They are everywhere these days! Look around and you will see increasing numbers of straight cultured men who coif, cook gourmet-style, colour coordinate their clothes and homes, cleanse and moisturize their faces, clean and exfoliate regularly, crank their bodies into lean, fit condition and clear their chests of inner conflicts at emotional counseling. Metrosexuality has been promoted in magazines such as The Face, GQ, Esquire, Arena and FHM, since the Eighties and this new media is still growing (GQ gains 10,000 new readers every month). Thumb through and you see images of gorgeous, impeccable young men sporting fashionable clothes and accessories and articles on everything from mastering the cunninglingual arts to selecting a perfect chardonnay. Other young men are invited to study the pages with adoration with envy. Even self-professed “bad-ass mother fuckers” like Samuel L. Jackson, Bernie Mac and P Diddy have no problem admitting to getting regular manicures, facials and talking about their emotions. Cowboys and NFL jocks are even crying live on Dr. Phil. To the confusion of some and consternation of others, especially many of my macho Caribbean brothers, metrosexuality has firmly taken hold. More than once, I have heard someone whining, ‘It was bad enough women had to invade the inner sanctums of men- the boardrooms and golf courses (thus robbing them of their entire identity, self-worth and life purpose) but now we are indulging in some narcissistic quest to make men just like us!”
A Masculinity Studies, Afrocentric individual I know described metrosexuality as part of the “underhanded feminisation of men.” He created picture of an elaborate web of deceit and entrapment masterminded by gays and feminists to destroy the masculine ideal. He particularly believed the “strong black man” was under siege. He pointed to shows like Queer Eye For The Straight Guy as an example. His premise is that gay people are hoping that when straight men become more sensitive and sophisticated, gender confusion will run amok, turning life-long straight men, gay. This notion as ridiculous as it sounds not just on a psychological level but in light of the increasing evidence that biological factors determine sexual orientation. As for the accusation leveled against feminists, I imagine since most militant Masculinity Students believe most feminists are actually man-hating lesbians, the next logical conclusion is that they are out to emasculate men to weaken them and root out competition. Once again, a ridiculous notion as gender and sexual behaviour studies repeatedly show that heterosexual women actually prefer a clean, sensitive, caring man over a down and dirty, macho rude bwoy when it comes to long term companionship and joint parenting.
Sexual behaviour studies repeatedly show that heterosexual women actually prefer a clean, sensitive, caring man over a down and dirty, macho rude bwoy when it comes to long term companionship and joint parenting.
That extra macho, unrefined, dominant man and rude bwoy image, is actually a fantasy or temporary fling women consider once in awhile, particularly when we are at our sexual peaks. But when our hormones settle down we want to settle down with something a little more safe and familiar. You will find a woman who ended up permanently involved with a dominant, macho bad boy that thrilled her sexually at one point, always ends up wanting to change him into more sensitive, considerate and responsible individual. This is where the relationship usually hits a Mount Everest of a speed bump. I really do not believe that metrosexuality is a plot to emasculate men hatched by homosexuals and feminists. Most of the men being metrosexualised in Queer Eye For The Straight Guy are actually doing it to please their wives and girlfriends and let me tell you, I have seen a few episodes where most needed the tips. There was a guy who did not even know how to be romantic with his fiancé until the Queer Squad showed him how. In fact I will go even further and state that I believe metrosexuality to be perfectly natural and inevitable.
