By Alex Morris




When the news comes on, it’s often a game of ‘ffs, what have men done now’.

Harvey Weinstein. The Attacks In London. An Etonian game of chicken with the country’s fortunes.

All micro-aggressions of masculinity. But of course not all men.

Grayson Perry’s summation of masculinity is young men in traffic. Revving their engines or blaring music.

‘I am here, listen to me’.

But it’s not just a case of calling aggressions of masculinity out. Men are both the villains and victims of masculinity. The prisoners and the prison guards.

Who’s the most likely to be beaten up in a street? A young man. Of course, it’s by another man.

There needs to be empathy for people trapped in masculinity.

A cartoon version of masculinity only lives in our heads.

Men are far more complicated than that. Herded by cliches about how we should behave. Boxed in by expectations that hurt others and us.

Promundo’s ‘Man Box’ is a fascinating insight into the rigid views that either consciously or subconsciously, all men assimilate into beliefs.

“Don’t seek help.”

“Use force to get your way.”

“Don’t reach out to others for help when you’re vulnerable.”

“You’ve got to be the one in charge.”

Think of the lessons in How To Be A Man that we get during childhood.

“Big boys don’t cry.”

‘Big girls blouse.”

“Taking the mickey.”

All very British phrases. All with similar implications as to how we behave.  A lived experience that’s determined in large part by the values the society at large holds about men as a group.

A lot of the time men, particularly of generations older than mine, haven’t got the words for emotions their feeling that subvert these rules absorbed throughout their lives.

And we know men are dying from their masculinity.

But very few people are listening to men’s stories – when they speak up and say ‘we feel emasculated by society’ they are shouted down and accused of playing the victim.

The APA recently framed ‘traditional masculinity’ as inherently toxic and misandry is fair game in the media.

But when that ‘traditional masculinity’ is all they’ve known, it needs to be handled sensitively in advertising.

Where the playbook on being a woman has progressed greatly (with still much work to be done) over the years, from brilliant ads by Dove to wider depictions of real womanhood and legitimate aspirations, the male playbook remains largely untouched.

AXE/ Lynx has done brilliant things with it’s ‘Find Your Magic’ campaign, a huge step change for the brand from ‘spray and get laid’, celebrating a diversity of masculinities rather than idolising a variety of it that in the ensuing years culture has grown to find ever more distasteful.

But slogan’s like TAG Heur’s ‘Don’t Crack Under Pressure’ for massive expensive watched still sell an unrealistic invisibility to aspirational young men.

So let’s keep talking about men without shutting down conversations to soon.

For all our sakes.

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