To have an offspring, both the male and female would have to play an equal role, both of them essential. Thus, it is only understandable to assume that heterosexual relationships are the natural order that will lead to an organised and balanced society. Homosexuality has existed since humans have, but has only been emerging and more accepted only recently in our history. This is probably due to the liberal attitude modern societies adopt, which is to allow others to have their independent lifestyles, leading to more and more homosexuals being more willing to accept their identities themselves. Our point here is not to debate issues pertaining to homosexuality but to look at how it tipped the scales between men and women and how it led to the emergence of a new generation of men and women.
Homosexual couples are often perceived to require one of the pair to display more feminine characteristics while the other to be more masculine to complement each other. Therefore, some gay men are portrayed to be attentive to their looks, to care for fashion and to accept feminine articles or associations, for instance wearing pink or display their love for shopping. On the other hand, gay women are portrayed to be assertive, wear loose clothing and cut short hair, often being called butch'. While these stereotypes are not entirely true of homosexuals, the emergence and acceptance of individuals who fit them create a new mindset that encourages other men and women to step out of their stereotypes as well.
The fact that a line is being blurred where relationships between men and women are concerned results in the previously clear-cut distinction of what makes a man and what makes a woman rather obscured as well, thus debunking many stereotypes. Therefore, while women in modern societies take on more aggressive and assertive roles by going into politics or rising up to lead men in businesses, men are not lagging behind in this collapse of stereotypes either. We will study this specifically under the articles - Metrosexuality and Androgyny.
Dolling up and caring for one's appearance is not only exclusive to females in today's world where outer appearances are of great significance. The rise of metrosexuals indicates that men are slowly stepping out of their stereotype of being the macho man who does not need to dress up and are embracing a quality that used to be reserved for females alone. As much as many roles and responsibilities of men and women are interchangeable now, distinct qualities and characteristics of men and women are no longer mutually exclusive.
So, what is a metrosexual? The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines a metrosexual as a usually urban heterosexual male given to enhancing his personal appearance by fastidious grooming, beauty treatments, and fashionable clothes. A metrosexual, according to New York's finest marketing men, is "a guy who is definitely straight, but has embraced the worlds of grooming facials, shopping with women and ... their feminine side".' (The Guardian, 16th July 2003) The term metrosexual was first used by British journalist Mark Simpson in 1994. He used the word heterosexual and combined it with the prefix metro- from metropolis. This predicates that a typical metrosexual would be a straight man who has the money and access to grooming clubs where he can pay attention to his appearance.
Advertisements that target this brand of the male are growing rapidly, with fashion chains creating goods that cater to such a group. Famous male magazine FHM says that advertising involving fashion and grooming included in the magazine have grown 35 per cent since 2001. Cosmetics brands such as Ella Bache that offer salon services say men make up as much as a shocking 40 per cent of their customers.
"Theres a lot of categories that are purchased by males, but using what we would conventionally regard as female cues," says Alan Treadgold, director of research and consulting at the advertising agency Leo Burnett. "Traditionally, when purchasing home entertainment systems, we would expect guys to be motivated by gadgetry and technical features. But, increasingly, theres a certain type of male choosing it from what might be seen as female attributes, such as the environment of the store, level of service and other intangible things."
Metrosexual men whom we are familiar with include Brad Pitt, David Beckham, Hugh Jackman, Tom Cruise and swimmer Ian Thorpe. One of the most significant epitomes of metrosexuality would be David Beckham, who has been found saying he liked being admired by both men and women, has posed for gay magazines and endorsed many fashion products. Soccer players are often associated with manliness and toughness, but David Beckham has defied these stereotypical notions and set a new trend, encouraging other males to be like him.
The new wave of males who have taken a shine to vanity and asserting feminine aspects of their identity greatly indicates the breaking down of stereotypes in today's world. Men and women can now transcend their prescribed gender roles as there has been a general acceptance of men and women crossing the boundaries to step out of their stereotypes. Although men and women are not completely free from social expectations, the rise of metrosexuality is definitely a clear sign that we are making our way there.
In this postmodern world where borders are obscured and cultures are merged, it is only natural for the emergence of the concept of androgyny. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the term androgynous can be defined in two ways.
- (Biology) Having both female and male characteristics; hermaphroditic.
- Being neither distinguishably masculine nor feminine, as in dress, appearance, or behavior.
For the purpose of this article, we will be concentrating on the second definition. We can now see the rise of a third gender in society, where an individual is accepted to be neither male nor female, or both male and female. With the feminisation of what it means to be a male and the increasing masculinity that females are willing to take up, androgyny is the middle point where the opposites of femininity and masculinity meet to be manifested in many individuals today.
Increasingly, we see women wearing clothing that combine the comfort of male clothing and the style of female design. One example of such a woman would be famous talk show host Ellen Degeneres who wears mostly jeans, slacks and button-down tops.
Even in entertainment, with the rise of Korean and Japanese pop culture, popular men are very often pretty rather than handsome, with long hair and other feminine features. In manga or anime, the male protagonists are often long-haired, slim, with long limbs and with huge eyes, defying the preconceived notions of how a male should look like. Other examples of icons that have influenced the world would be worldwide phenomenon Michael Jackson, with his falsetto voice and effeminate manners' (Lee, Diana, 2005)
The acceptance of the concept of androgyny is largely due to the efforts of psychologist Dr. Sandra Bem, who was awarded the American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Award in 1976. She defined psychological androgyny (the second definition found in the American Heritage Dictionary) to be a natural phenomenon and even something that is beneficial and an adaptive feature. According to her, psychological androgyny describes when an individual does not fit into traditional gender roles ascribed to a male or female. This phenomenon does not define and divide the world into two completely opposite genders but unifies humans by combining the complementary gender characteristics.
As with metrosexuality, the emergence of the androgynous is a major indicator of how with social roles of men and women changing, men and women are also stepping out of their stereotypes to embrace new identities.