Become more conscious of the rules you live by, and feel free to change them.

Become more conscious of the rules you live by, and feel free to change them.


For the second in our series of blogs for Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, we go back to 2014. It was a big year for us. We had reformatted our calendar and changed our name to Warwick Rowers. We had set up the registered charity Sport Allies to build on our message, and adopted shared new colours of purple and silver for both projects.   

Having a bigger canvas and a renewed sense of purpose inspired us to begin paint shots with these two great colours – but the choice was not just an aesthetic one!  Silver is often associated with healing and balance, and purple has become the recognised colour of challenging homophobia and transphobia.  It seemed like a good start to promoting healthier masculinity. 

In the first chapter of our book, Manifesto, we used images from this shoot to make an important point about male mental health: men must consciously consider their identity as men.   Are they truly being themselves or are they struggling to live up to outdated rules of masculinity that have been imposed upon them by their parents, their schools, their peers and by the media culture in which we are all immersed?

We had already seen how these rules had been applied to the men in the WR project.  In particular, our project’s stance against homophobia led some people to assume that all the men in the images must be LGBT+.   Why, after all, would a straight man take his clothes off to challenge homophobia? 

Our response was to ask:  why wouldn’t he?   We felt it was important to challenge these narrow assumptions about who men could be, and when we looked back at our 2014 paint shoot, we realised it was very much about our relationship to rules.   

Our inspiration for this shoot came from Jackson Pollock, the American artist who rose to fame in the mid twentieth century.  Pollock’s abstract expressionist school of painting replaced conventional brushwork with frenetic splashing and pouring of paint.  For us, it is important that Jackson Pollock didn’t start in a void.  He looked at the rules, thought about them, worked with them, understood them, and then broke them.   

There are so many rules of masculinity that limit men, like: don’t show emotion; never make yourself vulnerable; always put practicality ahead of joy – and many, many more! 

We invite all men to become more conscious of the rules they live by, and then feel free to create new ones. 

That’s the first of our ‘new principles for healthier masculinity’ and it sets the course for the rest of this week, when we will be bringing you further thoughts we’ve had as a project about what some more of those new principles might be.

WR20 ‘Manifesto’ : Open Edition Coffee Table Book


For more information on better mental health: