'MAFS Australia's Duncan should be praised for questioning gender stereotypes'

·3-min read

In last night’s episode of Married At First Sight Australia, contestant Duncan James made a powerful statement that got people talking.

He stuck up for fellow contestant Josh White who was being given a pretty tough time by wife Melissa Shepherd who said her husband wasn’t ‘man enough’, which moved him to tears.

In response, Duncan said: “One of the most frustrating things is when somebody says, ‘you’re not a man’, like, what is a man? A man is someone who can really talk about their emotions and get deep. A man isn’t someone who wants to… not talk about anything.”

In the age of toxic masculinity, it was refreshing to hear - and then see - the male contestants rally around each other for emotional support at a time when Josh needed it most.

mafs australia duncan
Channel 4 - Channel 4

Throughout the season, we’ve seen Josh struggle with Melissa’s comments and expectations regarding their sex life and his masculinity, which have been a little uncomfortable to watch. Then, when it all came to a head at the commitment ceremony, we got to see an insight into the good that can come from men being open, honest and caring towards each other.

Fans of the series took to Twitter to praise the important moment. “Duncan sticking up for Josh and saying what makes a man has made him the hottest contestant on this show,” wrote one viewer. “All the boys running after Josh, YES!” shared another. And I agree!

Now more than ever, we’re used to seeing toxic, excessive displays of masculinity – ahem, Andrew Tate – and not focused enough on showing genuine, human emotion. It can often feel like we're in an age where men are harshly criticised for displaying their feelings or, pretty much, anything that strays outside of the stereotypical definition of masculinity.

Let’s take this year’s Love Island, for example, where some viewers speculated about contestant Will Young’s sexuality, for little reason apart from him being comfortable in his femininity and not suppressing his feelings. It was super intrusive and unnecessary, to be frank.

His girlfriend and fellow contestant, Jessie backed up Will, saying: "It’s 2023 and judging people’s sexuality is outdated and needs to get out of the window." Say it louder!

When men are constantly told they shouldn’t express emotion, reject anything that’s even remotely feminine or ‘man up’, it's unbelievably damaging for not only them, but for women who suffer as a result of this redundant and outdated attitude. It only perpetuates the idea of gender norms and stereotypes, which detracts from the potential for an open and inclusive society.

On Married At First Sight Australia, Duncan’s statement about what it is to be a man in response to Melissa’s comments is what we need to be hearing more of on TV and beyond. Being a man isn’t about being emotionless, super dominant or aggressive, it’s so much more than that and it’s time people started listening.

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