It’s bad enough that I constantly feel like a pop-cultural leper, because I have so little time to watch t.v., to wax and wane on the latest reality show, or to surf the internet for interesting tidbits of up-to-date celeb gossip or for that hilarious site that everyone else seems to have been hitting for months before I even catch wind of it, but that when I do forage into the muck, I seem to hit the trash I found today.
Ok. I wasn’t straying too far into the field. I admit I was just reading today’s “Style” section of the Washington Post, when I turned to this article “Vanity, thy Name is Metrosexual” by Alexa Hackbarth, because I was struck, again, by that ever-startling term “metrosexual.” I mean, for goodness sake, how can the term NOT be offensive? It’s a term used to identify a straight man who has the stereotypcial traits of a gay man, a straight man who usually lives in a city. Now, this is obviously, at its heart, an offensive term. What the heck does it mean to act like a gay man? And if you’re asking that question, then why like a gay man and not like a woman? I mean, after all, the stereotypical gay man is effeminate, right? Just like a woman, the gay man worries about his looks, cares more about hair care than car care, cares less about football than relationships, cares really, mostly, about finding someone else to take care of her–oh excuse me–himself. That’s a woman in a nutshell (slap your hands together and wipe them off like you’re done). Or at least, this seems to be the implication of the article. Woman on one side of the spectrum, men on the other, and homosexual men and metrosexual somewhere in the middle holding hands.
So, the article made my blood boil. First, the author claims she is mostly flabbergasted by this new breed of man, because she and her girlfriends can’t tell the difference between him and a gay man. She admits that part of her trouble comes from the fact that she’s from a “small western ranching town” where “men wrangle cattle before sitting down to a breakfast of bacon and eggs.” Where she grew up men are “the strong and silent type, capable and calm in a crisis. They know how to fix a leaky faucet or rewire an electrical outlet. They drive pickup trucks. And when they cook, it’s steak and potatoes, not wine-braised duck.” Come on! Do I have to say it? Fix your own damn faucet, rewire your own damn outlet, buy your own damn car, and be glad that someone cares enough to do something special for you like make a dinner which took time and energy to create! But the testimony is in this paragraph’s clincher: “They sure don’t spend hours in front of the mirror,” she writes and I can just hear her indignance, “only to emerge with prettier hair than mine.” It’s like a step back into the dark ages–she’s more concerned about gender, that he might be doing a better job with his hair and counting calories than she is. She is more concerned that he is a better “girl” than the fact that yes that role is disgusting, that is the disgusting role in which you find yourself caring more about how you look than how you think, that is the role in which women have been cast for centuries.
But Hackbarth doesn’t get it. She doesn’t seem to get a lot of things, including the fact that she’s contributing to this garbage. She asserts that she has “experienced a cross-section of the city’s dating pool” because she’s met her dates in “bars, some in coffeeshops and gorcery stores, and one or two through mutual friends.” And how is she attracting these men? Do they start talking because they have mutual interests? Perhaps the perfect pilsner, or a correctly foam-capped cappucino, or perhaps the bruised bananas on aisle nine were the conversational draw. Most likely not. She approached them or was approached by them becuase of looks. And perhaps I’m unfair about this point. But the fact that she asks “where have all the cowboys gone” makes me think not. But let me continue with the final straw, the real bale of hay that takes a ton of real resolve not to blow torch with fires sparked by decades of female self-hatred.
She writes, and I quote,
Who are the young, single men who say they value love over anything else? . . . men in touch with their so-called feminine side who would rather “grow old with the woman they love,” even if they haven’t met her yet, than “head up a Fortune 500 company.” This might be endearing and romantic, but it’s not very productive. It doesn’t make scientific and medical advances, it doesn’t help develop solid foreign policy and it doesn’t contribute to the national product.
And, I say, neither will you accomplish any of these things as long as you think that the men have to do it.
Ok. I admit. She does argue at the end of her article that perhaps this trend towards “metrosexuality” (yuck) is the result of a pretty crappy set of values that we as a society hold, but I wonder how effective her argument is when it’s set in this whiney “I can’t find a real man” tone that essentially cries for the good ole days when a man was a man and knew how to wire the castle and would acquiesce to make steak provided he was equiped with his kingly grillling tongs. How effective is it, when anyone writes an article that bemoans any person for valuing human relationships and heralds strength, capability, and calm when it is singularly coupled with “manly” reserve?
I might be (MIGHT be) the first to admit that there are and can be fundamental differences between men and women. That’s not really my point. It’s just that in reading this article, my primary question remains–how effective is it, in this day and age, to make up a new term that promotes sexual discrimination based on an archaic spectrum of stereotypical roles that has always and already polarized what is man, what is woman, and what is good and bad?