October 31, 2005

British men assert themselves

“The promotion of metrosexuality was left to the men's style press…they persuaded young men to study them with a mixture of envy and desire.” Mark Simpson, Journalist, London

Britain seems to be reaching a tipping point. Men can not only stand up for themselves for the first time in a generation, but now they can even right some perceived wrongs. Since the 1990s, British men have gradually been discriminated against due to an ongoing feminising of society. But now, according to campaigners, it has become so damaging that they simply can't be ignored any longer. The number of men's rights groups has exploded, with the UK Men's Movement, ManKind, Families Need Fathers and Fathers4Justice leading the way. Once Fathers4Justice started pulling media stunts, the government started taking notice. More money is spent on men's health issues, the divorce courts are taking the position of fathers more seriously, and the male consumer market has undergone a dramatic rethink.

British men it seems are starting to build themselves up again. The male as portrayed in the media has shifted from the clumsy, lazy, and desperate, to the tentative, determined and confident. Men use this media image to counterbalance the social displacement experienced during 90s Britain. Men's magazines have become a fundamental vehicle for the representation of this renovated image of masculinity, characterised by his embrace of feminine universes, his deeper concern over personal looks and the greater importance attached to activities like fathering. True, men are more feminised as a result of two decades worth of social conditioning, but now they are also classically masculine. Unshackled from the now redundant metrosexual identity, British men are sounding more like, well, men again.

October 27, 2005

Spanish men learn domestic ways

"It's not that I'm a macho man. It's just that I've never been taught these things before." Santi, 36, Madrid

A new law is being passed in Spain that obliges men to share household chores and the care of children and elderly family members. This is set to challenge the tradition of Spanish male behaviour, half of which do not do any housework at all. Spanish men who refuse to lift a finger around the house will face new legal sanctions. Previously undomesticated men are already having problems coming to terms with the legislation, puffing and panting can be heard throughout a nation renowned for having a misogynistic culture.

Whereas you might expect Spanish men to revolt the idea, some think it high time they play catch up. But many wives remain sceptical about the new law. Domestic activities are still passed down from mother to daughter in Spain, so when a woman meets a man they invariably do the housework. And even if she has a full time job, she still does three times more housework than him. So it seems it is a question of education, to change men’s attitude and behaviours future sons must be taught to start taking more responsibility in the home. So, whereas older Spanish machos are set in their ways, younger Spanish men may change eventually as society evolves.

October 26, 2005

Changing masculine ideals of South Korean men

“I was delivered a business card from a "male massage parlour," whose masseurs travel to homes to provide private massage services to female clients. Below the masseur's phone number, it read, "I will do my best." Park Soo-mee, 33, Seoul

A social transition is taking place in South Korea. More and more men are working in the service sector; something once thought to be purely for women. Added to this, South Korean men are increasingly open to the idea of providing professional services for women's pleasure. Ten years ago this would have been a serious sign of incompetence. But now the positions of many women have become stable enough that they can choose men who meet their needs as active consumers, in the way that men used to choose women. It's a period of adjustment for women, and a giant shift for men, who over the past five decades have been taught masculine ideals in the military.

Most Korean men still have to spend up to three years of their precious youth secluded from ordinary life, surrounded by guns. But it's no longer a public disgrace for them to work in a service industry where more than half of the consumers are women. The lure of money, enjoyment and egalitarianism is changing men’s attitudes and behaviours. An increasing number of them now openly display their distaste for fulfilling their military obligations. Some of those who are enlisted end up becoming "flower men," working for trendy restaurants in Seoul.

October 24, 2005

The individualism of young South African men

“It’s all about the clothes, about how I look. How much cash do I have? How far can I get? Not, what can I do for someone else.” Maphiri, 18, Cape Town

Labelled ‘Born Frees’, young men in South Africa have grown up in a country experiencing fledging democracy. International opportunities are available and consumerism has ushered in a new sense of being for white and black middle class South Africans. As a result of affirmative action by the government regarding black rights and issues, South Africa offers previously undreamed opportunities for many men. Unfortunately, the promises of a post-apartheid government have not entirely come about. Thus, young men are sceptical about the capability of politicians and so men are looking to other mechanisms for mobilising modern opportunities.

They are only interested in the self for this precise reason. Entering a globalised world, young men are strongly conscious of themselves as individuals. This individualism is testing old traditions, and there is a growing cynicism regarding the wisdom of ‘ancient’ clan and groups. Young people tend to associated old traditions with the apartheid era, and therefore distrust them, ignore their value and disengage from most traditional customs. Young educated men, mostly now living and working in urban areas, are fired up by the imperatives of a modern South Africa. They are investing time and money in new forms of masculinity based on the ability to argue and reason. This is an empowering skill; prowess as street-smart individuals has more meaning and value than traditional rites of passage.

