Updating masculinity

Perry’s self-referential stamp design, entitled Summer Exhibition, for the Royal Academy of Arts

Men’s rights
The right to be vulnerable
The right to be weak
The right to be wrong
The right to be intuitive
The right not to know
The right to be uncertain
The right to be flexible
The right not to be ashamed of any of these

This quote is Grayson Perry‘s manifesto for men, from his 2016 autobiography The Descent of Man.

It’s his attempt to provide a few pointers for how old school masculinity might be transformed to become more pluralistic and, well, more sensitive and kind.

Perry is a well-known British artist (winner of the Turner Prize in 2003), presenter of TV documentaries about art and society in Britain, and a cross-dresser.

He is one of a handful of artists invited to design Royal Mail stamps to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Society of Arts in London in 1768. He is also coordinating the summer exhibition which opens on the June 12th.


A review of The Descent of Man will appear here in due course

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13 thoughts on “Updating masculinity

  1. I would sign this manifesto with both hands 🙂 I could, right? Despite being a woman 😉 It’s all about being pluralistic and sensitive, after all 😀

    1. 😄 Pluralistic and sensitive people are always welcome here! I suppose as a woman you could at least endorse it if it was felt you couldn’t sign it —

      Actually, in these gender fluid times Perry does make the point that what he calls Default Man is absolutely the wrong model for around 50% of the world’s nominally male population, and in urgent need of what he calls ‘upgrading’.

      But, even though his book is about “Man”, what he’s really arguing for (though he doesn’t spell it out) is not the rights of men, per se, or even feminism, but humanism, which accords each and every one of us a degree of respect and worth regardless of gender.

  2. Oh dear. All I can think of is Miami Vice and Air Wolf, where the male lead is always tearing up while staring moodily at the ocean, or playing the cello in the middle of the forest. It’s a good manifesto! It is! But…yeah, I’m apparently an 80s child. 🙂

    1. As a child of the sixties (yes, I do remember them, whatever they say!) my conflicting images of masculinity were strong silent types like Tarzan or tv cowboys (Rowdy Yates, Hoss from Bonanza, The Virginian) on the one hand, and androgynous hippie types with skinny jeans and long hair on the other. I went for the silent hippie combo…

        1. He-man! I spent hours watching this series with our prepubescent son, and I suspect he still has a soft spot for the characters — even Skeletor!

          My favourite Bond is Daniel Craig, though I think Timothy Dalton was underrated. I may be biased as he’s Welsh, but then Bond has also been played by a Scotsman, an Australian, and an Irishman — I think if we exclude David Niven, Bond has been played by only two English actors, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig, and Craig has Welsh and French ancestry. Who’s your favourite?

          1. Peter Sellers!
            Kidding. 🙂 That Casino Royale flick was…something else.
            Hmm. I’ll always have a soft spot for Pierce Brosnan because GOLDENEYE was my first Bond film in the theater, but I guess I should be honest with myself: It’d be Roger Moore. His films were the ones I got to watch as a child, with all their bombastic absurdity in plot, character, and gadgetry. If I had to go with the actor who played James Bond as Bond SHOULD be, I should say Dalton, hands down Dalton. His Bond had all the tragedy, heart, and strength the character should have.

            I don’t sound like I made any decision whatsoever… 🙂

            1. OH GOSH YES. The one saving grace in that film is John Cleese.
              Brosnan: “If he’s Q, does that make you R?”
              Cleese: “Ah, there’s the classic 007 wit. Half a wit, anyway.”
              Only Cleese can deliver such a line. 🙂

  3. Jilly Cooper’s update on masculinity is that modern men cry all the time, and they have beards. I don’t think she thinks highly of either. Certainly doesn’t apply to the male heroes in her so-called bonkbusters.

    1. I have a beard and cry frequently. I ‘m also not a horsey kind of person. All that will damn me in Jilly Cooper’s eyes but I don’t care — I’ll just go off and sob somewhere.

  4. I just reread William Tenn’s “The Masculinist Revolt”, a 1965 sci-fi short story about the inevitable counterrevolution after feminism “won”. Like many sci-fi authors, Tenn was incredibly prescient.

    1. Sometimes I wish writers of a dystopian bent wouldn’t be so damned prescient.

      (Note to self: I must finish Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here which I stalled on last year as the parallels with Trump’s MAGA nonsense were so close and so painful. But as I gather there is a resolution of sorts towards the end of the novel I hope that it may foretell the inevitable end of this bull elephant in musk rampage you and the rest of the world are suffering.)

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