Masculinity, Conquest and Tulips


This week is tough, there are so many things to get angry about and I can’t help but doom scroll. I am sure you saw it too. It is filled with the murder of Asian American Women in Atlanta last Friday, the Policing Bill in the UK parliament, and Sarah Everard case from earlier this month.

I also saw the tiny news item on the missing women of Bennylyn Burke which was reported on the 1st March in Somerset, 2 days before Sarah Everard. What made my head tilt a bit whilst reading this case was that Burke’s picture shows that she might be of South East and or East Asian origin. I could not seem to find any more detail on her anywhere, so I can’t confirm. The case sounds as scary as Sarah’s case, yet it had only a fraction of the attention.

Three (arguably four) of these problematic terrible events seem to point at men as the culprit.

Just breaks my heart.

Measure of Masculinity

Then I read a beautiful piece of writing by my current favourite writer Ocean Vuong on Masculinity on Paris Review.

I was never comfortable being male—being a he—because all my life being a man was inextricable from hegemonic masculinity.

Everywhere I looked, he-ness was akin to an aggression that felt fraudulent in me—or worse, in the blue collar New England towns I grew up in, self-destructive.

Masculinity, or what we have allowed it to be in America, is often realized through violence.

Here, we celebrate our boys, who in turn celebrate one another, through the lexicon of conquest:

You killed it, buddy. Knock ‘em dead, big guy. You went into that game guns blazing. You crushed it at the talent show. It was a blow out. No, it was a massacre. My son’s a beast. He totally blew them away. He’s a lady killer. Did you bag her? Yeah, I fucked her brains out. That girl’s a grenade. I’d still bang her. I’d smash it. Let’s spit roast her. She’s the bomb. She’s blowing up. I’m dead serious.

To some extent, these are only metaphors, hyperbolic figures of speech—nothing else. But there are, to my mind, strong roots between these phrases and this country’s violent past.

From the Founding Fathers to Manifest Destiny, America’s self-identity was fashioned out of the myth of the self-made revolutionary turned explorer and founder of a new, immaculate world of possible colonization.

The avatar of the pioneer, the courageous and stoic seeker, ignores and erases the Native American genocide that made such a persona possible. The American paradox of hegemonic masculinity is also a paradox of identity.

Because American life was founded on death, it had to make death a kind of praxis, it had to celebrate it. And because death was considered progress, its metaphors soon became the very measurement of life, of the growth of boys. You fucking killed it.

Read the whole article, it is so beautiful. I do think that this self-destructive Masculinity that is often realised through violence and the tone of Conquest is not solely in the American society. I think it is everywhere and it is primitive. Here is a small example of it being everywhere from a tiny fraction of history.


This week the collage challenge was a picture of a tulip. I lived in Holland for several years, they are crazy for tulips over there. I never learnt the history of it, so I decided this week I should. It turned out that Tulip is from China from the valleys of the Tien Shan Mountains, source: Smithsonian Magazine.

It was first cultivated in Istanbul as early as 1055, seems to have been popularised by Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire before it reached Europe.

The sultan had so many flowers in his 12 gardens that he required a staff of 920 gardeners. Tulips were among the most prized flowers.

Having never been to Istanbul, of course, I had to look for any images of this garden. I couldn’t find an image for that time, instead, below is the image I found . The man himself entering Constantinople, with an army holding weapon, flags, with dead bodies strewn in front of him. The painting is by Fausto Zonaro. Sultan Mehmed II is also known as Mehmed the Conqueror.

You see what I mean, Death, Killing, and Conquest is been in society for ever and everywhere. I feel that the notion of this type of masculinity is the cause for a lot of systemic injustices. If only Mehmed II just concentrated on growing beautiful flowers instead of conquering…

As soon as that thought crossed my mind, I become sad, is there no hope, if it is everywhere? I needed to quieten my mind and anxiety so I decided to do the calming thing of making my collage. I still took inspiration from that painting.

What do you think? How are you feeling this week? Hope you have been keeping healthy and safe.

I am going to stop doom scrolling for the weekend.

Talk soon,

Jane xx

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