Suicides of emotionally inarticulate men 'sparked by Grylls-like machismo', says Grayson Perry


Transvestite potter Grayson Perry has warned that an obsession with "Bear Grylls-style" machismo and bulging muscles is leading to suicide among emotionally inarticulate men.

The artist said the TV adventurer, famed for seeking shelter in a dead camel and rehydrating with stagnant water by enema, portrayed an image of masculinity that is detrimental when men should be finding fulfilment in being a "nice bloke".

Bear Grylls
Bear Grylls (Channel 4)

It comes after Grayson said Bear celebrated a version of masculinity that is "useless" in a society where survival skills are more likely to include the ability to negotiate a deal on an affordable flat or get a child into a good school.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, he said he was sure the former SAS reservist was a "lovely guy and a good role model".

"But I think that vision of masculinity is actually detrimental to men's happiness and health. That's why men commit suicide, because they're stoic," he added.

Grayson Perry
Grayson Perry (Anthony Devlin/PA Wire)

"It's always about manning up and keeping things in. If they don't live up to that ideal vision they think they're a failure, but actually they're a nice bloke who's muddling through. And that's fine."

The Turner Prize-winner conceded that his comments on modern survival were an "off-hand joke" and described how, when not in character as his alter-ego Claire, he enjoys "macho" outdoor pursuits.

The cross-dressing artist, who is married and a father, also described how he rides motorbikes, is a keen mountain biker and enjoyed being in the cadets as a youngster.

Grayson Perry (Anthony Devlin/PA)
Grayson Perry (Anthony Devlin/PA)

"Occasionally I'll go out and act manly," he told the newspaper.

Perry admitted to the newspaper that his personal response to modern masculinity is shaped by childhood experiences of living with a bullying step-father.

However, he said masculinity had become a "cosmeticised leisure activity", adding that most men do not require the pectoral muscles he likened to "false boobs".

He urged men to "de-prioritise sex" in their pursuit of happiness and proposed that a healthy relationship is someone they are sexually attracted to 5% of the time and can simply get along with the rest.

Aside from the physical stereotypes, Grayson was critical of blokeish norms associated with the likes of Jeremy Clarkson and his fellow Top Gear hosts.

Jeremy Clarkson
Jeremy Clarkson (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

"They're almost like the figureheads on the good ship Banter that's going to sink pretty soon," he said.

Grayson has analysed contemporary notions of masculinity and manhood for a new Channel 4 series in which he spent time with bankers, cage fighters and young men involved in criminality on a Lancashire estate.

At the end he presents each group with an artwork that reflects their world.

Grayson Perry: All Man begins on Thursday at 10pm on Channel 4.