May 27, 2019
We sat down with Will de Groot, Co-founder of The Elephant Room and founder of MEND, a platform and community that asks: “what kind of men do we want to be?”
Why do you think there’s a need for a conversation about ‘modern masculinity’?
There’s an old framework of masculinity (call it patriarchy, call it whatever you want), that has conditioned men to feel they need to fit into a very linear definition of what it means to be a man in order to be successful. It might mean having a family, a car, a good job, status, etc. But these things don’t necessarily feel right for everyone. Not everyone falls into such a linear definition, and more and more men are realising that others feel the same way. They want a new framework that doesn’t tie them to these unattainable goals.
Why do you feel like masculinity is in ‘crisis’ right now?
Besides the above and that people (men) are not feeling quite right, there is also just the process it takes to re-discover and figure out what works for all of us. If people are giving up on an identity they’ve felt attached to for a long time, they need another framework to fall onto. I studied feminist literature and theory in university, and realised there was no exploration around masculinity. I think it’s because we’ve been viewing everything through the male lens, so we’ve treated it as the norm.
I also want to point out that ‘masculinity’ does not exist in a vacuum. It’s tied to patriarchy, capitalism, society, etc. and as these systems experience paradigm shifts, masculinity is inherently affected.
What are you trying to achieve through MEND?
It would be naive to think we can solve this ‘crisis’ overnight. I’m not here to answer questions, but more to ask thought provoking questions, and create permissive spaces for people to share and learn from each other in a safe and healthy manner.
There’s a tendency for groups to silo themselves to feel safer and more comfortable. We’d like to create connections through inclusion rather than exclusion.
We have to ask, how do you think brands can play a role in all of this?
Good question. I went into Boots a few days ago to buy some deodorant. I went to the men’s section and just did not feel connected to any of the brands and packaging there. I ended up buying a neutral scented one from the women’s section.
I think brands have the power to forge new paths and create connections with consumers. Particularly as the conversation around masculinity evolves, brands that come from a strong position already have an advantage.
Learn more about Will at https://www.mend.world/ and https://twitter.com/MENDworld.
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