The Faces of Modern Masculinity, From fatherhood to mental wellbeing, meet the men championing a new type of masculinity
Date: Sunday 18 Jul 2021
The Oxford English Dictionary describes masculinity as…
Just kidding. We’re not about to give you a dusty, outdated definition. Thankfully, what it means to be a man today is an ever-changing and customisable notion.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the word ‘toxic’ often precedes the noun to describe the problematic behaviour relating to archetypal displays of masculinity – including aggression, dominance and a lack of empathy for others and themselves.
Other archaic stereotypes of masculinity also encompass the societal pressure men often feel to be tough, hide their emotions and generally ‘man up’. A recent study by the Movember Foundation found that 58% of men surveyed thought society expected them to be emotionally strong, not show weakness and to be able to fix things.
And even though that burden is lessening as times change (the same study found that 76% of men believed that talking had a positive impact on mental health), the pressure is still there – and it can have a damaging effect.
But a new generation of men is emerging with the aim of keeping the best elements of masculinity, ditching the negative aspects and overcoming the pressure to conform.
Dove Men+Care also shares these forward-facing values, from championing paternity leave by researching its benefits on new fathers and their families, to breaking down the stereotypes that hold men back from experiencing the positive effects of care on themselves and on others.
Together, Men’s Health and Dove Men+Care have a discussion with three modern men about gender roles, mental health, fatherhood and more. Read on to find out how they’ve dispelled the myths attached to their masculinity – and how this advances the world around them.
A proud father of three, Sean Williams is the founder of The Dad Gang, an Instagram page on a mission to educate and end the stereotype of Black dads not being present in the lives of their children, which has been perpetuated by the media and entertainment industry.
Breaking the stereotype
“In 2020, a white woman at the supermarket paid me what she thought was a compliment when I was shopping with my kids. She said she was so happy to see a young, Black, active dad, which leans into the stereotype of the missing Black dad who’s uninvolved in raising his children.
“That was the first time someone from another ethnic group approached me, but I’d been out with my kids before this event and had gotten stares, and it had been uncomfortable. I knew they were looking at me because they don’t see this image too often. A lot of my friends who are also active dads have experienced the same thing.
“It was a little shocking, but it gave me a driving force to start The Dad Gang as a platform to celebrate Black fatherhood and change the narrative.”
Spreading the message
“Since setting up The Dad Gang, there’s been an incredible response and a global outpouring of love. I’m based in the USA, but I’ve had fathers message me from the UK, Netherlands and all over Africa. It was an ambitious mission to say I was going to change the way the world views Black dads, but thanks to partners like Dove Men+Care we’ve been able to amplify our voice and set up events like 2020’s Father’s Day March to honour George Floyd and other Black dads whose lives were taken because of racial inequality.”
“There are many more layers to fatherhood than previous generations were led to believe. We’re not just providers and protectors; we’re also nurturers and caregivers. We don’t have to be traditionally masculine – we can be homemakers.
“We’re not just providers and protectors; we’re also nurturers and caregivers”
“I think masculinity is changing in a positive way. We’re a lot more in tune with self-care now and more people are realising that dads need a break. The dad doesn’t always have to be the disciplinarian, either. We’re really starting to scratch the surface of what those different nuances are.”
Doing it your own way
“Do fatherhood your way. Social media has a way of telling us how to do something, but when it comes to your children you have to do it your way, because if you feel uncomfortable your kids will feel it, your family will feel it and you will feel it. Fatherhood is your journey.”
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