Demasculinization: What The Hell?

As a rule, I avoid mainstream news, and I’d be hard pressed to describe my methods for keeping up to date on things, but somehow I do. In my daily digital meanderings on the web, I’ve noted a recurring theme that speaks to the belief that American men are becoming demasculinized.

Shocking, right? There are all kinds of movements springing up, ready to seize back manhood from feminists, who apparently are the target of this accusation and have been labeled as the perpetrators of this crime. Intrigued, I dug deeper and sure enough, this may just be the next big topic of debate on whatever mindless talk show you prefer. Based on what I’ve found, my initial hunch is correct, and feminists are now blamed for this ill-defined erosion of American manhood.

Apparently, in their quest for equality, feminists have successfully turned their views into widespread perception, namely that men are evil. I wondered if this was correct. One source I read cited many commercials and sitcoms that portray the bumbling and inept man as a fool, always needing rescue by the competent and ever-watchful wife/girlfriend/female lead. I have to agree this is a trend.

Still, I was skeptical. Do the things that liberal Hollywood and our entertainment (their term, not mine) industry consider funny reflect societal trends, or are they merely re-using something that proves to generate good ratings or box office dollars in between ruining yet another comic book superhero? I tended to think the latter, and then I had to shop for food.

Supermarkets baffle me, and my go-to technique is to roam every aisle to ensure I locate and obtain the stuff I need. I was shocked to discover that somehow, in the span of one year on military deployment, men now have hair coloring products, and not just the gray hair removal ones. Some quick internet work told me there are makeup products for men now too. The last straw was a commercial for men’s razors that showed the guy shaving both his chest and his face, manscaping gone overboard.

So I was forced to conclude that we are being demasculinized. Skinny jeans, makeup, and colored hair tips. I understand some men have nail appointments now, and get facials as well. I will admit that I find this disturbing. Should I now go find a feminist and glue her bare feet in some kitchen and give her a pay cut?

I don’t think so.

The problem I have with blaming feminists for demasculinization is that I’d have to accept the mantle of victimhood. I also tend to think that after over a half-century of activism, the feminists are doing good things and making gains. Instead of equality, which by definition in context is really illogical, I’d offer that they should demand respect. Their equality will flow from that.

As for demasculinization, I said I’d not adopt the cloak of victimhood to make a point. I have a choice here, right?  I’m a huge fan of free will.  It’s my hair, fingernails, and middle-aged butt in whatever pants, polish and coloring I choose to put them in. I don’t do any of those things. I shave my hair off weekly. I keep my nails clipped and clean – nothing more. When my skin gets dirty and oily, I wash it with ordinary soap. My jeans have and always will button in front, be made wholly of cotton, and have metal rivets. My choice.

If you’re like me and disturbed by this trend, don’t participate – problem solved.  Also, don’t fix blame because you just fixed the problem by your choice. But the implied question here is this: how do you be manly without reverting back to stereotypical roles that are increasingly obsolete? How, in other words, do you find the middle ground between Ray Romano and Archie Bunker?

I say that goes back to respect. Try it out, and try it on yourself first. Bathe, groom yourself appropriately, and dress yourself with some taste. Make an effort to be educated and expose your mind to new ideas.  Take pride in something – one thing – that you do or have done.  Do something, one small thing, that is for something bigger than yourself.

When you are with your friends, respect them. Listen to their problems and be there for them. Help them when they ask for it if you haven’t already offered it to begin with. In the workplace, assume your coworkers were hired based upon skill and intelligence, and treat them that way. If you’re on a date, try going into it without a quid pro quo approach, or a goal other than to get to know the human (ideally) across the table as a person. Watch the words that you use in everyday speech. Try being yourself, and not some idea you have about what a man ought to be because odds are pretty good those ideas were put there.

Militant feminism is declining, and that in this subject of allocating more benefits – respect – to women, men don’t necessarily have to lose. This is not a zero-sum transaction if you prefer game theory.

What do you think?

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101 Responses to “Demasculinization: What The Hell?”

  1. I absolutely agree that an equitable society is not a zero sum situation.
    In terms of all the cosmetic nonsense, after years of marketing to women, should it come as any surprise, in a capitalist society, that these companies turn their eyes towards the money in your pocket? It was bound to happen and as you rightly point out, if you don’t like it, don’t do it. It’s about money, though, not any planned movement to demasculinize men.
    There should be a growing sense that expanding what it means to be a man or woman in this society is a good thing. If someone wants to cling to their own stereotype, that’s a valid choice, but it can’t be expected that everyone else will fall in step.
    And if anybody is looking to TV and movies for role models, that’s an different problem entirely.
    Lastly, anyone who adopts the mantle of victim-hood as their rallying cry is ceding personal power. That’s a choice and can’t be blamed on external causes.

