a new era of masculinity

Artwork and writing by Belle M. 

Stoic, strong, unemotional and dominant are words commonly associated with masculinity. Unsurprisingly, these male stereotypes are further fuelled by the mass media and entertainment industries. Over the last couple of years, however, these industries have experienced an incredible shake-up, with various talented young men ushering in a progressive and exciting new era for masculinity

A famous, and much-loved example takes the form of Harry Styles, well known for infusing some much-needed colour and flair into the music industry. Styles confidently blurs the Fine Line between society’s black and white definitions of masculine and feminine and gay and straight. Alongside his beautifully progressive song lyrics, Styles further defies toxic masculinity traits through his androgynous clothing choices, colourful and embellished suits and jewellery choices.

Then there’s the promising young actor Timothée Chalamet, star of a plethora of groundbreaking projects including Call Me by Your Name and Beautiful Boy. In these films and many others, Chalamet clearly and effectively embodies complex characters exploring complex emotions.

His raw and impassioned performance as Laurie in Greta Gerwig’s film adaptation of Little Women is a testament to this. One could say that Chalamet is showing the world, one film at a time, that unbottling your emotions and expressing yourself doesn’t make you any “less” a man. Oh, and not to mention – Chalamet has quickly become a fashion icon for his show-stopping red-carpet ensembles, head of soft curls and genuine kindness towards his fans.

When Spider-Man: Homecoming was first released, numerous headlines proclaimed Spider-Man as “the most feminist superhero”. On the surface, this is a lighthearted and fun teen film, however British actor Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker is surprisingly nuanced. Spider-Man is openly emotional and awkward, doesn’t claim to “have all the answers”,  and makes a clear point of respecting women.

Tom has also been making waves outside of his role as an iconic Marvel superhero. In an interview with GQ magazine, Holland opened up about being bullied at school for practicing ballet in the gym instead of the traditional “boy’s sport” rugby. Tom proudly admitted that all those hours wearing tights and dancing by himself in the school gym has been incredibly valuable to his career on a number of levels, and is something he doesn’t feel like hiding.

Perhaps the most nuanced and diverse expression of masculinity is through K-pop. Fans enter a colourful universe when they watch these mesmirising music videos, with vibrant and ever-changing hair colours, elaborate outfits, dainty jewelry and glowing flawless skin. Whilst the authentic and progressive K-pop aesthetic is sadly known for making many Americans uncomfortable, this only emphasises how the Western psyche does not associate masculinity with softness or beauty, unlike some other cultures. However, K-pop music has still amassed an enormous passionate fan base – aptly named “army” in the case of boy band BTS. This speaks to the diverse nature of the genre, highlighting its enchanting and liberating appeal to men and women from varying nationalities.

Together, these multi-faceted and courageous men (alongside many others) are dismantling the long-established boundaries of gender stereotypes, emphasising that men can do things typically seen as more “feminine” without threatening their own masculinity.

In the words of Harry Styles, there’s so much “masculinity in being vulnerable and allowing yourself to be feminine… and becoming comfortable with who you are.”

COVID-19 Series: #2

Author: Girish Gupta

There are days I just lay on my bed and listen to the same songs on repeat.

Days when I fall on the carpet in my room and cry and scream as if there’s no soul who could hear me ever.

Days when my muffled crying is too much, as if every brick in the wall of my house is judging me for all those tears.

On these days my trauma takes the most of me, and getting off the bed seems like a task insurmountable.

On these days, I order food for breakfast and end up heating it ten times before it falls into trash the next day.

On these days, the dishes in the sink don’t cry for a wash and the carpet can deal with its own dust.

On these days, I think the worst: of today, of what has happened and what has yet to pass.

The pandemic, while it has us all locked far apart, is a journey of self-growth. Where all the emotions I’d tucked into a bed unknown at the back of my head have woken up, rushing through me. I can’t tell them I’m busy with the next assignment, or that Saturday shifts are no more.

I’ve had to deal with years of unspoken words and hidden-away fears and I’ve learnt to know what the aftermath is.

No, the aftermath isn’t the graveyard of self-worth or the dreamland of sorrow. Neither is it the shadow of self-loathing of all these years.

What comes next is becoming stardust, the kind no sun would ever dare challenge. Or an entire galaxy where the planets bloom and bloom forever.

These days I feel like I can win this world over and still have enough energy to build another.

These are the days called cotton candy coupons, which can be felt as the sweet taste in your mouth, while your hands are all sticky.

These days my house is as clean as ever and smile as bright.

And on those days when my shine swallows the darkness of a million others, I smile because I know that things will fall into place. For while I don’t know when the pandemic of this world might end, I know that the pandemic in me is here to stay.

About Girish Gupta

Girish is 21 year old student of Masters in IT (Data Science), who finds his solace in poetry. He has been published several times in magazines, anthologies, and several blogs. Girish is a firm believer in self-love and promoting mental health awareness. His favourite book is Looking for Alaska and favourite movie is Tamasha(Bollywood) and show is F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

exhibition review: australian furniture design award 2020

Author and photographer: Joshua Summerfield

Brimming with creative craft, the Australian Furniture Design Award 2020 exhibition is an exploration into alternate furniture solutions. Hosted by National Gallery Victoria (NGV) and Stylecraft, the shortlisted entries of Australia’s most significant furniture design award aspire to promote a life of luxury and contemporary style.

