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Art Theory

After passing through the plate glass doors, I was stepped onto glossy white tiles interspersed with a grid of isolated black ones. Around me were polished steel and red neon tubing. On flat-screen behind the counter, a smiling stock photo of a call-centre worker was captioned with  ‘Real Answers from Real People! [my emphases]’ As I sat down to wait to open an account, I noticed the anodyne piped pop music playing in the background.

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Nothing like the demure and bland English high-street banks I’m used to, this building bellowed ‘I’m American!’, in loud red, white and blue graphics. I gazed around in amused fascination, wondering how this aesthetic could belong to a bank that hadn’t yet fallen to corporate sleaze – one that wasn’t yet too big to fail.

The sceptic in me suspects that the bank’s favourable ratings with Ethical Consumer and  Move Your Money are simply because they have a clean rap sheet. They haven’t had time to invest in the arms trade, evade taxes and mistreat their customers, let alone be bailed out by the state and continue to do so.

I put in my earphones to block out the Muzak. ‘All my senses rebel!’ Brendan Parry’s voice solemnly proclaims. I’ve walled myself off to the extend that the man just who sat down next to me is seen first. I shrug.

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A retouched photograph of what the site of the bank 100 years ago was printed onto a large backlit canvas. The colours are vivid and artificial, in a sense aiming to be more real than those of the original scene.

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‘Dogs rule’ read another poster. Pictured in this one is Metro Bank founder Vernon Hill’s dog Sir Duffield. This no-doubt expensive canine-friendly branding exercise seems to be Hill’s personal whim.

All of the branding makes more sense when you view it as a manifestation of the aesthetic sensibilities of a man who cut his teeth developing properties for McDonald’s. He already has the successful American Commerce bank behind him and he hasn’t altered his fast-food retail strategy of long hours and smiling mascots a great deal for the UK.

I hope the fast-food analogy doesn’t run too deep.

An abridged version of this short essay was published in Portfolio, a student-led magazine distributed within Loughborough University.

Culture is the information and artefacts we share with each other. In situations where technologies that enable culture to persist independent of spoken language, like the written word, oil paintings or DVDs are scarce, only what is considered important is recorded. Historically, amongst other things, priority was given to the reproduction of holy books and the production of art. Up until the mid 1900s in Europe, artists were specialists in visually recording the histories, mythologies and religions of their cultures, as well as social hierarchies, by way of patronage and portraiture. With the advent of photography, art no longer dominated the production of visual culture as a record. In addition to this, artists were no longer at the beck and call of religious and aristocratic elites, and instead able to sell culture to the burgeoning middle classes. Artists found themselves enmeshed in a set of institutions specialising in the production and dissemination of culture, with no consistent obligation other than to make culture, any culture. This has resulted in many reinventions of the job of art, with no resolution in sight. Does the present climate of anything goes allow artists freedom in the culture they make?

I will start by expanding on the context in which artists work, aiming for a sketch of what art is rather than what I think it ought to be: Art is culture that is made under the heading of art and disseminated by art institutions such as galleries. By institutions, I mean persistent systems of social interaction. An art gallery can persist for many decades, during which time employees can come and go and the gallery can move from one building to another. What holds the institution together through these changes is the consistent patterns of interaction between those within the institution and their interaction with the rest of society. Examples of interactions, in the case of an art gallery, include the regular organisation of exhibitions and the presentation of the gallery under an unchanging name. I’m aware that other than using the generic terms institutions and culture making, I am defining art in terms of art. I think that in the case of art, a largely circular definition is necessary; such a wide range of otherwise unrelated activities are grouped under the word art, that using the word itself is the only quick way to tie them all together.

Based on the above, artists can in theory do anything, provided it results in the making of culture. In practice, art making is controlled. In what the artist makes, some references to historical art and other cultural entities are prescribed by authorities, others proscribed. What is fashionable varies from institution to institution – from museum to contemporary gallery to art school. On the art market, useless commodities are traded, their prices largely determined by the value of the artist as a brand. An artist seeking commercial success may be restricted by the demands of networking and working towards marketable products.

The artist, like any socially situated person, is influenced by institutions. From a social determinist position, all a person amounts to is an intersection of the influences of institutions such as their family, the mass media, religion, education, class, gender and so on. Our attitudes and world-view, indeed what we take as natural, normal or even possible, is formed by this set of influences. From the viewpoint of biological determinism, the physiology and behaviour of an organism are entirely determined by an interaction of environmental and genetic factors. One can also argue that at a more elementary level, human behaviour is determined by the laws of physics. If taken on-board, these arguments may lead us to re-evaluate notions of human individuality and freedom.

