It is not surprising that men are uncertain about what masculinity is all about when they are exposed to so many mixed messages. On one extreme we are told that gender neutrality is the marching order of the day and that society would be better off if men would develop their feminine side – whatever that means. On the other hand we are getting messages in advertising and other media about expressing manliness in the stereotypical characteristics of manliness that are totally out of sync. with societal norms and expectations. A recent ad for a watch in a popular car magazine -whose primary demographic is probably men- with the headline, “How to Tell Time Like a Man” used the following verbiage to describe their watch. “Your watch…..It should look like a power tool and not a piece of bling. Wearing it shouldn’t make you think twice about swinging a hammer or changing a tire. A real man’s timepiece needs to be ready for anything.” The ad goes on, “call me old fashioned , but I want my boots to be leather, my tires to be deep tread monsters, and my steak thick and rare. Inspiration for a man’s watch should come from things like fast cars, firefighters and power tools. And if you want to talk beauty, then let’s discuss a 428 cubic inch V8.”
This ad is not a parody or tongue in cheek. The company that placed is convinced that the descriptors of masculinity that they used to entice men to buy this watch will resonate with men. No wonder we are confused about our manliness. After all, the reality is that is often difficult while wearing our leather boots to change a diaper and swing a power tool at the same time.