Masculinity has long been characterised by physical strength and emotional repression. But much of this stereotype is being redefined by many young men today to include traits like creativity and empathy.
Young Post spoke to three boys who are paving the way for their peers, and challenging gender stereotypes in the traditionally female-dominant realm of the performing arts: Fung Chin-ho, 18, from The Independent Schools Foundation Academy, Jordan Chan, 16, from South Island School, and Nicolas Yu, 13, from West Island School. All three recently took part in the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation (HKYAF) production of Fame, directed by Lindsey McAlister, which ran from November 22-24.
“I feel like a lot of young men are bound by the stereotype that singing and acting is a ‘girlie’ thing,” says Chin-ho, who is currently on his gap year. He plans on studying at Tisch School of the Arts in New York in the United States next year.
“Statistics show that young boys don’t take part in the arts as much. There was a very high female to male ratio in Fame. I was also the only boy in my IB Theatre class.”
HKYAF auditioned 600 young performers for Fame. Of that number, only 10 per cent were male. And out of the 60-member-cast, there were only 18 males.
“It pains me to know there is such a discrepancy in numbers, because I believe the arts should be for everyone,” says Chin-ho. “This stereotype is really restricting a lot of males.”
Jordan, who played one of the lead characters in the musical, has trained in classical ballet since the age of three. He won the Margot Fonteyn Audience Choice Award, as well as a bronze medal at the Genée International Ballet Competition this year.
He admits that as the only male in most of his classes, he receives more attention from his teachers, owing to the strong demand for male dancers.
“I feel guilty because there are other girls that are better than I am; however, the teachers spend more time training me because they need me for performances,” he says. “I also feel like they’re less critical of my work because I’m their only option.
He added that he would like to work with more male dancers to create a stronger sense of competition, and to push him to be better.
“I want to feel like I deserve to have a main role in the production,” said Jordan.
At just 13 years old, Nicolas was one of the youngest cast members in Fame. He, like Jordan, has studied ballet from a young age.
“I’m the only boy out of all my friends that takes part in musicals and plays. But I always try to encourage my friends to try it, because it’s so much fun, and it’s a great outlet for creativity,” he says.
All three agree that performing with HKYAF has given them invaluable memories, and friendships, and has helped and mature as individuals. For Chin-ho, it has also helped him decide what he wants to study at university.
“HKYAF has opened my eyes to many aspects of performance,” he says. “Working in different productions has made me realise I would like to study acting rather than musical theatre, because as much as I love musicals, I feel much more at home when I act.”
But this has been challenging, and Chin-ho has had to prove himself to his parents.
“It took me a while to convince my dad that I want to pursue the arts as a career,” says Chin-ho. “But I dragged him to all of my shows, and it really opened his eyes to the beauty of performance. Now he’s letting me study abroad at my dream school!”
“I think young boys – especially at this age – are afraid to express themselves,” says Nicolas. “If you don’t try it, you won’t know if you’ll like it. Never be afraid to try something new.”