Grayson Perry’s (@Alan_Measles) series, All Man, has been a lot of fun to watch and the third in the series, dealing with masculinity in the world of high finance, is no exception, although, initially, the thought of watching anything to do with the people who value money over and above everything else in life seems a little off-putting to say the least (there’s the ever present working-class chip-on-the-shoulder making an appearance). However, having sat through part of the cage-fighter episode (I still need to watch the whole thing on catch-up), and the one on masculinity in Skem (see previous post), I thought it rude to give up on the series, especially as Grayson is such a charismatic, insightful and subversive television presenter. And so, with preconceptions and prejudice at the ready, most of which appeared to be mirrored in Grayson’s own dim view of financiers as the antithesis of his own “lefty-artsy” sensibilities, I watched to see if wealthy masculinity is really any different to that of the underclasses in Skem, or to that of the cage fighters in the North-East. And you know what? I don’t think it is, at least judging by what was shown.
The most interesting aspect of the show, for me, was the way masculinity was shrouded and “gentrified” by the financiers to appear more “sensitive” to onlookers. Whereas the cage fighters and Skem lads wore their masculinity as a badge of honour (although in fairness, some of the Skem lads wore literal shrouds to obscure their faces from the camera, at times) it seems that masculinity in the “City” is hidden behind a very thin veneer – a stance that feels far more pernicious because it is being obscured from view. The reasons for this were not explained, at least not by the financiers, and some of them seemed to claim that they aim to leave feeling and emotion behind in order to reach a more machine-like rationale with which to harvest ever more Dollars and Yen and Pounds and Euros, and so on (which sounds like just plain old masculine bullshit, really). Whatever the reasons behind this charade of masculinity as non-masculinity, it’s safe to say that the same skewed and idiotic notions of “masculinity” abound amongst the financiers as they do amongst the other groups Grayson visits. Finally, in a popular culture setting (via the medium of TV), masculinity is having its layers picked at in order to uncover what it’s all about. Unlike femininity, feminism, and other stuff related to the fem prefix, masculinity hasn’t been subjected to such careful scrutiny outside of academic circles. Masculinity – what a load of bollocks.