October 21, 2005

The Career Players of China

“Skateboarding is a game for brave and passionate men. The game gives me a sense of joy, and of self-control.” Jiang, 24, Shanghai

An interesting social group has emerged in several Chinese cities that have well-defined careers in extreme sports and extreme entertainment. While Chinese youth are noticeably self-centred and driven to enjoy life, members of these groups are more sensitive and painfully trendy. The groups’ members have been labelled as ‘career players’: in real life, they are most passionate about high-scoring street sports; on the Internet, they cling madly to games that involve fighting and self-realization. And hip-hop culture features heavily throughout their lives. This aesthetic is relatively new to the average Chinese lifestyle, even though it has been commonplace in the West for some time.

These mavericks often gather for entertainment and training at Beijing’s major squares. These extreme activities have set a new limit for youth activities. Out of love for the sport these men push their bodies to the limit. Most have scars to prove their devotion to their sports yet they refuse to stop performing. Youngsters born in the 1980s were lured to these activities, and now many are either professional or semi-professional extreme sportsmen. To them it is a challenge to devote themselves to such games, to become a career player, and to reject conformist attitudes that blatantly disapprove of their cavalier behaviour.

October 20, 2005

Mexican men's brand consciousness driven by machismo

“Mexican machismo isn't about the guy who's holding his wife in a headlock, it 's more like you're thought to be macho if you can sleep with a poof.” Gael, 25, Mexico City

Mexican consumers have become increasingly brand conscious due to the growing trend of globalisation. As trade has become more open between the U.S. and Mexico, brands have been internationalised and one global market has merged products and services worldwide. But in Mexico, males are more brand-conscious than females. Whereas women shop more frequently, and search for more information when they make purchase decisions, men conveniently choose the brands they recognise as macho – machismo among Mexican males is driving consumption.

Mexico City is a concentrated centre of passion, masculinity and sexuality. Competition is high, and Mexican males tend to be extremely concerned with their social image. It is important that they show that they are macho, especially to women and to themselves, and they feel constant pressure to prove themselves. Mexican men pay close attention to detail and quality, and to brand associations in order to base their purchasing decisions on the brands they want to represent them. In a male culture that prides itself on being a bastion of masculine values and idealistic attitudes, being Mexican and being macho coexist.

October 18, 2005

Home-grown hip-hop catching on among young Palestinian men

"Hip-hop is the CNN of Palestine." Nafar, 26, Palestine

Across the Gaza Strip, West Bank and even in Israel, young Arabic rappers are trying to juggle Middle East traditions with contemporary Western culture to create a political voice for their generation. Just as Public Enemy, N.W.A. and Ice-T created furores with songs such as "911 Is a Joke," "F-k Tha Police" and "Cop Killer," Palestinian rappers such as Nafar take a provocative, controversial approach with songs such as "Who's a Terrorist." The scene is giving young Middle Eastern men a voice for their opinions, the grit of real life adds to the rigour of the lyrics.

Loyal young Palestinian men follow these acts because they rap in Hebrew and Arabic. The rappers provoke critical thinking and encourage audiences to look at the issues facing the Middle East from the perspective of the victims, again appealing to the young men (and some women) who attend. The conservative Gaza Strip - where alcohol is all but banned, movie theatres are nearly nonexistent and Islam is a foundation for many families - is proving to be fertile new ground for hip-hop. The rappers messages resonate in a society where half the population is under the age of 18, at gigs teenage boys with their oversized t-shirts freely dance next to reserved groups of girls in traditional Islamic headscarves and conservative dresses.

October 17, 2005

The international Danish male

“Fascination is a central ingredient.” Carsten, 38, Aabenraa

Cheap international flights are fuelling the travel aspirations of young Danish men. Travelling abroad in your early twenties has become a rite of passage for many, countries like the UK are a perfect starting point for learning, working and meeting others (invariably other Danes). Also, being only two hours away, they can travel for short periods of time, and without the anxiety of being away from family and friends for too long if they so choose to stay. Even young Danes in rural areas have been shown to feel more positive about travelling to London than Copenhagen.

Young Danish men feel a strong connection between their home and international destinations, more so than neighbouring Nordic countries Sweden and Norway. Danes desire change and a point of different, thus the UK and the US for instance make for more interesting and exciting experiences. Somehow, things that are ever-so Scandinavian are seen as boring, whereas international cultures provide more life-enriching opportunities for young Danish men. But in the end the fascination wanes, and knowing you can always return home makes it all the better for young Danish men.