I acknowledge that art institutions can give artists time, space and legitimacy to make a very wide range of culture, as well as providing an audience for it. However, I think that the issues I have raised call into question the extent to which artists are free to do their own thing, both in the sense that they are subject to influences and expectations and that what they do is mostly a reconstruction of what they’ve learned.

This is a fairly informal essay, through which I aim to communicate and clarify my motivations for involvement in the field of cultural production known as fine art. For brevity’s sake, I’ll refer to fine art as simply art, henceforth.

What am I doing?

As a set of cultural practices with no universally agreed goal(s), it is difficult to define art. Even the claim that it is not possible to formulate a universal definition of art, is open to debate. It might be helpful to think of these so-called definitions as merely representing what I think art is:

  • Practices which are, or have been deemed ‘art’, by institutions and individuals possessing sufficient control over the term’s meaning and application.
  • A cultural product, presented as art; one or more features of which, or additional features of whose context of presentation are associated by resemblance and/or social convention with an art object1 from the past, and/or that object’s context of presentation.

My main aim is that these definitions be of sufficient generality to accommodate changing fashions and the adoptions of new media within art. If I were to claim that all art had to be beautiful, representational or expressionistic; I would only have to look at Jake and Dinos Chapman’s Two Faced Cunt (fig 1) (A matter of taste2, of course, which is one reason why beauty is a particularly bad criterion for a definition of art), IKB 191 (fig 2) by Yves Kline or Ben Nicholson’s White Relief (fig 3) respectively to realise my mistake.

One criticism I anticipate, as regards these definitions, is that they are tautological. While I am putting forward what I hope aren’t prescriptive definitions of art, I make additional claims to the statement ‘art is all that is art’, thereby escaping tautology. These definitions make two major claims:

  • Art is defined by its past, or history.
  • Art is defined by art-world institutions.

A second problem is that these two claims don’t seem to distinguish art from other fields of cultural production. If one were to look at literature, one could identify educational and critical institutions that determine what is viewed as literature. These institutions could be engaged in the process of assessing texts from the past and other cultures to determine whether they qualify as literature, or new texts to see if they exhibit any traits which are recognisable in the historical literary canon. What distinguishes literature from art, is that at least one additional claim could be made regarding it. Namely, that literary objects are texts.

Unlike art, the remit of literature is delineated. It would be possible, using my definitions, to define art unambiguously, if one were to assess all other fields of cultural production and demonstrate that the objects and practices related to them, like literature, were subject to additional criteria.

  • Art is defined by its history.
  • Art is defined by art-world institutions.
  • Art is defined by nothing else.

I can identify two problems with this additional claim. The scale and folly of the hypothetical assessment of all fields of cultural production other than art, and the impossibility of being certain of the third claim itself.

Although my definitions are problematic, other than conceding that art is an dynamic field of culture, a copy of which would be its briefest definition, they are the best I have to offer at present.

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Fig 1:Yves Klein, (1962) IKB 191. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:IKB_191.jpg]

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Fig 2: Chapman, Jake and Dinos, 1996, Two Faced Cunt, fibreglass, resin, paint, wigs and shoes. [http://www.terminartors.com/artworkprofile/Chapman_Jake_and_Dinos-Two_Faced_Cunt-1996-II]

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Fig 3: Ben Nicholson, 1935, White Relief, Oil carved and built up wood. [http://www.studio-international.co.uk/studio-images/passports/BC-Image-15_b.asp]

Why am I doing it?

I will answer this question by referring only to the central claims of my definitions in an attempt to roughly sketch my present personal motivation for involvement in art. The following three paragraphs may read like a somewhat rhetorical manifesto.

I like the history of art, particularly that from the mid 19th century onwards. I greatly admire both modern and postmodern artists, for the sheer heterogeneity of ways of working with both traditional and newer art media that they demonstrated. I applaud those who have assimilated multifarious media and disparate cultural elements into the discourse of art. I admire those who make art as social criticism or political commentary. I am pleased both at the exploration of the art object’s status as a commodity and at attempts to produce art which escapes this status.

I revel in any part that I take in the cultural work of art. I endeavour to add my body to the constant mill of appropriation and assimilation, the machine of flesh and culture.

By the same token, I seek involvement with institutions which promote experimentation and freedom of expression, and that grant art status to those practices which break new ground by dredging up the old and distant, and drawing upon contemporary culture and technology.

