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Film looks at how culture disables men by damaging ability to empathize

April 16th, 2018

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Though the film was scheduled months ago, the topic of the final offering in this year’s KIPCOR Film Series could have been taken right out of today’s headlines.

The Kansas Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution at Bethel College concludes its 2017-18 Film Series March 4 with The Empathy Gap: Masculinity and the Courage to Change.

The 70-minute documentary screens at 3 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts Center on the Bethel campus.

The film examines how American culture leaves men unable to empathize with and respect women – a major factor behind the current rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements in response to sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Filmmaker Thomas Keith previously made The Bro Code and Generation M, in which he looks at the ways culture bombards young men with sexist and misogynistic messages.

In The Empathy Gap, Keith takes a closer look at how these messages short-circuit men’s ability to empathize with women, respect them as equals, and take feminism seriously.

He begins by exploring some of the key messages about manhood that boys absorb from the culture – that they should acquire material wealth, meet conflict with aggression, harden themselves, suppress all human emotion except anger and view women primarily as sexual objects — then argues that these messages not only devalue women but also undercut men’s innate capacity for caring and empathy.

Along the way, Keith draws fascinating parallels between sexism and racism, spelling out how each is rooted in cultural norms that discourage empathy, and shows how men who break with these norms live happier and healthier lives.

Two local social workers will lead the post-film discussion: Stacey Mann, director of the Batterer Intervention Program at Offender/Victim Ministries (OVM) of Newton and a faculty member of the Wichita State University School of Social Work, and Ben Rudeen Kreider, director of Prison Ministries for OVM.

The event is free and open to the public, with a freewill offering taken to support the film series and the work of KIPCOR.

The KIPCOR Film Series is also funded in part through its Peace Lecture Endowment.

Bethel College ranks at No. 1 in College Consensus’ ranking of Kansas colleges and universities, and is the only Kansas private college listed in the analysis of top colleges and universities, the Washington Monthly National Universities-Liberal Arts section and the National Liberal Arts College category of U.S. News & World Report, all for 2017-18. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.