by Josh Sweetnam
Where does the idea of the self come from? How do we develop our self image? How do we acquire what we do and don’t like about ourselves? That’s not just an internal thing, it all manages to manifest itself into our clothing choices, our hairstyles, whether we wear make-up or not. It’s weird, to say the least. I don’t think the first humans had this problem, they were probably more focused on not getting eaten by bears or…freezing to death.
We constantly judge our self worth based on others opinions, they manage to lodge themselves in our heads and make constant noise. Now I don’t want to go out screaming it’s a media issue. But it’s kind of a media issue. Well not solely, but I think modern media definitely plays its role in the issue; the way that celebrities or anyone in the public eye are criticised for the slightest bit of fat or cellulite or not having that ‘perfect body.’ It’s going to do some damage to the influenced. It certainly did on me. And you know…still does.
So how does this affect masculinity? Well I’m gonna travel back in time a little bit, back to when I was in school. I was pretty much bottom of the barrel when it came to the social ladder, it seemed like everyone was out to get me, I was constantly bullied and berated just for being how I was. I wasn’t comfortable in being me; and unfortunately that’s rippled all the way to now, being a 22 year old. At school I was a skinny, kind of short boy with long hair, who didn’t like football and cried; what more do adolescent boys need as ammunition?
Now obviously everyone’s the hero of their own story, and I don’t want this to seem like a sob story begging for pity, I’m a better person now, I’m somewhat more comfortable being who I am now: I know that I can show my emotions, that I can just be friends with women, I can cry and not feel bad about it, things people say about me don’t affect me that much, because I don’t have to care about them. I’ve learned so much about myself and who to steer clear of as I’ve developed and matured from the experience, but it’s definitely not something I’d wish upon anyone. No one should have to go through it, but the problem is that young boys often don’t have an outlet, or any way of understanding that things are okay, so they pick on people and bully people to cover their insecurities. It’s a real issue that needs to be addressed.
Boys can cry.
At Sixth Form I studied Human Rights for a year, and it was incredibly interesting, however when announcing this to my ‘friends’ I was met with a barrage of comments, the one that sticks in my mind is: ‘How gay are you?’ and I got defensive and offended at that, because I was conditioned (by them and society) to. I was called (what was believed by us all to be) an insult just for wanting to study people and how badly people are being treated throughout the world. Because I cared about people, I was berated. Being gay was apparently a bad and awful thing, when it’s not. It’s not an insult to live your life, loving whoever you want, if you want to at all. We all need to understand that people can live and love and laugh however they want.
Toxic masculinity is a curse on society, it’s not weak to have and show emotions, or love whoever you love, or live however you live. Everyone deserves their freedoms and enjoyments in life. Men suck. We do, we’re awful and we have to undo everything that makes it that way. Just love people and be kind and supportive to everyone, including yourself.
Josh Sweetnam is a friend of the zine. He studied Creative Writing and Drama at The University of Winchester and taught himself to play guitar. Music is his passion, performing as a band and uploading his own songs onto social media.
Y: Josh_ Sweet