Posts Tagged ‘machismo’

 
Freud might have a field day with this ‘Man Extreme’  ad. The (phallic?) snake, eagle and lion are asking to be interpreted more than I have time for here. And anyway I am a bit preoccupied with the name of this gentle perfume: Man Extreme is a bit, well, extreme for something so fragrant. It’s ok, fellas, you can smell like lavender and patchouli if you want. That doesn’t make you a girl. Or does it?
 
Metrosexuality seems to be so blatant, so ‘out’, so obviously ‘feminine’ in many ways – those tits! those legs! that make up! that hair! – that it is no wonder many men, whatever their sexual identity, are a little bit anxious about giving in to something that seriously puts their ‘traditional masculinity’ into question. Before we blame straight men for this macho reaction to the explosion of men’s beautiful self-love, let’s not forget that the ‘gay beard’ craze is just as uptight and macho as any heterosexual expression of ‘manly’ anxiety. Remember 2011’s popular beardy ‘gay movie’ Weekend? And don’t get me started on GayBros – ‘straight acting’ gays who make the 70s Clones look positively forward thinking!
 
weekend
 
Then there’s Ballet Boyz. On one hand, this bunch of pirouetting peacocks remind us how comfortable young men are these days with a) showing off their bodies, b) embracing their ‘feminine’ side, and c) showing off their bodies.
 
 
On the other hand, there’s some familiar ‘disavowal’ of full on feminine flamboyance going on.  There’s the obvious ‘manly strap on’ in the name – Ballet BOYZ, with an added hard man hip hop flavour. And there’s the slightly ‘laddish’ (No Homo) atmosphere of an all-men dance company, run by two men, that enables a (bearded!) Guardian journalist to say:
 
“[the company] doesn’t do ballet. Instead, it does 21st-century choreography with a muscular and occasionally dangerous edge.”
 
Phew!  that’s ok then!
 
It is within this rather ‘backs to the wall’  21st century context of pretty boy, pretty insecure masculinity that Dove for Men have launched a new shampoo. And in which a Brazilian ad for their metrotastic hair care product has caused heads to turn.
 
 
Dove has traditionally described itself as being For Women. So when they launched their Dove Men cosmetics and toiletries range they needed to set it apart from the girls’ stuff.  And they’ve come up with quite an ingenious way of doing so. Judging by the reactions on twitter and elsewhere, this ad is a hit. But why? The advert involves an office worker who is plagued by long luscious locks, a la Pantene for women, and is only rescued by a colleague telling him how Dove for Men can restore his masculinity. Critics have called it ‘confused‘, as it veers between taking the piss out of men wearing ‘feminine’ cosmetics and celebrating (and of course selling) that very idea. But I think the cleverness of this commercial lies in its willingness to embrace the confusion that many men experience when buying into consumerism and narcissism, but also worrying about whether or not they are ‘still a man’. So the machismo that Dove are obviously espousing and exploiting is also subtly put into question and sent up.  Does shampoo really make your hair grow long and shiny? Of course not. As this tweet shows, the silliness of the premise is part of the ad’s success:
 
And making a man enact the exaggerated, posing, overly ‘coquettish’ movements of a woman in a shampoo ad, a subtle but not-missed message is put across about how ridiculous and unrealistic this version of OTT femininity is, and how gendered marketing for the same products is kind of lame in 2013. But for many men (and maybe women too) watching, whilst they are laughing at the joke, they are also reassured by it. Dove for men is a real brand, selling real shampoo to ‘real men’.
 
nivea
 
You’d think that maybe one group of people who are not convinced by these manly marketing strategies would be the ‘beauty bloggers’ and ‘male grooming’ bloggers who see these gimmicks day in and day out. But  the fact that consumer experts such as Grooming Guru are, despite a few misgivings, convinced by products labelled as ‘For Men’ shows how metrosexuality is still  somehow threatening, even to the most enthusiastic metrosexual men. GG says:
 

‘I’ve personally always found the ‘man’ prefix superfluous and silly (though I still think the “For Men” tag has value for brands like Nivea, Clinique and L’Oreal who need to differentiate their men’s lines (often reformulated to suit men’s skin and its unique needs) from women’s. So come on guys, don’t spoil your perfectly good products with thoroughly daft names okay?’

