© La Re-sentida

As almost no other social construct, masculinity has become a battlefield between the preservation of conservative ideas, hegemony, and critically emancipatory challenges that have brought thinking about it to the edge of impossibility. But what does masculinity mean today, and what are the role models – to be emulated or attacked – with which young people are growing up? For their project, Marco Layera and Theatro La Re-sentida’s La posibilidad de la ternura (The Possibility of Tenderness) hosted workshops with several youth of diverse social backgrounds in a six-month process in Santiago de Chile. It was striking how fast the participants agreed on a negative perspective – toxic, male, patriarchal – and, by contrast, how difficult it was to sketch a positive one. Here we present some of their answers to the following question:

»What man in your life would you describe as a positive role model for your image of masculinity?«


José Araya, my drama teacher. He taught me a lot of what made me who I am today. He is a very spiritual person who is really in touch with nature, with spirituality. He’s someone who’s not out to fight, which is why I admire him so much. He’s someone who connects with others’ souls. He always has others in mind and knows that there aren’t only humans in the world, that there are many living beings who have given their life for us to be here. That’s why you have to give thanks to nature.


My role model is Paolo, my mom’s boyfriend. He’s taught me a lot of things lately. It’s incredible that someone who doesn’t know you manages to teach you so much and bring so much peace to your life. He always tries to do things calmly, keeping the common good for everyone in mind. Though I do sense that he suffers because sometimes he seems really reserved. I think that the sacrifice gets to him. I want to be someone with inner peace like him.


The man who inspired me is Federico Moura, and here are some reasons why. He’s sensitive, calm, he has emotional tools. He plays and sings in two bands, he really respects people, he was openly gay in the ‘80s, and he has a song called Sin disfraz (Undisguised). He writes poetry. His thinking is socialist, and sadly, he died of AIDS 24 years ago.


I chose my brother Alexis. My brother resembles me in many ways. He has many of the flaws I have, but he’s managed to overcome them. To me, he’s an honest person who doesn’t have any trouble telling it like it is. He’s not outspoken, he’s consistent, says what he does and does what he says. It’s what I want to be in the future. I’ve looked up to him since I was little. When I was little he was my superhero.


The person I chose is my uncle Rodrigo/Facundo. I admire him because he grew up in a low-income family, and with great effort, he was admitted to university on scholarship, studied computer engineering, travels the world, and lives in Australia. I look up to him for everything he achieved and for having a beautiful relationship with his partner. And what most inspires me about him is that he does a lot, but he always has time to be with his friends. He reads, too, and works out a lot. With all the time he spends working, he even has time for self-development. He’s a stellar human being, really special, knows how to communicate. He’s really someone I’d like to be, to be like that.


I chose Mauricio, my dad’s twin. I feel that my uncle is an example of perseverance and courage because he’s a member of the LGBTQ+ community; he lived a long time in silence and suffered greatly. But he managed to forge ahead, to say who he was, how he felt. He told his parents which was very powerful at the time. I really admire him for that. I also really admire his knowledge. He gardens, he does modern dance, landscaping. I’m always grateful for the attention he gave me when I was little and the time he gave without having to. He’d take me to buy clothes or to cultural events just to spend time with me, something my father never did. He works a lot on himself. He meditates and contemplates a lot. His personal growth is something I’d like to have.


I’d only be able to name women. Because I feel like women are much freer than men in their self-expression, their thinking, and how they interact with children.


His name is Moises. I haven’t seen him in a while, but I know he’s improved a lot as a person. I secretly admire his ability to do so much without getting stressed and how he never abandons his roots. He loves his family and that’s what I most admire about him. He works as a doctor and he’s always concerned about our health. Not long ago he took my grandmother on a trip to the south. She’s never been there and that trip restored my grandma’s vitality and happiness. I’d like to see him again, wish him well for the changes he’s made, and thank him for everything.


The person I chose isn’t that close to me, but I chose him because honestly I feel that he helped me come to terms with my sexuality. He helped me realize that I wasn’t alone. I used to be really alone, until I started to be surrounded by people. He’s the first person who I truly felt listened to me, and despite that we don’t really get along now. I’m always going to be grateful to him because he was the first person who really liked me. And I feel that he helped me grow a lot as a person and to be who I am today.


My male role model is my friend Rodrigo. I wouldn’t say that I want to be like him because he’s quite the opposite, but I admire him a lot because he’s really in the present, really open, really warm, really calm. He’s rather sensitive, egalitarian, emotionally stable. He always has time, never has a plan and doesn’t organize anything.


I used to be my own role model because I always liked playing, knowing and finding things out, learning things. That helped me be myself. But one day my little brother came home and I knew the minute I saw him that he was going to help me a lot, forever. Growing up together, I learned a lot from him even though he was so little. He’s smart, I’d say much smarter than I. He sets a good example for me and I love him dearly. I see he has so much beauty inside. I try to bring out the best in my brother.


One person broke all the patterns of masculinity when I was little. I lived in the country in a very familial, yet macho setting. And through him I understood that there isn’t just women’s work and men’s work. He used to get up early, go to the store, shop for breakfast, for lunch. He’d put on his apron and cook for the gods. He was very sensitive and very caring. He was the man of the house, my grandfather.


My role model is my brother Alejandro. He’s the one who taught me about culture and art. Now he’s an engineer, father of two daughters, one of whom isn’t his but he takes responsibility for her. He has initiative, has always been with his family, he’s a support. He fulfilled needs that my father never did: being there, asking me questions, showing interest in what I liked. I’ve always felt that and have been grateful to him. He’s never stopped expressing his love and affection. He’s always there when I need him. He’s a cheerful person. He’s always going for good communication. And he’s always bringing the family together. He taught me never to get stuck in a rut and to always stay open to new experiences.