Portrait Series Reveals What It Means To Be “Masculine,” With Help From Craigslist

by Brenda Pitt

“I want to show that, despite stereotypes, that gay men can be masculine too.”


Throughout the last centuries, the “masculine” and “feminine” have been redefined and pasted side-by-side to form a conflicting array of possibilities. In the Victorian era, it was the male ideal to be smaller in frame and well educated; at the turn of the century, manhood became about physical strength and assertive behaviors. In the 21st century, we have the freedoms to define what “masculine” and “feminine” mean to us as individuals, and those ideologies can be expressed cognitively or aesthetically. 


“I am strong emotionally, have always stood up for myself and fear nothing. I happen to be physically strong but that isn’t where I derive my masculinity.”


Growing up an American gay man, the photographer Chad States was faced with a plethora of specific definitions of what it meant for him to be a man. To sort through the confused cultural conceptions about his gender, he turned to other men as his subjects. He explains, “Masculinity seemed based on relativity and shifted in different circumstances and cultures. I wanted to investigate how others defined their own masculinity to try to create touchstone for the term.”


“Men aren’t being men anymore; they aren’t taking care of women.”


For his series, titled Masculines, States invited sitters via Craigslist with the headline “Are you masculine?” When taking his portraits, the artist allowed his subjects a great deal of freedom; each carefully dressed and positioned himself in order to exude what he considered masculine. The stunning series finds “masculines” of range; at different ages and backgrounds, no two men define themselves the same way. Take a look at the different tones, physical expressions, and environments with which each person identifies the masculine. Although some of the definitions pictured are certainly controversial or even problematic, States’s expert work pointedly reveals the individual over the gender, avoiding judging or relying on sexist stereotypes.


“I have been called a SNAG (sensitive new age guy), a renaissance man, a male in touch with his feminine side, etc….I think that I am masculine in the sense of self reliance.”

“I consider myself to be masculine because I have been working out all of my life and I am a man. I am male so all males should consider themselves to be masculine.”

“When I wear men’s clothes I feel comfortable and confident in how I look on the outside which now matches the inside.”

“I consider myself to be masculine because I spent time in the Marine Corps, I work out, I have a mohawk, I have tattoos. I’m a tattoo artist, I cuss a lot and that’s all I can think of right now.”

“I am fiercely competitive. Not that women can’t be also, but there is something about being a man and having a competitive drive.”

“I feel most masculine when I am lying in bed naked.”

“To be masculine is to dominate in one’s field of study.”

“Masculinity is an attitude. I feel that I’m masculine because I carry myself as such. It doesn’t have anything to do with what you drive or how many women or kids you have.”

“I feel masculine when I am home, I can take care of myself. I often feel emasculated when I leave the apartment though, with everyone asking me if I need help. I don’t need any help.”


Thanks to Beautiful/Decay and Feature Shoot

Images via Feature Shoot

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