditions- by wearing the mask!






Mask In Contemporary Dance And Performance

Mask in Contemporary Dance and Performance

Mask dances have been handed down through history form generation to generation in various parts of the world.  Nepal has various mask dances.  Among these are the Mahakali Dance, Lakney Dance, Khyak Dance, Kawan Dance and the Devi Daitya Sangram.  The use of masks in these dances is to represent gods and demons.  The deities in most of these dances were thought to have supernatural powers and as such could not be seen by the regular people.  This is an example where masks have been used to bring to life spirits.  Other kinds of beings are also brought to life using masks such as animals, ancestors and clowns.  For dance masks are used across cultures for purposes of hiding and revealing.  They hide the face, personality and character of the wearer but provide a revelation about the character of the person or being the dancer is representing (

Culturally, the mask maker is revered in many societies.  By working with wood or the available material, he provides a means for the spirits and gods to communicate with the community through his art.  The mask-maker therefore provides reinforcement for the strength of the community, enhancing the community’s well being through connecting with its spirituality.  The masked performer act as some sort of messenger between worlds; for instance in Africa the masked dancers are an embodiment of ancestors, animals and gods.  They bring back messages concerning relationship with the world and responsibilities of the community members and ways of maintaining their culture (

In Mexico, masks are used in various performances such as parades and also as a way of honoring the elderly in “vigeitos” dance. The indigenous people of Central and South America have also used masks for their ceremonies and rituals and sometimes a masked dancer may have other functions such as performing as a healer or shaman especially in Korean culture.

It has been hypothesized that wearing a mask has a physiological effect of causing new brain connections to form in the reptilian, limbic and neo-cortex parts of the brain.  ( If true, then a dancer could get new ideas and solutions for conflicts and problems by participating in a masked dance.  The use of masks for entertainment goes back several centuries; they were used in Ancient Greece, Rome, and Ancient Egypt where they were a fundamental part of drama and comedy.  The Peking Opera of China has used masks for many years.  The Dragon and Lion dancers also make use of giant masks and the descendants of Italian Commedia dell’Arte also make use of masks.  The use of mask like make up such as white face for a mime and a painted down face is also an aspect of employing masks in dance and performance.

The traditional and historical use of masks in dances points to the importance of mask in performance to provide anonymity and distort physical identity.  This is also used in contemporary dance as evidenced by the effect the masked dancers of the Green Table had.  The Green Table was written during the period between the two world wars.  Its beginning and ending has dancers wearing masks representing grotesque politicians and dealmakers whose deals and agreements influence the ordinary person’s fate.  The ugliness of the dance made it an effective commentary on the conditions at the time.  The Gentlemen in Black had their faces covered by porcine masks and their heads by fright wigs.  This had the effect of hiding or masking their genders and individual identities.  By masking them like this, the message was that all these people were indeed the same (Weirebe 2007pp 266).  As such the masks also had the effect or distorting personal identity since only the common and similar identity of the politicians could be seen as a result of the masks.

The use of masks for the Gentleman in Black created a sort of ambiguity about their identity.  In the period following the war, Jooss emphasized their ambiguous identity by indicating that they were a representation of all the powers that stand to gain from a war and that can through their words and actions cause a war. During the dance, the Gentlemen in Black are masked and in tuxedoes, they appear at the opening and closing of the dance. They continue to gesture in debate and repeatedly go through the motions both at the beginning and at the end, showing that their discussion contributes to the continuing war. This is because they continue to be engaged in debate even when Death continues to summon the soldiers and civilians (Carter, 1998, pp 266)

This masked ambiguity provides for abstraction of characterization. At the time when the dance was performed the Nazi leaders were interpreted to be the Gentlemen in Black. When the dance was revived in 1976 by Jeffery Ballet, most people associated the Gentlemen in Black with the American “military-industrial complex” which at the time was blamed for the Vietnam War. Different generations of audiences interpret the Gentlemen in Black depending on the contemporary idea of power elite. A certain character has been associated with the masked identities of the Gentlemen in Black showing the mask has the role of abstracting a character.

