Words by: Matthew Spence
Whenever the phrases “Boys Don’t Cry” or “Man Up” are, unironically, used: Bart Simpson has to write another sentence on the chalkboard. In a period where the “manosphere”, and “red pill” Andrew Tate motherfuckers have a larger voice on the internet based on their skewed and exaggerated mentality on masculinity. It’s safe to say: it’s terrifying that these people develop a cult-like following. However, this isn’t about them, even with their presence, there’s still a positive. It’s joyful seeing plenty of people attempt to break down the idea of what masculinity is and could be, especially under dangerous circumstances. Previous generations of men were expected to fall under the same rhetoric that some may preach now: be a leader, repress your emotions, and limit women to sex and doing household shit that you can do your goddamn self. Try not to behave in any way that can make you seem weak, a sissy. Plus, God forbid if you weren’t a cis straight man. To sum it up: shit was rugged and rough, and not in a cool way.
Yet, society is slowly and I mean… slowly loosening up, however, there’s still an abundance of work to do. We see more men and many others give a middle finger to those who can’t handle individual expression and try to force gender norms. More taboos are trying to be broken. For starters, more men are painting their nails and playing with nail art. Destigmatizing the idea, nail art is strictly a feminine accessory. Rockstars of the past have dabbled in this, look at David Bowie, Kurt Cobain, and those in alternative cultures. Think of a goth or emo band. Aside from music, NBA legend Dennis Rodman in the 90s also dabbled in this…among other things, but now this trend seems to be taking off more this decade than any other previous one.
Some of the biggest artists in their respective genres are using nail art [A$AP Rocky, Harry Styles, Bad Bunny, even Lil Yachty and Tyler, the Creator founded their lines of Unisex & Male Nail Polish] to celebrities like Jason Momoa and Keanu Reeves. Are you gonna tell John Wick and Aquaman that they’re not men? Think about that… That’s what I thought. Slowly bleeding out of celebrity culture into the public, many men are experimenting and many people trying to help push forward men having nail art. That’s super cool to see. [Check out: Boys in Polish]
Along with nails, we are seeing and have seen plenty of men play with feminity in fashion. Whether it’s a dress, skirt, wig, makeup, or eyeliner, it helps push gender fluidity in fashion, leaving room for expression. Prince, Mick Jagger, Little Richard, Young Thug, Jaden Smith, Kid Cudi, to reiterate Harry Styles (though his fans may get annoying about it), Dennis Rodman, Kurt Cobain, and David Bowie. And of course, I need to mention the “BasedGod” Lil B, all hail the BasedGod. While this is happening, we’re seeing trans men living the truth of who they are. Men’s mental health is being taken more seriously and therapy is being promoted more (of course there’s room for improvement). Now, it’s not a fucking euphoric world (let alone the country) of course there’s still fucked up shit happening, but this is more of an appreciation for those who go forth and break the idea of “being a man”, despite the risk of criticism and harm. The right steps are being taken.
In the 2020s, masculinity isn’t just a straight road anymore, but an intersection filled with plenty of cars trying to reach a destination. Now, if you hold values of the past traditional masculinity, that’s your opinion and that’s fine, but using that to bring down others and give them the impression that they’re not a man/masculine due to A. B, C, and D, reasons are pretty shitty. It should be subjective, not a bible of how to live correctly. We’ve seen videos and pictures of people comparing men of the past versus men of today. News Flash: Sure they may have come off as more traditionally masculine, however, they were most likely fucked up due to many factors of their time period. Remember, when Robert Smith sang the lyrics “Boys’ Don’t Cry”, he was being ironic. It’s ok to feel alone, vulnerable and wanna cry. Prideful one moment, then the next insecure. You can be tough but in touch with your feelings. It’s called being “human”.