One of the biggest challenges Hallmark Writers face is finding fresh new ways to say the same things, like Father’s Day messages. To stay inspired and passionate about their work, they look inside their own circles AND out into the world. For Carolina F., it was a documentary that moved her to try a new approach.
As a writer, I’m always looking for inspiration. Doesn’t matter if it’s a song I hear at a coffee shop, an unexpected heart-to-heart on an airplane, or a late-night conversation while volunteering. And one night while I was volunteering as a medical interpreter, someone suggested I check out the Netflix documentary The Mask You Live In about American masculinity.
So, I did. And man, oh man (no pun intended). Talk about inspiration.
There are a lot of conflicting messages out there (and by “out there,” I mean “everywhere”) about what it means to be a man. The Mask You Live In is about how boys from a very young age are told that they are not to show their emotions—ever. (Unless it’s anger. That one’s okay.)
They’re taught to never show a softer side or reveal their feelings, or else they’ll be considered “girly,” “weak,” and, well, you already know the other words. They’re taught to challenge and dominate anyone who opposes them, with anger and hostility, while being suspicious of kindness or empathy.
When I shared the documentary with other writers in the Creative Writing Studio, we decided to do something. We wanted to make a change in whatever way our platform allowed.
So we set out to paint a different picture of what a man looks and sounds like, by instead praising men who are supportive, present, thoughtful, emotional, involved, caring, and loving. We launched a writing project called “Gender Challenge” and spent a few weeks exploring fresh ways to honor dads and the other men in our lives.
The collection turned out to be a sort of “ode to the good guys.” We’re thrilled several of the pieces are featured in the 2017 Father’s Day collection.
We got to show some of our work to The Mask You Live In creator, and founder of The Representation Project, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, when she visited Hallmark last fall. They brought her to tears.
We’re excited about how the project went, and we know this for sure: The work isn’t done. It’s only just started.
Writers (in order of appearance): Jake Gahr and Artwork by Allie Smith, Cat Hollyer and Artwork by Rob Latimer, Bill Gray and Artwork by Kelsey DeJesus, Bill Gray, Carolina Fernandez-Mazzoni and Carolia Fernandez-Mazzoni and Artwork by Rob Latimer