When do you most feel masculine? What does masculinity mean to you? Does it mean working with your hands? Under the ground, digging for minerals, or in the boardroom making decisions?
Or do you feel more manly when you are out on rig in the middle of the dangerous ocean? Fishing? Looking after your cattle? Driving an expensive car? Making money tends to make many men feel like men. Does this apply this to you?
Some males derive their sense of manhood from what they studied. Do you also feel like real man because you studies engineering instead of gynaecology? Finance and not pansy philosophy? Marx and not music?
Physical characteristics are also a resource for masculinity. Some individuals put great store on the fact that they are tall, or muscular, or have big beard. Others derive their identities from the fact that they run a business: that makes them manly.
In spite of the varied sources from which masculinity is constructed and the things that make men feel like men, you will be amazed how much our feelings and thought are still dominated by the notion that there is only one form of masculinity. The belief that there is one real or good way of being a man controls most of us.
And so this idea that of an essential manhood, and how much so African manhood, dominates cultural consciousness is in spite of a years of studies of men that have shown that masculinities are culturally produced.
Man, we are led to believe, is essence. Men, a week never passes without us being told, are tough. Or that they are violent. They are irresponsible. They are cowards. They are oppressive. Fat. Ugly. Weird. You name it.
No, actually a day never goes by without advertisements, magazines, television, other men, women, telling us men are like this one thing or that other thing. The common element is that they are all the same, men. It is not just women who say this; men too.
Man is many things. Men are different. Men change. Men stay the same. Men change even though they may remain males. Masculinity is plural. It’s an ensemble of acts and identifications. A relatively unstable shape of things. An unfixed stability. Culture and Biology. Both. Not one of the other. Both. Interacting with each other in ever changing ways.
Here, then, is the interesting project by Chad States that stimulated this blog entry. The project underlines the view that that masculinity means different things to different people – men, women, trans-subject. The pictures are from that project, taken by Chad States.
After reading it I hope you start discarding some of the unhappy, unhealthy, ideas about what it means to be a man. God knows that there are plentiful imprisoning, often self-imprisoning, and at times injurious, ideas abuot African masculinity as this immovable, God-given, genetic, culturally non-negotiable essence inside African males.
Masculinity is always work in progress. It can change. God may have given you your body with its male or female or male-female organs. But they are not destiny. What you do with them is as important as their facticity. What you think and feel about your body matters.
Regardless, whether you are ready to rethink your ideas about manhood, States’ project is interesting of itself. You don’t need to do any homework to enjoy it or hate it. Still, here is an interview with the artist that gives you some background and context about the project.