Cultural ideals of masculinity and how men ought to be often centre round notions of strength and power, stoicism and determination, being the provider and protector. Hegemonic masculinity is a way of understanding gender and power relations. It is a cultural ideal of masculinity, which is characterised by toughness, fearlessness, power, control and maintaining the dominant position in society. Hegemonic ideals of masculinity are often perpetuated through media and film, but they are ideals most men will never attain. Nor do most men necessarily want to.
Cultural ideas of masculinity, like hegemonic masculinity, tell men they must not display weakness or vulnerability. To reveal characteristics such as these, men run the risk of having their masculinity called into question. Men who display emotion, vulnerability or weakness may be chided as being ‘sissy’, ‘soft’ or a ‘woman’. These are the cultural expectations of men and masculinity that surrounded me as I grew up. From my primary education through to secondary education, I jostled alongside other boys; surrounded by these notions of what it was to be a man. Boys pushed and punched, they tested and teased, they sought out weakness and they exploited it. I learned along side other boys, not to display vulnerability, but vulnerability was something I would experience again and again, as I began to pursue a career in the visual arts.