Redefining Masculinity within Black British Communities

Trends / Realness
Klaus Vedfelt
Davina Ajana
Sep 27, 2023
Why is it important to redenfine masculinity within Black British communities? According to our latest VisualGPS consumer survey, 85% of British people feel men should embrace being emotionally sensitive and vulnerable.1
And yet, biases are visible within the visual content that brands are using most: Black men (13%) are less represented in mental health scenarios compared to white men (42%). This pattern, exemplifies stereotypes surrounding Black men and their mental wellbeing that exist in the UK today. For brands and organisations that want to connect with Black British communities, positive depictions of Black men taking care of their mental wellness is a great place to start.

Stigmas of mental health in Black British communities and beyond.
The concept of mental health is interpreted and communicated differently across diverse Black British communities. Mental health is rarely discussed in these communities, as open discussions about mental health have been historically synonymous with weakness, bringing shame to the family, culture and community. In addition, concerns about external judgments create barriers, which often discourages Black men from seeking help. Professionals within the health care system often lack knowledge about things that are important to them or their cultural experiences. There is often a conscious or unconscious stereotyping about Black men dealing with mental health conditions, who are often seen as angry or aggressive. They also frequently avoid mental health services due to the harsh treatment they receive; according to the British Government, in 2022, Black people were almost 5 times as likely as white people to be detained against their will under the Mental Health Act.2
Ways to visualise a positive aspect of Black masculinity and mental health.
A defining trait of masculinity within Black British communities is working and providing for one's family and self, which often leads to neglecting self‑care; this pattern is reflected in Getty Images’ best‑selling visuals. In the past year, 20% of visuals featuring Black men showed them in business scenarios: an array of men working at home, in the office and on construction sites. However, only 12% of Black men are seen taking part in self‑care moments like holistic wellness, or spending time with family and friends.

Additionally, young Black adults are featured in visual stories more than Black seniors. If they are being represented, they often show emotional stress, looking out the window in deep thought at home alone. And young adults are rarely seen in supportive relationships and friendship groups, despite that the fact that in the real world, we are starting to see pioneering mental health initiatives for young Black men throughout the UK.3

How can we visualise a more positive side of Black masculinity and mental wellbeing? Highlight visual stories of successful individuals who also openly show the importance of self‑care through emotions and behaviours. It is important to challenge cultural stigmas and stereotypes by choosing authentic representations of multigenerational age groups, and to expand the scope of visual stories to include connection, togetherness, and communities. In this way, brands can connect with Black British communities, creating a meaningful impact and empowering mental wellbeing.
[1] Getty Images VisualGPS consumer survey, May 2023
[2] UK Government
[3] Positive News 
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