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.