From Egyptians fashioning eyes lined with kohl 3000 years ago to powdered faces of kings and lords of the 17th century, the relationship between men and make-up is nothing new - what is, is the question of masculinity.
Dazed Digital have recently launched a new campaign exploring and deconstructing what masculinity means in 2019.
We are currently living in a social climate and digital age where buzz-terms such as “toxic masculinity”, “be a man”, as well as the #menaretrash and #metoo movements have impacted the lens through which we perceive men and gendered what masculinity means today. The term male has been synonymous to being masculine and as a result gender expectations have led to complex issues in mental health, body image and even the lucrative cosmetic industry. So can a woman be “masculine”? Can a man be “feminine”? If so, what does this look like?
We are currently living in a social climate and digital age where buzz-terms such as "toxic masculinity", "be a man", as well as the #menaretrash and #metoo movements have impacted the lens through which we perceive men and gendered what masculinity means today.
At a time where the English lexicon consists of more words to describe our sexuality and gender than ever before, there comes a need to engage in conversations that redefine stereotypes. Today, tropes of fluidity and non-binary permeate many modern spaces otherwise seen historically as binary and dichotomous and this just goes to show how relevant this campaign is.
The campaign itself is based online at Dazed Digital Beauty and consists of a photo series, most images displayed alongside the subject’s stories, relationships or lived experiences with masculinity. It is an all-inclusive platform that shows us what masculinity for people across the world, from India to New York, means to them.
Behind The Masc intricately aligns and illuminates various truths and stories, that trigger both conversation and a personal reflection on how we ourselves “do” gender. The performative nature of gender is revealed in this photo series and broadens the scope for adjustments and alternatives to traditional preconceived ideas of gender.
The campaign covers all types of content including a male grooming conversation with Joey Essex, the intersections of gender and race, bodybuilders and male beauty in film. One piece of particular interest I read was on three trans men and their relationship to beauty. The boundary of how make-up and beauty are traditionally seen as feminine practices and how during their transition this dug deeper in the establishment of their gender identities.
The boundary of how make-up and beauty are traditionally seen as feminine practices and how during their transition this dug deeper in the establishment of their gender identities.
Navigating the beauty world is not a commonly discussed topic among cisgender men. Only recently we have begun to see beauty campaigns and brands using men as their models, for example Gary Thompson, a black male beauty vlogger, featuring in L’Oréal’s True Match Campaign in 2016 and Manny Gutierrez, the first man hired as the face of Maybelline in 2017. These moments are a real testament to the progress that the make-up industry is making in the depiction of masculinity, but there is still a long way to go when it comes to equalising the representation of masculinities and femininities.
Visibility, representation and conversation.
Gender-neutral beauty is definitely the way modern beauty standards are moving as feminine and masculine are now questionable concepts. This Behind the Masc campaign, allows us to realise that beauty practices are not feminine, reserved just for women. By increasing the visibility of genderless representations in the beauty and skincare world, it opens so many doors for self-expression, confidence and identification, inclusive for all individuals, cisgendered, transgendered, non-binary and everything in between.