Taking up space. Women dominate significantly less space than men, closed in on ourselves. Sat down across from us reading a menu, sit two men, their arms spread out as if there is a lump of stone in front of their chest. We try to replicate and it feels awkward and heavy limbed. It gets cold and I feel my legs wrap around myself, I have to force them to stay open. We play back a video of us talking; my fingers self-consciously feel for my lips and my mouth purses, feminine. My posture is tight to my body, I wince at my girlishness. The second clip I am transfixed with my own reflection, like a badly acted porn film, I cannot tear myself away from the gaze of the camera, I follow its eyes with a self-conscious vanity. I still cannot sit like a dude. I am all flailing arms and fingers, eyes agog at my little elfin head as it animates before me.
I don’t feel confident, we’ve watched various you-tube videos that tell you that men sit, walk, stand with confidence. My attempts without this assured confidence are paltry. I just feel like a fake, I am so obsessed with trying to ‘pass’ as a real, true, bona-fide man in terms of looking right that my masculinity has no real character, no real meat and bones. AnnaMaria (aka Adam – my pseudo name is Jens) and I spoke the other night about what we were trying to do, about our failures, our insecurities, phobias and desires. I had been so preoccupied with this physical transformation that I had almost forgotten about the ‘man’ that I had wanted to become. This self-assured, sex-driven, hideously misogynistic man, whose very being exuded his sexual prowess. I need to find him. I need to become him. He is in there somewhere, lurking beneath the surface, just begging to come out to play. But how do I coax him out? I suggested that firstly I need to mature through adolescence before I can find him. Do I need to act out the teenage dude, the randy perspiring little geek who no one ever picks for the football team, was that me? Yes, that was always me. Skinny and pasty, with a propensity for selling porn, and dad’s tuna sandwiches, my lunch sold like hot cakes as my stomach slowly growled on empty.
Adam said that I don’t necessary need to be a man, that there are women out there with enough balls and masculinity. I can stop shedding every selfhood and security that I ever built, about my body not being ‘right’ and ‘enough’. All those years of slaying insecurities, of growing into my body and learning to love and accentuate what is there, instead of desiring for another body. I think that is why this shedding of my femininity and my attempt to step into maleness left me feeling so adolescent, so robbed of all my being, my body was not mine because I did not want to lay claim to it. But I am taking it back, I am taking back my tiny waist, and long lanky legs, with breasts that lie like the ‘tiny upturned bellies of fallen sparrows’ – I think that was a recital of a Leonard Cohen line, a self-titled ‘ladies man’ – and my little face with giant eyes. He showed me pictures and videos of female bodied masculinity, beautiful and raw in their virility. Androgynous creatures, that lie on the cusp of gender, neither male nor female. I like this in-between-ness, my whole practice resounds around this theme, and so I slip inside and embody this duality with a wave of welcoming pleasure.
Image credit 1 & 2: Jens & Adam, 2014, Daddy I am a Man project, AnnaMaria Pinaka & Lo Liddell, (photographs) – Photographer: Bart Sluiter