The generation of a ‘New Lad’

Posted: October 31, 2013 in Experience & Identity
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essex-boy-web-spt-345x548Masculinity and moisturiser do mix!

I wasn’t sure in the blog about feminism that I had the knowledge or the right to talk about it.  I felt that I was part of the problem as well as the solution. So when I knew I had to write a blog about masculinity I thought I would be safe and a year ago I think I would have been. But as always, this course gets you thinking in different ways about things you just didn’t think about! You see I thought masculinity was just about being a man and that I decided the type of man I wanted to be but now nothing is that simple. Having read Hall and Geiben’s article ‘The Commercialisation of masculinities:from the new man to the new lad’ [Article from Formations of Modernity:1992] I realise that not only is it really difficult to define what masculinity is but that surprise, surprise, I’m not sure I’m in charge of it! Take male beauty products as an example! When my dad was my age, there were no ‘male skincare products’ and recently when he saw my Nivea shaving balm, I got the ‘What do you need that for?’ look. I know that I am different to my dad in that respect. But just because I look after myself doesn’t mean I’m not masculine. (I’m taking my definition of masculine from the Oxford Dictionary: adjective having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with men: he is outstandingly handsome and robust, very masculine) [Oxford Dictionaries.com]

But my worry here is this – am I caring about my appearance because the media tell me to? Have I watched too many adverts or read too many men’s magazines. Perhaps I have become the ‘new man as narcissist’ as Hall puts it. Perhaps men are falling into the same trap as women do. I believe that I can be like the bloke on the front cover of Esquire just like women believe they can look like Angelina Jolie in two weeks because the magazine says so. I guess I am a new man and I am happy with my masculinity even though the definition of what that actually is, keeps changing. But surely I’m not that dense. Can I really be that influenced by adverts in men’s magazines? It really could be the case that media and big business is responding to ‘the new man’ rather than the other way round. The problem is, men’s beauty products is worth $2.6B in the USA and £420M in Europe [2012 – Premium Beauty News – http://www.premiumbeautynews.com] so surely the industry is going to keep on advertising and then it’s going to be difficult to decide who is leading who. I would like to think that the media will always respond to the changing needs of men but this course is teaching me that the media is a very powerful thing and nothing should be taken for granted!

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Comments
  1. sherryl wilson says:

    Of course men can write about femininity and feminism (and even claim to be feminist). As your blog indicates, we live in a patriarchal system so that whatever your gender, it is difficult to not get caught up in it. As for the buying of products and ‘into’ lifestyles, it is not about stupidity but about the power of discourse and constructions of identity.

  2. sherryl wilson says:

    Also, your comment about a problem with femininity being other women is true, and another example of the ways in which discourse produces identities that are valued over other – unless we decide to resist of course.

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