Growing up male
By Myron My
I recently had the pleasure of experiencing my first-ever event at The Wheeler Centre. It’s been somewhere I’ve wanted to go for a long time, but for whatever reason, it had never happened. So on Wednesday evening, I attended A Blush of Boys, a talk presented as part of a series of events in their Men Overboard program, which explores masculinity and what ‘makes a man’.
A Blush of Boys looked at experiences of masculinity through two generations of males: two men in their 50s, actor and performer Paul Capsis and author Tony Birch, and two boys aged eleven and ten respectively from St Martins Youth Arts Centre, Will Beattie and Baptise Emery.
The (slightly) older males began with Capsis discussing his childhood desire to be a girl and Tony Birch talking about his lack of male role models growing up. What ultimately emerged from all four speakers though was nothing groundbreaking; boys still get picked on for not being into sports and showing interests in something other than ‘traditional’ male-oriented activities, but it’s not often you get to hear such thoughts and frustrations from ten and eleven year-olds so clearly and honestly. Sure there were some nerves evident for the boys, but not many people would be comfortable talking to a roomful of strangers about their insecurities and emotions now, let alone when they were so young.
Presenter Maxine McKew did well in keeping the proceedings on track and raised a few key issues about masculinity in recent news, including Ian Thorpe’s recent announcement of his sexuality and Tony Abbott’s comments praising the Japanese submariners who attacked Sydney Harbour in 1942 for their “skill and honour” to Japanese leader Shinzo Abe. Very different topics but all opening out contemporary ideas about what being masculine is and how it is viewed and valued.
A Blush of Boys was an enjoyable and insightful look into the representative minds of two generations on the expectations and pressures they must deal and have dealt with, when faced with defining their own masculinity. Sadly these talks are for one night only at The Wheeler Centre but there is always something interesting happening there that is worth checking out.
Men Overboard: A Blush of Boys took place at The Wheeler Centre on Wednesday 16 July.