The dance, Cendrillon also employs masks to distort personal identity. The dance has characters with animal masks to represent cats and dogs. Cinderella’s mask represents a sweet face (Kisselgoff, 1987, pp1). Her stepsisters on the other hand have worn out masks and they appear hard. The use of these masks helps to freeze the personality and character of the characters, for instance Cinderella’s sweet face mask gives the impression that she is a virtuous person while the sisters wickedness can be abstracted from the masks. Some of the masks are even repaired further enhancing the emotion conveyed by the masked performers. (

Scientists theorize that a mask has the effect of working physiologically to create new connections in the brain. This can explain the freeing feeling that a dancer has when they wear a mask. This enables the performer to express the character of the mask.  Movement of the performer will also be influenced by the mask that the performer is wearing for instance when wearing the mask of an animal, movements are likely to be similar to that of the animal that the dancer is representing. The effect of the mask on movement is best understood by an illustration of the African dances where masks were used.  When a dancer used a mask the spirit of the mask took over his movements and to represent the idea behind the mask the performer would sway, stamp and make stooping movements to provide a sensory impact in line with idea (Segy 1976 pp13). This was for the benefit of the audience such that the community would be drawn to participate by singing, clapping and sometimes shrieking.  This had the effect of referring individual tensions and by the end of the dance the audience would have joined the dance.  The performance activated unconscious elements within the dancer and he assumed the spirits nature so that communication between him and the spirit world could be enabled.  The audience would also go through a similar transformation but in an orderly manner and with unconscious elements aroused according to sanctified tradition the loss of individual identity occurred fulfilling the need for man to enter a spiritual realm (Segy, 1976 pp 13).

The effect on movement is also evident in Maguy’s Cendrillon, where she points out that the dancers moved in a different way when they had large bodies and limited vision.  The adoption of masks in the play led to a change in movement in that the dancers had to always face the audience since the masks had a lot of emotional expression.  Marin’s dancers consequently do not appear like dancers very much since movement is limited.  Victoria marks, an associate professor of dancer at UCLA however, sees this separation of mind and body’ as having an effect of increasing the reality.  The effect of the masked performers on the audience is that they cause the audience to reflect on their own lost childhoods (Paluch, 2004)

Most of the dancers in the Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin have masks that have exaggerated features that are cartoonist in nature.  The aim of Bill of T. Jones in this reproduction is not to represent stereotype caricatures rather Jones attempts to bring about a perspective which enables the audience to distance themselves from and at the same time to embrace the legacy behind the cultural reproductions.  This is evident from the fact that not all the dancers are masked; the narrator and Uncle Tom are unmasked (Albright, 1997 pp159).  The combination of masked and unmasked dancers gives the audience an opportunity to remember injustices of the past while highlighting the fact that they are a reality of our contemporary lives and that in the same way we still fare injustices today. In this way, the history of the African-American conquest and heroism can be a continuum in relation with today’s events rather than just a list of chronological events.

Mathew Barney, in his films, the Cremaster cycle makes use of masks to provide a temporary disguise for the purpose of providing anonymity.  He therefore remains unrecognized in his various works.  In Cremaster 5, Mathew plays different characters, the Goddess, the Giant and Magician.  In cremaster 4 he plays a satyr.  His different roles in the cremaster series make it necessary for him to find a way of acting these characters without being recognized.  Both Cremaster 4 and 5 are written directed and acted by Matthew Barney. The use of masks also helps in losing his individual identity as he adopts the identity of the different characters in the films.

Leigh Bowery used masks almost in all his performances and even in his out of stage life.  He used masks for the purpose of disguise and frequently wore make-up resulting in an outrageous appearance (Frost, 2007).  He wore masks often when he went out. In the legend of Leigh Bowery there is a scene that shows him wearing a Bart Simpson mask when leaving a pub.  As young as 19 he would wear a pigs mask when he stepped out of the house.  His love for disguise started just as a desire to show off and eventually it became an occupation.  He extended his wearing of masks to his performances. Cerith Wyn Evans compares his performance at the Anthony d’Offay Gallery in 1988 to a visit to the zoo to watch Gay the Gorilla in drag- Bowery showed up each day in a different costume that he had designed.  He once had rivulets of purple glue spilled like blood from the top of his shared head with a feathered bodice making him look like an ostrich.  On another day, his face would be covered by a black –spotted faux fur together with the rest of his upper body transforming him into an alien leopard (Nickas, 2004 pp 2)

