Be a Man
A portrait project redefining masculinity for today and tomorrow.
"Be a man." That's a jarring phrase, isn't it? It has weight. You have an instant reaction to it. Maybe a few memories come racing back to you. That's the reason I chose it. I want your attention because this is a reclamation project.
Ever since I can remember, I have questioned the traditional definition of masculinity. I never identified with the strong, silent type. I found the notions of dominance and conquest uncomfortable. I never understood talking about women like they were here simply to be ogled. I thought that "the old boys club" was limiting and wrong. Essentially, I never felt like I met the typical definition of what it meant to be a man.
As a kid, I wondered if I was the outlier. Now that I'm 37, I've met enough people to know that there are plenty of other men, young and old alike, who are like me, who think that the stereotypical image of a man is limiting, regressive, and harmful.
Yet we continue to celebrate that stereotype. Whether in movies, on the playing field, in politics, or at home, it's strength, dominance, and aggression that make headlines. Toxic masculinity and its aggrieved supporters (of all genders) are part of the reason we are so divided today. Too many men mistakenly tie their success and well-being to salary, dominance, conquest, and power over others.
This portrait project is about giving attention to the men in our lives who redefine what it means to be a man. I want to share the stories and the legacy of men, young and old, who know that true men are empathetic, compassionate, and understanding, who give to others more than take for themselves, who know that love, humility, kindness, and selflessness are the true mark of a man.
That's me in the photo above. I am inspired to do this project for my family, for my friends, and for my community. We have to build a better world together, and how we define masculinity is part of that. When our friends, neighbors, and children understand that it's most important for men to be empathetic, giving, and caring, then we will progress one step closer to unity and equality.
I know that you are already thinking of someone who deserves to be a part of this project. Maybe it's a grandfather, a son, a healthcare worker, a hairdresser, a teacher, a neighbor, a husband, a father. Maybe it's you. Whoever it is, it's time that we meet for a portrait session. That legacy deserves to be highlighted today and preserved for tomorrow.
I want to tell stories that acknowledge the past and celebrate the progress we are making for the future. By telling these stories and creating these portraits, we can come closer to a world where men no longer objectify women; where men no longer covet dominance, conquest, and ownership; and where men no longer limit themselves to a narrow definition of manhood.
We aren’t born this way, to uphold the stereotype. We create this, we perpetuate it. It’s time to end it. So many already are. I know that there are families working hard to redefine what it means to be a man. I know that so many are raising young boys to respect women, to have compassion and empathy, to embrace emotion (all of them, not just anger) and to just be their true selves.
Think of the men in your life who are doing the same, who care for others, who admire the women in their lives, who know that the definition of a man is more than a stereotype. Young and old, there are so many of us redefining what it means to be a man. This project will highlight men of all ages who are moving our world forward.
I invite you to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and share with me the story of someone who would be perfect for this project.
Each participant will have their portraits and their story featured on my blog, on social media, and in a printed collection.
It's time that we shine a light on the men in your life--young and old--who are redefining masculinity for today and tomorrow, for it should be these men we think of when we say, "Be a man."