Pushing products ‘for men’ may of course in one sense be a wheeze to make more money – it creates two markets where once there was one – but I don’t think this is the whole story of Dove for Men, Or Man Extreme, or Ballet Boyz. Because the ‘market’ of men’s vanity and self-love (not to mention dance) has been growing and going strong for a long time now. I don’t think anything, not even – gasp! – gender neutral packaging would stop the tide of metrosexual consumerism.  But while that phenomenon is here, it may as well also do the job of soothing men’s troubled, but oh so moisturised brows, about their anxiety over what it means to be a ‘man’ in the modern age. Going back to Freud, I think that in the early part of the 20th century, he was exploring how the gender binary is a form of ‘neurosis’. Now, in the 21st century, I would like us to admit that as long as we split people into this arbitrary division between ‘men’ and ‘women’ and try and flatten out human complexity and the many many ways of expressing our identities, we will be stuck with silly, complicated but ultimately macho ads like the Dove for Men one.

The gender binary, unfortunately, seems to be a winning formula. But I’m not buying.

This is a poem by Mervyn Morris, I think it speaks for itself.

http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/singlePoem.do?poemId=14632

Casanova

Flaunting his gym-toned pectorals,

washboard stomach,

fashion- conscious locks,

he worked the image of philanderer,

every woman’s fantasy or threat.

But something tremulous inside

his gravelly baritone exposed

a small boy quivering in the dark,

his mother dead, his father gone away,

groping for explanations.

——————-

I have found myself returning again and again to the question of how machismo relates to metrosexual masculinity? I don’t know if I can answer it. But the above poem is definitely as good an attempt as any.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2011/aug/26/jesus-macho-makeover

The Guardian reports on a ‘very muscular brand of Christianity’ and tells us that Jesus has had a ‘macho makeover’.

‘When you hear the name Jesus, is the first image that comes to mind a dewy-eyed pretty boy with flowing locks? If so, think again. After 2,000 years, the Messiah is getting a makeover. This time he’s less “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” and more of a kick-ass action hero – a Chuck Norris in sandals.’

But as usual, The Guardian misses the point when it comes to masculinity- this is not a macho makeover at all for The Messiah, it is a metrosexual makeover. And Jesus is looking prettier than ever. With flowing locks and dewy eyes, and the compulsory manly beard.

‘It’s artist Stephen Sawyer, whose paintings of the Son of God as a tattooed biker and boxer have captured the imagination of Christian men searching for a more manly role model. As Kentucky-based Sawyer, 58, points out: “I scarcely think Jesus could have overturned the tables of the money-lenders and driven them from the temple if he was a wimp. The model I use for my paintings is a surfer guy who’s built like a brick shithouse.’

Yes dear, and are not surfers as self-regarding and image conscious as any man? I find it funny that people who believe in something as metaphysical as God, suddenly need to make images of his Son ‘realistic’. This dude walked on water and turned water into wine and cured the sick and the disabled. I don’t think he needed a six pack to do all that did he? The change to the images of Jesus are cosmetic. Like the changes to masculinity in general.

But the new buff, tatooed pretty boy Jesus seems to be trying, like The Church itself, to be a vision of retrosexual ‘muscular’ masculinity. As  MS wrote, in relation to a very macho, very whiny, very homophobic pastor in America:

‘I’m grateful to Mr Anderson and his Xstian fundamentals for making it quite clear where much of America’s problem with metrosexuality and the ‘gender neutral movement’ as he calls it (fingers interlocking, intimating the horror of a world of mutuality) comes from.

God hates metros.’

So the worrying thing for me, is that this new-look Jesus is just another re-incarnation of that now familiar trope – ‘macho’ metrosexual denial. And that it is not just an American disease but is spreading to the UK. As The Guardian notes (or rather doesn’t), this metro-anxiety is illustrated by

‘the rising number of conferences and sermons aimed at men that present a more muscular version of Jesus, along with the continuing success of Christian lad’s mag Sorted.’

Real Men Love Jesus.

The Guardian have presented this story as comical. And I can see the funny side. But it is an example of what I consider to be a serious problem in contemporary culture- the association of ‘manliness’ with ‘goodness’. And the ridiculous contortions men get into to prove that association, whilst still maintaining a religious devotion to their metro skincare and grooming routines.

I quite liked this comment though, from below the line on the Guardian piece:

‘Wow Jesus Christ……is hot!!

I think i’ve been re-born…’

h/t @FennerPearson – REACH OUT AND TOUCH ME!


