Cuban photographer questions 'hegemonic masculinity' by portraying men with flowers

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One young man has dyed yellow hair and a nose ring, another looks hard, another holds his son: they are among the group of men who agreed to pose with a flower for Cuban photographer Moník Molinet, who is trying to break down stereotypes.

A series of portraits of men who agreed to pose with a bougainvillea or a geranium in their left ear make up the exhibition "Masculinities", which opened at Havana's Fábrica de Arte.

"Avoiding stereotypes, it occurred to me to see how I could try to show men who were told from outside hegemonic masculinity," Molinet, 33, told AFP.

With her lens, the artist tries to "correct the lack of images in the visual imaginary", which does not admit a vulnerable masculinity and condemns with homophobia any feminine gesture on a man, she says.

The stir that this project has caused, even before it reached the exhibition hall, began in August 2022, when the photographer decided to upload some photos of men with natural flowers on their faces to Twitter.

"For us it was even more of a surprise that when we posted it on Twitter it went viral and reached more than five million accounts in less than 24 hours and a lot of interaction," but also controversy, says Molinet.

- That's something else! -

Then, his account was temporarily suspended "and that caused even more of a stir," he says with a small lilac bush flower embedded in his black hair.

The @PistolaMonik account was flooded with misogynistic and sexist messages, but also from supporters of the project. "Bullshit! Today's feminists seek to feminise (if such a word exists) men and masculinise women! The world is upside down," wrote one user on the network.

But many advocated the initiative and tweeted photos of themselves with flowers of various colours and sizes in their ears.

To make the display, Moník and his team stood on a promenade on the Prado, one of the main avenues in downtown Havana, where they approached men with the question: "Would you be willing to take a picture of yourself with a flower in your ear in support of the fight against violence against women?

Most of the reactions were adverse. "I have gay friends, I'm not criticising it, but me wearing the flower, that's something else!" says a man in his 50s who was consulted and who appears in a video projected in the exhibition.

A space with a white background at the end of the exhibition awaits anyone who wants to have their photo taken, following the instructions written on a wall, which include putting the flower in the left ear.

The most important guideline is to look at the camera with a serious expression. "We want to discover your personality in your eyes," Molinet asks.

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