    • You have an insightful comment here, thank you. I do admit the capitalist push as you cite, and thanks for the agreement about victimhood.

  2. I agree that what I would call “female chauvinism” has become the new social religion. Thank you for the article, I thought that I was the only one in the world who was bothered by this. These days everything female is Good and everything male is Bad. I too clearly see this is places like commercials and TV/movie depictions of gender. It is fine for there to be tough competent women, but when males are almost universally portrayed as perennial jackasses, something is wrong. There are also so many programs and organizations and support groups “for women”, but it seems almost illegal as well as immoral to dare label anything “for men”.

    I think that the only saving-grace in this is that I hear that old-school feminists of the 60’s and 70’s are horrified by the disinterest and lack of militancy of the 20-something women of today. Maybe, after this current period of over-compensation burns itself out, we will finally get to a place of true mutual respect and equality in gender relations.

    • I think things are changing for the better, in the feminism context – read the links. I’m still not convinced there is a war on men, because we still have a choice.

    • I hear you about “for women!” The local mall has a Ladies Only Fitness outlet. Try setting up one For Guys Only. A man described in a newspaper article as “a troublemaker” entered, and tried to enroll. They were going to call police until a security guard “suggested” he leave.

  3. And what better resources than last week’s run on men and feminism on The Outlier!
    Rants, if I EVER hear about you dying your hair or squeezing into skinny jeans I shall lose a large portion of respect.
    Soon you’ll be pushing away the bacon due to saturated fat content.
    Many men are NOT suited to a newer Manwich style. You’d be one of them.

    Funny stuff my friend. Wicked piece as always 😉

  4. Love your balanced and rational views on this. Focusing on our own choices and the respect that we show for others would solve a lot.
    It’s hard to deny that there is a trend of trying to neutralize the differences in genders in the name of equality, but I’m with you on the don’t agree, don’t participate mentality. No one can take away your masculinity unless you give it away freely.
    That series was amazing, and I think everyone was able to speak out respectfully and clearly articulate their opinions. It opened my eyes to a lot of different perspectives that I hadn’t really considered quite that deeply.
    And now, I have to go shop for food.

  5. Hollywood is definitely to blame!

  6. I agree and a lot of what I see – I’ve thought – goes right to what you’re saying about free will. Men seem to be giving it up and defining themselves by these TV tropes, or by nothing.

    In schools, girls regularly and consistently exceed the boys at just about everything. Teaching, what I’m seeing is that girls are being told “you can accomplish anything if you work for it. Don’t let anything stop you.” Boys are being told… well… nothing. So they stagnate. They wait to be praised for bein’ dudes. And they define themselves by avoiding responsibility – which maybe makes me sound like an old fart, but to me that sense of responsibility and will define masculinity – choice of who you are (whether it’s a hunting vest or a slim-fitting jacket), and responsibility for those choices and for the people in your life.

    • Interesting observation – we’re providing less attention in our attempt to help another group. I will say that responsibility goes around equally – as women earn choice and respect, they have a responsibility to use it as intended, just as men are responsible for their half, and choices. You gotta own the choices.

    • I would say that statistics will prove otherwise. Boys on a whole do better than girls in the upper grades. They are praised more, and encouraged more to go into high tech, sciences, engineering. But there is a big push right now to encourage girls, especially in STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) subjects. Ok, I’ll stop now. Teacher Rant.

      • I have to defer to your direct observational expertise, but other data show that more women are attaining graduate and postgraduate degrees than men are right now. Somewhere, something happened. I could do a whole post on the need for more STEM grads in this country… we’re buried under MBA’s and MD’s.

        • true dat. I think there is more need for trades actually. We preach the importance of university, but bottom line, you need people to fix your toilet. And they make good money, much more than an unemployed philosophy major.

