I made a new friend recently. She sails on big yachts, crossed the Sahara on horseback, knows how to make her own beer and travels the world for work. Her inner life is possibly even more exciting and she has a warm heart. Connections like these lift up my life !
She invited me to visit an exhibition together called “Masculinities : Liberation through Photography”.
Can you picture us ? Two tall, very blonde women floating through spaces filled with photographs of men in all their beautiful and ugly masculinity. Photos from the swinging Sixties to today.
Men depicted as aggressive competitors, as tender fathers, as buff soldiers, as politicians and bankers in suits.
Black men, queer men, disabled men, crying men.
Men as seen through the eyes of women – the “ideal man” ; men as sex objects.
Pictures of organisations and rituals, constructed to uphold the white male dominance in society – student clubs with their barbaric rituals, exclusive gentlemen’s clubs in London. Bloody bullfighters after the kill.
Men who dare to defy the rules of what manhood is supposed to look like in their world. Cowboys and football players who openly show their vulnerability and sensitivity to the camera.
Polaroids of Afghan warriors, wearing black eye make-up and soft smiles, posing in a secret backroom somewhere.
Men as victims of toxic masculinity, who abuse the women in their lives, physically or emotionally. The words one father used to talk to his wife and daughter – enough to make your blood turn cold.
Room after room of photographs that are funny or sad, poetic, confrontational, sexy or hard to look at.
Once we’re back outside, my friend an I agree that, as challenging it often is to make our way as a woman, it can’t be easy to be a man these days either.
Gender roles are crumbling. Old privileges are now declared criminal. Abuse is brought to light and questioned.
Masculinity is being redefined.
And as turbulent as that may be for both men and women, I think it’s a very good thing.
Don’t you agree life can be so much richer, so much more interesting, if we are free to make choices that feel true to us ?
That allow us to be more authentically who really are as people, regardless of our gender ?
I have high hopes we’re moving in that direction, slowly but surely.
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