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Being a man in 2020 | Illustrations by Lehel Kovács

Cracked, idealized antique sculpture – a poignant depiction of the process that the masculine (self)image, which has been untouchable for a long time, is going through today. Lehel Kovács created the drawing for the article series of The Guardian released on the topictogether with two other illustrations. 

These antique sculptures may be beautiful and awe-inspiring, yet they have ruined something for decades… It’s hard to disregard them, even today, in the 21st century. They confuse us: while gender roles are changing, and with them, male roles, should we still adhere to them? Are real men only those who are unwavering and solid like a statue? The article series of The Guardian discussed questions like this and others in the past month, while Lehel Kovács provided vivid illustrations to the stories. 

Lehel has been working a freelance illustrator since 2007, and is specialized on media illustrations within the field. Guardian art director Bruno Howards first contacted him in 2007, and the British paper has been a regular client of his ever since. After a little break, they contacted him with another project: they ordered three illustrations to accompany the stories discussing the issue of modern masculinity.

“From different angles, but fundamentally all articles aimed to outline what it means to be a man in 2020. The first main drawing – the one with the statue – was made for an editorial summary, the second for the piece on the author’s quest for a self-image, while in the third illustrated article a female journalist shared her experiences after visiting a modern factory manufacturing sex dolls. The image of the cracked statue came quite naturally for the opening illustration, so this idea was quick to conceive.”

We asked Lehel what thoughts popped into his mind while working on the project, that is, what he thinks it means to be a man in 2020. 

“This is an extremely complex and complicated matter, but in brief all articles were about dismantling the stereotypes surrounding men and masculinity. Gender roles are changing, and thus many men can feel that there are even more expectations on their shoulders: it seems they have to meet many requirements at the same time. Now their roles not only include being the breadwinners of the family, they have to contribute to the household, raising children and they also have to have sufficient emotional intelligence and self-awareness. The latter can be a great help, too, at the same time, as by acknowledging our feelings, we can talk about our weaknesses and fears honestly.  This way we no longer have to play the perfect macho – who fixes everything, never gets tired or moved – all the time, which will also improve the quality of our relationships.

I think it’s a huge task to realize this and to call the attention to its importance, because many men and people live with the »old, petrified« male image – pertaining to both external and internal qualities –, which has an extremely harmful impact on self-esteem, personal development and relationships.

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