Take a good look at nature. Which gender bears the primary responsibility of “looking good.”, “showing off their goods” and “smelling attractive”? Yes it is the male. Unlike what a lot of men think, it is more natural for males to beautify themselves in order to invoke attraction. From the flamboyant feather displays (peacocks, birds of paradise), luxurious manes (lions, baboons and silver back gorillas), spectacular antlers (moose and reindeer) and musk perfume (oxen and elk), nature reveals a completely different picture of gender roles; that of the preening, prancing, carefree male and the more functionally built, practical, hardworking female. The lionesses hunt and work, the male lion usually sits back and looks sexy for everyone’s viewing pleasure in the African Serengeti. Indeed it is unnatural for female animals encumbered by so many duties and the body ravaging effects of childrearing, nursing and hormonal changes to also be weighed down with the preoccupation of looking attractive all the time. It’s a fact of nature that if embraced by women, would topple the fashion and cosmetics industry which places the burden on us to be perfect using every form of insecurity and anxiety inducing advertising. But this is not natural! In the wild it is the duty of the male to capture the female’s eye and then she chooses who she likes. If the male’s build, colour, performance or smell is not to her liking he gets bitten, kicked, clawed or pecked by the female instead of getting the chance of passing on his genes. Imagine if humans were like this! What fun!
The peacock is a prime example of nature designing the male for show and beauty. Compared to the male, the female is always plain and functionally built.
The first peoples learned from nature and so among indigenous tribes around the world you will see their men copy the mating rituals observed in the natural world and apply them to their own tribal culture. The donning of colourful feathers, elaborate headdresses, beads, body painting with chalk and red ochre, body piercing with bones, tattoos on the skin, wearing penis sheaths of impressive length and using various scent concoctions mixed with animal fat and spread over the body was the first kind of “metrosexuality” men practiced and not only in the hope of attracting the attention of a woman but also as a symbol of one’s ability to provide for one or more females. In other words, a man who could beautify himself had proved his worth, had earned tribal respect and was considered an adult male of value to the tribe. It meant you were a good hunter or possessed an invaluable skill to the community. The physical “build” of a hunter and hard worker along with all the accessories became the enduring ideal of male beauty. Remnants of this can still be seen today in the lavish attention paid to the male’s appearance in tribal meetings and mating ceremonies like the Hodoh dance of the Apache or even more striking is the gerewol festival held by the nomadic Wodaabé tribe on the African continent. I wonder if my Afro-centric Masculinity Studies expert knows about the Wodaabé? They are a race of tall, lithe, physically beautiful black people with elegant, feminine features, high cheekbones, full lips...and that's just the men! In fact it's the Wodaabé men who participate in a male beauty contest that lasts for hours, and which involves hours of pre-concert preening, dancing, and face-pulling, for the benefit of the female judges. The women then pick and choose among the men, their future mates.
As humans progressed from a nomadic, subsistence hunter and gatherer lifestyle to settled agricultural life into the first large civilisations, along the Indus, Niger, Euphrates and Nile we developed new things like commerce, politics, the arts and philosophy. Our command over the natural world through stone and bronze aged technology increased. There was now such a thing as “money” and “wealth” and all the trappings that went along with it. Mastery of these new “human arts” became increasingly more valued as “status symbols” of male worth. In addition because access to clean water, finely woven cloth, finely crafted grooming tools and expensive oils started to became premiums, a man’s ability to be clean, perfumed, well coifed, and learned in the fine arts were also status symbols. Thus began another standard of attractiveness and desirability to women. Brute strength and physical fitness would still be a huge sexual pull because most work was still manual and of course there were wars to be fought, but a man who could read and write, afford fine cloth and to bathe everyday was certainly of higher regard as a good provider. Such a man would never want for female attention.
The striking beauty of the Wodaabe men
Soon there developed a clear class separation between those who toiled manually and those who didn’t; the lords of the manors and the serfs; those who spent their lives labouring and those who could afford to spend their lives learning; those whose life meant dirt, sweat and acrid body odour and those whose life meant leisure, travel and pampering of the body. Two different standards of male beauty and achievement began to develop- the clean cut, coiffed, articulate, artisan, elegant body language of the rich and the rugged, brawny, imposing physique and brash manners of the poor. For a long time, even after the industrial age, democratic rule, better communications and access to education began to open up the class system, a man’s level of refinement would still be directly related to class. The coal miner and farmer were excluded from experiencing the life of the blue bloods and wealthy merchant class and they both developed different standards of measuring ideal male attractiveness. It didn’t help that the latter systemically oppressed the former. In the case of those of African heritage in post-colonial societies, we also have the added factor of race thrown in and the “house” slave vs. “field slave” conflict. The “fairer” the complexion the more likely that person could afford the metrosexuality of the upper class. The darker the complexion the more likely there would be a life of hardship and none of the cultural refinements and comforts enjoyed by colonial gentility.
