Men in the Muddle: Navigating the Confused State of Manhood
- Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Applied to human sexuality, Sartre’s catchphrase rocked the roles of manhood and womanhood. Nowhere is that more evident than in the ever-shifting views about masculinity.
Swings in Conventional Manhood
Last time we examined the biblical standard of manhood: the servant-leader—the man who accepts his manly responsibilities to family and community and fulfills them in love and humility. Co-existing with that ideal is conventional manhood which, over the last decade, has been changing faster than Clark Kent in a phone booth.
The Alpha Male
Driven by a desire to dominate and control, the “Alpha” male is the harshest form of the conventional man. He depends on prowess, strength of will and, if necessary, force to achieve his ends. For Alphas, manliness is measured by bravado, material acquisition and female conquests. At his best, the Alpha is like his celluloid archetype, James Bond—the man who can overcome any obstacle, best any foe, and seduce any woman without emotional attachment. At his worst, he is Adolph, Benito, or Bundy.
Feminism, in its various forms, has been largely a reaction to the abuses of the Alpha male. Armed with the scalpel of gender-neutrality, enlightened folk have set about to “fix” this Neanderthal. Flowing downstream from the Sartrian headwaters, gender-neutrality is the denial of the innate physio-psycho-emotional differences in men and women.
For example, the male affinity toward “taming the land” and the female affinity toward nurturing the family are dismissed as social constructions. According to the cultural elite, the solution to men behaving badly is not to inspire them to the high calling of their masculine design; it is to convince them to be more like their female counterparts. It has proven a successful strategy as evident in the meteoric rise of the “metrosexual.”
The Feminized Male
Today’s man, we’re told, is vulnerable and sensitive, in touch with his feelings and with those of others around him. He seeks participation, not leadership, basing his decisions on consensus rather than convictions. He is the “metrosexual.”
While not necessarily gay or effeminate, metros are preoccupied with things more closely associated with women: designer clothes, facials, and home decorating. They may be indifferent about the merits of various car oils, but eager to find the right skin toner and exfoliant. This softer, feminized male has been largely popularized by celebrity consultants like the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy “Fab Five.”
If your aim is to be nothing more than a girl’s best friend, a feminized persona might do the trick. Though doesn’t it seem odd that straight guys are looking to a group of gay gurus to tell them what women really want?
It does to screenwriter Lorene Scafaria. Fed up with having to take the lead in her relationships with men, Scafaria remarks, "I think women are wanting to feel safe and taken care of more these days, and I don’t really know that that’s the sensation you get with a metrosexual.” Anybody out there surprised?
According to a survey by the JWT advertising agency, 80 percent of women resonate with Ms. Scafaria. They want a more traditional man. Psychologist Dr. William Hoppock says that even high-powered and successful women express desire for a man “who takes responsibility—who makes them feel safe.” Again, any surprise?
Who is the new guy starting to muscle out the metro and woo his way into the hearts of women? Marian Salzman, author and JWT executive, says he’s the “ubersexual”—the man who lives out the positive aspects of masculinity, while rejecting its harsher expressions.
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