REPRESENTATION OF MAN: WHY BRANDS NEED TO STEP UP & STEP IN
Despite Mental Health Week helping banish stigma around sensitive illnesses, male suicide remains in a state of emergency.
84 men take their own life each week in the UK. Why? Notably, men haven’t been as confident, as outspoken or as quick at redefining masculinity as women have with femininity. Movements such as #MeToo and justified tirades against the likes of Harvey Weinstein have been necessary for opening shunned discussions about acceptable male behaviours, but it’s clear we need to work harder to open discussions around ‘being a man’.
We need to reconsider masculinity, just as we rallied against outdated representations of women. We’ve celebrated stretch marks, menstruation and maternity wear, though there’s clearly still a long way to go. But whilst we’ve explored what it means to be a woman out of the kitchen (who’d have thought it), we’re still seeing unachievable, unrelatable representations of men in the media that are halting progress.
Despite men dominating ads, only 68% of men feel represented by brands. Mark Sandford at The Book of Man argues; ‘If you ask most men who they look up to they’ll say their father or James Bond or David Beckham. The options are limited to a well-groomed footballer or a chauvinistic spy’. That’s part of the online platform’s mission – to tackle misrepresentation and the ever-growing pressure on men, exacerbated by the media.
How is this achieved? By brands flipping messages of repression (i.e. you’re not good enough if you don’t look like this or do that), into messages of empowerment, and above all, honesty and relatablity.