Interestingly enough, irregardless of race, poor or working class men adapted by mocking, demonising and fearing the various refinements of the wealthier men. It is only human to forge meaning and superiority in your suffering especially when deep down you envy what you cannot have. The fastest way to do that is to attack your opponent’s self-image and what is more sensitive to men than their manhood? Those who toiled would see their work as “manlier” and therefore more natural. The fine manners, education and primping of the upper class men became “sissified”. Part of the self-identification of black men as being more macho, prolific and well endowed than white men who were almost always their economic class superiors stems from this. In the same way a coal miner from Manchester will consider himself more “manly” than some pansy Londoner they call a “Southern Softie”. This still holds today in subtle ways. Go to Mucurapo Road during a school day and observe the interactions between the Fatima boys and Mucurapo Government Secondary School boys at lunch time or school ending. You will be sure to hear a homophobic slur from a Mucurapo Boy, eventually directed at or used to describe a Fatima boy. But this is not homophobia or even about homosexuality but envy and insecurity coupled with frustration and anger. This is the Murcurapo Boy screaming at a society that has written him off as a dunce, unattractive thug with no prospects, ‘I am still more man than you privileged pansies!’
In the 1940s it would be a bunch of coal miners in a pub taking the piss out of a well mannered, well-spoken Oxford boy or workers in a rum shop poking fun at a well-coifed Port of Spain dandy. Today it is undereducated, angry boys with little prospects picking on good boys who study hard; calling them “nerds” and “bullermen” and stealing their cell phones or iPods. The unfortunate difference is that in the 1940s, it was only the superficial appearances of class- the haughty manners, elegant walk and cleaner, nicer clothes being mocked. It was also more good-natured teasing and less violent. Those same working class men had their honour, possessed a strong work ethic and took pride in their toil. They got respect from both peers and the upper echelons of society with hard work and determination whether in education, skilled labour, public or military service. However, we have communicated to this younger generation of boys that if they are not prestige school material, they are little more than criminals. They have already failed by passing for a “Government School” and so there is no pride to be had in their school work. Even if they possess any artistic talent, trade skills and even athletic ability, those are systematically under appreciated and under funded in the Caribbean. Academic success, which has now become irrevocably linked to class, is all that matters here. With no glory or honour available to today’s working class young men through discipline and hard work, thug-like behaviour and expectance of instant material success with no effort ensues. They end up teasing or bullying other boys for their literacy, academic accomplishment, respectful behaviour and following the rules. They end up resenting those who seem to “have it made” or those who follow the rules and succeed. Fifty years ago, irregardless of social class, every man wanted to be a gentleman and good manners were common values. Thanks to the “thug mentality” a gentleman is considered a “fassyman”. If metrosexuality attempts to make “gentlemanliness” a desirable thing once more, it should be applauded.
If metrosexuality is on the rise, it has more to do with society evolving. Society is becoming softer and feminists and gays have little if anything to do with it. If you want to blame someone or something, blame technology. Gone are the days when humans had to hunt our own food, ward off predators and build shelter with our bare hands. In that age, the raw calculating power of a man’s muscle was invaluable. Just like how civilization, the dawn of agriculture, walled cities and commerce began to re-define the hunter-gatherer male identity, technology is re-shaping it again today. Brute strength is no longer required in the workforce to the extent it used to be. Ever since the industrial age, men have had to re-define their roles and gender identity. Machines now do the bulk of what was once man’s work. Even the best militaries in the world are relying on smart technology and long distance fighting more than direct physical combat. Crime solving is now becoming about advanced forensic science and psychological profiling rather than big, brute cops beating up the bad guy into confessing.
