A very interesting thing came out of Grayson Perry’s programme, All Man, during the second show concerning the inhabitants of a housing estate in Skelmersdale. The overwhelming story linking the majority of “disaffected” young men on the estate is one of the absent father, and the state of growing up in a household headed by a matriarch. Grayson’s end-of-show art-piece, meant to reflect the things he’s learned during his time with the “men,” in this instance, led to a work titled “The King of Nowhere,” indicating the futility of the “men” in their playing out of the role of the “masculine protector.”
Confusingly, then, we are exposed to the Skem estate version of masculinity that has had very little in the way of “training” in masculinity from male role models – note the prevalence of the absent father figure. However, we are introduced to a mother living on the estate whose child, we are told, gave her both a Mother’s Day and Father’s Day card because the child recognised that she fulfilled both roles in the absence of the father. So, it seems that the men of the film must be acting out a version of masculinity that has its roots firmly entrenched in the female role model of the mother figure. The question is, then, are the mothers in some way responsible for the “men” they have birthed, must they, as a result, be labelled as being complicit in the dysfunctional cycle of “masculinity” being played out by the men? The question that follows this initial question must then be: how do we all tolerate such ridiculous notions as “masculinity” when we see that it has no basis in actual experience, because if masculinity is meant to be a trait of gender (linked to the male), how can the Skem men be said to be enacting a form of masculinity when they’ve grown up, to a man it would seem, without male role models?