The Weight of Masculinity

This project was one of my favorites to work on. To give you a brief summary, using White Ribbon as the client, this campaign was designed to challenge men over the ages of 18 to carry around weighted backpacks during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, becoming aware of the impact stereotypes and toxic masculinity has not only on men themselves but also everyone around them.

Now let's dive deeper into this... 
Image by Estée Janssens
The Task

For this project we were asked to create our own brief. A detailed and thoughtful creative brief with a final product that focused on Diversity, Inclusion or Accessibility, in order to make an impact. I chose to tap into inclusion by highlighting the effect stereotypes and toxic masculinity has on men in order to promote change.


How did we get here? Well, it all started with one video shown at the 2019 Cannes Lions titled ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ by White Ribbon. Fast-forward to 2021 and while thinking of ideas of what organization I want to use for this project, the impact of this video came knocking back. Now we had a client, White Ribbon, a not-for-profit organization which aims to challenge and support men and boys in realizing their potential to be part of the solution in ending all forms of gender-based violence.

Originally this campaigned was titled ‘Real Men’ which aimed to use ads in order to break down male stereotypes that contribute to toxic masculinity. The Artist is Present also inspired the idea of creating an event in which men could gather together to talked about the baggage that comes with dealing with these stereotypes and providing them with helpful resources at that event. From here the idea evolved into taking a closer look on how stereotypes and toxic masculinity weigh down men, and how it affects them and those around them. This campaign then would aim to raise awareness of these types of issues, and help men realize the harm society’s stereotypes has on them and in turn the amount of weight they carry throughout the life as a consequence of them.

The Idea

In order to bring more awareness to the issues of stereotypes and toxic masculinity and how it affects men in their everyday lives, they would be challenge to carry a physical representation of that weight, in the form of a backpack, during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence. This campaign would then be executed in different stages.

  • Stage One would introduce the campaign to the public, generating curiosity and signing up volunteers.

  • Stage Two would see the challenge being executed, with a final event in which men would get rid of their weighted bags.

  •  Stage Three would then keep the conversation going after the completion of the challenge.

Stage 1

As mentioned before stage one would act as an introduction to the campaign itself. The idea is to release a video (above) which highlight common stereotypes and ends with a call to action asking ‘Would you bear the weight of masculinity?’ and visiting our site to sing up for the challenge. We would also try using similar post on social media to keep raising awareness for it. This would start circulating a couple months before stage two begins in November.

Stage 2

Stage two will begin with shipping out the packages to participants. These packages include, a weighted backpack, a booklet with different stereotype for each of the 16 days, and extra weights which correlates to the stereotypes which participants can add to the backpack for an extra challenge. The participants are then asked to wear the backpack everyday throughout the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence starting from November 25 to December 10. They are then encouraged to videotape their journey or share posts about it using #weightofmasculinity on social media. At the end of the 16 days, they are all asked to gather at Dundas Square to join fellow participants as they walk across a stage and throw away their weighted backpacks into a bin located at the end of the stage. During this event there will also be other booths from our partners: camh and the Canadian Mental Health Association, which will provide patricians with mental health services, and other ways of getting involved.

For the participants that cannot make it to the Dundas Square event, we have set up drop off points in their cities or available ways to send the backpack back. They are also encouraged to record or post a picture of themselves completing the challenge even from far away.

Stage 3

The last stage would see the collection of everyone who shared their journey using the #weightofmasculinity and putting them all together in a video which will be shared to social media and news outlets to have the world see the success of the challenge. From there we will also ask people to share their stories about how stereotypes and toxic masculinity have affected their everyday lives and encourage them to become part of the movement for change.

You've made it till the end!