Conventionally speaking, physical toughness and unemotionality sum up the basic essences of masculinity. This patriarch presupposition that men should always be both of the insider and the leader of a collective group not only denies the wider recognition of the diversity that exists under the conceptual umbrella of what constitutes a manly behavioral codes of conduct, but it is also responsible for exacerbating exclusion, alienation, self-hatred, and the otherness, faced by some men, who don’t fit the mainstream mold, and who are long for a different way of connection and self-expression.
Alternative masculinity is an applaudable departure from the conventional restriction of the socially conditioned, and expected manhood. This new wave of progression gives men more freedom to be in touch with who they are and, more importantly, be less afraid, when it comes to sharing their feelings, personal experiences, and relationships; topics, which are traditionally reserved to the realms of conversation among women.
As demonstrated by the latest trend in the publishing world, the stack of new releases that aim to re-examine what it means to be a man in 2016 has not only thickened, but it also has helped facilitate this positive change in attitude. The spotlighted focus on the biography-based personal story-telling; in particular, on the father and son relationship, has further legitimized this evolution of the modern era—being touchy-feely or admitting to others past experiences of what was like not being included as one of the guys is no longer the judgmental criterion that disqualifies a man from being masculine.
Speaking of feeling like an outsider, I was genuinely touched by a confession, made by Sunny, a BBC radio host, during his show that he shared with his wife, Shay, last night. The topic was about colorism; an interesting yet provocative topic that oftentimes arouses heated debate within the non-white ethnic communities. During the show, Sunny confessed that when he was younger, he would wear cap to avoid sunlight so that his complexion would be lighter. It was a simple confession, yet its impact was profound and had created resonance in me far across the pond.
We are all long for something that we don’t have, especially when the very thing that we desire has long been looked at as strong, rich, and powerful throughout human histories. Wanting to have a lighter skin is not just a female issue in the non-white communities, or rather; it is a male issue as well. The reason why women talk about their skin complexion often is because they have the wider acceptance and leisure to do so, while men may harbor the same feeling, but, due to the restrictive confines of conventional masculinity, they are discouraged from wearing their emotions on their sleeves, and are taught not to reveal to anyone their vulnerability, insecurity, and inner feelings—all of the precursors that have the potentials to lead men easily into different degrees of depression and anger. Sunny’s confession of wanting to have a lighter skin in his younger years was an exemplification of the modern day masculinity— being assertive of oneself and knowledgeable about one’s work, while being in tune with, feeling proud of; instead of embarrassed by, one’s past journey and inward own feelings.
I am not a person of South Asian ancestry, but an East Asian one. I still remember till this day someone that I once considered to be my “friend” said to my face, “Asian guys are at the bottom of the dating hierarchy.” “It is so great to be dating a white guy, because you get access to so many things out here in the world.” I try really hard not to let these hurtful words cloud up my personal horizons; yet it is quite difficult to do so at times when they come back to haunt me. In a way, I understand where those biased words of opinions come from. After all, a Caucasian man remains, unfortunately, the embodiment of power, richness, and masculinity, generally, globally, and universally speaking. If I were a women of color, to feel powerful and potentially respected, why wouldn’t I want to be associated with someone, who is considered to be bigger, richer, more powerful, and manlier, seen through a pair of widely accepted but biased social lenses?
Deep in my heart, I understand that alternative masculinity suits me more than the image of a poker faced man, who has an emotionless presence and an intimidating aura; that being said, in a world, where we all do our best to conform to some type of normality, one way or another, it is hard to resist of not wanting to be whiter, tougher, and blonder from times to times.