What Do Men Want? #2

Posted: February 24, 2012 in Masculinities, metrosexuality, Metrosexy, Uncategorized


Lately I have noticed the Daily Mail becoming a bit more pro-metrosexual than in previous years, and MUCH less metro-phobic than most other papers including the ‘liberal’ broadsheet, The Guardian.

So I was not surprised to read an upbeat DM article this week, about how men are changing and becoming ‘softer’ and more open about their feelings, and their moisturising routines.

The headline of the piece reads:

‘Crying over films, cuddling on the sofa and enjoying bubble baths….It’s the end of the macho man era (and most women prefer it that way)’.

It is illustrated with this fetching photo of a man blowing bubbles in the bath.

The caption underneath the pic reads:

‘Rise and rise of the metrosexual: Men like to soak in the tub as much as women do’

On one hand I am delighted to see the world’s most popular online publication even mention the ‘m’ word, and in a not-negative way, too. The ‘rise and rise’ of the metrosexual is so unstoppable that even ‘macho’ papers such as the Mail cannot ignore it. And, unlike the snobby Graun, the Daily Mail is actually interested in popular culture and sports culture, so it has been unable to turn a blind eye to the increasing tartiness of men sports and TV stars.

The article goes on to say:

‘The modern man is a big softy who cries over films, likes cuddling on the sofa and enjoys a bubble bath, according to a study.

‘The research provided by Häagen-Dazs revealed that millions of men listen to soppy love songs, become choked up if someone gets booted off X Factor and enjoy watching the latest rom-com.”

Now I can’t help but feel that despite showing early promise, the DM is actually putting down men here.

This is confirmed by the next sentence:

‘But while 77 percent of women are in favour of the change, nearly a quarter complained there are times they wish their other half would ‘man-up’.’

As I have written before:

‘at the Good Men Project we discussed whether or not metrosexuality does indeed include men becoming more able to show emotion. I agreed that along with narcissism and body consciousness, men these days are changing and expectations on them are changing. BUT this doesn’t mean that being ‘metrosexual’ means being ‘soft’. There are still plenty of perfectly turned out metrosexual men who are as repressed and determined to be seen to be ‘tough’ as their fathers and grandfathers were. And those who show some emotion are not necessarily ‘weak’ in any way at all, let alone ‘mincing’!

The Mail article seems to be suggesting that as soon as a man applies moisturiser he is in danger of bursting out crying.

I am also not happy that the article seems to be supporting the theories of Eric Anderson about how masculinity is ‘softening’ these days. I think it is quite a lame-ass way of looking at masculinity as if it was ever really ‘hard’ in the first place. As Mark Simpson has shown us time and time again, the more macho men are, the more determined they are to show they are ‘hard’, the more camp they become.

Then the article loses all my respect. It states:

‘The survey of 1,000 women found that more than three quarters appreciate how in touch with their feelings the men in their lives are and women are in agreement that the demise of the old-fashioned ‘blokey bloke’ was a good thing – with nine in ten always opting for a big softie over a tough guy.’

SO an article about MEN and their habits and behaviours is based on research which only interviewed WOMEN! This is exactly the same as a survey that Simpson reported on, about men and facial hair. As Simpson said, apart from denying men a voice about their own lives, it is very heteronormative. Because it assumes men and women are in relationships to even know each other’s moisturising habits. What about single men? Gay men?

It is possible and tempting to look at this total erasure of men’s voices and men’s perspectives as a conspiracy by feminist academics and female columnists  against men. The author of this article is called ‘Maysa’ which I think is a woman’s name.

But I think that is misleading and unhelpful. It just reverses feminists’ version of a ‘patriarchal’ society where men dominate women. The reality is of course more complex. Traditionally men have been very reticent about talking  about their bodies and their emotions. Whilst this is changing, as the survey does show despite its major faults, the ‘discourse’ is slow to catch up. Media outlets still have ‘beauty’ columns, meaning women’s beauty, and ‘diet’ information meaning women’s diets, ‘health’ sections meaning women’s health etc.

And, as the recent misandry fest article in the Guardian by Stuart Jeffries proved, there are some pretty hostile men journalists about when it comes to men and masculinity. The men who DO write about men and masculinity positively – including whether  I agree with them or not, Eric Anderson and Mark Simpson, tend to be gay.

Their work gets marginalised for a number of reasons which I explored in my review of Simpson’s book, Male Impersonators.

And me, a woman who writes about men and masculinity, I am blcoked by Eric Anderson and his colleagues on twitter, and I am banned from even viewing ‘Metrodaddy’ s blog. If even the ‘experts’ can’t work together or even acknowledge each other’s work on this subject, it is no wonder the feminist orthodoxy and the Daily Mail machismo has its way.

So what gives?

  1. redpesto says:

    The giveaway is clear here:

    The research provided by Häagen-Dazs revealed that millions of men listen to soppy love songs, become choked up if someone gets booted off X Factor and enjoy watching the latest rom-com.”

    The cliché of the woman curled up on the sofa with a tub of expensive ice cream and a DVD of Dirty Dancing leads all too easily to an ice cream company wanting men to either do the same thing or join their womenfolk crying over Steel Magnolias and sharing a tub of Haagen Dazs (rather than licking it off each other’s naked bodies…) – hence the churnalistic result. Remember: the Mail’s key demographic is female not male, and that the paper is perfectly capable of running some vitriolic ‘Man Up!’ article on the next page…which will be written by a woman.

    PS: Is it me or does the guy in the tub look a bit like Ed Miliband?

    • You are right of course redpesto. I meant to mention the research was carried out by Hagen Daz which is all about selling more stuff but forgot.

      He does look a bit like Ed M yes. But maybe a bit happier at the moment.

  2. Gs says:

    “I think it is quite a lame-ass way of looking at masculinity . . .” I think you and redpesto hit the nail on the head.

    It’s not lame-ass when millions of dollars in revenue are involved. Ha!

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