Photographer asks men around the world ‘how to be a man’

Photographer asks men around the world 'how to be a man'

(Picture: Jessica Wiseman)Photographer Jessica Wiseman wanted to explore toxic masculinity – the idea that society expects men to embrace behaviours and traits that make them seem more masculine and in turn shun anything deemed too ‘feminine’.
But instead of giving her own definition of it, she decided to photograph men around the world and asked them what the phrase means to them.
‘I believe masculinity is not monolithic and exists on a spectrum,’ she explains on her website. ‘I wanted to create a diverse collective of men who believe it’s okay to possess and express the qualities and characteristics that they are directly and indirectly told they shouldn’t.
‘I hope that these ideas will spread and reach the men who are struggling to accept that things like emotional vulnerability and compassion are strengths and not weaknesses.
‘It is the words and voices of men alone that will influence and encourage other young men to think about their actions and reject the toxic masculinity that they may be surrounded by.’
So, she asked to explain in their own words how to be a man. This is what they had to say:
Denom, Nepal.

(Picture: Jessica Wiseman)‘It’s ok for me to show my emotions and cry. There is nothing wrong with showing your soft side. We all are humans and these feelings are completely normal. I would say it is vital for men to cry, to let their emotions out and share their feelings with others.
‘There are cultures where men are not supposed to cry or at least hide their weaknesses, it’s better if they seem more controlled and emotionally numb.
‘We hear phrases like, ‘don’t be a p*ssy’, ‘stop being a girl’ a lot. If we keep hearing phrases like these, what do boys all around the world think about being boys today? Whom will they look up to, and how will they navigate the transition from being boys to becoming men?’
Jason, Belgium.

(Picture: Jessica Wiseman)‘It’s ok for me to not compare the differences between men and women. We are all human and that is all that should matter.’
Sonam, Tibet.

(Picture: Jessica Wiseman)‘It’s ok for me to disregard and denounce some of my cultural traditions and values if they are rooted in sexist ideologies and prejudice. This way of thinking perpetuates a world in which male chauvinism and misogyny will continue to run rampant, a world in which my mother, sisters and potential daughters must live.’
Sam, Australia/U.K

(Picture: Jessica Wiseman)‘It’s ok for me to acknowledge the role men have played in establishing a system that does not value women as much as men, and the responsibility men have in changing this reality. Its ok for me to acknowledge that when we talk about ‘violence against women’ we are talking about violence that is being perpetrated by men. Its ok for men, like me, to take a stand – to step up and speak up – to alter the expectation of what it means to be a ‘man’.’
Naryan, Northern Ireland/ Nepal

(Picture: Jessica Wiseman)‘It’s okay for me to be vulnerable. I believe we are all made up of masculine and feminine energies. The masculine becomes toxic when it doesn’t allow itself to feel, when it responds to hurt with aggression rather than understanding. It’s hard to be vulnerable, especially because the hurt is deeper when you are; but real men can be vulnerable, and can be hurt, and it’s okay.’
Arnaud, Belgium

(Picture: Jessica Wiseman)‘It’s okay for me to ask for directions. A man asking for directions seems to imply admitting that you can’t figure it out on your own. I think we often want to prove we can do it and asking for directions is seen as some sort of weakness or defeat.’
Caspar, The Netherlands

(Picture: Jessica Wiseman)‘It’s okay for me to be insecure. I have always felt like, as a man, I am supposed to be confident and dominant, and not supposed to ever feel shy or insecure. This pressure of masculinity made it very difficult for me to deal with my insecurities. Learning to accept them helped a lot in understanding, and in the end, dealing with them.’
Sushrut, Nepal

(Picture: Jessica Wiseman)‘It’s okay for me to wear make-up. Being a straight man affords me the privilege of being comfortable. Because, as a man, I sit at the very centre of the system that creates the dominant narratives about the world. However, people who don’t identify as straight men don’t have the same luxury.
‘The very act of self-expression can be fraught with inconveniences. So it is important for me that I use my relative position of privilege to highlight ways in which non-traditional modes of expression are equally valid. Presenting myself in traditionally feminine ways is a way for me to assert that healthy masculinity allows a space for expressions that are as varied as the people who make them.’
Alberto, Spain

(Picture: Jessica Wiseman)‘Its okay for me to disagree with the classic stereotype of what it means to be a ‘gentleman’. Among the many, there is a very romanticised ideal of gentlemen and how they are meant to behave that exists and it is even imposed on men by some women.
‘I am not saying I disagree with being polite and respectful but with how we are expected to conduct ourselves in certain situations. For example, the idea that men must earn more, be more responsible and hold higher positions to those of women, is not correct. This behaviour also feeds into and creates gender inequality. Men face a lot of pressure to live up to these very specific ideologies and if we don’t, we fall short.’
Zach, USA

(Picture: Jessica Wiseman)‘It’s okay for me to be the little spoon. Men like being cuddled too.’
Wise words.
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