Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Man Up, Ladies

Man Up! Lessons in Beer Tasting:

While watching the NCAA basketball tournament in recent weeks (along with Rhys Williams and many other sociology departments across the country), I found it difficult to ignore what appears to be an increase in the frequency of commercials ridiculing men who trespass the dominant masculine norms with their clothing and appearance. For example, three separate Bud Light commercials mock men who wear tight jeans, spend too much time on their hair, and tee off from the “ladies tee.” Just as remarkable is a series of Old Spice ads that directly challenge women (not men) to make sure “your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady.”

Hyper-masculine commercials are not entirely new, of course. They appear in every Super Bowl and on every Monday Night Football show. But these recent commercials seem to carry a new intensity—as if there were suddenly more at stake. I suggest that such “tough comedy” commercials present us with a form of social control aimed at policing masculinity norms in direct response to a trend toward experimenting with alternative masculinities.
Interesting. See, I've noticed the same commercials, but for the opposite reasons: that the "tough-talking bartender" behind the bar, who looks like a Beauty Myth stereotype, seems to be ridiculing a male who is nothing short of a parody. The guy in "skinny jeans" (which also happen to be floral print, if I remember correctly) is more than just stepping "outside of masculine norms." He's a clown, a buffoon, a joke that doesn't really exist.

But not according to the author.
It is worth pointing out that the “deviant male” in this commercial is not completely deluded. Skinny jeans are in fact a new fashion trend on the rise among men. As early as 2009, the Wall Street Journal published a story on the growth of this new recession-proof market for expensive, tight-fitting men´s jeans. Nor has the fashion trend been confined to urban elites who can afford designer jeans. Just yesterday I happened to be in Sears—hardly at the forefront of the fashion movement—where Levi’s openly promoted its “Skinny Leg Jean” for men. Clearly then, the skinny jeans commercial represents a reaction to a genuine fashion trend. Some men do choose to wear tight jeans, and we are told that this is unacceptable. Why is it so offensive? Because tight jeans are women’s fashion.
Again, if I recall correctly, it wasn't just "skinny jeans," but floral print jeans, along with a boa around his neck and some ridiculous sunglasses. The commercials would have been more "ballsy" (since that seems to be topic here) had the "iron-maiden" female bartender ridiculed, let's say, a young, 20's club hipster decked out in Ed Hardy douche/choad fashion. Now that would have been funny.

Instead, female empowerment only seems to be acceptable if the male being ridiculed is a prototype clown who doesn't really exist.

But I do agree with the author on one thing:
Let’s assume for a moment that Bud Light beer actually tastes better than other light beers. (Stay with me, this is purely hypothetical.) I’m not sure that at my age I’m ready to switch to skinny jeans, but I think I’m man enough to know what good beer tastes like. I think I’ll pass on the Bud Light.

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