The New Generation of Masculinity: As Told by Pharrell Williams

All pictures are shot by: Micaiah Carter

 

            Each week I struggle to think of what I’m going to write about next. I toss out a few ideas, reflect on my life, and try to look for instances within the world that I find worthy. In most cases, the topics I think I’m going to write about are topics I find to be exhausted. How can you continue to talk about masculinity after your last two articles have basically overworked the conversation? When all hope was lost GQ drops this beauty into my life. Just this morning (10/14/2019) GQ released a new issue on the topic of masculinity and wrote this: 

 

“Welcome to GQ's New Masculinity issue, an exploration of the ways that traditional notions of masculinity are being challenged, overturned, and evolved.” 

 

Allow me to introduce the virtuoso himself, the master of funk, professor of “fit-ology”, lover of all things expressionistic, one of my many style icons, a true individual, Pharrell Williams. GQ dropped the announcement of this new issue after posting the cover with Pharrell sporting  Moncler, an Italian lifestyle and apparel company. Williams has been challenging the concepts of gender expression since the 90’s. He’s been a pivotal figure within the music world as well as the fashion industry. This cover story could not have come at a better time. 2019 may seem like the right place to have this conversation, but to be honest, this conversation should’ve happened a long time ago. 

 

 

“I don't know anyone else's plight. I can just say, for me, the minute that I stopped worrying about what other people thought, and stopped catering to the fears that are taught to you—the minute that I let all that shit go—that's when I started, like: Oh, that Chanel belt? I could wear that. That Chanel hat? I like it. I could pull that off.”

 

Now, I cannot afford a Chanel belt or hat, and gender expression does not have to manifest in the material crossover, but the angle Pharrell is working still applies. Williams is noting that when he stopped worrying about what was expected of him and focused on what made him happy, he was able to live more freely. For those who operate, or wish to operate within this lifestyle, I suggest you start sooner than later because let me tell you, it’s liberating. There will always be moments in my day to day life where I feel self-conscious about the manner in which I exist. Are the clothes I’m wearing too much? Is the way I talk too feminine? Are certain aspects about who I am “girlish” or “too particular”? Will it matter if I engage in activities that are “only for girls”? These are the questions that I think a large population of men continue to ask themselves, maybe not those specifically but within the same framework, yes. Masculinity is a massive, ugly, overbearing, construct and I hate to be the one to tell you but there is no such thing as “being masculine”. The notion only exists because that is what society has decided to call it. The whole concept is a made up expectation that cripples men’s sense of self. I heard someone say once, “be you because that is the only you that will ever exist,” a saying I think speaks far past what this article could ever communicate. 

 

 

 

Please, if you’re a bro reading this article, don’t turn away. What has been said doesn’t mean that your version of masculinity isn’t correct; it’s just that there are other versions of what masculinity looks like. Pharrell puts it in just the right light. Williams mentions fear in the brief quotation above. I find that to be incredibly important. Fear is what keeps humans stuck in boxes, stuck in ways of being that in no way align with the person they wish to become. Fear is the ultimate gate holder, the only real force that keeps human expression in an impenetrable casing. Where does this fear come from? Will Welch was the GQ rep who was conducting the interview with Williams and he asked a very telling question towards the end of the interview and said this: 

Something that's missing from the cultural conversation right now is the idea of a higher masculinity. I think a lot of men are under the false impression that they're being asked to bury or hide or be ashamed of their masculinity. But what we really need is to be in touch with the divine masculine inside ourselves. Which is the exact opposite of the toxic masculine.

“I think the truest definition of masculinity is the essence of you that understands and respects that which isn't masculine. If you ask me, when we talk about masculinity, it's also very racial, this conversation. Because the dominant force on this planet right now is the older straight white male. And there's a particular portion of them that senses a tanning effect. They sense a feminizing effect. They sense a nonbinary effect when it comes to gender.”

 

This idea is exactly what I want the rest of the world to be mindful of. There is a shift amongst us, one that welcomes the presence of both masculinity and femininity. The rest of the interview Welch asks Williams about music he has written in the past, the current idea of what is “American”, growing up black, his influences, fashion, religion, etc. Williams is a true visionary, a man who is true to his word. I aspire to have the mental clarity that he possesses in this issue, and within this article.

 

 

 

Allow for one last reverence. I leave you with a quotation from the article that I want you to chew on as you go about your day, week, month, year, and life. William says: “Having the willingness to just be. Just live and let live. I mean, how fucking insecure must you be, as a human being, that because you are uncomfortable with doing something, somebody else shouldn't be able to do it? I don't accept that. That's unacceptable to me.” Projecting hate into the world because the manner in which others choose to live their lives doesn’t align with what you deem acceptable is a sad excuse for an existence and if I may be blunt, who the fuck said the way you live your life is acceptable? Why isn’t anyone spitting hate at you (unsure as to who this is addressed to but I think we can all paint a mental picture). I think it’s about time we change the conversation and start analyzing the majority conception of what it means to be human and introduce this new generation of masculinity *mic drop*. 

 

Reference:

Nast, C. (2019, October 14). Pharrell on Evolving Masculinity, "Blurred Lines," and "Spiritual Warfare". Retrieved from https://www.gq.com/story/pharrell-new-masculinity-cover-interview