In an effort to bring awareness to the issue of misogyny in today’s society, Plattsburgh State’s Center for Diversity, Pluralism and Inclusion will host a special screening of the film “The Empathy Gap,” followed by a discussion with the film’s director, Thomas Keith.
“The Empathy Gap,” which will be screened Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. in Yokum 200, aims to analyze the effects of misogynistic and sexist norms ingrained in boys and men in American culture.
The film also examines how qualities that are often viewed as “masculine” can prevent boys and men from seeing the value in feminism and the empowerment of women in our society.
CDPI’s director J.W. Wiley is a long-time friend of Keith and said Keith’s work, including his second film, “The Bro Code,” aligns with the values he strives to teach students in his courses.
“I brought Tom here because he’s a star in the academy. He’s connected to everybody, and his films are consistent with what I do,” Wiley said. “‘The Bro Code’ is consistent with masculinity, and I teach gender. And (“The Empathy Gap”) is touted as a powerful film, and it’s consistent with what we do.”
Keith, a philosophy professor at California State University, said that although he is seeing a decline in younger generations, misogyny is still prevalent among college-age Americans.
“Many young people learn about these attitudes, much like racism, from those around them. One hopeful thing about your generation is, I believe I am seeing [misogyny] less than in my generation,” Keith said.
“That’s good news.”
Despite the “decline” Keith said he has seen in sexism among younger generations, he also warned against minimizing or overlooking the impact of these issues.
“Anyone who doesn’t see this as an important issue simply has not done their homework,” Keith said.
The film, released just this year, also addresses parallels that can be drawn between sexism and racism and how they have become rooted in our culture.
Being introduced and exposed to these attitudes begins at a young age for many men, Keith said.
“We have these very dangerous masculine scripts that usually start in boyhood and tell boys not to cry, not to feel, not to emote and certainly not to seek out help when they are feeling down. Boys and men bottle up these feelings, afraid that they’re going to lack credibility in the eyes of others,” Keith said.
During his talk at PSUC, Keith said he plans to discuss the serious consequences men face when these behaviors become normal as they age.
He said many have difficulty handling their emotions and can turn to self-medicating.
“By the time they’re into adulthood, they drink more. Studies have shown that men binge drink alcohol at about twice the rate of women. And when suicide is involved, in more than half the suicides, there is a high level of alcohol involved,” Keith said.
Although the film is not specifically directed toward college students, Vice President of Student Affairs Bryan Hartman said he believes it is important for students to put effort into understanding the issues addressed in the film.
“We’ve had two domestic violence cases this semester and we’ve had other reports of sexual violence. We’re not immune to this; we’re like any other community. It is important that we don’t ignore this,” Hartman said.
Despite the impact these topics have within the PSUC community and society as a whole, sexism may not be an issue many college students regularly explore and examine in their own lives, Wiley said.
“College students, like Tom and I when we were in college, don’t necessarily self-reflect at the level that they need to,” Wiley said.
“I think a lot of the young men on our campus are good guys who think they’re doing the right thing. And some of them, still good guys, don’t even think about doing the right thing … they’re just doing what they’ve been taught to do — what they’ve accepted as cool.”
Keith also urges people to view the issue of sexism through a broader scope. Violent sexual crimes perpetrated by men, which he said he believes are rooted in misogynistic norms, affect everyone involved.
“It affects people’s lives in multiple ways — it doesn’t just affect victims. Men have it in their best interest to change the script. To find other ways of conflict negotiation, conflict resolution and dealing with anger issues.”
Keith’s film, “The Empathy Gap,” is the third he has done with the Media Education Foundation, a company that produces and distributes films designed to examine the impact of American mass media on society.
During his trip to the East coast, Keith is scheduled to host discussions at three other universities.
Email Thomas Marble at email@example.com