Grayson Perry on the Rise and Fall of Default Man – Audio Long Reads

In 2014, Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry guest edited the new statesman on the theme of the “Great White Male”. Perry, who is known for his subversive ceramics and tapestries as well as his transvestite alter-ego Claire, wanted to explore issues of gender, masculinity, Britishness, class and the hold that white male power still exerts on culture. and UK politics. . In his signature essay for the issue, he referred to this strength as “the default man.”

Men by default are middle-class, heterosexual, and generally middle-aged: they are a tiny global minority but, with “their colorful textile phalluses around their necks,” Perry writes, “they constitute an overwhelming majority in government, in meeting rooms and also in the media.By closely examining Default Man’s tribe – clothes, behavior, identity – he discovers that, although they pass themselves off as “normal”, they are in fact deeply strange and strange. , sometimes disastrous for society.

Perry argues that Default Man’s dominance was weakening – and this has been confirmed in the years since the article was first published by developments in the British establishment: the percentage of women MPs, for example, is increased from 24% to 34%. percent. In September 2022, Liz Truss’ cabinet became the first to have no white men serving in any of the four major state offices. But in the same period, figures such as Jordan Peterson popularized the idea that masculinity is “under attack” and needs to be reaffirmed. The “global human rights movement” has amplified this message.

Against this backdrop, Grayson Perry’s advice to Default Man — to relax, let go of his macho baggage, and allow his grip on power to loosen — seems more prescient than ever.

Written by Grayson Perry and read by Tom Gatti.

This article originally appeared on on October 8, 2014 and in the magazine’s October 10 issue. You can read the text version here.

If you enjoyed it, you might want to listen to “How to Grow Old in America” ​​by Geoff Dyer.

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