It’s okay not to embody what society defines a ‘real man’ to be. There is an all-encompassing structure surrounding what being a ‘real man’ is all about. It dictates everything from a man’s behaviour and posture to the way a man should walk, even to the way a man should dance. I definitely don’t dance like a real man. It goes as far as having your legs crossed while sitting, the way to treat women, friends… the way to treat everything around you. It pushes your ego and testosterone above everything else. This idea of a ‘real man’ is confining and unfortunately, is what I’ve put in my own brain, often dictating my thoughts, actions and believes, of course, who else decides what a ‘real man’ is? We have created this whole idea of ‘the real man’ but I don’t feel like that is what I am. I have certainly acted like it a lot of times but I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to push myself to not let my ego run everything else there is about me. Going against this idea takes away all these boundaries that I, that we as men are told define us. Suddenly I feel like I have this borderless existence, suddenly I can act and behave in the exact way that I want to even if it is not what ‘a real man’ would do, which gives me so much freedom. It liberates me. It’s taken me out of this box that I have put myself in because I am a man and so I have to qualify as a man and be this individual that is “manly”. But now I’m like f*** that shit, I’m going to be whatever the fuck I feel like I want to be… its given me so much liberation… I can breathe again.
To Be A Man is a portrait series challenging the concept of toxic masculinity
The rise of women’s movements such as the #MeToo campaign and increasing awareness of mental health issues specific to men has highlighted the prevalence of toxic masculinity all over the world.
Toxic masculinity refers to the socially constructed attitudes that describe the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth. It restricts the kinds of emotions and characteristics that are socially acceptable for boys and men to express. Toxic masculinity has become the standard upon which a “real man” is defined but also how one’s masculinity can be challenged (The Good Men Project).
These qualities are socially imposed on men from early stages in life and our culture doesn’t always allow them to express inner struggles without judgment. Therefore, boys grow up with the pressure to embody what society believes is ‘normal’. That said, failure to embrace these ‘manly’ qualities often renders harsh consequences, not only for men themselves but those around them. For example, it may have a negative impact on their own mental health, possibly leading to depression, substance abuse, and suicide as well as aggressiveness, objectification, and violence towards not only women but other men as well, homophobic and transphobic sentiments and so on.
This topic is no more relevant today than it has been in the past; the only difference is that now it is being discussed more openly. My intent with this photo series is not to create anti-male sentiments or attack masculinity but show that it’s so important to speak up and fight stigma. Men too face a great deal of pressure to measure up to expectations created by a system that has long catered towards patriarchy.
I by no means claim to be an expert on this subject. However, I wanted to create a diverse collective of men who believe it’s okay to possess and express the qualities and characteristics that they are told they shouldn’t. I hope that these ideas will spread and reach the men who are struggling to accept that things like emotional vulnerability and compassion are strengths and not weaknesses. I know many men are already acting as incredible role models and that should be celebrated. I believe men should hold each other accountable. It is the words and voices of men alone that will influence and encourage other young men to think about their actions and reject the toxic masculinity that they may be surrounded by.
Originally published on Jessica Amity.com. Reprinted with permission of the author.
Photo courtesy of the author.