  7. Hmmmm I am hearing what you are writing Brain Rants, respect is a good starting point.
    What I struggle with when I read John’s reply is when members of the power group whine about special interest groups getting more than they are. “Why are there support groups for women/blacks/whatever and not for men?” “Where are the ones for men?” For thousands of years men have had pretty much 90% of the pie, life has been their support group. It’s all very well and good to chose not to play the victim, and I believe that too. But there is a big difference between a man, with his history of dominance, choosing not to colour his hair as opposed to a woman, with her herstory of submissiveness to not. You are missing an important part of the equation – thousands of years of being oppressed influences how we react to something. Guys come at it from a position of power, even if some of the individuals are weak, you’ve only been exposed to it for a very short time.
    We are not born into a vacuum. Our role models are every where and those little eyes of the new ones suck every nuance, every clue, everything out into those spongy brains of theirs. And then they will spend the rest of their lives trying to find a way to live in the mire of human society.
    So, sorry John but my still making 80 cents on the dollar (and thats for higher up the food chain), 91% of rape victims are female and 9% are male, and 99% of rapists are male, 17.9% of the US House of Representatives are women trumps you having to put up with poorly written sit-coms. For god’s sake we only became ‘human’ in 1929! How can you not think that might make an impact on us even now? Your gender got to tell my gender that finally, we are people. Forgive us if some of us are a little angry, sorry to offend you.

    I do agree with Michelle that the capitalists are merely expanding their markets.

    Thanks Brain Rants for an interesting post.

    • I sense some anger. If I’m reading your comment correctly, you’re suggesting that American whites should serve as slaves for a few hundred years to obviate the injustice of our ignorant past, and some similar construct for men in general for much, much longer. To my mind that’s solving a wrong with another wrong. It is not a zero-sum operation – someone doesn’t have to lose/suffer/give something away. I was suggesting increased sharing that would kind of synergize into something greater than the two sides additively.

      Great comment, though and thanks!

      • Yup, some anger. Ok sometimes in my darker times I would like American whites,especially white males, to serve as slaves, but no, not on the whole.
        What I am saying is that you can’t look at these issues and not factor in the psychological impact of our history when trying to develop solutions. Women and blacks and any oppressed minority, often need special services to help equalize the playing field. Of course not all, we are all different, but to think we are on a level playing field is delusional. What makes it even more challenging is that the few women who are managing to make it near the top of the food chain are being chosen by the old white guys and of course, they are choosing the ones that are most like them. Frustrating because we rarely get to ‘see’ ourselves in the success stories. Young girls continue to grow up with the ‘hos of MTV as role models and the idea that the only way women get power is through using their bodies as currency in one form or another.

        In theory I am a great believer in the “there’s plenty to go around” world view but under the present system, there isn’t plenty of a lot of stuff. Jobs are finite, especially those are the high end. Just ask the women who were tossed out on their ears when the boys came back from WW2; not enough to go around. Economics – it’s hard to ignore the beast, whether you are talking equality of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, poverty, environment etc.

        It’s not that I don’t agree with your points, cause I do. It’s just that I believe there is so much more to this complicated issue/s.

  8. Hey! You’re smart too. 🙂 I think you nailed it when you said “respect.” Honestly, if everyone treated others with respect I don’t think we would need movements. It would be nice too if people would stop assuming that if you disagree with their ideas that you “hate” them. That’s unproductive. I disagree with one of my best friends on nearly every political issue but I love her and would rather have her as a friend than not. So we disagree, we go to dinner and that’s the end of it.

    • Nora, thanks for the support. Sadly, we’d still have movements because some people need causes to get them out of bed. Sometimes that’s good, other times… yeah.

  9. Fresh Pressed worthy – where are you WP? Pick this one.

  10. Don’t forget Tim the tool man taylor

  11. So much Like for this. I don’t understand why some women feel the need to villify all men in order to boost their cause for women. We can support the causes of women without making all men out to be the bad guys. And vice versa.

    As for the manscaping, Eww. Men are supposed to have hair on their chests. I mean, it’s a free country, men can get mani/pedis, use foaming body wash, and wax their chests and junk to their hearts’ content, but personally, I prefer guys who don’t go in for that stuff. I’m not high maintenance, and I prefer my men not to be high-maintenance as well.

  12. Melanie Says:

    Why does this “demasculinization” have to be a bad thing? Or am I reading this wrong? I see it as leveling the equality-playing-field. If women can choose to go out without make-up, shouldn’t men be able to choose to go out with make-up? If women can choose to be feminine in their appearance, can’t men also choose to be masculine in theirs?

    • No question about it, you’re correct. I’m of the opinion that respect is the path to equality, that’s all. I support the Outlier Collective’s theme of choice, too. I choose to not wear man-kup or similar things. That was an example I used, and I see I ought to have emphasized that notion more heavily.

