Masculinity Undone: The Changing Image Of Men
The visuals we see every day have a major impact on our sense of self‑worth and self‑esteem. One area where we see this conversation becoming more and more important is around the representation of men and what it means to be masculine.
Male mental health is in crisis. Suicide is the number one killer of all men under the age of 45 in the UK and in the US, the suicide rate among males is nearly four times than among females. If these statistics are any indication, it's never been more crucial to address the epidemic of male suicide and depression.
One of the major contributing factors of this prevalent matter is the unrealistic expectation set forth for men through media and visuals. At Getty Images, we’re committed to redefining the visual representation around men. It’s time to retire outdated—and damaging—constructions of what it means to be male in today’s modern world and alternatively, start visualizing the complex and multi‑faceted nature of masculinity.
So how is this accomplished? A good start is for brands to represent men more authentically by exploring male vulnerability rather than idealizing a one‑dimensional version of the “alpha male.” This shift in masculine identity shows males being reflective, emotionally available, and nurturing. We are firmly moving away from visual myths of ‘real men’ who are stoic, strong and silent.
It’s time to retire outdated—and damaging—constructions of what it means to be male in today’s modern world and alternatively, start visualizing the complex and multi‑faceted nature of masculinity.
Recently, brands and public figures have been taking a stand against these antiquated representations of men. Singer James Blake has called for the dismantling of the derogative label ‘sadboys’ to describe male musicians who explore their feelings. Devan Shimoyama confronts the toxic masculinity of black barbershops through his glitter LGBTQ paintings. Brands tackling hyper‑masculinity in advertising such as Lynx’s Is it Ok for Guys…, Gillette’s Handle with Care or Norwegian Talkmore are unraveling typical depictions of masculinity by showing men as diverse, emotional and vulnerable.
At Getty Images, we’ve partnered with several organizations to create powerful, perception‑shifting visuals, such as Australia’s national mental health charity SANE Australia and the UK’s non‑profit organization focused on male mental health awareness, CALM. We strongly believe in the power of visuals to make positive change in the world. When brands commit to portraying men through a realistic, multi‑dimensional lens, they are not only helping to create a more relatable and deeper connection with consumers, but they are also having a powerful impact on men’s mental well‑being.