It’s a hot July Sunday in Beirut. The air con is working, the fridge is stocked, and the Monster Cat is happy to have me around. I have no desire to buy anything, interact with anyone or inhale any pollution. So I’ve designated today Brain Day: a day of intellectual stimulation, pursuit of enlightenment, and quiet fun.
Inspired by the idiosyncratic illustration professor in the film, I decided to set myself an illustration challenge for Brain Day.
To the bookshelf!
A random book…
I chose this book with my eyes closed. Thank you chance, for leading me to the grimmest and most violent book I’ve ever read.
A random page…
Page 136, as it happens. It’s about a transvestite asserting her strength over a chauvinist gang leader, if I’m not mistaken.
A random sentence…
IM MORE OF A MAN THAN YOU. Not completely random, I confess – it’s the most eyecatching sentence on the page.
So, to the illustration challenge. The blank page glared.
What makes a man?
‘IM MORE OF A MAN THAN YOU’ – it’s a comparison, a confrontation. A competition. Manlier than thou. What gives men power?
I remember once a (weedy) ex boyfriend of mine on the London Underground took a dislike to a burly guy sitting opposite us, who was making eyes at me. My dude got up and started doing pullups using the passenger handrail. I’d never seen him do a pullup in my life – and it showed. The rival, estimating he could probably beat a man who could only do two pullups, squared up to him anyway. Thankfully our stop came, and I bundled my cumbersome boyfriend off the train – less of a man than when he embarked.
So strength, physical or otherwise, could be an attribute of being ‘man’. I sketched a few pictures of weedy bodybuilders, un-manly boxer shorts, and a fat man watching a boxing match on television. The results are too embarrassingly poor to post here.
Exploring the idea of competition, it seems to me that parallel peeing must be a place where manhood particularly matters. And whatever they may say, I can’t believe that guys don’t look.
I’m not really sure what a urinal looks like. I don’t use them. But I know they aren’t very beautiful. I considered adding some graffiti: ‘IM MORE OF A MAN THAN YOU’ scrawled on the wall, perhaps a pool of blood on the tiles…
But I didn’t want to spend my afternoon ‘in’ a urinal. Hm. What else gives a man a boost in competition?
Using tools gave mankind the edge. And a weapon is the ultimate tool in a competition. A weak man feels strong when he holds a gun.
Besides, guns have a frightening beauty. They are status symbols – and, in some places, fashion items. They triggered (haha) some debate in the US recently after this article in the New York Times profiled new gun fashion wear, for concealing your piece.
Guns are the kind of thing that someone, feeling the need to shout ‘IM MORE OF A MAN THAN YOU’ might pull out to prove their point.
I felt I too should know how to ‘draw’ a gun.
So that’s what I drew:
This is a Smith & Wesson Enhanced Stock Service Revolver (Model 686 SSR). According to a product website, it is ‘ready for any course of fire’. It is ‘engineered as a competition-ready revolver right out of the box… custom built with the standard features professionals need.’
Lovely. Now all we need is some writing, and here’s the finished illustration.
I know – it’s a cliche. Guns don’t really equal manhood. And a revolver? So 19th century. Round these parts, people prefer an automatic weapon.