Using sports as a theme, Shirts Vs Skins questions what masculinity is, and how our identities are formed through cultural norms.
“Shirts Vs Skins”, is a familiar phrase for any man who has played team sports. Rather than team colours, players would be divided into groups of those who wore shirts or jerseys, and those who went shirtless. The mere thought of this was terrifying because I was a small, skinny kid, ashamed of my body, and I was likely to be teased or bullied.
I come from a family of “jocks”. My father and uncle were considered sports stars in school, and continued to play and coach sports later in life. There were perceived expectations that I too would excel in sports, but I didn’t. Like most effeminate boys, I was very aware of the role I was expected to play, in order to fit in. Boys like me know how we should look, act and talk. We know what the appropriate toys are to play with, and what would be said if we played with the girls. We are hyper-aware that we are being watched and judged constantly.
Society often breaks sports into two categories, the masculine and the feminine. If you play team sports such as hockey, basketball, football or soccer, you are macho. These are the “butch” sports. On the other hand, if you play tennis, figure skate, or do gymnastics, you will probably be called a ‘fruit’ by your schoolmates.
Shirts Vs Skins takes masculine sports equipment and makes them feminine. By using pink, covering them in rhinestones, or using flowers, the pieces become “girly”. By simply altering the notion of “what little boys are made of”, or “Blue is for boys, Pink is for girls”, the work challenges the viewer to reconsider their own views about masculinity, and asks parents and the school system to be conscious of the pressures they place on boys to fit into a “masculine” sports culture at the expense of their creative or artistic interests.
Library Gallery | November 5 – December 17, 2021 – St John Arts Centre, St John, NB