The documentary The Mask We Live, explores the myth of hyper-masculinity and how it affects us. In a world where “you throw like a girl” is an insult, feminine qualities are shamed.
As women are increasingly free and equal, shifts have been made to give the modern woman more space. But we like neat boxes – so how do we differentiate ourselves?
Hyper-masculinity expects men to be aggressive, impulsive and assertive. Phrases like “grow a pair” and “man up” mean that their masculinity is constantly being questioned.
These ideals have created what United Nations special rapporteur Rashida Manjoo calls a “boys’ club culture”, to us, lad culture and reinforced rape culture. If men are emotionally illiterate, how may they understand and relate to women? If they must fight for what they want, women are conquests to be “won”.
On a more psychological level, these bottled up emotions lead to violence, suicide and rape. 50% of men dealing with mental health issues do not seek help, and suicide rates are the highest amongst male teenagers.
These societal narratives are failing both young men and women. We need to remind ourselves and our peers about consent and emotional intelligence. It is vital to understand that an enthusiastic, sober yes is the only true form of consent.
Great movements like the No More campaign, starring, for one, rapper Ice T, are raising awareness against domestic violence.
At the same time, new forms of expressing one’s gender with more fluidity are opening up. Big brands such as Clinique and Tom Ford have been releasing make-up lines for men. Celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and David Beckham, as well as our fellow students, readily sport the ‘man-bun’ along with a beard. These facts seem to go completely against our earlier archetypal male model.
Yvonne Roberts, writing for the Observer, wonder “Where that 90s’ drive to discover what makes some men the way they are?” Perhaps she has missed the point. Our identities and expectations are constantly shifting. There is no ultimate male, but rather a clamouring of voices, all different, but in unison, that constitute what it means to be a man.