The gym is a place where a hardened, isolating masculinity can be shed – along with our preconceptions about how we need to look or be in the world – in favour of something greater, something vulnerable and meaningful.
I look typically masculine in the Western sense—tall, bearded, bald, built—but my behaviour, attitudes and actions don’t fit others’ expectations of this man. I’ve made changes to avoid this, and have become a contradiction.
In ‘micro expressions’ of masculinity, the role or the perception of ‘effort’ is important. The paragon, the most masculine, is the man who can enact himself upon the world without even trying. As such, to even admit to thinking about masculinity in this way feels on some level like weakness, as though if I was a real man I wouldn’t have to.
Intellectually, I understand that it’s healthy to express emotion. I’ve read Brené Brown. I’ve watched Inside Out. I get it. But it’s hard to express emotion when I’m barely conscious of feeling it.
Jimmy is, of course, fictional, but as a character he reflects (albeit sometimes exaggeratedly) a broader cultural problem. That we don’t know what to do with male vulnerability.
When one male speaks out about his mental health experience, he is a role model for others, normalising it and inspiring others to do the same.
Homer chats (at some length, because he’s very charming and generous) with Benjamin Law about masculinities, vulnerability, visibility and the things he loves.