Earlier this week, the artist Grayson Perry attacked Bear Grylls’ (that name!) for promoting a ‘useless’ brand of masculinity that’s ‘a hangover from a more violent age’. He argued that the sort of thing Bear (!) gets up to, hunting, killing, climbing et al, are useless in our modern age – well, obviously.
More importantly Perry suggests that the sort of values the ‘survival expert’ promotes represent ‘a decorative feature that is essentially counter-productive.’ They stop men from admitting their feelings, leaving them pent up, confused and angry. While there is, after all, very little use in knowing how to make a bow and arrow in Reading or wherever, being able to talk to your wife – this masculinity is especially heterosexual, especially traditional – is quite helpful.
This theme is interrogated brilliantly in our first issue by David James Fox, who, writing about the violent masculinities young boys are forced into by society and their peers, concludes that men do not
need to survive in fight or flight mode today. So much of modern masculinity gains its level of credential and validity through neatly aligning with a handful of old world imperatives relating to survival, physical strength and the need to reproduce and prosper. However, our instincts for survival are perhaps not as frequently or as basely called upon today as they have been in the past. While a great number of humans struggle to survive in various strenuous circumstances, undoubtedly more of us have a home, a steady source of income and a reliable food source than ever before. As it stands, we are comparatively resource rich within fairly liberal climes, but masculinity is still defined by pressures and imagery pertaining to adversity to which it is not truly required to respond.
He goes on to offer a beautiful personal narrative about his growing up within, and away from, this masculinity before, finally, offering an alternative.
Read James’ article in issue 1, subscribe and support our Kickstarter here.
– Jago Rackham
Image: Fighting Bricklayer by Honore Daumier.