May 14, 2018  (Web Review)

The Empathy Gap: Masculinity & the Courage to Change

(2015) 70 min. $34.95 ($150 w/PPR): public libraries; $280: community colleges; $350 (w/PPR): colleges & universities. DRA. Media Education Foundation (www.mediaed.org). PPR. ISBN: 978-1-944024-98-7.

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Philosophy professor Dr. Thomas Keith offers a timely look at ways in which men have impeded women’s progress, illustrating his points with newsreel footage, clips from movies and TV shows, and interviews with authors and academics. (Keith also serves as on-camera host, an unnecessary addition to his voiceover narration, and is also shown exclusively in close-up, which is distracting.) Keith starts with a history of the women’s movement from the time of the suffragettes up until today, noting that during past and present women have met with resistance from men. Conservative talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly endorse only the most traditional roles for women, reflecting attitudes previously expressed by everyone from Greek philosophers to intentionally retrograde TV characters like Archie Bunker. This way of thinking persists in several forms, not least in the words of Donald Trump, both before and after his successful bid for the presidency. Women have persevered and gained ground along the way, even though the media tends to describe male political figures in more positive terms and men continue to be dominant in leadership roles. Keith also looks at masculinity in group context and male violence against women, both of which he says can be amplified by involvement in professional sports. While there is useful information here—including relevant statistics—the sheer quantity of sexually suggestive and demeaning imagery undercuts the film’s message, since it endorses the idea that sex sells, even if the filmmaker is arguing that women should be valued for their intellect, abilities, and achievements. Still, it’s hard to argue with the idea that more empathy from men would benefit women, which would then benefit society as a whole. A strong optional purchase. Aud: C, P. (K. Fennessy)