The progression of gender equality in the past few years has widely opened up the spectrum of masculinity, steering it away from the toxic machismo of the past and towards a future where men can embrace a fluidity which breaks down the alpha-male stereotype. We can see this vividly with the positive progression of attitudes towards male mental health and the way in which younger generations of men are openly embracing their inherently feminine qualities.
Reflecting the progression of modern masculinity is photographer Julia Falkner and stylist Lorena Hydeman’s latest photo series Blah Blah Genitals, which explores how masculinity as an idea is evolving for six to 16-year-old boys in the UK, Spain, and Austria. “This photo series is a reflection of what it means to be a boy becoming a man in 2018”, explains the photographer, “and shows that public opinion of masculinity is shifting. We want the images to be inclusive and for the modern boy to be able to relate with them.”
To shoot Blah Blah Genitals, the boys were given the freedom to explore traditionally feminine symbols, such as makeup and clothing, and to interpret them in their own way. “A lot of boys that we may have wrongly categorised as typically boyish, really surprised us with their openness and eagerness to strut around in heels or makeup,” explains Falkner. “Again, their portrayal in the photographs was very much a collaboration between us and them. We gave them a blank canvas to express themselves on, which they would not be able to do in their everyday lives at school and at home. This generation of boys are aware of the pressures of being macho, however, do not feel that they need to abide by those notions.”
“We want the images to be inclusive and for the modern boy to be able to relate with them” – Julia Falkner
Rio, aged 13, features in the shoot playing Xbox while in fluffy slides and a pearl necklace: a marriage between the binaries of male and female qualities that overthrows society’s restrictions on gender. “My favourite piece to wear was the dress in my gaming chair…”, reads one of the answers from Rio’s interview, which is distinctly paralleled to the statement: “boys can’t wear skirts because it wouldn’t be socially acceptable”.
The interviews that accompany the photos also reveal ideas about intergenerational masculinity and how it’s changing between the boys and their fathers. “In a lot of instances, the dads were not involved,” explains the photographer. “Either because they were no longer part of the boys’ lives or because they weren’t overly keen on the subject matter of this photography series. As a result, the boys we worked with had such great respect for their mothers and other women in their lives. We feel that these boys have seen just how toxic masculinity has affected them and the women around them and they want to reverse that.”