“Good masculinity doesn’t exist,” says Aline Laurent-Mayard

When she got the green light from her publisher to sign a book on Timothée Chalamet, Aline Laurent-Mayard first envisioned a “fun” book, in the form of a “collection of tweets and WhatsApp conversations.” Then, taking a closer look at “Chalamania”, the enthusiasm the French-American star has aroused since the premiere call me by your name in 2017 he realized that the issue could be more serious than he thought. “I find it interesting that society now suddenly values ​​a skinny guy with a strange physique, who behaves very differently from the handsome boys of the past,” the freelance journalist explains to 20 minutes.

“Between the time I started thinking about this book, during the first lockdown, and today, there have been a lot of changes, whether it’s in the notoriety of the actor or the discourse on masculinities, which has broadened,” he says. In his book, Liberated from masculinity, published Wednesday by JC Lattès, brings Timothée Chalamet closer to Harry Styles and Tom Holland, other stars of his generation who, known for their kindness, seem to question the codes linked to virility. Perfect men? Not so sure…

Are Timothée Chalamet, Harry Styles and Tom Holland men “liberated from masculinity”?

With the subtitle of the book, How Timothée Chalamet made me believe in the new man, we try to create a bit of vagueness. Of course, it is not that simple. These three personalities are men who represent something new. Compared with those of previous generations, they speak more easily about their feelings, their emotions, their mental health. They are committed to the rights of women and minorities, particularly LGBT+ people. They carry kindness as a strength, a far cry from the “bad boys” of twenty years ago who had to look bad, and even from men in general who don’t say hello, don’t smile, try to look mysterious. It takes up things that are normally assigned to the feminine, and in doing so they say that they do not believe that the feminine is feared or inferior to the masculine.

Timothée Chalamet last month became the first man to appear alone on the cover of the UK edition of Fashion. Two years ago, the Fashion American reserved the same honor for Harry Styles. Is it a paradigm shift?

I dream about it! It remains to be seen if it will be anchored in a reality where the masculine and the feminine will mix more and more, where we will realize that there is no great difference between women’s fashion and men’s fashion and that the limits are more diffuse. Maybe it’s just a little publicity stunt to say we’re awake and in tune with the times…

Would the promotion of these male figures have been possible without the #MeToo movement?

#MeToo has awakened and accelerated the expression of pre-existing anger. It would have happened in any case, not necessarily through a hashtag. It was inevitable that this anger would be expressed. Women began to think about how to combat this, and not just put abusers in jail. For example, saying, “I don’t want to see bullies on TV anymore, I don’t want to give money to misogynists anymore, I don’t want to watch romantic stories where the guy harasses a girl downstairs with a radio anymore.” and signs…” We wonder what we still want and what a guy can be that isn’t an asshole.

And what would this man be like?

Today, whether in fact or fiction, more and more queer women and men are saying “I want a guy who is good, who is nice and not just pretends, who listens to me, who does his share of the work, etc. That is the big difference in fact, we see it in the series and in the movies: the boys are super pretty [mignons], they are friendly. I often talk aboutTo all the boys I’ve lovedpremiered in 2018 on Netflix, and its hero who thinks about removing the bowl of chips from the sofa so as not to make crumbs… The fact that this scene marked the people who saw it so much shows that we no longer want just a good guy at first view, but we want men who are really, in everyday life, in the details, attentive, with initiative and with an egalitarian approach to society.

Do Timothée Chalamet, Harry Styles and Tom Holland correspond to this ideal?

In the way they behave, in what they say, they are definitely men. They are in a position of power. They take advantage of the fact that the masculine is perceived as superior to the feminine, that a white man, cis [non trans] and heterosexual -or at least perceived as such- will be invited to the cover of an important women’s magazine, will have access to the best roles, will earn a lot of money. There are so many other men who do amazing things, I’m thinking of Billy Porter, Lil Nas X, Jonathan Van Ness, who I talk about a lot in the book. They and they get less success and less respect and validation from the general public and the male press when they do, better, everything that Chalamet, Styles and Holland have been doing, and for much longer. Without them, Chalamet, Styles and Holland couldn’t do what they do today. I would say that they try to deal with their masculinity to make it more pleasant to live and enjoy life.

Namely ?

We must understand that sexism and patriarchy prevent men from many things: expressing their feelings, taking care of their mental well-being, choosing to exercise professions or carry out activities perceived as feminine. There’s something quite selfish about their approach, I don’t think they’re looking to break the patriarchy, but just do what they love, and they’re very masculine in that.

You say you reject the notion of “toxic masculinity.” For what reasons?

There’s something essentializing about it, like there’s a toxic masculinity and there’s a positive masculinity, and a person would be born that way. Not so, “good masculinity” does not exist. Masculinity is problematic for everyone. There is no masculine essence: masculinity is defined in opposition to the feminine, as its opposite and, above all, in a situation of superiority. Masculinity exists only to be able to oppress and take advantage of the feminine. Something needs to be changed structurally. There are super nice people, whom we love to have as friends, as colleagues, as colleagues, but who continue to be people in a situation of domination. As long as these individuals continue to be perceived as “men”, they will continue to enjoy all the advantages of masculinity.

You also address the issue of “wokefishing”. This neologism designates the act of making people believe that they are much more progressive than they are in order to benefit from it, to the detriment of the values ​​and causes that they claim to defend. Are Timothée Chalamet or Harry Styles above suspicion on this side?

You never know what motivates people. We are never safe from revelations. Because of their career, their kindness and their ability to listen are very positive, that’s why they are known. Therefore, they have every interest in being above reproach in the age of smartphones and social media. But we can clearly see that, in society, more and more men call themselves deconstructed and feminists. There are many who take advantage and brag openly to their friends, telling them that they are doing it for fun, to show that feminists are being deceived. There are really nice men, who really want to do well to free themselves from the shackles of masculinity, I interviewed some in the book. They say they do their best but it’s not that easy. I wish that was what came out of my book: Men can and should try to do better, if only selfishly, for their own good, but also more broadly out of a desire for equality. We must be fully aware that no one is perfect, that we grew up with many clichés and that the road is long to get rid of these entrenched ideas.

The personalities we are talking about here are Anglo-Saxon. Who are their equivalents in France?

Writing this book, I told myself that I couldn’t just talk about Americans… But I didn’t have much on hand. The last cover of french movie [la Une titrant sur la « reconquête » du cinéma français ne montrait que des acteurs blancs] It reminds us well: we are in a country where no known actor or singer is sexist and/or takes advantage of their situation of domination. We continue with the same faces, fewer changes, less known young people. We always value the same actors who live among the balls, to use a popular expression. Afterwards, there are still people who express a change. Eddy de Pretto doesn’t particularly reflect the image of a nice guy, but he does express a certain femininity. Bilal Hassani, before he came out of the non-binary closet, was already expressing something very feminine and revolutionary. I preferred to talk about the young and not so young that we meet on the street. I have never seen so many men in skirts or nail polish as this year. Something is happening at the level of masculinity.

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