“I’ve Been Busy Thinkin’ ‘Bout Boys” – How do we, as a society, interpret ‘femininity’?

Following the release of ‘Boys’ by Charli XCX, I think it’s very obvious to say, that alongside the catchy chorus and the serious 90s vibes given, the song is a hit; however, the video speaks as loudly as the song itself. Featuring an array of celebrity hunks such as Brendon Urie (‘Panic at the Disco’), Oli Sykes (‘Bring me the Horizon’), Cameron Dallas (YouTube sensation), and many more, the video is highly easy on the eye. That’s what got me pondering: would I like the song and video as much as I do, if I didn’t identify as an openly gay male?

When speaking on the subject of the video, Charli identifies that the primary reason for the video is to subvert the male gaze and sexualise men, in the same way that women have been throughout many, tireless decades. The release of the video also raises questions as to whether heterosexual males are still caught in conforming to these gender roles and hypersexual identities, and if so, will this ever be challenged, or is this merely another form of cyclical entrapment in oppression- not allowing men to be open about their emotions in the same way that is expected of women or gay men?

According to the 2016 Mental Health Statistics, 5,668 suicides had took place that year with 75% of these being men, and suicide has remained the most common cause of death for men between the ages of 20-49. Developing on this, an astonishing 52% of LGBT youth have reported self-harming in the past, and a shocking 44% have considered suicide. Unfortunately, it seems that the reality of mental illness is increasing and the severity of the situation is being exacerbated, with recent statistics further depicting that less than 1% of the annual budget is being spent on the NHS, making it progressively more difficult for people to seek help and access the treatments and guidance needed to help aid them in moments of despair.

In moments like this, looking at the statistics, you can’t help but dwell on not only how isolated these people may feel, but why there’s such a resilience in general against people expressing natural emotion. The unfortunate reality is that in contemporary society, we may not be as liberal as we anticipate ourselves to be. We attach stigmatic and derogative meanings to the concept of ‘femininity’, utterly associating it with vulnerability and weakness- as seen from Hollywood movies and mass representation of media in general, depicting the woman in the typical expressive role and the man in the instrumental.

In reality, the focus should be on unifying people and breaking down these conventions, to allow one another to open up and express ourselves without fear of rejection because we may not conform to the ‘norm.’ Moments like these, and what Charli and her co-stars have done, are not only one step forward in breaking down these stereotypes, but they make people aware that this depiction of what many may constitute as ‘feminine’ isn’t something negative. In fact, it is something that should be celebrated and implemented into mainstream popular culture, something for which I personally cannot thank her enough for.

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