MIISTA REVIEWS: ALL MAN BY GRAYSON PERRY
It's funny how women have been dismantling their biological gender from the perceived feminine roles, but it is only recently that we have started to do the same with men, too. Myself, I've been spending so much time thinking about feminism and place of a women in a society that it's actually fascinating to look into the other side. Thanks to a man named Grayson Perry.
Perry Who you ask?
He is an English journalist and visual artist known mainly for his ceramic vases and..
In his newest series All Man, Perry describes three classic types of male and interviews men about how they feel masculinity defines their lives.
At the very end he creates works of art reflecting what he sees and shows them to his subjects.
Yes, it's a giant penis. We'll go back to this...
Grayson puts himself in three ultra-male worlds to see what their extreme masculinity has to tell us about the lives and expectations of all men today.
With ALL MAN he's trying to bring awareness what masculinity really is and raises the ultimate question: Should we change it?
Let me just start with saying ALL MEN is visually stunning.
Apart of raising all the important questions every chapter is simply very well made documentary. The references seem to come largely from fashion and photographs. Saturated and beautifully coloured, they could refer to the portrait in photography. Grayson did not make a mistake there because it truly is a portraits documentary.
He started his journey with the subject of a HARD MAN; trying to find out why it is so important for men to be MACHO.
Grayson puts himself in the North East where unemployment is rife and men generally under-perform in terms of education and soft skills.
In this specific society, men used to know their place – they were strong, stoic providers, breadwinners via hard physical labour, proud of their work.
Facing the change brought on by a huge economic downturn in their everyday lives, men are trying to find the purpose and strength in the new roles they find as manly: fighting.
After interviewing Mixed Martial Arts fighters, Perry is utterly surprised that these men are open when talking about their tough childhoods, showing support for each other, and generally that they are just nice guys. What seems to keep them healthy mentally is the physicality of Mixed Martial Arts. But then there are also those who don't have that outlet for feelings which keep the suicide rates at the highest level in the country. What do we get out of this?
The need to be tough isn't in itself an issue, but when it encourages the bottling up of emotions to the point of suicide, it very much is.
The half of victims of masculinity is men themselves.
To prove this furthermore, in his second instalment Grayson talks to the TOP MAN. He raises interesting points about the inherent violence of men, how men turn to crime and violence as a way to establish their masculinity and dominance.
They do so not only because there is no prospect of steady job but because of lack of a positive father figure in their life. They are deprived of male role model when growing up, yet still are likely to follow the destructive path of their fathers.
The series get more personal as Grayson reflects on his own prejudices and his own turbulent upbringing:
‘As a lifelong sissy myself, I have never felt at ease amongst macho men …”
His father left him when he was still a little boy and was replaced by an abusive stepfather. In an attempt to escape his difficult family situation he would turn into art.
The artist's childhood has been a major influence on his work.
Also, it was in his teenage years when Perry realised that he was a transvestite.
He emphasises how important are early stages of the young male life in shaping the masculinity. It's very tightly policed to be a man from the very beginnings.
You'll get the picture when you look at the 14-teen year old boys. When they become an adolescent there is this need for a very clear rules. They want to keep everything black-and-white and they patrol each other so no-one steps out of line.
It's almost like touching the invisible electric fence that says: "SISSY".
I immediately turned to ask a male colleague if he'd ever felt restricted from feeling or expressing certain things to avoid being perceived as weak and girly.
" No, Ori. I've finished All-boys school" but then he added casually:
"But I was bullied at school. Teased by my own friends actually, for being sensitive."
This is when we approach the central issue: It seems that men don't want to talk about it in fear of being labeled weak or abandoned.
The final episode focuses on the RATIONAL MAN. Spoiler alert, this is my favourite part of the documentary as it hits the nail on the head of the problem.
Perry's subjects are all located in the City of London including a proprietary trader, fund manager, hedge fund owner and a visit to the London Metal Exchange.
Unlike men in previous episodes, these people are in control of our society.
Interviewed by Grayson they claim that modern men in finance isn’t about testosterone but about ‘calm objectivity and icy self-control’.
They seem to control their masculinity yet ‘The beast still lurks but he’s very well behaved’. Perry thinks that masculinity narrative is still there but it's just masked.
Grayson Perry in attempt to reflect on machismo creates giant ceramic penis inspired by City of London bankers.
Perry suspects that the men have just learnt the rhetoric to disguise their misogyny. It's just masculinity redesigned. The moment of showing the final piece of art is him trying to capture how they really feel.
Every element of the object from the shine to its phallic shape is perfectly formed but it creates something rather monstrous on the whole. Perry presents his art to the men and surprisingly most of them are not shocked by it at all. At worst they find it a bit depressing; maybe repulsed? Most importantly they don't see themselves in the sculpture.
"It's because it's mirroring them. The world is made for men, that's why it does not feel out of place and that's why it won't punch them out of shape. The moment you're different, then you see the difference."
One of them concludes: I wonder what kind of tribe would run with it.
It's a good question. What kind of tribe would make 590 foot tall version of it and plant it by the river?
But the episode is not an attack on men but just certain aspects of masculinity.
Grayson himself, says:
"I like to show people how manly I am. I am a man in a dress, and in a way it almost emphasises my masculinity".
He's a man not distinct from the concept and construct of masculinity:
"I have no special insight into being a woman. And I would never claim that. I am just a bloke in a dress.”
But he calls for men to look forward. What can they be? What should they be? How can they deal with the requirement to be flexible and open to change?
While for us, women (feminists to be specific) it has always been looking into the future wanting a better one while men seem to keep on reminiscing about the men they used to be.
Bottom line, great series for everybody and great start for investigating masculinity.
And while feminism isn't just a woman's cause, the pressures men face are not only for men to worry about. If we can all understand it better, we can help to slowly release our society from the negative aspects of manliness.
Everyone would benefit, not least the women.