October 13, 2005

Comfort and freedom for young Italian men

‘Real life is outside, at home there is only protection and not much else.’ Calvino, 28, Milan

Young men in Italy have it all – they stay in the family home for extended periods, and are given more freedom as parents become more lenient. This experience is creating a generation of overprotected while boundless men. Safe from the unstable reality of modern life, yet free to come and go with friends. Young Italian men are surrounded by a secure family support structure, but also indulge in hedonistic activities typical of a generation with more lifestyle choices than they can handle.

Traditional routes into ‘adulthood’ such as starting a first job, leaving home, getting married and having children are now elongated and in some instances, completely side stepped. Lengthened time in education and high youth unemployment has meant that for many young men leaving the parental home is financially impossible whilst for some it is an active choice to provide them with stability. Whereas they prefer the warmth and protection of their family’s home, binge culture is a frequent occurrence. The consumption of drugs and alcohol has increased in Italy, particularly among post-teen males. Many drink with large a group of friends well into their thirties, a result perhaps of less authoritarian parents and carefree lifestyles.

October 11, 2005

Central Eastern European men seek nostalgia

"We're looking back to the straightforwardness of life." Dariusz, 24, Poland

In Central Eastern Europe (CEE), society became freer, open and rich with new opportunities as it ushered in the EU. But this freedom brought with it a sense of doubt as cultural identity has become increasingly disputed and displaced within a homogenised Europe. Young men are joining older generations in their taste for nostalgia, favouring symbols of traditional sensibility. Young men feel they have little effect upon the changes occurring around them, they now seek stability, a sense of belonging and uniqueness not long after experiencing the recent overdose of autonomy in their lives.

Men in CEE desire things that reflect their local culture. Communist brands like Tisza trainers, Kofolo cola and Ludwik laundry detergent, together with local celebrities and role models, are being consumed to reinforce perceivably more stable values, to provide a sense of confidence whilst they continue to live opportunity-rich lifestyles. Interestingly, younger men are fond of nostalgic brands they never even grew up with. Once enthralled by the new Western products available in their stores, the products of communism suddenly seem like symbols of the new youth. Nevertheless, this may simply be an expression of protest over the social uncertainty that has come with the fall of communism; nobody really wants the old system back.

October 10, 2005

Indian men experience financial mobility

"Now it is much easier to make more money." Saurabh, 23, New Delhi

Attitudes towards money are changing in India. The common family attitude has always been save, save, save. However, a new young urban middle class, inspired by Western consumer values, more job opportunities and an open economy, have switched to spend, spend, spend. More and more Indian men are forging links with Western businessmen, understanding the essential needs required to boost their local economic situation. The biggest distinction has been young men’s willingness to embrace new types of jobs that promise to deliver a higher standard of living, and more importantly more money.

Men’s prized possessions are apartments, mobiles phones and cars, now widely accessible to those who earn to consume. They also prefer to socialise in luxury hotel-based nightclubs and bars, mingling with likeminded high earners. These venues are a private oasis, welcoming only those who look like they can afford the expensive cocktail list. In the past, such activities and possessions were off limits to all but a fortunate elite, but a rapidly changing economy is making the high life attainable.

October 07, 2005

European men are seemingly taking it easy

"Chilling out is a daily habit." Kai, 32, Berlin

Growing numbers of young men in Northern Europe do not want work to overwhelm them, and have decided to put their lives before their jobs. Gone are days of being the sole breadwinner, sweating away worrying about the work-life balance. Most young people do not connect with their parent’s attitude towards work, instead work, and the concept of ‘career’ that accompanies it, is now thought to be less of a duty and more of an option. This has resulted in these young workers expectations often veering quite dramatically from those of employers. These casual work motives are set to become a massive undertow in the labour market. But underneath this slack facard lies simply a new attitude to work. Seen as the provider of cash, the lifestyle lubricant, work only makes the act of consuming more fluid.

October 06, 2005

Older Japanese men are taking an interest in style

Middle-aged Japanese men tend to be stereotyped as wearing dull business suits, but now a growing number of men's fashion magazines and convincing men that style matters. Besides dispensing tips on wardrobe coordination, beauty treatments, and applying basic makeup, the magazines run special features on becoming cool from within through fasting, proper etiquette, and refined leisure pursuits.

Some men who follow these prescriptions say they not only look more stylish but are also feeling more self-confident, performing better at work, and getting healthier as a result. A growing number of products and services are targeted at Japanese men aged from their early forties through early fifties, and brands use the new swathe of men's magazines to achieve this. Magazines like GQ Style, Men's Vogue, Officiel Homme, Leon, Gentry, Straight and Uomo contain advice on face washing, skin care, table manners, dating requirements and colour diagnosis - everything the modern thinking man needs to survive in highly competitive business and social contexts.