  13. Le Clown Says:

    Rants,
    Perpetuating the conversation… Look at you being all magnificent™ and shit…
    Le Clown
    PS: Thank you for the Outlier Collective mention, buddy.

  14. Great article, Rants. I agree with you and The Green Study that victimhood is weak sauce. We all have the choice to be empowered by our choices. I know that sounds circular, but there is a quantum physics kind of logic there–I think.

    I am amazed at how a few characters in entertainment and a few ads suddenly becomes a universal condemnation of man. Have these critics watched CSPAN lately or seen any action films? What about video games? What about Diego vs. Dora the Explorer for crying out loud? Need I go on?

    It seems to me that many shock radio hosts feel attacks from every segment of society, which is odd because they all live in gated communities.

    I love your prescriptive advice in the last few paragraphs. We need to write a book, my friend. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

    • Thanks, Kozo. There is a quantum-esqe nature to your thought – I dig that. I can tell you that nobody watches CSPAN except Congresspeople, and I suspect that action movies and games are so over-the-top that those ideas of manhood are too overblown to believe or emulate. Sadly, the reverse is true of TV.

  15. twindaddy Says:

    If men want to demasculinize themselves…who cares? It’s their choice to do so. I’m not going to go get facials and pedicures, but if some dude wants to then that’s HIS choice. His freedom. I think this “anti-demasculinization movement” is being perpetuated by men who are upset that women are getting the respect they fucking deserve.

  16. The Elite of Just Alright Says:

    Rant knows Game Theory!

  17. The thing that scared me was seeing lingerie targeted at men. Straight men in frilly, lacy , silky lingerie. The idea behind it is that men love the feel of womens underwear so they have developed and marketed lingerie for men.
    Each to their own but if I take a guy home and he’s wearing nicer underwear than me – no thank you!

  18. All that equality stuff dumbs down the “vive la difference!” factor, in my opinion. I personally enjoy being the “weaker” sex because it comes with its own perks, some of which ultimately make me stronger. And I don’t have to sacrifice my femininity to do what I do best. It’s so much easier not to fight the tide…it’s better than being glued in the kitchen with a pay cut!

    • SSM, I think if you do my job as well as I do you should be paid what I do, but I believe I understand your opening comments and agree. I also think, based on the links I provided, that more women are realizing this idea while improving the stance of feminism at the same time. Now it’s mens’ turn.

  19. I’ve always wondered wehre chivalry falls in feminist thinking.

    As for me, I’ll stick with being nice to just about everyone, and being comfortabe in a pair of jeans and a t shirt, while mocking trends like this that amuse me.

  20. The irony is that the “men” who wear skinny jeans, makeup and manicures are often not found attractive by women…or at least this one. lol I like a scruffy, tough guy as long as the respect is there. Just please don’t resort to pants only being held up by your dangly bits and a fail belt. I’d prefer skinny jeans to that, hell I prefer spandex to that.

    • My initial comment and reaction was to joke but honestly, I support anyone who wants to individualize and be their true selves or explore to find their true self.

      I think demasculinization is a perspective. Who is looking, who is making a judgement. Many people will see a man who is groomed more than they personally find comfortable and some will say good for you! Some will mock and roll their eyes. Some won’t think twice about it.

    • That makes sense to me too. And ‘no’ to all the fail pants here.

  21. 1jaded1 Says:

    Shit. I never hit the blue button…Meggings are out then, I suppose. 😉

  22. Underneath that crusty exterior beats the heart of a real, considerate & evolved man! Way to go Rants! You just gained a lot of respect from me!

  23. Reading your post I wonder what is it that is being tried here?Is it some kind of equitable status ? If so, could this be done by running down the perceived ” other side” ?

    Shakti

    • Not sure from the mens’ side of the equation. I think your other side as you say is exactly manifest in men using beauty products. Their choice; I’m not into that.

  24. I think this post is wonderful. It’s eloquent and thoughtful and I don’t have much to add except to express my deep appreciation of these lines: “It’s my hair, fingernails, and middle-aged butt in whatever pants, polish and coloring I choose to put them in. […] My choice. If you’re like me and disturbed by this trend, don’t participate – problem solved.

    It really is that simple, at the core. But, strangely, it takes a lot of effort to cut through the crap and get to that point. Thanks for working through it and sharing what you learned.

