Hub Talks: Mask Off with JJ Bola

Mask Off
Masculinity Redefined

From Blurred Lines to gang signs, how does society cause toxic masculinity?


What is masculinity? Dominating the world around us, from Trump’s twitter outbursts to deadly gun violence, from male suicide rates to incels on Reddit and 4chan, masculinity is perceived to be ‘toxic’, ‘fragile’ and ‘in crisis’.

In Mask Off, JJ Bola exposes masculinity as a performance that men are socially conditioned into. Using examples of non-Western cultural traditions, music and sport, he shines light on historical narratives around manhood, debunking popular myths along the way. He explores how LGBTQ men, men of colour, and male refugees experience masculinity in diverse ways, revealing its fluidity, how it’s strengthened and weakened by different political contexts, such as the patriarchy or the far-right, and perceived differently by those around them.

At the heart of love and sex, the political stage, competitive sports, gang culture, and mental health issues, lies masculinity: Mask Off is an urgent call to unravel masculinity and redefine it.

JJ will be in conversation with Sham Murad.




JJ Bola is a writer, poet and educator. He is the author of the novel No Place to Call Home (2017), as well as three poetry collections. He is one of the winners of the 2017 Spread the Word Flight 1000 Associates Prize. You can follow JJ on Twitter here.


Sham Murad: Having recently graduated with a Master’s degree in Law and Bachelor’s degree in IR, Baghdad born Sham Murad currently facilitates a left-wing book club based in Birmingham. As well as this, she also teaches Arabic and English to fellow refugees at her local community centre.  Her dissertation on mass incarceration in the U.S. and neoliberal shock reforms in Iraq has gained recent traction. You can follow Sham on Twitter here.




An antidote to Jordan Peterson’ – The Guardian

‘Whatever your gender, this book will help everyone understand modern men’ – Sarah Brett, BBC Radio 5 Live

‘Holds men accountable for the ways in which we have benefited from male privilege, but also liberates us from its violently toxic demands’ – David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham

‘An uncompromising, heartfelt and completely vital interrogation of this thing we call masculinity’ – Jeffrey Boakye, author of ‘Black, Listed: Black British Culture Explored’

‘Male privilege, male violence, love, sex and mental health – there is nowhere JJ Bola refuses to go… This book is good for all of us’ – Benjamin Zephaniah

‘Incisive, engaging, powerfully vulnerable, JJ Bola has given us an urgent and compelling examination of one of society’s most pressing subjects’ – Musa Okwonga



Hub Talks at Impact Hub Birmingham have over the years been a home for rich conversation, discussion and debate on everyday issues that affect the different communities of Birmingham.

The aim of #HubTalks has been to provide a platform for authentic voices to be heard and disseminated.

From our first events in with Dorothy Koomson and Nadiya Hussain from Great British Bake Off to Angie Thomas, New York Times best selling writer and Afua Hirsch discussing the need for Brit(ish), Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené sharing Slay in Your Lane, Patrisse Khan-Cullors bringing to the fore the need for Black Live Matters, to The Good Immigrant with Birmingham Literature Festival , and award winning YA writers such as Patrick Ness and Jason Reynolds, to Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan and Priya Gopal highlighting the impact of Empire, we have been implicitly growing our reputation for convening to hear from deliberate and nuanced writers.

Our approach to programming has consistently been about quietly showing a different story – we hope to continue to share these stories. 

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Date & Time

November 11, 2019 | 18:00 to 20:00


Impact Hub Birmingham


Entry Fee

Cost for Members: Free

Cost for Non Members: £5

Updated on 30 October 2019