Who are you and what do you do?
Matt: Collectively, we are Here Be Monsters. I’m Matt Bielby the writer, creative director and one of three partners of HBM.
Tony: I’m Tony Hird, art director, creative director and partner at HBM. I have a daughter who is 4, and we have a boy on the way in about a month.
Chris: I’m Chris Raedcher, and I’m the third of the three partners here at Here Be Monsters. I direct client and project services. I’m also a dad – the old dad around here. I have 2 kids, 8.5 and 7, so I’m basically done parenting at this point – they’re on their own. (laughing)
Matt: I guess we’re all dads – my son is a little over 2.
What's the worst advice someone has given you?
Chris: The worst advice anyone gave me was “If you don’t go to college right away after high school, you will probably never go.” As far as being a parent goes, I’m someone who believes that all advice is useful in some way, as long as you bear in mind who it’s coming from and why.
Matt: Everything in moderation!
There’s this belief that some people in business have, where to be respected, you need to be an asshole, and you have to play this tough role. You do need to be fair and keep everyone to a high level of expectations and standards but you don’t need to be a jerk. You don’t need to rule by fear; I just don’t subscribe to that.
Tony: When I was a student, I had a part-time job selling shoes. A customer came in one day with two kids that were completely out of control and she said to me "Don't ever have kids.".
She was probably joking, surely she must love her kids at least sometimes, but it almost sounded like she meant it. That comment really stuck with me, and I've used it to define the kind of parent that I don't want to be. Now, twenty years later, being a dad is something I wouldn't give up for the world and I'm glad I never took that person's advice.
What’s the difference between masculinity and toxic masculinity to you? Or, what does masculinity mean to you?
Matt: I think that toxic masculinity is still being uncovered and defined, and I don’t know if I fully understand every aspect of it yet. Being a guy for 40 years, there are some aspects of it that I totally have already experienced. I think a big one is the older generations of men asking you to do something the way that they did it, their fathers did it, grandfathers, etc.
Especially at the time when I was younger and lacked a strong voice to stand up for your own thoughts and definitions of right and wrong. Just being told that this is what guys do. I think in my own mind, I’m still defining it – What masculinity is and what it is not.
Chris: To build on what Matt was saying, toxic masculinity is a bit of a buzzword right now; even before Gillette commercials went on air. As a father, and I’ll admit especially of a daughter, my definition of being a man and what it is to be masculine have changed quite a bit. I think I have always had right and wrong instilled in me, in a general sense, but I think my generation grew up just accepting “the way things are”, but you realize eventually that it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. I think there has been an awakening in my circle of friends and family that there are things that contribute to society as a whole, including decency and respect towards women. It’s something that hasn’t been really taught at an early age. Having a son, I’m really conscious of making sure that I check myself – I ask myself what’s being taught.
Matt: That’s right, it’s not just a dynamic between men and women, but also between men and men, especially between men and boys.
Chris: Yeah, and watching yourself as to not fall into one of those traps. “Ah, Don’t cry – toughen up” Like, I’ll ask myself, would I say that to my daughter? Probably not… and what does that do to someone? What consequences are there to making someone question their own feelings and emotions, and where does it lead? It probably pushes people to perpetuate their stereotype of what men and women are supposed to be and that hasn’t worked out that well for society.
Matt: It’s funny because in our line of business those kinds of archetypes are often used in advertising, so the Gillette reference is interesting or what Peregrine is doing is interesting, where the definition of masculinity is being rewritten and it allows for more unique branding, but also just a better connection to the people that are reading your posts, and ads, and blog entries.
Tony: It’s an exciting time because these definitions matter less and less. I find I’m less concerned about masculinity and more focused on just being a good human. Growing up I was definitely exposed to gender stereotypes and sayings like “don’t cry like a girl” or “boys will be boys”. When I was a kid I don’t think I ever questioned these things, but I think it’s pretty obvious these days how dangerous those stereotypes can be.
Chris: One other thing that jumps out at me, is that the more traditional archetypes of masculinity don't actually come off that tough. To be tough, I feel you need to be self-aware, and aware of others – to be compassionate and empathetic. If you want to be a tough guy – show your emotions. That’s tough.
What is one thing you wish men would be more open about?
Chris: Being open, as a habit, and embracing vulnerability. Open to your concerns and fears, open to others, open to change. When I was growing up there was this idea that men were providers; they took care of everything, they were in charge, they were the bosses... when in reality it takes a lot more than those roles to be a good man. A lot of people I grew up with aren’t opening up their worldview and are not open to the fact that things are changing. We are not done here, we can do better.
Matt: Communicating. Properly articulating thoughts and feelings in a very genuine and authentic way. In this day and age people take digital messages as verbatim. We’re posturing, for social media’s sake. We often act like everything is super cheery and amazing and I think people sometimes put their Instagram feed over their own happiness and sense of self. It’s not honest. Let’s be honest about what’s really going on in our lives instead of posturing.
Tony: I saw an ad recently about why dolls were important for boys, it was really trying to flip that stereotype on its head. It showed how dolls help you practice caring and develop responsibility. It’s an example of how we can all be more open to challenging gender stereotypes. It's another important thing for us to bear in mind - what we’re passing onto our kids: Which toys and games? What are they playing with and how? That can define who they are. Building that emotional intelligence from a young age.
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