When I saw a very similar shot of these three US Marines, celebrating Osama Bin Laden’s death, in the Sunday Times newspaper, I thought it was a scene from a Gay Musical on (or off) Broadway. But no, it is just another scene in America’s Big Gay Musical of Machismo.
Mark Simpson, who has written astutely on the arch campness of America’s macho culture, including the military,  and relatedly but in a slightly different vein on the homo-erotics of America’s military, said:
‘There’s no doubt that the most profound impact of 9-11 in the US was on American machismo. The Hyperpower humiliated. The ‘Twin Towers’ emasculated. The Pentagon ‘ring’ penetrated.
That’s part of the reason why Bush described the suicide pilots as ‘cowards’. Or in some accounts ‘gay’. Why US servicemen scrawled ‘take this faggots’ on bombs dropped on the Taliban. And why there was an attempt – so obviously bogus – to portray Bin Laden as ‘cowering’ behind his wife’

Our favourite Renaissance Fag has come up with a brand new project: to out America’s inner fag.  Mr Simpson has captured my imagination once more with this delightful idea:

‘Fear of The Fag Within still dominates most American media discourse about masculinity.  It’s what prompted the backlash against metrosexuality in the mid-Noughties, around the time America realised the sexual ambivalence inherent in it – and its queer provenance.  It’s why for the last few years the word ‘man’ and ‘he’ has been strapped on to anything that without them might look a bit… faggy.  Or not phallic enough.  Manbags.  Manscara.  Mandates.  As a way of saying, yes it’s a trend, men’s behaviours are changing and that’s why it’s newsworthy – but don’t worry!  Men are still MEN!  And this isn’t about a niche! It’s about NORMAL GUYS!!’

‘So here’s a red-blooded idea.  From now on, whenever you hear ‘man’ or ‘he’ strapped onto the front of something in a desperate attempt to try and butch it up and banish the inner sissy, just replace it with ‘fag’.

Fagbags.  Fagscara.  Fagvans.  Fagliner.  Fagdate.  Fagmance.  Fagfood.  Fagly fag.  Faggans.

You know it makes sense.

It’s a fun game, but you’ll also be doing everyone a huge favour by outing The Fag Within and letting him swish around giddily to his heart’s content.  Getting it over and done with so we can talk about other stuff, instead of fixating over not mentioning this fucking boring pink elephant in the room.

And who knows?  It might even finally make a man out America’.

Mark has promised a ‘fagbag’ of fagly goodies to the winner of this fagtastic game. But early entries are pretty impressive so you will have to come up with something of Action Fag quality if you want a chance of winning.

e.g.

‘I love you fag’

‘Best fag’

‘It’s a fag thing’

‘The fag code’

‘Neanderthal Fag’

‘One small step for fag-but one giant leap for fagkind’

Mark missed this amazing  snickers advert though: ‘Quick! Do something manly!’

Following my announcement to the world that Dan Savage Is Annoying :

http://quietgirlriot.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/savage-heart/

I have one more thing to add. Dan Savage Is Really Annoying

After his outburst at Garrison Keillor for his comments on The Gays,  Garrison was bullied into an apology and Savage responded to it with these immortal lines:

‘Excuse me… what? I’m pretty familiar with gay people, seeing as how gay people have been sucking my cock for close to 25 years now. But somehow I didn’t get it—and neither did Andrew Sullivan, John Aravosis, or Andy over at Towleroad. It wasn’t a lack of familiarity with the gays that lead to those angry responses, Garrison’…

Let me reiterate Dan’s point. Gay people have been sucking Dan Savage’s cock for nigh on a quarter of a century, but it is important to note that in all that time, Dan has not been sucking gay people’s cocks. Because he is not a cock-sucker.  Dan Savage may be  professionally Gay, and very well-connected to some important, professionally Gay friends.  But he’s not gay. Get it, bitches?

And I am not going to say another word about Dan Savage’s cock. Ever.

P.S. If you read this Dan, maybe you could try and seek some Advice from a fellow ‘sexpert’, who writes:

‘The one thing that absolutely bugs me in the gay world isn’t a question of “Are you a top or a bottom?” it’s “How masculine are you?” I don’t believe in identifying yourself through a sexual position…when gay people make a distinction between top and bottom, what they are really making a distinction between is men and women, and they have absorbed the societal prejudice that men are strong/women are weak. From an intellectual standpoint, I rebel against it’.

And so do I.

P.P.S. I am going to put this bitch fest against poor Mr Savage in context, very soon. Machismo and fundamentalism are two things which get my goat the most. And Savage and friends encapsulate both quite alarmingly.

P.P.P.S My question, posed a while ago, still stands. Is it physiologically possible, in the world of Middle Class Enlightened Gays, to be a ‘bottom’, and an intellectual, a writer, a leader?  I don’t ask this question to point the finger at gay men in particular, but to try and understand more about gender, sex and power. For deep, deep down, I still have some feminist blood pumping round my queer heart.