a photo essay by Amber Dror
This photo series, Hue, explores the relationship between gender and emotion. It looks at the construct of masculinity in our society in an attempt to understand and challenge societal norms. In my life, I’ve had many encounters with men who lacked the ability to express their emotions in a healthy, constructive way. I wanted to address this complex problem through my photography.
I often perceive emotions through colour. There are common ways of seeing meaning in colour — red is associated with anger and yellow with happiness. But feelings and emotions are much more intricate, so the colours used to describe them must be as well. My series looks at a man as he explores his emotions through a complex array of colours. We see him pass through stages of withholding, contemplating and, finally, a releasing of emotion. The bottling up of emotions is a crucial symptom of the socially enforced masculine identity. Rather than being given the freedom to truly feel and understand their emotions, men are told they need to suppress them.
Where does this come from? Does it come from stereotypically male professions, such as the military, policing or medicine, where men can’t express these emotions? These jobs involve high-stress and quick decisions where emotions have to put on the side and rational and emotionally-detached decisions must be made. This emotionally-separated, logical image of masculinity has existed for centuries, and has become ingrained into the male identity. If the standard for being a man is working in one of these professions, men might feel as if they need to act similarly to be seen as professional and put together.
Suppressing how you feel can be emotionally draining, and this internalization often leads to unhealthy forms of involuntary externalization. The American Psychological Association suggests more men than women are diagnosed with disorders related to the unhealthy externalization of personal issues, such as aggression, substance use disorders and antisocial personality disorder. But why are men encouraged to show some emotions, such as anger and aggression but shamed for showing others, such as sadness and vulnerability?
When men are discouraged from expressing and sharing emotions, it reinforces the faulty idea that women are inherently more emotional. It is important to challenge these outdated, black and white ideas about gender and work towards a more positive and constructive dialogue. The ability to healthily express emotion is positive both for an individual’s personal well-being as well as their relationships with those around them.
(Pictured is Sébastien Clermont)