Voices of the Clarion: Brainwashed by 'bod'

Products try to tell men what's outside counts most

Posted: Sunday, September 04, 2005

Is the definition of what it means to be male changing, and if so, is it changing for the better? I'm starting to believe the answer to that question is "yes" to the first part and "not entirely sure" to the second part.

Don't get me wrong. I think it's great when men can be open-minded, caring and nurturing — particularly in regard to their families.

However, I don't believe masculinity is a bad thing, either, and I believe society should be more accepting of men who do embrace their masculine side and not paint them as Neandertal's for choosing not to partake in the bevy of beauty products now on the market targeted specifically to those with a "Y" chromosome.

To explain this better, let me preface with what it meant to be a man when I was growing up.

As a boy I wanted to grow up to be like Captain Kirk, Indiana Jones, Han Solo, Rocky Balboa or the Terminator.

I believed all men should be like the ones I knew growing up — tough, stoic individuals with foul mouths, big arms, barrel chests, stubbly beards and hands thick and tough like the hooves of a wild animal.

They never talked about their feelings, nor did they take medication or go to the hospital unless they needed a broken bone set or a torn appendage sewn back on.

Men washed at the end of the day to clean off the soot from back-breaking, blue-collar jobs that didn't pay enough. The sole products of this hygiene event consisted of a bar of the cheapest soap and least-expensive shampoo available.

The whole s---, shower and shaving process took about 10 minutes, with nine of those devoted to the first of the three activities. Tree sap was the closest thing to hair gel or any other beauty product that ever touched their scalps or bodies.

Now enter the new man, the "metrosexual" as he has been dubbed since around the late '90s. He's soft on the inside and out, self indulgent, narcissistic and when he's not watching his weight, he's got an eye for fashion, jewelry and beauty products.

He wears pink shirts, tweezes his eyebrows, tans, washes with a loofah and could literally shop 'til he drops, but despite all this and how much he loves watching "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" he's not homosexual.

It's easy to understand how the metrosexual's sexuality could be confusing, though, at least based on the messages transmitted on some of the products they use.

Take, for instance, a major brand (which shall go nameless to protect the innocent) of "bod wash" in "really ripped abs" formula with its phallic-shaped bottle and homoerotic picture of a half-nude man bathing on the back.

It's easy to assume this product is solicited specifically to homosexuals, at least for a "grunginator" — the term marketing execs use to label men who resist personal care items and are "difficult to convert to customers."

Now most have learned not to judge a book by its cover, but in reading the product description on the back, the ambiguity continues.

"They'll want your bod!" is what it reads, but who is they? Women? Men? Barnyard animals? We have no idea.

As if the superfluous product wasn't enough by itself, the back of the bottle also advertises a "really ripped abs fragrance body spray" for that "24-hour fragrance experience."

Now don't get me wrong — just because I look like a guy who's seen one too many four-wheel drive commercials, I listen to Johnny Cash, have lived without running water for years and have a perpetual habit of tracking dog doo into work — I'm not against being clean.

Also, I'm not against homosexuality. I've always felt that other people's sexual persuasion is their business and no one else's. I'm also not against feminism or men "getting in touch with their feminine side" as part of a modern realignment of gender roles.

However, the advertising companies that push these metrosexual products would love for us all to believe that masculine men are all sexists, racists and homophobes. Although there are a few bad apples that broadcast these beliefs to overcompensate for their own sexual insecurities, by and large they don't represent all masculine men.

What I do believe is that the whole metrosexual persona and all the related products are bunk. They're part of a materialist culture that tries to sell us not just products, but values, concepts of self worth, sexuality, popularity and what is "normal" by their definition.

They try to teach us not who we are, but who we should be. This has created undue pressure on women for years that has manifested in a myriad of psychological and physical problems such as depression, bulimia and anorexia, just to name a few.

Will we start to see more occurrences of these same conditions developing in men as they become equally targeted by advertising?

If the answer to the question is to be no, men — as with women — should start to resist falling victim to the message that what's on the outside is more important than what's on the inside, because anything less is just an ugly way to live.

Joseph Robertia is a reporter for the Clarion.



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