A Body Full of Wounds: Masculinity and Vulnerability
Here at guyMystique, Masculinity is clearly a big concern of ours. So as part of mission, we must report “masculine happenings” in the arts and media. Today we write an article about men being strong men without using the word strength.
Last week, masculinity was cause for debate on a Huffington Post article dealing with the photography of Nir Arieli. Arieli is a Brooklyn-based photographer and the article covered his series of photos focusing on the feminine side of masculinity. Each photo in Arieli’s series reveals the vulnerable side of a male subject.
What does vulnerability mean to men?
Men don’t like the word, but it has “stronger” origins than one might think…
The word derives from three Latin words. First, vulnerabilis, which means, “wounding.” Second, vulnerare, which means, “to wound.” Third, vulnus, which means, “wound.” Therefore, vulnerability is intimately linked with wounds, either to have them or to give them. This makes sense. Man, after all, is a body full of wounds; this is uniquely human, as we’re not supermen (sorry, Nietzsche), so we must embrace this wounded life of ours.
What separates men from boys is the ability to live with wounds, not shy away from them
Let’s turn our attention to Arieli’s pictures (at the end of the post, you will find a link to the pictures). Do they adequately represent “wounded” men? What does a “real” man look like? What does a “wounded” man look like?
There’s Paul, a bearded man looking straight into the camera, as if he’s looking down the barrel of a gun or the barrel of God’s gun and contemplating the futility of it all. His eyes seem to be asking, “What’s the point to it all?” Should he stay or should he go? He must be at a loss for what to do next in life. Are his dreams unfulfilled? Did someone break his heart? If so, who would do such a thing?
Then there’s Matt with his piercing blue eyes, tears streaming down his cheeks. He, like Paul, is looking straight into the camera, as if desperate to establish a connection with the viewer, with anyone really, desperate to tell someone the reasons for his tears. Is the weight of the world on his back? Is his heart heavy with regret? On the other hand, is Matt like Christ up on his cross, concerned with man’s redemption and the persuasiveness of sin?
Questions and thoughts to consider
Each photo successfully captures the vulnerability of its subject. These are men consumed by loss, regret and defeat, not men basking in the bright light of victory. Each photo successfully captures the vulnerability of its subject. There is no triumph in these pictures, what we define as triumph that is. The question, however, on many commentators’ minds has been, “Do these photos really capture another side of masculinity?”
Lori asks, “Why is emotion, vulnerability, and gentleness considered feminine? Why not call them human?”
Another person “wants to see an average looking and older landscaper, carpenter, warehouse worker, insurance salesman, teacher in these pics and not young models…and then we can talk.”
One “would love to see masculine men photographed with a showing of feminine attributes. These guys are feminine to begin with. Rough and tough men, also have a fem side. Would that take a real artist to photograph the feminine side, without making a joke out of the picture?”
The general gist of the comments seems to be people wanting “regular looking guys” photographed and not models. This, however, begs the question, “What’s a regular looking guy?” I mean, how do we define regular? While the photos aren’t of blue-collar workers, Arieli’s message still gets through; man’s vulnerability shines. These are wounded men, hollow men.
Defining masculinity gets people riled up, because there’s no clear-cut definition of what masculinity actually is. Focusing on the vulnerability of men, however, is a good start to defining a new kind of masculinity. Should we illuminate our wounds more? We live in a wounded world. We must not shy away from reality. Wounds are beautiful, as is vulnerability. Vulnerability is just another side of toughness. You can’t have one without the other. What say you?
Post by Geoff LaPlace