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Handsome men strip and put on dresses to combat “Fragile Masculinity”

Based in Portland, Oregon, photographer Matthew Dean Stewart has been deeply submerged in a project that questions outdated presumptions about masculinity.

Talking to Gay Star News, Stewart says he spent 2017 traveling through America and photographing hundreds of people, primarily gay men.

He strives to photograph anybody “who is different and creative and wants to challenge what society expects of us.”

Now, he’s launching a Kickstarter campaign to help finance his latest project: a book called Fragile Masculinity.

“The idea for this project came out of a constant frustration of seeing how society separates men and women,” he tells GSN.

“No matter what country, we each have specific things we are ‘supposed’ to do according to societal standards. So the question ‘who told us that it was supposed to be this way?’ always comes into my mind, and my work.

Obviously within the gay community we have many men who identify in many different ways, but even we have an idea that we are attracted to men, so men should be ‘masc.’

I had the idea of putting men in dresses in a stripped down sense. Not trying to impersonate women, or making it like a drag queen, just showing how an article of clothing falls designed for a woman falls on a man.”

Related: PHOTOS: Thousands of musclebound men put on skimpy red dresses and ran through New Orleans

He hopes the book inspires people to improve their attitudes and become more open-minded.”

“Clothing has always been a hot topic for me,” he says, “because it is another societal expectation placed on us and other people telling us how to represent ourselves.”

“Men (straight and gay) seem to be scared to wear something that is designed for a woman, scared that it challenges their manhood and makes them less than.

I talk a lot about what society expects of us, but I really believe that this is a major flaw in us as humans. We are so drawn to the media and what the media tells us.”

“So if our whole lives we have seen that a man is only a man if he provides for his family, dresses in a suit and calls the shots, how can we continue to grow and strive for equality?

We are all beautiful and should embrace all the parts that make us who we are.”

 

Along with each image of a man in a dress in my book “Fragile Masculinity,” I wanted to include the same exact photo of them completely nude and vulnerable. I wanted to showcase bodies in this book, and how when we are stripped down to nothing, does clothing really define us as a gender? What is it about a dress that shows if someone is feminine or masculine? And why can’t masculine men wear feminine clothing? Let’s break the mold of what society has taught us, and hopefully change the way we feel about gender expectations. If you haven’t checked out my Kickstarter yet, please do! The link is in my bio!!! Also let’s give a big shoutout to @nicologentile for it being his birthday!!!!!!!! So happy to have him as part of this project!!!!

A post shared by Matthew Dean Stewart (@matthewdeanstewart) on

“I want us all, straight or gay, to be able to look at how we view ourselves in this world. And I want us to challenge ourselves to try and be more open and understanding of everyone and how they identify.

I would like to open up the doors of conversation with this book to hopefully prevent a young person from feeling badly about themselves because of how they present themselves to the world. We are all beautiful and should embrace all the parts that make us who we are.

The world is a melting pot of different people.”

The project features thirty men from various cities, all of which Matthew found through social media. Each man first poses in a dress, and then fully nude.

The book also includes work from illustrators and authors, each tackling the theme of fragile masculinity and the vagaries of gender.

“Standing full frontal and nude is a very vulnerable place to be in, and I wanted to make sure everyone was comfortable with me, and with the images being produced. While looking for people to photograph, I wanted to make sure that I was representing as many different variations of men as possible.

It is important to me to represent a world where there are different types of people, which goes back to challenging societal expectation and what we have been trained to see.

We need to constantly be reminded that the world is a melting pot of different people and we are all; trying to co-exist together.

Every person can identify with a certain level of masculinity or femininity.”

That’s not to say he has a problem with masculine men, however.

‘There is absolutely nothing wrong with masculine guys! If I were to sit here and start going against any masculine men, I would be contradicting myself and everything this book stands for. We should be able to be whomever we want to be and represent ourselves however we want to represent ourselves.

The goal is to live on this planet together and accept each other for who we are as individuals. Every person can identify with a certain level of masculinity or femininity, and it is up to them to decide how to live their own lives. It is not for us to tell them how to live.

I want us to be at a place of acceptance and understanding, and if we don’t agree or like something, maybe we can just take a step back and look at the bigger picture.”

You can visit his Kickstarter campaign for more info, or see his prolific body of work on Instagram.

h/t: Gay Star News