by Nosipho Mathaba
Masculinity is evolving. We can see that it is slowly but surely escaping the dark ages. In a society where women all around the world are embracing feminism and fighting against inequality, men are not being left behind and are leaning towards modern masculinity. Today, modern masculinity says men can also wear pink, wear nail polish, be nurses and in essence, escape the shackles of traditional masculinity.
Traditional masculinity is rigid, it is concrete, it is millennial and it does not allow room for change. In conversations about feminism, society emphasizes redefining how we raise our daughters but this applies to men as well. In a speech said by Nigerian author and African feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, she mentions that the root of narrow masculinity lies in how we raise our boys. She says, “We stifle the humanity of a boy. Masculinity is a hard, small cage, and we put boys inside this cage” and then adds, “We teach boys to be afraid of fear, of weakness, of vulnerability. We teach them to mask their true selves, because they have to be, in Nigerian-speak—a hard man”.
Adiche also comments on how masculinity is linked to money. She says that this is how a man proves his masculinity. This is evident in the medical workplace. Doctors are associated with men and nursing is associated with women. These associations are linked to the gender stereotypes linked to men and women but most importantly linked to money because nurses make less money than doctors.
However, this is where we see the first example of modern masculinity. Adam Carter is a second-year student at the University of Virginia nursing school and he admits how he was the only male nurse out of 98 pupils. He later says that after that, two more men have entered the programme. This shows how masculinity is evolving, little by little.
The dismantlement of rigid masculinity is also evident in the fact that men are starting to wear pink. A colour that has been closely associated with girls is now a socially accepted colour for men. Dwayne Johnson, who is the definition of a “manly man” explains that “it takes a real man to wear pink”. Which is true, it takes a real man to express himself through fashion without being chained to stereotypes that pink is a female colour.
Nail polish is also a social trend that has escaped the grasp of female hands. It is slowly becoming normalized for men to wear nail polish. A high profile magazine such as Teen Vogue featured Jaden Smith who was captured wearing a skirt and nail polish. Yet the only thing that sparked headlines was the fact that he was wearing a skirt. Nothing about the nail polish was mentioned. Some could argue that Jaden Smith exudes gender fluidity so it does not count, but what about the other men who are considered “manly” men? Zac Efron, Taye Diggs and Jared Leto are all considered to be “manly” men yet they are still grasping this previously social anomaly.
Real men wear pink. Real men wear nail polish. In essence, the real men are the ones who are not allowing themselves to be chained by socially constructed concepts of how a man should be. Real men are leaning towards modern masculinity.