ART CULTURE

Masculinity in the eyes of arts: stereotypical narratives and influences

MD Talebur Islam Rupom | Published: 14:56, Jan 03,2021 | Updated: 14:21, Jan 05,2021

 
 

To portray different dimensions of gender-based violence and issues, EMK Centre Dhaka holds an online art exhibition titled Masculinity in Your Eyes. The exhibition wants to imagine a world where gender roles do not exist, where people are allowed to follow their dreams and where social conformities do not hinder but rather support each person’s voyage to finding a better version of them — whether it be a male, female, transgender or otherwise, writes MD Talebur Islam Rupom

NEITHER masculinity nor femininity or LGBT+ holds a constant definition over time. New characteristics have been kept adding in their definitions from time to time depending on the necessity of particulars.

It is difficult to come into a conclusion as everyone has their perceptions and perceptions are influenced by the narratives surrounded by us. There is no right or wrong. But there is certainly transparency, ethics and rationalities of the narratives. It varies from age to age.

To portray different dimensions of gender-based violence and issues, EMK Centre Dhaka holds an online art exhibition.

EMK Center, to increase awareness and to appreciate the steps to reduce gender-based violence, organised a virtual exhibition ‘Masculinity in Your Eyes’. Through an open call for submission, they received over 80 artworks from 53 artists where the artists portrayed how they view masculinity.

Aspiring artists from Bangladesh, Indonesia, North Macedonia and India have submitted their artworks.

Through this exhibition, EMK Center is observing 16 days of stand against gender-based violence. The exhibition wants to imagine a world where gender roles do not exist, where people are allowed to follow their dreams and where social conformities do not hinder but rather support each person’s voyage to finding a better version of themselves — whether it be a male, female, transgender or otherwise.

Artwork by Sayed Kabir.

The painting of Sanjana Zaman reminds the traditional definition of a male. Be a man, don’t be sissy, don’t cry, pink is for girls; these are the traditional ideas of masculinity. While it thinks it creates strong men, what it does is kept men in a box with emotionless, colourless words.

In the artwork by Nafisa Anwar, Crimson Virility, there is a Japanese phrase telling you to have three faces — the first one you show to the world, the second one you show to your family, and the last one you never show to anyone.

The idea of masculinity, as defined now, does not stray far from that ideology. In the pursuit of societal acceptance for being a ‘true man’ with all the wonderful qualities of strength, courage, independence and leadership, you cannot help but lost yourself in the progress.

In the end, all that is left behind is the crumpled shell of the person that led you down towards the path of being iniquitous. For achieving that crimson virility, you, you taint the mirrors in which you cast your reflection upon.

In our society, a male member of the family is the prime source of income and filling up every necessity of their families. Father is usually considered as the banyan tree and then another junior male member of the same family followed by. In several occasions in the event, masculinity connects the characteristics of banyan trees by the arts exhibited there which is right. Since the male is unofficially forbidden to share their burden, weakness and so on neither to the society nor to anyone, so these things remain untold and underestimated — most of the times. The exhibition reminds this fate of the masculinity, at least to recognise their contributions.

Artwork by Safia Hossain.

In the art of Sumon Das, the caption says, ‘Man who can handle all the situations of life properly is the main who deserves masculinity. Examples of this masculinity can be in different ways. It can be said that men can use their intelligence in any situation, who can protest against any injustice with the seriousness of their voice, who can move forward by enduring all the pains in the way of life. There are several qualities that a man needs to have.’

I am not completely agreeing with it. Rather, I feel every problem in the world is equal to all the genders — no matter male or female or LGBT+. To handle all the situations, it is very important to work hand to hand collectively by all the genders. If it is said to put all the responsibilities to male, it makes the complete dependency on male. When full dependency comes to someone’s shoulder, it somehow enables them to feel superior and do anything they want. So, it is high time to know the collective contribution of male, female and LGBT+.

Tamzid Nawreen’s art is based on Greek mythology. The Medusa we know was raped by Poseidon in the goddess Athena’s temple. Athena then punished her for desecrating her sacred space by cursing Medusa with a head full of snakes and gaze that turns men to stone. Then, heroic Perseus severed the serpent-headed Medusa, turning her into a trophy.

The conditions of girls in our society are similar to Medusa. Men play the role of dominating behaviour of the patriarchal society. Still, if she gets sexually harassed, the blame is on the girl.  Victim-blaming is so common in Bangladesh when a woman faces any sort of gender-based violence or harassment.

Highlighting all the positive roles of the male in the society can create a balance in the social expectations from the males. That will help create the idea of masculinity — mixtures of all components where he will be living with his characteristics, not the one that social norm ask him to be.

MD Talebur Islam Rupom is a contributor to the New Age Youth.

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