International Men’s Day 2018: Six male celebrities changing the conversation around masculinity

Because male stereotypes need dismantling too

Luke Rix-Standing
Monday 19 November 2018 15:39 GMT
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Related video: Bodyguard's Richard Madden backed for Bond
Related video: Bodyguard's Richard Madden backed for Bond

These celebrities are redefining the phrase ‘man up’…

To celebrate International Men’s Day, we take a look at six celebrities who are creating a new discourse around mental health, fighting for gender equality, and helping change what it means to be a man.

1. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

If conventional masculinity were a competition, Dwayne Johnson would be winning.

With biceps the size of basketballs, more hard cash than even he could dead-lift, and a filmography including Pain & Gain, Ballers and Rampage, no one has more of a reason to perpetuate classic ‘maleness’ than The Rock.

All the more impressive then, that the former pro-wrestler has opened up about his own mental health struggles in interviews and on social media.

“The key is to not be afraid to open up”, he tweeted, “especially us dudes have a tendency to keep it in. You’re not alone.”

When The Rock talks about masculinity, people listen. Bravo Dwayne, you can chalk up another smackdown.

2. Robert Webb

Equal parts humour and heartbreak, Peep Show star Robert Webb has penned a searingly honest memoir How Not To Be A Boy, detailing how damaging hyper masculine stereotypes can be for those not fortunate enough to fit them.

The book is a cathartic account of his troubled youth, as well as a manifesto on how to raise a modern man.

“Men are told to perform their gender as well”, the actor said, “but I think it doesn’t get talked about because the problem isn’t acknowledged as a problem.”

“Tell them it’s ok to express pain,” says Webb, “to cry, to prefer the company of your mother, and not be that interested in sports.”

3. Prince Harry

After years of schoolboy antics that invariably made the front pages, Buckingham Palace’s one-time bad boy visited a therapist in his late twenties, and promptly became a jewel in the English crown.

He now spearheads the Heads Together campaign, encouraging young people to open up about mental health, and put his money where his mouth was by speaking publicly about the trauma of his mother’s death, and how bottling it up only made the pain worse.

We think Prince Harry’s extraordinary personal growth is a microcosm of modern masculinity.

4. Terry Crews

‘Masculinity can be a cult,’ said Terry Crews in an interview with GQ earlier this year, and if anyone knows this, he does.

Crews has divided his career between the NFL – one of the most testosterone-fuelled environments this side of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s weights room – and the rat race of pre-MeToo Hollywood.

In his book, Manhood – How To Be A Better Man, Or Just Live With One, Crews takes a wander through the misogynistic pack mentality he saw at NFL, talks about his own struggles with pornography addiction, and claims he was a victim of sexual assault.

To paraphrase the Nine-Nine: Terry hates toxic masculinity. Terry wants it to stop.

5. Zayn Malik

It’s pretty brave to cancel a gig against the wishes of thousands of screaming fans; even braver to use the cancellation as a platform for an honest and open conversation about your mental health.

That is exactly what former One Direction singer Zayn Malik did after pulling out of the Capital Summertime Ball with what he described as “the worst anxiety of my career”.

He has since spoken candidly about his struggles with anxiety, eating disorders and dealing with big crowds – rather a hazard for an international pop star.

“Anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of,” said Malik simply, in an interview with Teen Vogue. Forget gigs, record deals and screaming fans – that takes courage.

6. Daniel Craig

Today in "sentences I never thought I’d write" – we should all be thankful to Piers Morgan. Were it not for his gloriously unenlightened tweet condemning Daniel Craig’s use of a papoose, the very ordinary photo of Craig carrying around his kid would have passed unnoticed.

Instead, Craig’s practical parenting became a focal point for men across social media to post pictures of themselves proudly repping their papooses, and voice their support for a more modern form of fatherhood. (Craig has actually appeared in several short films arguing for gender equality but, sans-Morgan, they didn’t quite generate the same interest).

Bond may be, in the immortal words of Judi Dench, "a misogynist dinosaur" – the effortlessly fashionable Daniel Craig, it seems, is not.

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