By Becki Moss
The Masculinity Project is an exploration and documentation of what it means to be a man in Aotearoa, New Zealand in the 21st century.
Each man involved is captured by photographer Becki Moss in locations where they feel the most and least masculine. The captions below each image are written by the men themselves, and explain their choices.
I feel the least masculine in my bedroom mirror. Often when I’m getting changed when I’m tired in the morning or evenings are the times when I feel most dysphoric, ugly, gangly and uncomfortable in my own skin. Ironically my bedroom is also a space where I also feel safe because of its cosy femme energy.
I feel most masculine on stage. I feel charming and strong and in control. And in control of how I appear to the people around me. Drag gave me my first taste of the kind of manliness I felt comfortable in, and I’ve since come out as a trans man.
I feel furthest from masculinity in intimate settings. When you’re having sex, everything just loses it’s binary and feels like two bodies and people connecting for a brief period. There is no masculine or feminine person, rather intimacy…and probably fluids.
I feel most masculine in queer spaces, such as IVY Bar, in my androgynous and theatrical boy drag. The space feels safe, I’m surrounded by supportive Queer people and there is absolutely a deific power in thigh high stilettos!
A bar is a place I feel the least masculine in a traditional sense, with the bar there’s an overarching norm I feel a man must meet to be accepted or feel comfortable. As someone who doesn’t drink alcohol regularly, if I’m at a bar without a beer or glass in my hand it’s perceived as a non-manly thing. New Zealand’s history with alcohol has affected that perception for me, it’s nothing I can change, but something I can observe.
Masculinity for me comes from the responsibility and will to provide for one another, based off my family, friends and many relationships I’ve created. The kitchen is a place I feel masculine, empowered and independent when I can feed my partner and those around me, a sense of comfort and happiness because who doesn’t love food?
I feel least masculine when engaging with a dog, meeting them at their level. This means letting go of the inhibitions that usually keep my actions in check. There’s a sense of vulnerability in playing off of unconscious cues, but eventually, a feeling of liberation takes its place.
When I’m building something, I feel like what I’m doing matters. Solving a problem inevitably leads to another, but being able to look back at something that I’m proud of creating makes the frustration worthwhile.
The place where I’ve felt the least masculine is back when I played rugby. I felt at times different from some of my teammates. I couldn’t figure out what it was until later when I realised I wasn’t being my genuine self.
The space where I feel the most masculine is when I’m with my friends, being open and honest about my life. That’s what I think real courage is.
I like to feel that my masculinity is my independence. Some days I wake up and glue myself to my phone for 20 minutes which makes me think that’s not quite the truth. I never really know whether these moments set off my anxiety or merely reflect it.
There is nothing more masculine to me than contemplation and reflection; I like to do mine over coffee, with friends or in solitude. There is something about its consistency and punchiness that tethers me to the day. A great chance to acknowledge the power I have to affect those around me for better or worse.
I feel the least masculine when I feel the least amount of anything. When I feel low and I am struggling to connect with myself. When I am depressed and I feel like I am waiting for myself to come back to me, and it does. It always does. Eventually. It is quite comforting that I have gotten to a place where I know that the only factor that dictates my masculinity and femininity is me.
I feel most masculine when I get to experience my body completely as it is. Walking and being in nature is usually when I feel this most, and that’s not to say that I don’t feel feminine in these moments too. I can feel my most masculine and still be feminine. There’s room for both and beyond in my body.
When the day ends, and the sun is down, we find solace in our beds. Sometimes when the darkness hits, my sleep escapes and I am left thinking. Often as the earliest hours creep in, the voices we repress the deepest slide through the silence. They pierce us like nothing else could, for they know what makes us our weakest.
There was once a night where rushedly I had thrown on my Swanndri just to keep me from the rain, on my trip to get chicken food. As I flew through the supermarket I noticed men, grown adult men getting out of my way as if they were likely to lose what I collected. I felt warmth or self-esteem only to, when leaving an aisle, overhear “Now that’s a man” leave the mouth of another gent. My masculinity had reached its brim. I was tough, feared, strong and openly praised for being such.
These days my room is the place where I feel the most feminine. When I’m in there alone it’s a place free of judgement where I allow myself to explore my femininity. I never felt like I had such a space to explore this side of myself when I was growing up.
My masculinity always used to manifest in toxic ways, especially while I was playing sports. Over the past several years I have been doing a lot of learning and unlearning, but to this day I always feel an innate sense of masculinity when I’m playing sports.
I often struggle feeling masculine while watching an All Blacks game in a packed bar full of blokes, being a person of Asian descent and often, the odd one out.
I feel my most masculine when I’m put in the position of being responsible for the family as the oldest child, trying to make sure all their needs are taken care of.
Becki Moss is an empathetic visual storyteller. Her work focuses on creating meaningful connections with the people she captures, often from communities that are overlooked.
Made with funding from NZ on Air.