27/02/2019 10:41 AM IST

This Photographer Asked Men How They Reject Toxic Masculinity

A new photo series from photographer Jessica Amity shows that masculinity exists on a spectrum.

Denom from Nepal and Sam, a U.K. and Australia resident, both participated in photographer Jessica Amity's new photo series, "To Be A Man."

We often give short shrift to the ways feminism benefits men. 

When men resist the stereotype of what a “real man” should be, they’re free to live life on their own accord: Cry with reckless abandon after a crappy day at work or stay at a home and raise the kids while their partner brings home the bacon. 

In a new photo series, photographer Jessica Amity captures just how liberating rejecting gender norms can be for men.

Armed with her Nikon D850 camera, the Nepal-based photographer hopped around the streets of Kathmandu and asked men for their general thoughts on toxic masculinity and its effect on their lives. Then she asked them to finish this sentence: “It’s OK for me to…” 

The answers were as varied as the men themselves. 

“It’s OK for me to be insecure,” a man from the Netherlands named Caspar told the photographer.

“I have always felt like, as a man, I am supposed to be confident and dominant, and not supposed to ever feel shy or insecure,” he said. “The pressure of toxic masculinity made it very difficult for me to deal with my insecurities. Learning to accept my faults helped me understand them, and in the end, deal with them.”

Jessica Amity
Caspar, one of the men who participated in Amity's photo series.

Others kept things a little lighter. 

“It’s OK for me to be the little spoon. Men like being cuddled, too,” an American named Zach offered sweetly.

Jessica Amity
Zach, another man who participated in Amity's project.

In an interview with HuffPost, Amity said she was taken aback at how much the men had to say on the topic. 

“I expected to have to pick their brains in order to get them to open up to me,” she said. “This was not the case because these men were clearly aware of these issues.” 

Amity hopes her project reminds viewers how the patriarchy fails men, too, forcing them to conform to an idea of manhood that’s at odds with who they really are. 

“I hope this helps men’s mental health and shows women that men can be allies today,” she said. “I want to push forward the importance of engaging men alongside women to challenge all these harmful gender norms.”

Scroll down to see more photos or head to Amity’s website or Instagram for more of the powerful series. 

Some responses have been edited for style and clarity.

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.