Man up; Strip down
How would you define masculinity?
I usually don’t think about it. And I think if you really break it down, I don’t think there is one. Honestly. I know how I define it, and those are examples set by my dad and his ideals: being a good father, doing right even if it’s not popular or favorable. But as I’m older and thinking about those things, it’s not exclusive to being male.
Do you feel like your race or ethnicity impacts your concepts or understanding of masculinity? How so?
For sure. My mom is Thai; I was raised with different expectations about what a guy should and shouldn’t do. That was something that was different. Growing up, I would go out and get drunk and stay out the whole night— both my parents would be pissed, me being a teenager, but there was always a wink-wink-nudge-nudge from my white, Texas dad about this kind of thing. For my mother, it was unacceptable. It’s not what good men do. I think the philosophy of being Asian, though maybe not all Asians, is tied into a lot of Confucianist ideas of politeness, of respect for elders, of propriety. And my Texas, white side was more guns, football, being a badass. Being a cowboy, basically. I have those two things sometimes compete in my brain.
HOW DOES MASCULINITY HOLD YOU BACK? OR, RATHER, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU LOSE OUT ON ANYTHING BECAUSE OF MASCULINITY? EXPLAIN.
I mean, I don’t think it holds me back. I do think that being male is a point of privilege in America. I will say, it does strike me that growing up in Texas and New Mexico being an artist and sensitive and caring about fashion or girls so much, words like “art fag” or “pussy” were thrown around because of what they perceived as feminine traits. But the irony that I see now is that, being surrounded by artists and progressives and a lot of the LGBT community, they more often point out the masculine things I like, like cars or football or poker. It’s just interesting. I like all of those things because I like them. I think in a different spectrum, they point out whether it’s effeminate or whether it’s masculine. I don’t really give a shit. I am into those things because I like them.
IF YOU HAD TO DESCRIBE TO SOMEONE WHAT A MASCULINE PERSON LOOKED LIKE, HOW WOULD YOU DO IT? (WHAT CELEBRITIES OR FICTIONAL CHARACTERS COMES TO MIND?)
We’re just talking about how I define masculinity, right? Because we have toxic masculinity, which is a whole different ball game. What’s the line there, sometimes I wonder. Right off the top of my head, my archetype would be someone who is tall, strong, carries his shoulders straight and upright. But, seeing that through a different lens, though, that could also be seen as privilege, too.
As far as toxic masculinity, I just want to say that a lot of nerd culture— video game nerds, comic book geeks— for a long time, compared to football players and the guys that I grew up with, that was considered nerdy and thus not masculine. What’s interesting now is that it’s the dominant culture, and I kind of see that as masculine. But also I would say that a lot of that is toxic. As there’s more women in comics, there’s more women in games, so far everything that I read and have seen first hand is treated with hostility. It’s like, “oh, you don’t know” or “you’re just into this because you’re trying to impress a boy,” stuff like that. They’re just as “masculine” and toxic as the people that, when they were growing up, felt oppressed by.
CONSIDERING THIS DESCRIPTION, HOW DO YOU FEEL YOUR BODY COMPARES? DOES THIS COMPARISON INFLUENCE HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR BODY?
Definitely. I think being a comic book nerd, a lot of the masculine super heroes are tall, square-jawed, blue eyed, dark hair. I don’t compare to that; I’m shorter, not square-jawed. It sucked for a while. Not feeling like I was up to that standard of what I felt a dude should be. But then I learned to make due.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS SEXIEST ABOUT YOURSELF?
WHAT DO YOU GET COMPLIMENTED ON THE MOST?
Charm, I think. I get genuinely excited by people and I think it comes through. But I don’t think of myself as charming.
WHAT PARTS OF YOUR BODY ARE YOU REALLY COMFORTABLE WITH OR REALLY APPRECIATE? AND WHY?
Probably, again, my legs because I have a history of cycling, martial arts— lots of kicks— I feel like thats one part of my body I’ve really taken care of.
Compare those parts of your body with parts of your body that you’re less sure about; parts that maybe affect the way you get ready for the day, i.e. getting dressed, maintenance, personal hygiene, etc. Stuff that maybe you’re self conscious about other people noticing because these are parts of your body that compromise your sense of your own masculinity or appeal.
Upper body. Chest, stomach. Things like that. They’re a lot squishier, you know? Have you found that, with most guys, this isn’t a comfortable thing to talk about?
It’s not. I think it’s not talked about as much, there’s not the social pressure. I think pretty much everyone has body issues, unless you’re just fucking gorgeous.
HAVE YOU EVER FELT THAT SOCIETY PRESSURES YOU TO LOOK OR ACT IN CERTAIN WAYS? IF SO, HOW?
Definitely. Through media. I don’t think so much through people that I interact with, but I’ve chosen (for the most part) to surround myself with pretty progressive and artistic people. They’re very conscious of those kind of things. But yeah, I mean, no matter what, something about your body is always brought up. Sometimes it’s that awkward moment and you try to find a clever way to either roll with it or whatever. But yeah, absolutely. I’m pretty far away from the ideal. If you picked the random movie star or guy on a magazine, I don’t feel like I look like them at all. But I think this project’s cool, but artists more than most people have an ability to be aware that, like, this is the image. It’s not exclusive, though, anyone who wants to take the time and think about these things can and many people do. But you think about what is the image that you’re presenting, because it’s artifice. It’s a photograph. There’s photoshop. You know that they’ve done lighting or something to make this ideal that’s not real, it’s just a photo. It’s not a real person. Even that gorgeous model, on any given day, is not going to look as perfect as that picture. And I sure as hell don’t have a shot.
WHAT DO CHARGED TERMS LIKE “PATRIARCHY” OR “PRIVILEGE” MAKE YOU FEEL? WHY DO YOU FEEL THAT WAY?
Patriarchy makes me think of Wall Street tycoons. Privilege makes me examine my role in it. How does it make me feel? It depends. Sometimes there’s just an emotional reaction to it, that you’re being attacked. But with any amount of thought, a lot of the reaction is people who don’t like losing any part of control or power. I think that’s starting to change, and it’s for the better. When I think of privilege, people react emotionally to that because they don’t want to lose that position that they have. We’re always trying to claw to get on top anyways, but I think ideas of privilege make us examine why we’re in the position that we are socially or economically. It’s a good thing to think about, and I think it makes people uncomfortable. Gut reaction? It makes me uncomfortable the first time I hear it, but if I take just two seconds to think about it it’s like, “Oh, yeah.” We don’t like sharing, by nature, and that’s what we’re trying to do as a society; we’re trying to make things more equitable.