In a sweet anecdote, Sociologist Michael Kimmel talks about how he was playing the game of opposites with his son.  “What is the opposite of up?”  “Down.”  “What is the opposite of awake?”  “Asleep.”  “What is the opposite of man?”  He asked.

And his son replied, “Boy.”

Kimmel tells this story as a glimpse into an alternative world in which men do not define themselves in opposition to women, but see manhood in terms of maturity.

We don’t live in that world.  And Dockers thinks it can sell khakis by encouraging men to define themselves as not-women in its new man-ifesto ad campaign (text after the jump):

500x_pants

Of course, what is really interesting about this ad is the way that it defines manhood as in opposition to all kinds of things: womanhood, of course, but also boyhood, and feminine manhood, androgyny, and whatever disco, plastic forks, latte drinking, and salad represent.  What do men get?  Being in charge of women and children… and dirty hands (maybe the dirt is metaphorical).

I’d much rather live in Kimmel Jr.’s world.

(Thanks to Christina W. for encouraging us to write about this ad.)

For a similar ad, see this Ketel One commercial expressing nostalgia for a pre-feminist time.  And, for lots of material documenting the new pop culture version of masculinity, browse our gender: masculinity tag.

Jump for a transcript of the text:

Once upon a time, men wore the pants, and wore them well.  Women rarely had to open doors and little old ladies never crossed the street alone.  Men took charge because that’s what they did.  But somewhere along the way, the world decided it no longer needed men.  Disco by disco, latte by foamy non-fat latte, men were stripped of their khakis and left stranded on the road between boyhood and androgyny.  But today, there are questions our genderless society has no answers for. The world sits idly by as cities crumble, children misbehave and those little old ladies remain on one side of the street.  For the first time since bad guys, we need heroes.  We need grown-ups.  We need men to put down the plastic fork, step away from the salad bar and untie the world from the tracks of complacency.  It’s time to get your hands dirty.  It’s time to answer the call of manhood.  It’s time to wear the pants.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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