Does my work qualify as art according to my definition?

I will be looking at my latest work, Corrupted (Fig 4). I produced and presented this outside of an art world institution, namely a university and I’m not aware of any attention by such institutions which would immediately grant it art status. In addition, I would say that I am not influential enough, in my own right, to grant art status to my own practice, though I do claim to be an artist, for what it’s worth. This leaves the second definition. I need to find at least one example of an art object from the past to which a feature of my work bears a resemblance or association by social rule.

Corrupted is a web based interactive audiovisual piece published using Unity3D. Its content consists of looped audio track whose pitch and volume is linked to the speed of movement and scale of two-dimensional images projected onto a three-dimensional geometric form. I will compare my work to one of my favourites from The New River journal, self proclaimed ‘journal of digital writing and art’, I made this. You play this. We are enemies (Fig 5). By Jason Nelson. It is a web based interactive piece published in Flash, comprising drawings, text, audio and information appropriated from a number of websites. For those of you who are familiar with such things, it offers a similar experience to a two-dimensional adventure game, in which various obstacles are traversed in the process of getting the protagonist from a to b, at which point the level is passed. Aside from this basic aim, there is little narrative or continuity, over the course of the piece one is met with a stream of absurd and disjointed text, image and audio.

Both examples, while mine is simpler, incorporate input and output, with the potential for feedback — in other words, interaction. Due to the art context of Nelson’s piece, and other interactive pieces hosted on The New River website, I think I can say that an association can be made between mine and other art objects that incorporate interaction.

Additionally, both mine and Nelson’s piece incorporate processed information appropriated from a third party. In his case, information captured from web sites; in mine, screen captures from the playback of a corrupted video file. This feature can also be linked to the history collage and other uses of found objects in art.

Finally they are both hosted on the web, and in contexts which present them as art. I would argue that this effectively makes them art, irrespective of whether one judges them to be good or bad art.

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Fig 4: Simon Crowe, 2011, Corrupted, Unity3D content [http://simoncrowe.net/work/2011/corrupted]

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Fig 5: Jason nelson, 2009, I made this. You play this. We are enemies, Flash content. [http://www.cddc.vt.edu/journals/newriver/09Spring/madethis/enemyplay.html]

  1. By art object, I mean an object that has acquired its art status is a similar manner, through the institutional context in which it was produced and its association with past objects which acquired their status in this way.
  2. My view of taste: The assignment of value to something based on a real or anticipated, culturally informed reaction to it.

Although born in leafy Chaltham, Bjørn Venø spent the majority of his childhood living with his parents among a small island community in ruggedly idyllic Sejle, on the Norwegian west coast. While in Norway he studies Film and Media, Epistemology and Philosophy of Science as well as being conscripted by the military where he worked for the Norwegian Naval academy’s Internal Television. In 2003 he returned to his birthplace and took a BA in Photography at UCCA in Rochester. I will be looking at some of his most recent work entitled MANN.

MANN is name that could conceivably belong to a new brand of aftershave, purporting to help the male consumer achieve the ideal balance between suave and hard-bodied. Indeed, Venø‘s high production values could be those of the marketing campaign for said aftershave, were it not for the cathartic and confessional content of these tableaux vivants. As he plainly states, Venø is ‘exploring what it is to be a man’, and he does so in a disarmingly honest manner. A passage from his website tells of the mythical masculine paragons and paternal ideals which formed Venø ‘s childhood identity:

‘”I’ve sailed the seven sees, been imprisoned as a pirate in New York, cooked old leather shoes for the African king, fished sharks and sailed deep in to the Amazon” These are the tales of Bjørn Venø’s father from the days men were men, men like Roald Amundsen and Thor Heyerdahl. In those days men did not suffer anxiety and depression instead he bit his teeth, clenched his fist and thought his way through adversary with sheer will alone.’

Central to MANN is a series of photographs consisting of three chapters: 1. Sirkel (circle), 2. Paradigm and 3. Behold. These three words seem to sum up the endeavour: the cyclical return to the locale where he spent his formative years, the masculine ideals and fantasies that he took up with naïve openness and the eventual paradigm shift which resulted from his confrontation with the oft-disappointing realities of adult life. I take behold to refer to the unflinching candour with which he lays himself bare, also a word with an edge of behold which carries though his various confrontations with his parents.

