By Taila Campbell, Alex Garton & Magnus Westerlund
Is masculinity based on a man’s visual appearance and his physical makeup? Boys Don’t Cry endeavours to understand the components of masculinity and how men identify it in one another. Our three subjects speak about their thoughts on body image in association with masculinity.
This documentary began as an investigation of the societal expectations of men living in Australia. We set out to explore the remnants of the traditional roles men uphold, in line with the country's patriarchal heritage. Here, males hold primary power and predominate roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property. In the domain of the family, fathers or father-figures, hold authority over women and children.
Our vision was broad but we were intrigued to find out if these ideas, customs, and social behaviours were a pressure or worry for Australian born, millennial males.
Throughout history, society’s depiction of the male persona does not allow them to experience emotion. One of the Ten Commandments of masculinity is “Thou shall not feel.” In a study by Maria Tempenis Shelley, men are taught suppression through their role models, media, and society as a whole. She further explores the stereotypes impacting men and their inability to express emotions. Her work identifies that this directly relates to the mental health of men: lack of communication and no emotional outlet has led to many fatalities.
Three men conducted their our own research, all aged between 23-25, Caucasian, and born in Australia. Although, they varied in social circles, financial backgrounds, education levels, and sexual orientation. Their opinions we collated, in regards to inequality or prejudice that they have personally faced. They began interpreting the forced values and ideals of society and its impact.
24-year-old, psychological nurse at Robina Hospital. He is a straight male who lives alone in a two-bedroom flat in Surfers Paradise.
25-year-old, working as a retail manager. Identifies himself as a gay, cross-dressing male. Nelson Lives at home with his parents.
24-year-old, butcher who lives with his girlfriend and brother.
We asked them to define masculinity and explain situations where they felt pressured to act in a certain way.
The three subjects expressed stories about being in predominately male, environment or situation in which they felt as though they had to assert their masculinity to take control, or stand out. They all seemed pleased by this: they did not let it influence their personality and described the circumstance as a primal instinct that emerged when these sorts of situations arose. They were happy to be the provider and protector, and still confident enough to know they could defy social expectations in in their own way.
Nelson, who identifies as homosexual, gave insight into the “stereotypical ideal man” in the gay community. While many defied this norm, many were searching for the stereotypical white male partner: tall, muscular, short hair, good dress sense without seeming to be flamboyant or feminine in anyway. He defined it simply as “straight acting guy.”
A recurring theme began to surface, all three men defined physical features in relation to one's level of masculinity. Nelson described the appearance of the desired “straight acting guy” through their physical embodiment.
Our three subjects, although very different looking in their physical makeup, tied their personal masculinity, and others, to the way a man appears visually.
In our preliminary interview, one of our subjects identified that he judges one's masculinity based on their ability to grow a beard and the breadth of their shoulders.
When engaging with our subjects about their willingness to play team sports, they were concerned about the physical appearance more than their ability to play.
The three men had very different views on their own body image, and how they did not fit into the social norm. They spoke about how they had become more comfortable with their bodies over time.
Nelson spoke about how he judges his potential partners on their physical appearance: they needed to fit the stereotypical straight white male category. He talks about how he has lost weight in the past 12 months and how it has made him very comfortable with his own body. Although he wishes that he could tone up and put on a bit of muscle.
Luke envies the men that put time and effort into their physical appearance but also believes that genetics and luck have to do with being able to fit the social norm of a masculine man.
Matt enlightens the audience about his gym junkie past, explaining how he would go to the gym every day and made sure that he ate every 3 hours to maintain his muscular physique that would make him more popular with women and even men. He reveals that it was not benefiting his mental health and has since started being active for the love of activity and stopped eating for the gym.
Three men reveal parts of their bodies; that they love, hate and think is their most masculine feature. Our subjects felt ashamed of parts of their bodies and wished to conceal the identities.
"I always try to work hard on the muscles on my upper and lower back a the gym. Girls love a muscly back"
Our subjects were divided on their views of their legs. Subjects one and two felt ashamed of their leg size, either too big or too small. Subject three said his legs were his greatest asset.
"I have lived in sincere fear of my Belly all my life."
The Thing I Would Change
"My nose is way too big for my face."
Most Masculine Feature
"My bicep bulge would be my most masculine feature"