Part of Melbourne Design Week 2020, the biennial Furniture Design Award sees Australian designers compete with their innovations, offering the winner professional mentoring, commercial production opportunities and a $20,000 prize. This award is reserved for a current concept design which has not yet been exhibited or commercially produced. This makes for an exciting playing-field, as the designer cannot gather public response before entering it into the competition.

Located on Little Collins Street, Stylecraft’s showroom provides a sophisticated, modern backdrop to the exhibited works. Viewers are free to explore the works. Some pieces allow interaction, while others are off limits to public. This year, many pieces bore clean, geometric silhouettes. Two prominent styles were statement and art deco; an indication that Australian designers seek to make an impact in your home.

exhibition review: australian furniture design award 2020

Pieces such as Datum 72 Table, by Design King Company x Dr. Christian Tietz, explored a new perspective on the ‘ritual of sharing a meal’, inspired by ‘still life and Cubist paintings’. The modular table had recessed holes to place bowls, vases, and tableware into the surface. The table has a striking presence in the room, especially with the vibrant-coloured accessories. Though possibly susceptible to scratches, the acrylic tabletop created a futuristic feeling with the objects appearing to float in space. The piece challenges current perceptions of quality dining tables. Ultimately, The Datum 72 Table cleanses the dining room of its traditional history.

exhibition review: australian furniture design award 2020

The Floor Lounger piece re-manufactures textile waste into a functional, tactile and sustainable floor cushion, as part of the international Supercyclers design initiative. Its mottled texture is both subtle and earthy, making it an apt contender for many home styles – personally wish I could have sat on this one!  Floor Lounger is a great example of how waste can be both beautiful and useful.

exhibition review: australian furniture design award 2020

Nave by Skeehan is a furniture range which has been slowly expanding over the past few years. The sofa integrates a floating side table through steel tubing welded to the sofa frame. The soft edges create a casual, inviting feel to the sofa while the steel tubes provide a structural contrast. Sedis by anaca studios similarly uses steel combined with comfortable cushions. The chairs reference art deco styling, a style which is seeing a resurgence in the design world.

exhibition review: australian furniture design award 2020

The interesting Place Collection by Ross Gardam is a flexible and integrated lounge system. Gardam prides themselves on quality materials and attention to detail of the upholstery, which is highlighted nicely by this collection. The comfortable modules featured within Place Collection can move and change as needed, with each module containing a hidden zipper that allows the modules to be secured together. While the structural form of the collection says ‘office lobby’ or ‘airport lounge’, it nevertheless maintains a homely feel. The segments may appear rigid, but are in fact comfortable and provide solid ergonomic support.

Many shelving units and cabinets were also featured, showcasing unique storage solutions. The C5 Cabinet by James Howe, for one, creates a lasting impact on a space. The attention to detail in the cabinetry elevates the piece above the simplicity of contemporary trends, while the corrugated doors utilise a feature making a strong comeback in furniture design.

exhibition review: australian furniture design award 2020

Contrast Howe’s work with Michael Gitting’s Abandoned Cabinet, which incorporates decorative art to achieve its visually arresting aura. If the C5 Cabinet was a snack for the eye, then Abandoned Cabinet would be a king’s feast. Gittings is flexing his abstract art muscles with the decorative all-chrome piece, though the contrasting mix of styles is are a polarising force.

exhibition review: australian furniture design award 2020

The Elementary Abacus by Marta Figueiredo is another unusual piece, setting it apart from typical homefurniture. Figueiredo prides herself on sensory experimentation and creating a sense of fun in her works, and The Elementary Abacus is no different.Boldly proclaiming itself as a side table and cocktail bar table,the piece engages our sight, smell, sound and touch in numerous novel ways. The Elementary Abacus also has an abacus cube infused with incense – with its overpowering odour inspiring coughs in the throats of some viewers, it’s hard to say that the odour would complement every cocktail served on its cone-shaped platform. 

exhibition review: australian furniture design award 2020

Lastly, James Walsh’s Anthropic Bench embraces simplicity, sustainability, and traditional craft. Though the bench is crafted from beautiful hardwood, but the feet are where the main innovation lies. To the average Joe, they might appear to be made merely of clay – and they would be right…almost. Initially appearing to be regular clay, the feet actually use the millennia-old technique of rammed earth combined with glass rubble. Walsh wanted to experiment with rammed earth as it is low-tech, low-energy, and creates no waste. Overall, this simple and practical bench would be well-suited to any indoor environment, while being easy to manufacture and assemble.

exhibition review: australian furniture design award 2020

The striking designs on display at the Australian Furniture Design Award 2020 display a level of technical and artistic expression, leaving the judges with a difficult selection process. The Australian designers have interpreted furniture in unique and novel ways, some challenging the very essence of what a ‘home’ should be.