  25. […] so I published this very awesome blog post in support of Le Clown’s mega series on The Outlier Collective concerning feminism.  Some […]

  26. Tom Jeffries Says:

    So, here’s what I don’t get: if a man shaving his chest and wearing makeup and donning feminine clothes is a man’s choice, why isn’t dressing like a whore on MTV or elsewhere considered strictly a woman’s choice? Why is it so often depicted by feminists as another form of male-imposed objectification, even though, in the case of women’s magazines, most of the people involved – editors, models, and readers – are women?

    The same for things like prostitution. If a young, handsome man in Latin America prostitutes himself to an overweight, middle-aged white woman, he is depicted as a gigolo preying on the woman’s “genuine desire for love”; but if an overweight, middle-aged male hires a young female prostitute, he is characterized as an exploitive pervert looking for sex.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think the “ideal” female body image projected by mainstream media is seriously destructive to women, especially young girls and teenagers, and I consider any form of prostitution criminally exploitive, but these double standards are exactly why I want nothing to do with modern feminists.

    I also completely reject the feminist attempt to define what I should or shouldn’t think as a man. I have zero interest in adopting this feminine perspective, as I have my own masculine framework within which I can deal with these issues, and it goes like this:

    I think any man who physically or verbally abuses a woman is a coward, and if I ever catch one doing it, he’s going to experience my personal outrage for a few minutes before I call 911. As for those caught after the fact, it’s jail for them, just the same as any other common assault. But the same should go for women who falsely accuse men of a sexual or violent crime. Yet, I’ve never heard a woman’s group advocating this reciprocal treatment.

    I have worked for men and women, hired them, promoted them, and fired them. Gender doesn’t matter to me in the workplace, and it shouldn’t matter to anyone. But it does. While I have watched men excoriated or fired for various sexual or romantic overtures in the workplace – most, but not all, well deserved – I have yet to see a woman reprimanded for using sexual flirtation to her advantage, or letting loose with an emotional outburst where the equivalent male outburst, such as cursing, would have immediately resulted in a reprimand.

    That’s why debates such as this one are so laughable. You men on here, pandering as much as you can to the female perspective, are already de-masculinized. You don’t represent me or, I suspect, the majority of men.

    • Mr. Jeffries, while I admit you bring up good points, I’ll turn on you and say that you just lost all your intellectual credibility by falling back on an ad hominemattack at then end of your comment, which insulted me personally as you intended,but made you look like a complete douchebag (how does that ad hominem taste?). Pandering? Fuck you. Demasculinized? Meet me in person.

      Reply with anything but an apology and you’re filtered. In fact, I’m betting you’re Hotspur.

      • Tom Jeffries Says:

        1. I have no idea who Hotspur is.

        2. Characterizing you as de-masculinized can hardly be classified as an ad hominem attack when the central gist of your original article was pondering whether American men had become de-masculinized. You’re the one who framed the discussion.

        3. Asking a complete stranger to meet you in person is an odd way of proving your masculinity. Surely, you can think of better ways to use your “courage”.

        4. Go ahead and filter me. What better way to prove my point than to storm off in a hissy fit.

  27. I have about twelve thoughts. Sincere, pseudo-intellectual thoughts, which doesn’t happen nearly enough in my blog reading rounds.

    It’s late, though, so I’m going with this and going home: wow…and thank you.

  28. It does mean good and I’ll try my best to avoid having you regret that offer. When I start thinking out loud, everyone suffers. I’m aware of that and I’ll try to rein it in. 🙂

    • Thank you. I like all feedback except from trolls. You are not a troll.

      • You are not a troll.
        Ordinarily, I would say that is the nicest thing anyone’s said to me today, and ordinarily that would be so true.

        However, I’m riding the Freshly Pressed wave of stranger-love and reading all sorts of nice things about myself that aren’t even close to true.

        Tomorrow, though, the party will be over and I’ll be comforted by the thought that I am not a troll. 🙂

        Back to the topic at hand, I tried writing out just one thought and it turned into more of a post of its own than a comment.

        I’ll just skip this one since everyone’s covered it pretty well anyway and I’ll jump on-board with the next BrainRant.

        I’m looking forward to that.:-)

  29. I read once that the great American poet RobertFrost said he had not
    been a teacher, but rather an awakener. I feel this blog is precisely
    the same since it awakens me, and others , and makes my
    mind work.

  30. Matt,
    Thanks for pointing the way here, I wouldn’t want to miss this great fucking post. I envy your ability the write with such clarity. Really great work here!
    Love the comments too!
    Red

  31. Music To Your Home

    Demasculinization: What The Hell? | BrainRants

  32. Excellent! I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

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