I fling open the bathroom door; the music’s faded to an echo behind me. Changing from an animated, alcohol-infused body to an almost dominant, defiant “boet” body, I scan the room. To the left, three urinals protrude from the wall – all filled with men standing open-legged paying no mind to each other.
To the front of me, a huge horizontally-placed rectangular mirror with basins lining the bottom of it – almost as if to compensate for the many masculinities that over-crowd the space. To my right, toilets with their doors open – nothing to hide, ALMOST like the façade of a hyper-masculine man. Standing for that brief second at the door, I scroll through my rolodex of masculinities. Which one do I perform right now? Do I go with the assertive form, do I go with the “submissive gay guy” not looking for any trouble, or do I go with the “marginalised, alternative kid” who doesn’t give a fuck?
Kyle Prinsloo performs in his choreography piece titled “Show-Off” in the University Currently Known As Rhodes Drama Department boys’ Bathroom on August 12, 2017. The piece explored the many masculinites he encountered and performed in male bathrooms. (Photos by Daniella Palotta )
What is it about male bathrooms that call to action an identity that is beyond our own? Why is that when we greet each other in the bathroom, our voices drop a few octaves, our glances are quick, our purpose assured? Well, this is Masculinity for you.
Gif sourced: Giphy
If this is not something you resonate with, then recalibrate your memories to when volatile pop sensation, Justin Bieber – at the adolescent age of 21 – posed for a Calvin Klein underwear ad. The hype around his obvious Photoshop of the bulge, the abs and the arms brought questions of standardised ideals about what a man should look like – blaming it on what women want(ed?) to see, and what men desire(d?) to be.
Photo sourced: ModernHealthMonk
Now, bear in mind that it’s not Bieber’s fault, nor is it anyone else’s fault for perpetuating masculinity as a product. It’s an hereditary model that’s just seeped into about every generation and moulded itself to what the millennials of that era would most buy into.
Video sourced: Circa Laughs
Understanding masculinity is not that complicated. Here’s how to decipher it:
Firstly, there are four types of masculinity:
- Hegemonic/Dominant: The Ideal man.
- Submissive/ Subordinate: Anyone that does not comply with being a man (e.g. queer men).
- Complicit: The men who don’t overtly support the hegemonic lifestyle, but benefit from it.
- Marginalised: A hegemonic man from a different race, religion, ethnicity, culture or part of the world that is not a white man.
Secondly, you must understand the significance of masculinity. Their defining features include:
- Compulsory heterosexuality (In terms of fashion, forms of addressing, and jobs done by “men”)
Thirdly, how they enforce their masculinity is as follows:
- Exclusion of others
- Provoking anyone that is not like them through anxiety
- Differentiation from other forms of Masculinity
- The use of brute force and violence to assert themselves
Gif sourced: Giphy
If a “man” displays these traits and you somehow manage to break him down in any way, shape or form, congratulations! You have just produced a fragile masculine by-product.
Please note, these terms and conditions are not a copy and paste effect and do not apply to all males because “#notallmenaretrash”
Gif Sourced: Giphy
You might be thinking that I’m writing from a very passive-aggressive standpoint. Well, if you’ve ever been under the thumb of a “masculine” figure, you’d understand how unnecessary they can be.
I am not the guru in understanding masculinity, but I would like to believe that I have a more holistic understanding as to how their identities are formed. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a message and we can work through understanding anything you raise together, while cracking open a cold one with the buggers.