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Taking Care of Masculinity

From the November Zeitgeist…

Taking Care of Masculinity

If the absurd film 300 is anything to go by, men have been shaving their chests and enjoyed taking part in vaguely homoerotic activities for some time. They also seem to have spoken loudly, decisively and dramatically about all manner of things, no matter their import. How different is the man of today? Does he still shave his chest and communicate with declarative statements to no one in particular? Does he need to be reassured by campaign’s such as Ogilvy’s recent entry for Dove that debuted at the SuperBowl?

In the US, Unilever is currently trying to convince men to use a body lotion. After a quick 15-minute workout in which former NFL player Michael Strahan demonstrates working out in a hotel room before smothering Vaseline body lotion over himself; “It takes just 15 seconds for stronger, more resilient skin.” The point is not to convey effeminate qualities in what until now, has clearly been a female-driven domain, but rather to show that a cream can be related to high performance for demanding men. Vaseline research showed that 17% of men “used body lotion at least once a week”, which is more than might have been guessed.

So, while one marketing tone of voice tells us to take care of ourselves in increasingly unexpected ways, another, Maxim, pushes us toward a different direction; “Using too many products makes you a girl”, the magazine dictates. It remains to be seen how playing on tenets of performance and durability will affect sales of products of these kinds in the long-term. The New York Times article on the subject also mentions that Niveaʼs idea of putting their body lotion in the menʼs aisle was not a successful one.

There seems to be no apparent cachet for such a placement. Is this because women do the shop for men and donʼt venture to the menʼs aisle, or is it because men feel comfortable borrowing the products of their partner confident that it works just as well on his skin as hers? Or maybe men donʼt think or want to think about such beauty products in the retail environment. In Paris and Rome, it would be hard for a man to escape a kiss from a male colleague when greeted. For most men in the UK, however, the act ranks somewhere alongside the activities of Caligula.

Reuters however recently reported on an increasingly prevalent inclination in UK men in their teens and early 20s to end texts to each other with a kiss. 75% “regularly [end] texts with a kiss and 48% admitting the practice had become commonplace amongst their group of friends”. Is the prudish, self-aware man becoming more emotive? Ironically it is only in a non-verbal way, for the moment. If a man can be more open with his feelings, he might be more willing to confess his use of cosmetic products, removing any notion of taboo about the subject. If people feel more comfortable discussing such things in the virtual world, social networks would appear to be a convenient place for network effects to take hold…

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  1. February 19, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    This is a great post; it was very informative. I look forward in reading more of your work. Also, I made sure to bookmark your website so I can come back later 🙂

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