Technology also involves new methodologies which have leveled the playing field between the genders. Decision makers in the business world are looking for customer service, communication skills, creative problem solving, budget sense, a flair for presentation of ideas, compassionate client management and the art of negotiation. A more nurturing style of people management is now a la mode. Large billion dollar corporations like Google, are now using mottos like, “Make money without doing evil.” Can you imagine if those old British merchants and colonists of yesteryear heard that motto? They would laugh themselves silly and call the CEOs of Google spineless buggers! Times have truly changed. Soft is the new hard. It is now a sign of heroic manliness to want to care about the earth and not to conquer, rape and pillage it. These now in-demand management skills play naturally into feminine strengths because women were unwittingly socialized to be good at them. Men who want to get ahead now have begun to see the need to start becoming savvy in these areas. These days it has truly become about what’s on the inside. So no wonder men who are not in touch with any part of their insides, far less, their feminine insides are beginning to get dispirited and irate at this changing world. No wonder there is a fearful push by male advocates to, “bring back the good old days”. But those days are going, going, gone thanks to technology and society’s growing insistence on peace, conservation, personal happiness and nurturing.
If metrosexuality attempts to make “gentlemanliness” a desirable thing once more, it should be applauded.
The global media and the entertainment industry are simply mirroring what already exists in reality. The superheroes and leading men in film are becoming more beautiful and complex. The square jawed, bulky he-man, with his simple one line catch phrases is being replaced by the softer Clive Owen, Orlando Bloom, Will Smith, Johnny Depp and Tobey Mc Guire. I would never forget when Legolas first appeared on the screen of Globe Cinema in 2001 and certain male patrons (you know the kind) began shouting “Bullerman!” only to be thoroughly silenced once the elegant elf began to kick ass. Ironically, he ended up becoming the action hero to watch in every Lord of The Rings movie. The actor who played him is now not only a pin up on practically every teenaged girls’ wall but the most Googled man on earth. Similarly, much to the chagrin of many men the “sissies” and “nerds” and “macomere men” they taunt are doing well for themselves in this new age and all the sophisticated, intelligent women are flocking to them, leaving the typical macho men behind. Granted, these unrefined, ǜber macho men may be well endowed, physically buff and have all the machismo in the world, but in today’s world, it is simply not enough. The most it can do is make you a muscle-bound, brainless sex symbol, a “mimbo” (male bimbo).
Being beautiful in a feminine way now does not translate as weakness.
Thanks to metrosexuality, perhaps we closer than ever to re-inventing our concept of a “real man”. It’s no longer about how big your “manhood” or muscles are and how aggressive you can be. It’s how big your imagination, intellect and emotional capacity are and how skillfully you can apply them. It is how much you know and respect yourself and the community around you. It is taking responsibility for your actions and using your strength to protect and serve those who need it. It is choosing to be a leader not because you feel it is your sovereign right to dominate others but because you self-searched, took time to develop mind, body and spirit and know that you qualify for the task because you possess positive leadership qualities. It is then using those qualities to uplift a household or community by humbly understanding you are first a servant, not a master of everyone else and you cannot just shirk your duties when you don’t feel like it. It is your brave openness to the never-ending discovery of spiritual, personal and scientific truths and your ability to adapt without compromising your core values.
The more complex, thoughtful, multi-dimensional leading man has replaced the muscle-bound behemoths with their one liners.
Wait a minute! Those concepts of self-definition aren’t just for men! They are unisex! So is “gender identity” becoming more and more irrelevant in today’s world? Are we actually limiting ourselves by trying to define our entire life’s purpose and society’s evolution based on our anatomical, hormonal and chromosomal differences? Why does there even need to be a separate set of values for men and another separate set of values for women? Why can’t we define ourselves and base our life goals on our personalities, life experiences, spirituality, education, skills and abilities and not just our biological functions? The feminist movement forced many women to see themselves as more than just a vagina, help-mate, mother and other-half. Is the masculinity movement helping men to see themselves as more than just penises, providers, fathers and the other-half? Or is the bulk of Masculinity Studies and the movement behind it about whining about the loss of the “good old days” and a futile push to bring them back. The only way men are going to recover their past comfort zone is by reversing technological advancement and re-oppressing women. You are going to have to somehow get us to see ourselves once more as only vaginas, help-mates, mothers and other-halves. We gals are not having it! That ship has sailed…. over the edge of the earth no less.
