I’m walking through Waterloo Station and around me are posters and screens showing me the new summer fashion line and the blockbuster movies. With summer here, we are more than ever exposed to what the consumer market says we should look like, eat like, act like, be like. While the pressure on women is intense, the less focused and damaging stress is on men.
With chiselled abs on store fronts and male heroes blowing things up and punching it out rather than talking it out on the silver screen and sport season reaching its peak, men are more than ever told that overcompensation is a key trait of their gender and this is dangerous, especially for our generation of young men.
Defined as the ‘exaggeration of male stereotypical behavior, such as physical strength, aggression, and sexuality’, Hypermasculinity is a psychological term that may very well be the linked to many social issues such as violence, homo or transphobia, suicide and misogyny. Originally theorised by Leonard Glass in Psychiatry (1984), hypermasculinity is divided into two categories, ‘man’s man’ and the ‘ladies’ man’, the unemotional tank and the charming sexual predator, respectively.
The tropes of these extreme forms of masculinity are damaging as they are widely applied through media and evolve into cultural values; men don’t talk about feelings, men must be strong, men must be fit, men must be dependable, men must be mystified by women. There is a gender identity crisis for what constitutes ‘men’ especially for young people, with male suicide rates three times the female and highest since 2001 (The Guardian, February 2015).
Of course, while I was aware of it as a gendered issue, it was the promoters of CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) who explained to me that it was a mental health issue that is gone unnoticed. “No one speaks about it,” Hannah, her name tag told me, as I wandered past stalls put up at Waterloo Station for Mental Health Awareness Week, bright pink shirt with #Mandictionary on it. “The campaign is to allow men to define themselves in their own terms, to encourage them to speak.”
While our generation has access to wider forms of communication and connection to each other, we need to encourage it on a personal level. Hypermasculinity is in a transient phase within global social trends in our generation’s realignment of gender identity and relations, and we should contribute to its movement towards the exit.
For more information about CALM, see thecalmzone.net/