Jennifer Newsom’s documentary The Mask You Live In opens with a quote from George Orwell: ‘He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it’. It follows to explore the way in which the concept of masculinity shapes the lives of men, how it teaches them to think, act, and most harmfully, feel. The concept of masculinity as we know it has evolved into one that is detrimental to the society we live in, and is rooted deeply in misogyny and archaic notions of what it means to be a man. Men are not allowed to express their emotions verbally (they’re weak and womanly if they do), and they aren’t allowed to indicate pain (the ones who do are narcissistic cowards). Is it any wonder that men have the highest suicide rate globally? According to the Movember Foundation, one man dies from suicide every minute.
A video created by the Huffington Post has been making its rounds on social media, featuring popular male celebrities like Rizzle Kicks and Owen Jones talking about the last time they cried, and how they felt when they did. The video has been viewed over three million times, and its comments are chock-full of positive and heart-warming words. But the man allowed to express emotion has yet to infiltrate popular culture. Like Chandler from Friends, or Ted from How I Met Your Mother, he’s often a punchline, a joke that isn’t supposed to be taken seriously. After an altercation with Kid Cudi on twitter, Drake made the news recently when he rapped ‘“You were the man on the moon, now you just go through your phases / Life of the angry and famous … You stay xanned and perc’d up, so when reality set in, you don’t gotta face it”. Context may be important in each one of these cases, maybe a diss track shouldn’t be analysed, and Friends was written in a time well before a consciousness of these issues however art remains even when context fades.
The Movember Foundation is a relatively well known charity, in part to the huge amount of participants it garners every year. It was founded in 2004, and initially dedicated itself to raising awareness for prostate cancer. It came to the UK in 2007 with a simple premise; for thirty days, men would grow their facial hair out to raise awareness for the cause. It has since widened its focus to include testicular cancer as well as mental health and suicide prevention. Their aim: to reduce the number of men who lose their lives prematurely by 25% before 2030. It is an ambitious but noble goal, and it has the power to work with a little will power and campaigning.
For those skeptics who believe that social campaigning is more for show than cause, it’s worth remembering the Ice Bucket Challenge, a trend that first took storm in 2014. What seemed like a worthless video became viral and rose well over a $100 million dollars towards the ALS Association, money that will go toward research and the care of those affected with the disease. So for those of us who can, November is a good time to start growing those mustaches. And for those of us who can’t, think twice the next time you tell a little boy to toughen up, because here’s some mind-boggling news: boys do cry, and it’s probably better if we let them.