The only common ground I can find with my Masculinity Studies acquaintance is on the loss of strong work ethic among young men, the plague of delinquent fathers who abandon their sons to a number of different ill-prepared young mothers and the de-valuation of manual labour and the men who do it and the neglect of the emotional needs of our boys (because we assumed boys don’t have emotional needs), particularly those of lower economic class, leading to low male self esteem, violence and crime. But blaming feminists and gays for these problems stems from myopia caused by prejudice. I have to keep reminding this zealous young man that despite the Women’s and Gay Movement, society has always remained firmly in the control of a select number of privileged heterosexual men biased towards capitalist, Christian and patriarchal values. They have and still hold the reins of control, despite the small strides, successes and influences of various Civil Rights movements. These leaders continue to sit at the wheel of the vehicle of this Western world and they were the ones who designed and continue to maintain the engine that drives it. They share if anything the lion’s share of any blame for anything you find wrong with this planet. They choose what they will allow to become mainstream and usually for expediency not because it is ethical or about human rights.
I want to tell my Masculinity Studies acquaintance that your masculinity is not being lost. How can it be lost? It’s between your legs. It’s in your genes. It is your self-definition that is evolving and you should be excited about that. Imagine, now you have a rare opportunity to define yourself as a person not just as a gender. Embrace this new opportunity! You can now remedy centuries of certain socializations that have proven unhealthy for your soul. For example, that very same socialization that made us neglect the emotional needs of boys which has led to men keeping their feelings bottled up, leading to stress, early death and a much higher suicide rate. Will there be a period of adjustment, uncertainty and insecurity when you start to re-define yourself? Of course! We women know all about it. We are only now beginning to find a happy balance between our infinite potential and the traditional socialized roles and we are still learning and growing. If we seem to be overtaking you men here in this country it is only because we were brave enough to be open to new ideas and were driven by a hunger for “something more” while you men took everything for granted staying rigid in your ways. Those ways are now becoming hindrances to you and I say ‘Seize the chance to grow!”. Throw away those gender-focused lenses that give you tunnel vision perspectives on social development. Start to focus more on the individual, the soul, the consciousness and how it serves the community irregardless of whether that soul has a penis or vagina or in some rare cases, both.
As for metrosexuality, anthropological and historical evidence show it is no recent pop culture construct cooked up by horny homosexuals and scheming feminists. It has been around for ages in many forms and mirrors the natural animal world with its colourful males and plain females. Metrosexuality is natural, cultural and historical. Like the saying goes, “There is nothing new under the sun.” But balance is key! There is a danger of getting swept up by metrosexuality’s dark superficial side the way women have been run over by the beauty and fashion industries. Metrosexuality has always been elitist whether it was the spectacularly feathered tribesman with the biggest penis sheath and more pigs to buy more beautiful brides or the rich men who can afford to pamper themselves GQ style and travel to exotic locations, taste gourmet food and buy designer clothes. When it becomes detrimental to male self-esteem it can lead to a lot of frustration and superficial, selfish priorities. Some men who cannot make the shiny new grade suffer low self-image and the studies indeed show that more men are suffering from eating disorders and going for repeated cosmetic surgery. Of course, we women can speak volumes about this. Other men who fall short of the sophisticated, sensitive Adonis grade turn on those who meet it, choosing to use violence (often homophobic in nature) to reclaim some masculine dignity. Then there is the third group of men who are self-aware and confident in themselves and take a more balanced approach. They recognise the shift in the cultural tide, acknowledge it and apply only the aspects of it that are practical and beneficial to them and ignore all the hype and show. These are the smart ones.
(jessiegirl is low maintenance and still sexy as hell!)