Updated: Dec 14, 2020
'ADAM' exposes stereotypes
Written by Paulina Klepacz
Original article can be viewed here: https://www.vogue.pl/a/adam-obnaza-stereotypy
Alpha male is a "cloak" that awaits every adolescent boy in the wardrobe," says Loretta Mulders, the author of the photographic project "Adam", who tries to dismantle the heroes of her works from stereotypes and asks if, as a society, we give men enough freedom to be themselves.
Soft light, subtle nudity, sensual beyond. This is how women are usually depicted in paintings, photographs, films and commercials. However, in the photographs in question, the protagonists are young men. In front of the lens of the 25-year-old Dutch artist and feminist Loretta Monique Mulders prove that roles can turn around and femininity and masculinity are categories for redefinition.
- As a feminist, I've been very focused on women, but at some point I felt that men were left out of contemporary discourse. When I started to look closer at the issue of male identity, I noticed that although women have only recently but have more freedom to define their femininity, they can be strong and delicate, they can make a career or fulfil themselves at home. Meanwhile, we still expect men to finally mature and become alpha males - strong leaders who do not focus on emotions. I think this is extremely unfair," says the artist.
Loretta is about to graduate from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, and "Adam" is part of her thesis. Through this project she would like to change the social perspective. She decided to use analogue nudes as a means of expression, because, according to her, the percentage of male nude photography is nothing compared to female. Nakedness did not deter the boys. The artist even mentions the snowball effect - more and more young men from all over the world came to her since she announced that she was looking for people willing to pose and showed her first works.
- The protagonists mentioned that they felt relieved and happy that someone finally took care of this issue. They told me that they were waiting for a change that would mean that they would not have to live under social pressure and that their elections would be accepted. Thanks to this I was able to confirm that I had chosen the right theme. Adam" was born to show that not all men are alpha males," says Loretta.
- I decided to take part in the Loretty project because I am tired of social expectations," says 21-year-old Vladimir from Macedonia. - I have had enough of being called weak whenever I show my sensitive side. I have had enough of the slogans "be a real man". Who is he actually? A person who cannot display any seemingly weak emotions? A person who must always be in top form? A person who should never show the feminine side stereotypically, as if femininity was something threatening masculinity? No, the man is simply a man.
According to Katarzyna Kucewicz, psychologist and psychotherapist, co-creator of the Inner Garden Psychotherapy and Coaching Centre, modern men actually do not have it easy today. - They must still be responsible for the guilt of their fathers, grandparents, great-grandparents immersed in the patriarchy. They also often recreate patterns taken from the past, even if they consciously do not want it. They are also lost in the expectations of women towards them or society in general. For example, they are accused of a lack of tenderness, and when they lose tears in the film, many women will sigh: "oh, it's not much sexy". - says Katarzyna Kucewicz.
It seems that at present we are more sensitive to harmful stereotypes about femininity, and those related to masculinity are still transparent. - Despite the increasingly common narrative about the right to functioning of both sexes in their own right, I notice that women rarely hear the accusation that they are not real women, in contrast to men whose masculinity is questioned for various reasons - admits Jacek Masłowski, psychotherapist at the Masculinum Institute of Psychotherapy, President of the Masculinum Foundation. - We are more open to various realizations of femininity than masculinity - of course relatively recently. A guy in tubing trousers or make-up, earning too little will be non-male for many people. This is a dichotomy which, in my opinion, is the main source of confusion around male identity, the impossibility of realizing it in one's own way," adds Masłowski.
- As a teenager I had very long hair," says 21-year-old Janek from Warsaw, another participant of the "Adam" project. - At least once a day, no matter if I was walking around Prague, Ursynów or the centre of the capital, I heard behind my back: "is it a guy or a woman? Strange, right? However, if you think about it, not so much. Throughout my life I may not have experienced as much as I have witnessed the enormous pressure the boys feel. I say "boys" not by accident - I believe that adolescence is a key moment in our lives, when we shape our opinions and easily absorb what is happening around us, internalize social stereotypes.
Since childhood, we have soaked up social expectations and become hostages, we censorship ourselves. And in common consciousness, in order to become a "real man", it is necessary to prove that one is not a woman and gay. A "non-male" appearance or "soft" character traits can undermine heterosexual orientation. Many people still cannot imagine that an alpha male could be homosexual. We still attach great importance to someone else's orientation and, according to it, we assess it superficially, and in the case of homosexual people, we consider it to be the main component of personality, a certain distinguishing feature. We say: 'my gay colleague', 'XYZ, who is a lesbian', in situations where sexual orientation does not matter at all and this principle does not work for heterosexual people.
- The question of orientation is part of the problem faced by modern men. It is terrible that we still live in a time when a man who shows some sensitivity or compassion is immediately identified as homosexual or bisexual. Practically every person I managed to photograph considers it to be one of the biggest problems they have to face," notes Loretta.
A 23-year-old Sean from the United States has experience of this kind. Raised in Southern California among surfers and skateboarders, he often stood out from his peers with his artistic interests. - People who didn't know me much often thought I was gay because of my personality," says the boy. Only in the Netherlands, where he has recently lived, after meeting more open and accepting people, did he start to notice that there may be elements in his personality that can be described as queer, and he does not have to conform to any known scheme of a heterosexual or homosexual man.
Loretta, as an artist, still explores the issue of what is natural and how culture, upbringing, the environment in which we turn, influence our behaviour. In modern jargon, sex is biological, and socially constructed sex is a quotation from Rebecca Solnit, one of her favourite feminists. - I believe that there are differences between men and women from a biological point of view. There is nothing wrong with the fact that we differ from each other until our sex determines what power and how much power we should have. It is good to realise that most of the things we consider to be masculine or feminine are actually defined and named by us. We are used to these roles, but that should not mean that they cannot change. Just as we do not expect women to be weak and innocent, we should not expect men to be macho," the photographer argues.
- It is worth noting that an alpha male is an attitude or a role. On the one hand, in a specific environment, e.g. a professional environment, such an attitude can be a way to achieve a high position, success. So for entering such a role a specific prize awaits us, which may be attractive. On the other hand, more and more often - regardless of gender - it is emotional intelligence that determines success, that we are able to manage and communicate with people. So in my opinion, an alpha male is a category for recovery and positive redefinition," says Jacek Masłowski.
- Masculinity is great when it is realized individually and in a variety of ways. In my opinion, it should be understood as an inner-psychic strength and power to be oneself, and not as a set of stereotypical gender roles - says Katarzyna Kucewicz in a similar spirit.
Loretta believes that feminism can be a tool to solve problems with masculinity, that the ideas of openness and acceptance contained in it apply to all people. - As a proud feminist, I think feminism is one of the best things that women have met. But I understand it as equality between women and men. For feminism to succeed, we need men. We must tell them about our problems, but also listen to them, raise them in an equal spirit, and support their choices. What I would like to see the most is how we all meet somewhere in the middle. Everyone: transgender, queer, men, women, women.... And we respect each other instead of automatically identifying each other," says the 25-year-old artist.
Loretta is still looking for heroes for her project. Age, orientation or nationality do not matter. The artist wants to create as diverse a message as possible. If you would like to take part in it, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was translated from Polish to English by CPLS Texy & Copy
Original article can be viewed here: https://www.vogue.pl/a/adam-obnaza-stereotypy