My Boyfriend does My Makeup: Hypermasculinity, Society and Relationships

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Oh, Don’t give me that look!

Y’all know how YouTube works…you start off looking at highlights of the Olympics, and eventually find yuhself tie-up with videos of Saucy Pow pelting waist in St James. Doh worry, there’s no judgment from me. After all, it’s not de destination, is de journey…right?

Oulishers, that being said, I give you the random video stylings of “My Boyfriend Does My Makeup”. Video after video features men putting makeup on their girlfriend’s faces with the finesse of running bulls. Talk about kicks! Most of the women get their sh*t jacked up! It’s a hilarious mess!

What was shocking about these videos, though, were some of the comments people left about their feelings towards this YouTube trend. Somehow, a lighthearted and funny experiment in makeup application turned into an intense discussion about compromised masculinity and male sexuality.

…a lighthearted and funny experiment in makeup application turned into an intense discussion about compromised masculinity and male sexuality.

I found it incredibly interesting, enlightening, and troubling that a connection could be made between a seemingly trivial YouTube video about makeup and masculinity and male sexuality. I couldn’t help but wonder whether society really understands the extent to which men are painted into an emotionally restricted, sexually paranoid, non-committal, and, thus, hyper-masculine corner in an effort to uphold, if you’re asking me, a completely outdated archetypal ideal of masculinity.

And what about relationships? How does such a regimented and superficial view of masculinity affect male/female and male/male relationships?

To answer these questions, I looked to the work of my fellow Outlishers for inspiration.

In his article, “Don’t Laugh, but T&T Needs a Men’s Revolution”, Joel Henry dared to explore the place of men within our evolved, modern society. What made this article particularly compelling, was the writer’s ability to establish both male and female roles from a purely evolutionary and cultural standpoint, while juxtaposing the development of those roles into their modern reinterpretations.

Joel was able show how the feminist movement has allowed the archetypical female to evolve from that of a dependent, emotionally in-tune caretaker and nurturer, to an independent, self-sufficient, modern woman.

In striking contrast, the article exposed how little evolution has taken place with male, archetypical roles. He touched on the ways in which modern society aggressively perpetuates this, and, in so doing, completely solidifies an environment where men, by doing what has always been expected of men, remain conspicuously un-evolved.

The YouTube videos in question offer us an opportunity to candidly observe these findings at play.

All of this reveals an unwavering commitment to a very rigid, and, dare I say, shallow view of masculinity.

Gay! Fag! Buller! Shirtlifter! Fudgepacker! These are some of the adjectives that were hurled at a man in one of the videos. The female comments, while decidedly less confrontational, were very telling nonetheless. One female referred to the male subject using the feminine pronouns “she” and “her”.

All of this reveals an unwavering commitment to a very rigid, and, dare I say, shallow view of masculinity. I seriously question whether a woman would have been the recipient of such character assassination, if she were performing a traditionally male activity like oil rigging. Probably not…she’d be referred to as a “modern woman”!

It’s an incredibly interesting paradox, because this is the environment in which young, modern boys are being socialized.

On one hand, we are raising young, modern boys alongside young, modern girls who are the daughters, nieces, sisters, and cousins of women who have benefited from the feminist movement, and, as such, have developed themselves in a society that accommodates the evolving expectations of women’s roles.

At the same time, young, modern boys are being raised in a society that reinforces a rigid, prehistoric, superficial, but enduring view of masculinity. The men AND women that raise them continuously perpetuate such behaviours, and leave little room for masculine evolution and expansion.

Any deviations from the expected masculine behavioural and emotional repertoire are swiftly, subliminally, and ruthlessly eliminated.

A crying, young boy, for example, is likely to be told to stop…even if he is being told to do so with the most soothing of voices. This one act has the potential to inform a lifetime of behavioural patterns.

Being told to stop crying, as most boys repeatedly are told, can and usually manifest into a penchant for masking emotions, which can eventually manifest into an inability to express emotions, which can and usually manifests into compromised emotional and physical issues, etc.

Consider, if you will, the ramifications of such behaviour within the context of a traditional adult relationship. Are we honestly surprised that men and women have a difficult time connecting and maintaining relationships with each other?

Perhaps most illuminating is how hyper-masculinity plays out within the confines of gay, male relationships.

Coming to terms with being a gay man has allowed me to see hyper-masculinity for what it is…completely unrelated, yet intimately tied to contemporary, gay sexuality. My personal experience of hyper-masculinity in the gay community is something akin to a red flag. For me, it is a very loose indication of how comfortable someone is with his/her sexuality. That’s not to say that masculine, gay men don’t exist. For the purposes of this article, the emphasis is squarely on the prefix “hyper”, which according to dictionary.com means “…‘over’, usually implying excess or exaggeration.”

Ironically or not, depending on your perspective, hyper-masculinity is, often times, fetishized within the gay community. Many gay men want straight-acting men as partners, and the infamous ‘down low’ epidemic highlights the preference for hyper-masculinity within the gay community, while severing the cultural associations between male femininity and homosexuality.

Just like traditional male/female relationships, gay men who exhibit behavioural characteristics that exist outside of the hyper-masculine spectrum are sometimes deemed less desirable, and thus, less of a man. Needless to say, contemporary ways of expressing male gender roles have fallen catastrophically short, as it relates to capturing the 21st century male perspective.

Now that we’re becoming hip to the fact the old definitions of hyper-masculinity no longer work, and were probably erroneous to begin with, how do we move forward with a more integrated definition of male gender roles?

In Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin-yang suggests that complementary forces exist and interact to form a greater whole. Dark and light, high and low, cold and hot, water and fire…and masculinity and femininity are all manifestations of yin and yang. The concept promotes working towards a balance of both complementary forces.

I reckon that that’s a great place to start.

 

Image credit: shotcouture.blogspot.com

Kevin Campbell

In a past life, Kevin Campbell was an incredibly talented force to be reckoned with. In this life? Not so much. Born and raised in Trinidad, Kevin has been living in Toronto since 1998. Architectural designer by trade, notorious skylarker by passion, he is also an avid proponent of exchanging ideas and media, having also pursued communication studies at the University of Ottawa. In his spare time, Kevin enjoys ah good ole talk, and ah good party/palance combo!

2 Comments

  1. Jaime Lee Loy

    Jaime Lee Loy

    August 26, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Kevin, I loved this article! Well written and great points. I love how you can take a serious topic and still make me laugh in parts, take you seriously at the same time, and also nod my head. I myself am trying to be able to do that. :) Good going!

    • Kevin C

      August 27, 2012 at 9:53 am

      Thank you, Jamie dahling :)

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