“TRUE MEN” by Brian Shumway
Gender can be a perplexing thing. Despite being flexible and malleable, it defines and confines who we are and how we express ourselves, especially through behavior and dress. Men in particular are bound by the dictates of gender. To be a ‘real man,’ being manly and masculine (or at the very least not outwardly effeminate) are paramount. Expression of one’s manhood, especially in public, must remain within a narrow range of acceptable social norms. Little boys are conditioned as such from birth, almost as a universal absolute. But this ignores the full story of male identity. There is a large spectrum of male experience that is deemed off limits by popular society. The men in this portrait series fall outside traditional notions of manliness and masculinity. They possess an effeminate manner, dress, or look, a ‘girlishness’ that is as much a part of being male as weightlifting and football. They boldly embrace expressions of male identity which flaunt the confines of conventional conceptions of manhood and what it means to be a man.