Photography is a powerful medium where a simple photograph can be interpreted in a single glance. This powerful medium has the ability to re-mould stereotypical perceptions and break traditional stereotypes surrounding masculinity.
What does it mean to be a man at present? And how has being a man changed over time? The world offers conflicting views of what it means to be a man. There has been an evolution of definitions, starting with the traditional idea of being a man meaning being dominant, macho, tough and determined. Crying was not an option. However, in this day and age, the definition has expanded and some traditionally feminine qualities such as caring and being sensitive are also being used to define manhood. ‘Manhood’ is constantly under scrutiny, and the more one subscribes to society’s standards of masculinity and to traditional ideas of what it means to be a man, the harder it may be to develop a healthy idea of masculinity or to go through life as a man today. No man’s world looks the same.
The way men are crafted for us in advertising and the media does not always reflect the way that they live. Men do exist outside of these stereotypes. We have compiled an insightful series of photographs taken by different photographers portraying men or boys going against the gender stereotypes that inaccurately try to describe all men. As what we see is normally a skewed version of the truth, these photographs aim to encourage people to question the traditional definition of what it means to be a man. It is important to talk about these challenges, and having imagery representing men outside these stereotypes can be very influential in visualising change, giving photographs a lot of power.
‘Boys Don’t Cry’
Boys and girls cry the same amount as kids. However, growing up, we often hear “boys don’t cry” as a stereotypical test of manhood. Boys are taught to “man up” and hide emotions. They are encouraged to be like robots. Young men feel pain but are afraid to express it. The stigma of expressing normal human emotions is negatively affecting men and boys from a very young age. It is okay to be vulnerable and show emotions.
‘Pink is for Girls’
We grow up hearing that ‘pink is for girls and blue is for boys’. No boy enters the world demanding a blue blanket. It’s about time we break away from this metaphorical mould which limits both boys’ and girls’ thinking and actions. There is no wrong choice in colour as this is just a personal preference.
‘Dads Don’t Spend Quality Time with their Kids’
Unfortunately, this stereotype is still used by many. It is taken for granted by many that it is the mother’s job to bond with the kids. This is untrue as most dads love to spend quality time with their children.
‘Men are Unable to do Housework’
This stereotype where men are portrayed to be incompetent slobs when it comes to housework has been built into our society. They are also considered to be whipped if they help around the house. Domestic duties are for both genders. We live in a patriarchal culture in which men are considered to be the bread winners most of the time. This is not always the case and, even if so, doesn’t mean that men don’t play a role in domestic work. It is normal for couples to share house duties regardless of whether one or both of them have jobs already.
‘Men Prefer Sports to Singing and Dancing’
There is a stigma associated with dancing and artistic expression for men. For many, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of dance is glitter and tutus. The fact that dance is marketed in that way inhibits men from taking up dancing lessons even if it’s what they desire from a very young age. There is obviously more to this in dancing. To be able to dance, one needs to be athletic, strong and have a sense of rhythm. We must learn to look past the stereotype and understand that it is an art form as much as it is a sport. Dance is for anybody who is interested in it, especially with the countless number of styles of dance one can opt for.