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The Empathy Gap: Masculinity and the Courage to Change

2015
Distributed by Todos los Pueblos Productions
Produced by Thomas Keith
Directed by
, color, 70 min.
High School - General Adult
Feminism, Interpersonal Relations, Philosophy, Popular Culture, Social Problems


Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Recommended with reservations   
 
Date Entered: 11/2/2018

Dr. Thomas Keith is a California-based philosophy and gender studies professor and the producer of two previous films on related topics of masculinity (The Bro Code) and misogyny (Generation M). In his latest documentary, he tackles the subject of empathy, and the notable lack thereof, in male culture. Using clips from various media sources, including advertisements, magazine and book covers, films, news and sports reporting, and music videos, Keith presents numerous examples of the ways females are portrayed and devalued in and through popular culture. These pervasive messages and other ways males are educated and socialized are used to explain the reasons men are misogynistic and sexist. That is, men treat women like objects, because they’ve been taught by society to treat them that way. Keith, along with other authors and academics featured in talking head interviews, call for men to be more understanding and sympathetic towards women.

It’s unlikely that anyone would argue the point, which makes the question of audience problematic. While Keith’s intention clearly is to generate a more constructive conversation about sexism, the message that men need to be more empathetic is overly and overtly simplistic. Similarly, the idea that media powerfully impacts culture and society is well-trod territory. Both the images used and the opinions expressed, while arranged in an original way, are not new. If the premise of the film is to provide more examples of the many ways the current dominant culture is unkind, uncivil, and misogynist, most audiences will reply – “yeah, we know.”