In a video accessible via his website, Venø talks us through Sirkel, first stating the nature of his project: ‘[it’s] about male identity, I feel that male identity has not been explored to the same extent as female identity’. When one thinks of gender politics in art, names like Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger and Tracy Emin spring to mind; although there are likely some other male artists looking at similar themes, at least in popular knowledge there seems to be a dearth. He goes on to discus how he feels. ‘You may be a big muscle-builder, confident and secure. Me, I have fleeting moments of confidence…rest of the time, I wonder: What the hell am I doing?’. A considerable number of us feel utterly rudderless at one point or another, so why is it that the male gender has more trouble expressing it? Why indeed is self-assurance equated with the heavily muscled body type? I’ll try to address these questions later. ‘there came a point..when I guess I grew up and realised that adulthood. Or adults are worse off than children. It’s this point I am trying to capture in Sirkel’ He proceeds to run us through a number of photographs from the chapter, re-enactment of childhood fantasy, his voice ballooning with mock bravado. Sounding now like a blockbuster trailer narrator: ‘here I am on a Mountain… building a spaceship out of Lego, to reach the stars… and at the same time I have pants down on my knees’. The juxtaposition of heroic boyhood fantasy and nude humiliation epitomises for me, this awkward transition from childhood to adulthood.

Paradigm has Venø in strained nude poses in the rooms of houses he occupied as a child. In one shot, he’s precariously balanced with his lower half on his childhood bed and his torso and arms resting unconformable on the floor. The room is small and replete with Star Wars merchandise and other boyhood memorabilia. The marriage of adult body with a space that was home to so many childhood reveries and where he likely went through puberty is clearly a vertiginous one. In my view, the most arresting tableaux from Behold, is the one in which a formally dressed Venø stands at the doorway of a shed occupied by his father, who is father chopping wood in a utilitarian overall. Venø looks menacing and somewhat dashing and the eye contact with his father is wrought with tension. Not only is there the obviously Oedipal dimension, but it strikes me as class oriented as well. The now grown up and educated sophisticate confronts his father, a strong and hard-working man with little time for such nonsense. According to the artist’s statement, this series was influenced by Surrealist stream of consciousness prose and performance, where an attempt is made to minimise the influence of years of social conditioning that normally mediate our behaviour. He quotes Rousseau: ‘Our wisdom is slavish prejudice, our customs consist in control, constraint, compulsion. Civilised man is born and dies a slave. The infant is bound up in swaddling clothes, the corpse is nailed down in his coffin. All his life long man is imprisoned by our institutions’. Maybe the notion of the noble savage isn’t quite apt here, but he has given us glimpses of the ideal, an ideal that by nature, cannot be fully realised.

Venø also writes a blog, and unsurprisingly it quite candidly records his dreams, preoccupations, anxieties and despondencies. One illustration in particular caught my attention: ‘The blue house in the Grey [C]ity’ . I’m not sure if it was his intention but this really reminded me of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman; Willy’s house is surrounded by tall apartment complexes which he vehemently despises and that symbolise the reality of his ineptitude as a businessman. The play seems relevant because it is full of bluster an illusion, mingled with abject misery and until the end no attempt is made to try and confront reality. It’s deeply sad because in the face of such a harsh working environment some sort of optimism is needed simply to keep going but optimism turns to hubris and hubris to sackcloth and ashes. Willy eventually commits suicide so that his son Biff might benefit from the insurance windfall. At his father’s funeral Biff repeatedly laments that he never knew who he was, which is interesting because it underscores the distinction between power as externalised achievement and power as self-esteem which I’ll go into later . Male achievement is a huge theme in that play, the immense aspirational pressure and the examples of ‘great men’, ‘leaders of men’. There’s a scene where Willy confronts himself in a mirror and is all insecurity and self-doubt and his wife attempts to sooth him. The play was written 1949 and there was more of an emphasis ‘deeds’ or ‘greatness’ and less on body image, but emotional inarticulacy and pressure to adhere to macho stereotypes were still were always issues for men.

Male Identity

I’ve always been afraid to discus male identity, because patriarchy benefited men so it could be argued that feminist social reconstruction just evens the score and that men are unlikely to be subjugated, so why whine about male identity. First, I’m no more responsible for the actions of men in history than those of women in history. Second, I think that patriarchy created pernicious roles for men as well as women. I’ll admit that in men’s case it might be more about emancipating the body and sense of identity, more about forgetting cultural debris than about securing men’s rights. Certain roles that can be imposed upon men are relics from a bygone age of male privilege that no longer have any real legitimacy and can often lead to self-loathing, like the notion of the ‘strong silent type’ which seems to me just another way of saying ‘emotional cripple’. At the all boys school I attended there were few norms that encouraged expression or sharing of feelings, It was only manly if you’re feelings overflowed into violence. There was a prejudice against academically interested boys, and what seemed like a real drive to perpetuate the the stereotype of the male as an ignorant slob. Speaking from my experience as someone born in 1990: with the turn of the century men have become more and more objectified, male role models are more carefully presented, more frequently photoshopped, spend more time in a gym. Frankly, it makes me feel uncomfortable with my body and I’m not asking for sympathy I’d just really like to see more evidence of men expressing their feelings about it.

