I started asking myself this question "Can masculinity be lost?" after an interaction I had with a man out on the streets of Kansas City. I was out attempting to harvest photos for my photography project The Man Effect. This series entails me interviewing a multitude of people asking them all the same question. "If you were to describe what it means to be a man in one word, what would if be?" So I am out there on the streets trying to interact with random strangers attempting to make them feel comfortable enough to answer a tenacious photographers question. So I walked up to a couple gentleman talking in a park area. I pitched them my project and its question. One man had no desire to participate which is totally normal. The second man though, he was the one that impacted me greatly. This older gentleman in his mid fifties or sixties with a face full of texture and clothes that gave off the sense that he either had just gotten off work or had not taken a shower in a while. He listened intently to my proposed question and sat there for a good minute or two. As the silence stretched on I felt it was appropriate to stop acting busy on my phone. I looked up and to my surprise his eyes were starting to tear up. He looked at me and said this "I am sorry I cannot answer your question, because I am not a man." I was stunned, speechless, and impacted. He proceeded to talk as tears sparingly crawled down his face "I am not a man because I have lost my wife and children to the bottle. I can't answer your question now but if I think of a word I will let you know." Our interaction continued but this occurrence is what I remembered most and wanted to record.
This whole experience really struck me. It was profound to me because he believed his masculinity had been lost. That no longer was he a man. It was not "I am sorry I cannot answer your question because I am evil, unloving, or an alcoholic". It was "I have lost my masculinity due to the wrongs I have done." Is this a tangible possibility? Like is there a point in a mans downhill actions that pushes him over a line where his masculinity is lost? Is this possible? I am genuinely curious and would love to hear your thoughts!