Mark Simpson has just released his 1994 classic, Male Impersonators: Men Performing Masculinity, on Amazon Kindle.
Apart from it being a great book, and a major contribution to the literature of gender and masculinities, Male Impersonators is important because it includes the beginnings of Simpson’s theorising of metrosexuality. It represents his ‘original contribution to knowledge’ as academics like to call it.
But Simpson’s ‘original contribution to knowledge’ has not been acknowledged by the academy, or the wider world. Metrosexuality, though in common parlance, and a major phenomenon, is not considered an aspect of masculinity worth studying, examining or identifying as a ‘discovery’ by a theorist. Possibly because Simpson is not himself an academic, and also because his concept of metrosexuality pretty well blows existing (feminist) academic gender theory apart.
So over the years, academics have basically ignored Mark Simpson and his big bulging theory of masculinity, with one or two also stealing and appropriating his ideas.
And they have been able to, because nobody has taken up his cause. Nobody, apart from maybe Science of the Time a European trendwatchers organisation, and one or two individuals and friends, has treated Simpson as a ‘theorist’ .
Until I came along. My advocacy of Simpson’s work has caused me, and him, some grief so far. And I am sure will cause some more. I am not going to examine this ‘conflict’ between me and the ‘establishment’ – be it in journalism, academia, feminism or elsewhere – here. But I am acknowledging that it exists, and that the key cause of the tension, is the radical, provocative and incendiary nature of Simpson’s work.
Marx, also radical, provocative and incendiary, famously once said: ‘I am not a Marxist’. He resisted and anticipated the dogmatism which fell under the banner of ‘Marxism’. I have never asked him, but I wonder if Simpson is nodding to that irony – of Marx rejecting ‘Marxism’ – when he calls himself in places (eg twitter), ‘Mark Simpsonist’. I expect he is also staking his claim to being a theorist, to having an ‘ism’ that could have followers, Simpsonists.
I myself have been called all sorts of names in relation to my support of Simpson’s theories. Ardent Simpsonista is probably the kindest of these monikers. ‘Fanatic’, ‘disciple’, ‘obsessive’, ‘sock puppet’, some less pleasant terms.
The fact is I am a little bit ‘obsessed’ with the concept of metrosexuality, and how important it is, and how unacknowledged and ignored it is. I think Mark Simpson is, or at least was, too. And, as a friend of mine who shall remain anonymous for now pointed out, all I am doing is what people, especially academics have been doing since well before Marx even:
‘[there are many] other people singularly focussed on the work of a particular theorist… It’s basically the stock in trade of most humanities scholars to filter the world through a particular theoretical lens… How else would we have Freudian, Derrideans, Deleuzeans, Marxists, etc.?’
I don’t want to erect a dogma of ‘Simpsonism’ or create an army of little loyal ‘Simpsonists’. But I do want to ‘spread the word’, regardless of any ‘evangelical’ accusations that may bring with it, about metrosexuality and Simpson’s contribution to theory. Perhaps I could be considered a ‘metrosexy messenger’. Look, someone already made me a bag to put my leaflets in: