THE MASK OF MASCULINITY /
IS A MASK THAT’S WEARING ME…
At time of writing, it’s World Mental Health Day – an event designed to increase awareness of mental health issues and reduce the stigma around them.
I’ve written about my own mental health in these posts before, and shared a thread about the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of a period of mental ill health on Twitter, so I won’t repeat myself too much here.
But this record – probably my favourite album of 2018 – is the perfect opportunity to talk about toxic masculinity and its impact on mental health.
Even the term ‘toxic masculinity’ is somewhat controversial: seen by a select group of particularly fragile male egos as an attack on all men. But just as a patriarchal system inflicts suffering on women, toxic masculinity inflicts suffering on men, too. Suicide rates amongst young men are at an all time high – the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK – and a significant part of this is directly attributable to a feeling that showing vulnerability, reaching out and talking about your feelings, is somehow unmasculine. And this is barely even coded in the language used towards them: show any sign of vulnerability and they’re told to “man up” or “grow some balls”.
Under the boot of this system, acknowledging and dealing with their pain is taboo. And that’s dangerous. Deadly, even.
This is the background that makes what IDLES are doing so important. They use loud, heavy, aggressive music to share messages of progressive politics, love, and acceptance. This is true of their 2016 debut, Brutalism, but even more so of Joy As An Act Of Resistance.
Amongst pro-immigration, anti-homophobia, anti-classist, and anti-racist rallying cries is the song Samaritans: the most succinct and pointed disavowal of toxic masculinity I’ve ever heard. Singer Joe Talbot reveals what our perception of masculinity really is – a mask that ends up wearing you. A mask that encourages you to channel your pain into violence against others or yourself.
Keeping a stiff upper lip isn’t a sign of strength and masculinity, it’s a social, behavioural construct that is hurting you, is hurting other men, is hurting women, people of colour, people who identify as LGBTQ+. Taking ownership and getting help are the true signs of strength.
Deservedly or not, music this heavy – this fucking loud – is considered innately masculine. The pounding drums, the wrenching squeals of guitar string and vocal cord: there’s a violence to it. And there are elements of punk and hardcore that have been hijacked by far-right movements. So there’s something almost political about taking this format and using it to make a positive difference in the world. Engaging with your feelings – allowing yourself to feel joy – is an act of resistance against an uncaring system.
Freshly delivered through my letterbox is this gorgeous enamel pin badge, made by Bands FC in aid of the charity War Child. Bands FC often espouse the motto “things as other things is our thing.” And that applies just as well to this gorgeous combination of references to IDLES and the crest of Dinamo Bucharest as to their other badges. But there’s something particularly fitting here: subverting the usual conventions of a particular format in order to promote social good.
That’s the IDLES way.
The Campaign Against Living Miserably: https://www.thecalmzone.net/
Happy World Mental Health day. Take care of yourself.