By Reese Ravner
For a long time, Martin Nuñez-Bonilla, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’18, felt stuck. His time at Fordham has increased his passion for supporting women’s rights, but as a man, he struggled with how to best fit himself into the movement without overthrowing women’s voices.
His solution to this predicament was to turn to an often-overlooked aspect of the feminist conversation: toxic masculinity. To work at combatting this issue, he created “Men Cry,” a YouTube series in which he interviews men about their experiences with masculinity and emotional suppression in a society that frowns on male emotional vulnerability.
The idea for the project spurred from watching “The Mask You Live In” (2015), a documentary by the Representation Project that highlights the roots and unhealthy manifestations of toxic masculinity.
Given his self-education about toxic masculinity, Nuñez-Bonilla began watching the film under the assumption that he would not learn anything new. “I grew up around a lot of women … I never felt like I was a very masculine dude, at least in the traditional sense,” he explained. While watching the film, he was surprised by how uncomfortable he felt.
“I felt weird in my own skin for a little bit and I felt weird being a part of that masculine culture. I had this moment where I was like ‘wow, I’m really not as emotionally evolved as I think I am.’”
Nuñez-Bonilla leaned into that discomfort. As a Communication and Media Studies and Visual Art (concentration in Film/Video) double-major, he decided to use his video and photography skills to “produce something positive” that would contribute to and guide the conversation.
“One of the things that I’m guilty of, that a lot of guys are guilty of, is saying ‘I support women’s rights’ but don’t really do anything about it,” Nuñez-Bonilla said. “They don’t call out other men, they don’t contribute. And I’m guilty of it as well, so that’s one of the things I was beating myself up over. Rightfully so, right? Because I feel like you have to figure out how you fit into making the world a better place.”
According to Nuñez-Bonilla, the process has been relatively fluid. He began with social media, posting a few statuses inquiring if any men would be interested in letting him film them talking about their emotions. Originally, he asked if anyone would be willing to come in and cry, but “then realized that that’s really unrealistic because men can’t even come talk about their childhood,” especially in front of a camera. The response he received surprised him—a lot of men were interested, “which was kind of a beautiful thing.”
Throughout 15 days of filming, which he began over winter break, he had to overcome the empathy he felt for his subjects’ stories. By conducting four or five interviews per day, with the men discussing intense and intimate topics such as losing parents or friends, it was a challenge to carry those out and avoid getting depressed. In terms of editing and uploading the series, the process has been “fairly painless.”
So far, the response has been largely positive and supportive. Friends, family and strangers alike have shared the videos, and Nuñez-Bonilla is pleased with the amount of people reaching out to him and saying “Hey, I needed this.”
Nuñez-Bonilla hopes that the series will serve as “a space for guys to express themselves,” as well as encourage men and young boys to embrace emotional expression and honesty. He revealed, “I don’t want my 10-year-old brother to feel like he can’t cry, to feel like he can’t be emotional because that’s the culture.”
“So, you know, it’s kind of for that, it’s kind of for the kids, it’s for the men to have this space, and it’s for, I don’t know, just the general betterment of society hopefully. That’s the goal.”
As of now, Nuñez-Bonilla has released four videos, each one alternating between interviews with three or four different men. The videos can be found on the Men Cry YouTube channel and are released every Monday at 8 p.m.