Tackling Masculinity: To Try Or Not To Try
WORDS BY ADAM PRICE
A childhood in the remote mining belt of Queensland is distinctly shitty. It’s even shittier, though, in a town that lives and breathes rugby league (imagine NFL without the bicep bulging shoulder padded jerseys, tight fitted pants or helmets). By early high school I was well aware of the fact that I was different, slightly more effeminate than my peers, and that I vehemently loathed rugby league. But once my brother joined a football team, my parents doubled down on their pressuring me to join. “It’d broaden you out mate,” my father would say to me at my brother’s games. “Just try it Adam, if you don’t like it you can stop going,” my mother would insist. It’s possible my parents were just as aware of my divergence from the traditional idea of a man as I was, perhaps it was their attempt to straighten me out.
Regardless, I finally buckled in year 9 and agreed to join the same football club as my brother. He insisted that I used the gym equipment in our garage with him before the season began, so as to be less scrawny. When I was having particular trouble using the bench press, my brother’s instructions were something along the lines of “You need to get angry, think about a time when someone has fucked you over and get angry.” I tried my hardest. I thought of all the times the footy boys in the grade above me had made fun of me for my high-pitched voice, or the way I held my hands when I ran. But no matter what memories I relived in an attempt to trigger some kind of hate-fuelled avatar-state, the only emotion that boiled up inside of me was shame, and with that I decided that gym wasn’t for me. I didn’t have it in me: I wasn’t angry enough. And after enduring through one single football season, I told my parents rugby league just wasn’t for me, and they, reluctantly, obliged.
“It’s possible my parents were just as aware of my divergence from the traditional idea of a man as I was, perhaps it was their attempt to straighten me out.”
After eight years, I’ve finally undone that deeply flawed conclusion. Two years ago, in the middle of an anxiety-riddled second semester of my second year of a psychology degree, I started meditating. With this, I began a long journey of taking notice of how my actions contributed to my own sense of wellbeing. It became clear to me that exercising, meditating and looking after my body was fundamental to a positive sense of self. Over time, exercising came from a place of self-care, a desire to improve myself in a way that doesn’t rely on the recollection of painful memories. And even though there’s been setbacks, I’ve come to view my body as capable and worthy of being loved and improved. With that in mind, it’s become increasingly clear to me that my body, and the act of improving it, doesn’t belong to any form of hyper-masculinity, but to me.