Do This; Do That


Computer-generated images and words.

2000mm length triptych

The work is made up of almost a hundred identity photographs, extensively computer-altered. Text runs in strips between the lines of faces. The text describes the common messages sent to boys both verbally and by way of the many images of masculinity surrounding boys as they grow up. These would include constructs of masculinity from the media and from society at large. This work is about the ‘training’ men receive to enter the ideology of masculinity. 


I have been researching the construction of masculinities for some time. Despite changes, men are still primed to expect their lives to follow certain stereotypical patterns of activity, behaviour and power. I have chosen to represent white males only, not wanting to presume any knowledge of other cultural messages. Even within the same culture, of course, men do develop and live alternative forms of masculinity, escaping to some degree the pressure to conform to hegemonic masculinity. That does not mean that their expectations of their masculinity are not similar to hegemonic masculinity. In places of masculine display, such as many work and sport situations or times of stressful competition with other men such as war, hegemonic masculinity puts any alternative masculinity under great strain to conform. 


The work is just short of two metres long and divided into three framed parts. It is printed onto photographic paper, so retains the original photographic look. 


The text reads as follows:


“Do This; Do That”


“As a boy, I was told: that when I grew up, I would be a hero…like in the comics and history books; and in war. As a boy, I was told: a real man dies like a hero…strong and virile. As a boy, I was told: men risk their lives; drive fast and live dangerously; I have to be brave. As a boy, I was told: it's okay to kill small things like birds; that's what boys do; boys play with guns and pretend to kill each other; men often have to be aggressive... violent books and movies are what men like. As a boy, I was told: I may have to risk my life in are trained to be cannon-fodder; to kill someone else to protect myself or my country…I cannot refuse or show I'm scared. As a boy, I was told: to go through initiation, to join a gang, to prove myself through danger; to pretend to be tougher than other boys even if I'm unsure; I must fight if I'm insulted; others must be afraid of me, of my violence, so they don't pick on me; real boys are tough. As a boy, I was told: when I’m older I can bully weaker boys and get my own back. As a boy, I was told: I must play dangerous sport to satisfy other boys and my dad; if I get hurt, I must take the pain “like a man”; my injuries are medals. As a boy, I was told: if I am in trouble, I can't talk to anyone; I must solve the problem myself; I must never be afraid or helpless; I must never cry or feel vulnerable or scared of failing; or show I am lonely or unhappy or rejected; men don't talk about feelings, especially with other men, it's soft to even think about them; it's safer, even useful, to show emotions to a woman, it makes her feel close. As a boy, I was told: I must not do things girls do. As a boy, I was told: girls are weak and scared and mean; boys laugh at you if you spend time with girls; girls talk all the time, talking is a waste of time; I must be loud and funny, not serious; boys get into trouble; girls are more mature but boys have more fun and freedom. As a boy, I was told: we must put girls down; men put women down. As a boy, I was told: to be one of the guys; even if I felt different; I must make jokes and disrupt the class; back-chat the teacher; pretend I don't care about punishment; only sissies do lots of schoolwork. As a boy, I was told: to obey the rules…of the school gangs; of sport; of the army; of the business world. As a boy, I was told: you don't rat on any boy even if he does something seriously bad; that men don't break rank. As a boy, I was told: I must be a leader… at work, at home and in life. At least I'll be a leader at home. As a boy, I was told: I must always win and never fail; a real man is on the winning side; someone else has to lose, to feel less than me. I must be successful…even if I bend the rules, even if I use some force. As a boy, I was told: I am always in competition with other males. As a boy, I was told: the man is breadwinner and head of the household….otherwise he's a failure. As a boy, I was told: a wife moves where the man's job takes him; she doesn't have a career…just a hobby; a woman doesn't support a man or earn more than if he can't earn enough; women working is the reason children run wild. As a boy, I was told: it’s bad for men now that women are getting all the jobs; a woman in a top position is not a real woman; there are jobs women can't do, like engineering; men have to work hard and long hours; men are always supporting others; women spend the money; women demand independence but complain if he works overtime or doesn't earn enough. As a boy, I was told: fathers are always strong and controlled; men are decisive; they always know what to do; they never say if they're scared, if they're losing or failing; fathers are respected or feared; it’s okay to be angry… angry men are real men; you can't get close to a father; he is distant, not there for his children; fathers do not hold their sons; you can't talk to a father about serious things or your fear…he won't be able to help. As a boy, I was told: a mother does housework when she gets home; a father takes out garbage; a mother appreciates it when he helps out, but she must tell him what to do; a real man doesn't know how to look after children; fathers do the real work so they decide on expensive things; marriage is what women want; women make the house look good because they love the man; a meal is ready for when he comes home; the mother asks about his day; she has nothing interesting to say so he reads his paper or watches TV; mothers and sisters serve fathers and brothers; mothers discipline the kids; a father takes the children off her hands and does fun things now and again; men haven't time to think about what their children need; fathers don't pay maintenance or take responsibility; bad children come from single-parent homes, a father makes them okay.  As a boy, I was told: a man is only a man if he has a son. As a boy, I was told: boys compete to get girls to have sex; you can tell a girl anything to make her do it, that you love her; that your balls hurt; but a girl comes second after sport and mates. As a boy, I was told: women's bodies are really disgusting. As a boy, I was told: a girl must want me more than I want her; she must not be the one to end it; it's not good to be too in love…you are vulnerable; a man has to get as much and give as little as he can; if you fall in love your mates will mock you; if you hurt you can't talk to anyone about it. As a boy, I was told: my penis is all-important; when a man wants sex, he will have a big, hard dick; his penis is like a weapon; he can always get an erection; a real man has many women; without an erection and ejaculation it isn't sex; a real man can satisfy a woman with his performance; a man initiates sex. As a boy, I was told: men can't control themselves; and women fantasise about being raped by a dominant man. As a boy, I was told: gay men are like women; we show we're real men by hating gay men; a real man would never be raped. As a boy, I was told: a man prefers to marry a virgin; it’s the man who teaches his girlfriend or wife about sex; she wants sex when he wants sex; he deserves sex if he pays. As a boy, I was told: when a man gets too old to get an erection, he's no longer a real man. As a boy, I was told: men despise women; women don't have the same morals as men; women have to respect and obey men; women look up to men and admire them; they must support his plans; they don't question or criticise him; they put him before their needs; women are naturally submissive; this shows him they love him and that he's important. As a boy, I was told: I must handle the money; she won’t manage; I must show respect, standing up, opening doors, as if she is a goddess; a woman should be a lady, never argue or swear, gentle and giving; man is still the hunter, she can't be dominant, wild or promiscuous; women have power to twist you around their little fingers; it's wrong for her to have a baby on her own; women are selfish if they don't want children; a woman must please a man, if she gets old, he can find a younger woman; feminist women are ugly and hairy and lesbians; men may be unfaithful but their wives never are; she belongs to him; all religions say man is in control over woman; he has a right to chastise her. As a boy, I was told: women don't know the difference between joking and sexual abuse; a girl is responsible for not getting pregnant or raped or taken advantage of; one can't expect much from men; a woman should be in a protected environment where no man can mess with her; we are bodyguards for women… do they recognise what we do for them?; women are a mystery.