Masculinity: toxic or misunderstood?
What 'Fishbowl' tapped into was this notion of the patriarchy hurting men as much as women. Of course, as with most things, the deeper we delved into such a statement the more complex and unresolved it became.
The interrogation into the negative impact of the age-old, binary definitions and expectations of our gender has gained momentum as of late. Project 84 which highlighted shockingly sad statistics about male suicide and initiatives such as The Great Men Project, inaugurated in 2017 which aims to challenge stereotypes of masculinity and to engage men and boys in the movement towards gender equality.
After finally breaking my Almeida virginity (about time, I know), to see the fantastic production of 'The Writer' by Ella Hickson, I then attended their hosted talk: 'Masculinity: toxic or misunderstood?' in the wistful hope that some of my conflicting views on the topic may be resolved.
The talk was chaired by Maddy Costa with journalist and broadcaster Matt Cain; writer Ella Hickson; actor and facilitator of the Great Men Project Jamie Wilkes and actor Sule Rimi. Some of the things discussed were the problematic instructions to 'man up' and how that sits at juxtaposition with being a 'good man' as they try to define themselves by what their not.
More and more the masculinity-in-crisis status seems to be put in direct correlation to women gaining more power, which just serves as further proof that these binary gender codes have well passed their sell by date. And yet we continue to return to them perhaps because these rules offer a stability and a control that humanity does not. Is it inherently a power struggle? Order versus Chaos. Man versus Woman. Is it just that we, as a society, are panicking now that our understanding of how the world works has been challenged?
'Does it scare you that the future might speak a language you don't understand?' -The Writer
Many more interesting points of discussion were thrown around the room for us all to have a long, hard chew on: from gay sex and the gays man’s identity and a want not to be ‘too feminine’ ; our desire contradicting our politics ; to the Toronto, Incel tragedy which marks an extreme result of masculinity being challenged.
Ella Hickson claims that we have to be braver about knowing less. Our wants and desires as individuals are inevitably going to be as different as we are as people. It calls for a systemic change in attitude, a communal letting go of the control that comes with putting ourselves in defining boxes.