Thursday, November 12, 2009

The new man in society - how is the sexual identity of men changing?

The new man in society - how is the sexual identity of men changing? E.g. why have men started shaving their armpits?

By Mona Monsefi

Let’s face it, men’s grooming habits are changing. While many still refuse to shave their armpits, we nonetheless see them wearing bright colors or feminine hairstyles, even plucking their eyebrows. They want to be on their best behavior when they mix with society, but at the same time, do whatever they want. Their biggest problem is that they don’t want to be recognized as homosexuals or accused of not having enough masculinity. But what does masculinity mean? Does it have a universal meaning? Masculinity describes the mentality, attitude and characteristics of men, which have different attributes in different cultures. Men have not physically changed, but the definition of the masculinity is changing and it changes men’s appearance, habits and attitudes.

Changing gender roles in society appear to be influencing men’s sexual identity. We see more and more men interested in such jobs as hairdressing and nursing than before versus women who are becoming more and more interested in historically “manly” jobs.

"Men who enter the profession have a natural flair for it,” said Andrew Parkes, senior hairdressing lecturer at South Tyneside College in the UK. “So it's no coincidence that many of the top stylists such as Toni and Guy, Trevor Sorbie, Andrew Collinge and Nicky Clarke are male.”

Gender roles have changed but society’s view toward women and men still gets hung up on stereotypes. Why do some people respect a woman architect but assume all male hairdressers are gay? Evidence suggests that the stereotype of the female secretary is what prompted the coinage “executive assistant” in order to describe the job in such a way that it would appeal more to men.

Has this legacy of stereotypes and prejudice caused men to fear being viewed as homosexuals?

“When confronted with males and females deviating from society's sex-based gender role prescriptions,” wrote Donald R. McCreary, professor of psychology at Canada’s Brock University, “people tend to respond more negatively to the males' transgressions.”

Maybe this is the reason men are hesitating to do some basic things such as shaving their armpits. On the one hand, men are encouraged to shave their armpits for reasons of hygiene and health. On the other hand, the advertising of men’s beauty products and even the appearance of certain film and media stars may serve to reinforce the stereotype of the gay male, thereby frightening other men away.

Women have their own ideas about men’s armpits.

“It’s their personal hygiene to stay clean,” said a female physiotherapy student. “Also, men without chest and armpits hair are sexier.”

An art student added that, “armpits cause more sweating and bad smell plus big wet circles on the men’s shirts thay are not really attractive.”

Men’s views about armpits are predictably somewhat different.

“To me what makes a man is the body hair,” wrote a gay male on Yahoo! answers. “I know plenty of women who prefer men to have their armpit hair. Why? Cause it makes a man manly! I am a gay male myself and I prefer my men with body hair. If I wanted really smooth skin, especially under the arms, I’d go out with a woman instead.”

How interesting! How can men say that growing armpit hair protects them from the accusation of homosexuality when a gay man says that it’s exactly armpit hair that he likes?

Ask a few straight men and your answers will be different still.

“That’s what is known as stereotyping. I'm straight and I've done it because I think it looks gross. But it didn't make me attracted to men,” said one straight male. Another added: “I don't look at a guy and judge his manliness on how much hair he has! By this reasoning girls would be manly too if they stop shaving. To all you people who are saying that hair makes a man: there's nothing masculine about armpits hair, women get just as much of it naturally”.

As we see, all these ideas are different from person to person and even within the same culture there is no fixed rules about that because people’s minds have been shaped by their believes during their lives. Every single thing can change our attitudes. Religious reasons are sometimes involved in our behaviors. In Islamic culture, both men and women practice the removal of underarm hair for religious guidelines of cleanliness. Fashion also can change our views and behaviors. For example, the Hippies of the 1960s as well as the peoples of primitive cultures, prefer to let their underarm hair flourish. This is common for both females and males of the culture, and often they wear clothing that is loose and exposes the underarm hair as an alternative fashion statement. But now, in 21st century’s fashion we see lots of super models and super stars with hairless bodies. There are also more and more advertisements for men’s hair removal products.

Men are surrounded with contradictory beliefs in the new society and it is hard for them to be whatever they want but some of them have found their own way to face all these things.

Although identifying masculinity and its symbols are differ from culture to culture but these days with mass media every movement that happens can change something in the whole world. We have started to make a homogeneous world. In this new society both men and women’s sexual identity is changing and unbelievably men’s new behavior such as highlighting hair and manicuring their nail are becoming as accepted as Scottish skirts for men.


Tom Fried said...

Ahahah : ) i relly like this article, i red it twice and it is written so smoothly and aesthetic like a man chest.... : )
you really did some serious research. when i first met students from Turkey and even Iran i was surprise that they shave their armpit, while in Israel i have never heard before that males are doing it, maybe chest and somtimes even legs, but armpit????
never. a guy should be less hygienic than female in my opinion, but today's fashion and spirit let everyone do the same, the humanity always find somthing bad in each other anyway.
while reading your article i was wondering what do the previous generation (our parents and grandparents) think about today's fashion???
really good job Mona!!!

Sheggy said...

A very well written article. i have to disagree with somethings in there. That more males are getting into hair dressing....i haven`t noticed that,when,where,i need facts to believe that. A straight guy shaving his arms,legs and picking his eyebrow is kinda taking it too far. shaving of armpit for hygiene purpose is fine though. thanks for a great article.

Richard said...

i enjoyed this article. the best part about it was that it was well covered from all angles. although i disagree with some of the suggestions seemingly made by the author (men should shave their armpit hair for health purposes), i still think the she presented well thought out arguments. i would have liked to read a bit more about fashion, and male images presented in popular culture. overall--a good piece.

Felix said...

Interesting article you wrote about this sexual identity, with a lot of different perspectives on the topic.
But there's is another example where a gay from Yahoo gives his opinion. You show clearly there's a difference in opinions about what's gay and what not. However I don’t think this example is relevant because this is an exception of a minority group. This culture of shaving started in this subculture. It makes me only feel nasty to hear his opinion about sex.

You ask yourself this question in your article: ''Why do some people respect a woman architect but assume all male hairdressers are gay?"
I think you compare an extreme female job with a medium manly job: architect. I mean if you would mention a woman as construction worker or in the army I would think she's gay too. Aside this I don’t think all hairdressers are gay but about 95 percent.

Manicuring nails becomes accepted for men you say. I don't really know in what culture this is accepted but I think this is unacceptable.

Except for these few minor points you did a good job the rest is very pleasant to read, nicely done!

MrFT7 said...
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bental student said...
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vahideh said...

Good job dear Mona. I like it.
It reminds me one day that my father was reading an islamic traditional book and just laughing. I became curious what is he reading, and he said there, in the book, has written that hair accumulation in any part of the bady, is the home of devil; no difference for men or women. It seemed ridiculous for me, of course for devil aspect; but I still think that shaving armpit is good for health. I don't know it seems cleaner both for men and women. It has nothing to do with those men who shave their armpit are necessarily gay.

idamina said...

i really liked the article,i think it was well structured and written.i really dont think that a guy is gay just because he shaves his armpit or chest hairs,i think its just a matter of personal choice...nice one mona!

Gabi Hollows said...

I really enjoyed reading this article. I thought that it was well written and thought out. I thought it had a humorous side to it as well which was nice.
Shaving armpits is about preference rather than a must.

Nariman Alatrash said...

It is a really lovely article, very well written and i enjoyed reading it, since i've seen these strange behaviours of males .. well i just wish that it won't go so far and men will stay real men in attitudes and behaviour.. :)

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