Now the difficult thing about this topic is that there is both biology and sociology, sex and gender at play and there is a tendency for the line to become blurred, if such a line exists. I’m going to go for a sociological approach at this point Why? Because I believe that both hard science and human science have important things they can teach us, and that our society is sufficiently advanced for the social to play a greater role in determining who we are than the biological. Regardless of how we’re socialised we experience having sexed body and a sexuality of some description, so it’s not entirely social. However when you learn that you’re a male, female or transgender person, that’s when the social side begins. As a general rule, if it’s learned or communicated then it’s a social construct. I’m now going to conduct a thought-experiment: Suppose I’ve been taught this identity: a ‘male’, in 21st century western society. In a lot of ways this part of my identity determines how I see myself and interact with those around me, but there is no essential manhood, there is no kind of manhood that is in some way prototypical or original. What then do I do with this identity? Do I just accept it as ‘natural’ and indulge in some comforting myth to justify this belief, a myth like biological essentialism. It’s hard coded into my DNA or my anatomy, I might tell myself, and therefore my destiny, rather than a complex mix of being both soft-coded and hard-coded into my identity and body respectively. If I’m not convinced by a myth like this then the question of what it is to be male is an open one: I have learned this gender now, and although I didn’t make it, it’s mine so surely I can do whatever I want with it.

In my view there are two hypothetical avenues open to me; I can either attempt to cast my gender aside and have nothing to do with it, or endeavour to alter it to something I’m more comfortable with. The problem with the first option of abandoning my gender is that gender is a dominant social system and won’t disappear at my command. Not only is it a dominant social system, but my gender is signified by my body as well as my behaviour so barring drastic surgery there seems to be no solution. Furthermore, it’s a binary system, operating on a male/female paradigm so the only way to abandon ‘maleness’ would be to adopt behaviours commonly viewed as female. Any changes that I make to my behaviour that don’t fit into the male/female duality would simply not be viewed under the heading of gender. Perhaps they would be seen as indicators of a particular sexuality, class, ethnicity or possibly something outside of these other dominant socio-political systems. Similarly, if I were to opt for the second strategy of altering what it is to be male, I would still be caught up in the male/female dichotomy so any major changes that might be perceived as gender changes would have to be the adoption stereotypical male or female behaviours. I could either entrench my perceived ‘maleness’ or adopt female behaviours and be perceived as a ‘nancy boy’. Neither option appeals to me, the first seems contrary to my aims and the second seems to reinforce the gender duality by committing the ultimate transgression of straddling the divide and becoming a ‘boy’(not a full grown man), marked by the word ‘nancy’ (generic female name). It seems that there is no way for a solitary individual to avoid gender, so a third option becomes apparent: One would have to communicate and get actively involved with a socio-political movement.

Masculism

Such movements do exist, many of them are branded as masculist. Masculism, like feminism, is a loose label which can be applied to a wide range of social and political practices. There are many separate aims, ideologies and motivations, and this very heterogeneity makes it risky to say ‘I’m a masculist’. People might think that I was a masculist on reactionary grounds, and wanted patriarchal gender roles to be restored because I believed that was the natural order of things, possibly backing this up with references to a religion or ideology. If I am to propose a masculism, I will state outright that it will not be reactionary or motivated by any religion. Instead, I would propose something along the same lines as the ideas of American author Dr Warren Farrell whose research into gender issues began in the 1960s, when he focussed primarily on women’s issues, but as time went on, he became aware as what he saw as a fundamental flaw in gender politics. Namely that it was a one party system, that men’s issues were under-represented. Some may argue that feminism within politics is or was merely a counterweight to an overwhelmingly patriarchal political environment. This is debatable as a lot of political decisions affect both sexes similarly and few if any organisations exist which deal exclusively with men’s issues. Furthermore, it assumes that patriarchy as a system actually benefits most men, rather than a hegemonic elite. What also concerned Farrol was that although woman had been encouraged to question their role in society and had acquired a greater freedom in terms of work and family, men were still trapped in their traditional role as breadwinner. In his 2001 book The myth of Male Power: Why Men are The Disposable Sex, he went further, in putting forward a convincing case for male subjugation that focussed on how men are socialised to value themselves less as human beings.

