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Is conventional masculinity being modernised?

Posted Aug 20 2010 3:42am

The past decade or so has seen a marked increase in neologisms for men, which include recent examples such as ‘neosexual’, ‘heteropolitan’ and ‘übersexual’ (see Urban Dictionary for definitions), and it seems that some men are now self-identifying with these.

The common theme across these contemporary categories is men’s embodiment of some non-traditional masculine attributes (e.g. caring and sensitivity). Many of these changes have been spurred on by media/advertising representations of men, which have contributed to the increasing visibility of men’s bodies (Gill et al., 2005). Where once women’s bodies dominated style magazines, newspapers, television and billboards, men’s bodies are now just as likely to feature. The increasing exposure of men’s bodies appears to have lead some men at least, to ‘re-evaluate their appearance, re-position themselves as consumers of fashion and style products, and ultimately re-construct their idea of what it is to be male’ (Harrison, 2008: 56). It seems clear from Harrison’s research and the emergence of these contemporary neologisms that some men are now actively engaging with these new masculine identities.

Forays into un-chartered masculine identity territory appear to be producing interesting places of slippage where traditional standards and notions of gender binaries are potentially undermined and contested (Whitehead and Barrett, 2001). Such forays have led some to wonder if conventional or ‘hegemonic’ (Connell, 1995) forms of masculinity are being superseded or modernised (see MacInnes, 2001). However, other research (Simpson, 2005; Hall & Gough, 2010, forthcoming) suggests that ascription and embodiment of these non-conventional masculine identities walks a fine line between rejecting traditional masculinised practices (e.g. disinterest in appearance) and invoking other masculinised ideals (e.g. autonomy, self-discipline). In other words, the continued force of hegemonic masculinities looms large.


Neosexual Man – The New Male For the New Millennium

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