Friday, August 23, 2013

Some Thoughts on Real Men

The idea of manhood and what it means to be a "real man" has once again come to the forefront of debate.  Real men love babies as seen on a pro-life billboard.  Real men use (this product) is used to sell merchandise.  Real men are sensitive...  Real men hide their emotions...  And so on and so forth.

I have but one thought on this:
Real men shouldn't have to question the integrity of their manhood.

Not that we don't all have doubts or wonder about our roles, sincerity, or whether or not we'll be accepted, but no one should exploit those doubts to sell ideas and products.  That is in and of itself ingenuine, and this is supposedly about what is "real".  I try not to take my cues about what has integrity from those that have shown themselves not to, by offering some misguided idea on the surface of some deeper hidden agenda (usually selling something).

But, that said, I still question my own being constantly and find myself drawn to wanting to fit in and be "normal", yearning to be sexy despite not fitting into the cultural definition of what is hot, while in truth just wanting to be loved...  I all-too-easily fall victim to the whole "Perfection or bust" attitude.  I find it bothersome that everyone, male and female, is encouraged to feel that they have to prove themselves constantly.  Are we "real"?  Are we hot?  Are we good enough?  Are we worthy?...  So much exists solely to prey on our insecurities about ourselves and our desire for acceptance.

The whole discourse regarding manhood comes as little surprise because culturally there is more acceptance across the gender spectrum and gender lines are being redefined.  With any forward momentum and radical redefining of roles, there is often a sort of backlash throwback movement of mass-marketed cultural tropes.  This is also likely where the whole Princess movement started before being exploited as a money-making scheme and taking on a life of its own through the Disney merchandising machine.

All in all, for all that it's a struggle sometimes, I am grateful to live now, on the cusp of and amidst change, and I am trying to do what I can to be a part of that momentum by creating artwork that reexamines cultural expectations about identity and gender roles.  I will end this blog post by offering some links to amazing and provocative discussions of manhood:

Gorgeous Portraits Capture the Feminine Side of Masculinity, the Huffington Post

The Mask You Live In, documentary by Jennifer Siebel Newsom

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