His masks had the effect of shocking people and their Choreographer Michael Clark incorporated them into performances include Atlas’ Hail of the New Puritan (1985) and Because We Must (1989).  The use of masks in this plays served to make the play more interesting and to capture the attention of the audience.  Leigh Bowery in many ways was like a walking and talking object of art (Frost, 2004). The use of numerous masks in his performances also had the effect of distorting Leigh’s personal identity.  Many of those around him may not have truly understood him.   Most people considered him full of contradictions.   The portraits of him done by Freud were a sort of unmasking to reveal the true him. His disguises though shocking and even offensive sometimes had originality and his effect on the theatre scene cannot be ignored.

The inclusion of masks in theatre points to their importance in expression, hence their presence in ceremonies, rituals and festivals both in Western countries and the third world countries.  Many people assume that masks are artifacts limited only to the cultures of third world countries.  This is a mistaken view since their use is prevalent all over the world.  This can be attributed to the sense of mystery that the mask gives the wearer and also the audience.  The mystery created by a mask for the audience helps to cultivate the audience and hold their attention.

The use of the mask in theatrical performances grants the mask wearer a high degree of value and often the masked performers become a central concept of the performance.  Western tradition views the mask as a stylistic device and often it has been used together with puppetry.  Practitioners of the masks are mainly visual artists but this does not limit the use of masks to just visual artists.  Edward Gordon Craig in a Note on Masks suggested that masks may have more virtue than using the actor’s naturalism.   His ideas were extremely influential in restoring the mask to the stage (Metheun, 1981). Among the first significant uses of mask in theatre can be attributed to Peter Schumann and the Bread and Puppet Theatre established in the 1960 in New York.  Schumann combined features of European masks and American sensibility together with a humanitarian and anti-war polemic to influence mask use and especially on street theatre (Macmillan Modern Dramatists)

Bread and Puppet influenced many other theaters to adopt masks on stage.  Many performers consequently study performance with mask.  These studies have been mainly derived from the traditions of Comedies dell’Arte.  The importance of the mask in dance and art can therefore not be over emphasized as is clear from its use on history and even in contemporary times by present-day artists.







Works Cited

Albright Anne Cooper, 1999, Choreographing Difference: The Body and Identity. Wesleyan University Press, ISBN 0819563218 Pp 159

Carter Alexandra, 1998 The Routledge Dance Studies Reader Routledge Publishers ISBN 0415164478 pp 264-266

Cendrillonguide.finalindd retrieved from

Daroni Isabella 1999 Mutation’s Mitology: Mathew Barney. BTA Telematic Bulletin of Art January 24th 1999 n. 158 ISSN 1127-4883 pp 1-4

Frost Caroline, 2004 Leigh Bowery profile retrieved from pp1

Kisselgoff Anna, 1987, Dance view: Maguy Marin’s vision of lost childhood, The New York Time, Tuesday December 18, 2007, retrieved from

Macmillan Modern Dramatists 1982 American Alternative Theatre: Theodore Shank Publishers, London 1982, ISBN 0333-28883:1


Masks and Masked Movement around the World retrieved from

Methuen Eyre, 1981 Craig Edward: the theatre of Edward Gordon Craig: Bablet Publishers, London 1981 ISBN 10:0413-478807

Nickas Bob, 2004 Talk of the gown: Bob Nickas on Leigh Bowery Performance pp1-3 retrieved from

Paluch Smith 2004, Cinderella story Lyon Opera Ballet’s Fairy Tale Returns retrieved from

Segy Ladislas, 1976 Masks of Black Africa, Courier Dover Publications Pp 13-14 ISBN 048623181X

Weinrebe Susan 2007 Joffrey Ballet: Destiny’s Dance, The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University retrieved from





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