In brief, the reasons for the devaluation of men are biological in that they are based primarily on the survival of the species, they could be summarised by saying ‘Eggs are expensive, sperm is cheap’. Firstly, male participation in childrearing doesn’t necessarily have to extend beyond conception, a man was therefore free to perform his oft-touted role as provider and protector. Concurrently, the female role evolved out of a need to nurture; long gestation periods and times spent nurturing children meant that she was more valuable to the species out of danger. The male who could fight off competition and provide the most was more likely to pass on his genes by impregnating more females. Some died trying and leaving more successful males to breed. Simplifying heinously, I could say that this general pattern continues right up until a society becomes industrialized. The more technologically advanced a society, the more freedom and control people have. Better sanitation, better healthcare, less need for manual labour so more time for education and leisure for both sexes. More specifically: lower instances of death during childbirth and infant mortality. As we were less concerned with survival, woman had more or an opportunity to express their discontent with their lack of opportunities. In Western Europe this began when the non-domestic worlds of industry, politics and so on were male dominated. Thanks to the efforts of many feminists of both sexes, the disenfranchisement of women has been tirelessly addressed, and much progress has been made. This, one would think, is a great opportunity for men, to embrace the choice not to be the men of an antiquated patriarchal system. Men can take more of an active role in childrearing, home-making and seek their own fulfilment rather than just competing for resources. When survival was paramount, men needed to put themselves at risk, to competing for resources and dying in great number in wars. Power to put oneself at risk is not true power, it’s a form of weakness, this is the myth of male power according to Farrell.

True power is the ability to control one’s own life, and that means having enough self-esteem not to put oneself at risk because it is believed to be somehow mandatory. Men are socialised not to show weakness and not to be in touch with their feelings because this was once a survival requirement. Ironically, it seems that in present times, that quite the opposite is required. Women have a consistently have longer life expectancy than men. In the UK in 2009 a newborn boy could expect to live for 77.71 and a girl for 81.88. This gap might be explained with reference to male risk-taking behaviour. Boys are often socialised to feel that they are the ones who should initiate sexual relationships and that they should provide gifts and financial support to partners. At the same time they are socialised to cut themselves off from their feelings, as doing so will allow them to take the necessary risks to achieve the aforementioned ends. Widespread understanding of male role simply hasn’t evolved to the same extent as the female role, and men need to be made aware of the options open to them. A powerful indicator that something is wrong is that in the UK, based on an average spanning the years 1991 to 2008, compared with females, males make up 74.74% of reported suicides. Almost thrice as many males suicides would indicate to me a greater occurrence of psychological problems within the male sex, the fact that when we compare males and females aged 15-44 the proportion of males suicides increases to a staggering 79.45% gives some credibility to Farrell’s claim that young men commit suicide at an age when they are coming to terms with their adult gender role. Boys and men aren’t socialised to talk about their problems, the existence phrases like ‘man up’, ‘take it like a man’ and ‘Be a man!’ all attest to this.

My main problem with the male gender role is that being a man is considered something that one should earn, through taking risks. I believe that you’re a man whether skinny, fat or muscular, an artist, banker or builder, monogamistic, celebrate or prone to promiscuity, employed, self-employed or unemployed, gay, straight or bisexual, sporty or bookish. The notion that manhood should somehow be earned is a dangerous falsehood, and encourages poor self-esteem and a higher instance of risk-taking behaviour. Other men’s issues that Farrell alludes to include a much greater proportion of men in professions with higher rates of occupational mortality such as rubbish collection, mining and construction; the lack of funding for specifically male health problems such as prostate cancer; the impetus mainly resting on men in the event of a military draft; higher rates of violence against men, domestic and otherwise; lack of father’s custodial rights, the tenancy of divorces to financially cripple men and alienate them from their children and rape shield laws which can favour woman. Above all there is a push for communication between the sexes, in particular for men to acknowledge that women’s strength is that they are comfortable to appear weak and that men’s weakness is that they are uncomfortable unless they appear strong. I have long-held sympathy for feminist causes, particularly in developing countries where woman are still oppressed and believe that a form of masculism is complimentary and not contrary to this belief. I am in favour of Farrell’s brand of masculism and fully support the idea that masculism and feminism should at some point fuse to form gender equality, or gender egalitarianism.