In a patriarchy, masculinity is considered superior to femininity. Requiring women to perform that denigrated identity is one way that they are subordinated. But the flip side of that is the requirement that men must eschew everything tinged with femininity, lest they, too, be denigrated. This means that men’s daily lives are absolutely filled with things they are not supposed to do. (Whereas women can do masculine things, as long as they balance that behavior with feminine things, because masculinity doesn’t carry the same polluting effect.)
We’ve offered many examples of this policing of men’s behavior. It’s everywhere, in sports (see here and here), cartoons, schools (see here and here), and Cosmo, and in advertising for McCoy Crisps, Hungry Man, Solo, Chevy, dog food, Miller beer, beef jerky, alcohol (see here, here, here and here), cell phones, and Dockers. See also: “how to give the perfect man hug” and “how I sit on the bus”.
This one, sent in by Kelebek, is another great example. It’s an Australian ad for Toyota in which they are trying to re-brand Toyota as a masculine vehicle. It begins: “It’s a hard country. And we want to keep it that way. Nothin’ soft gets in. That’s our motto.”
So, in these two minutes, we learn that men are not allowed to use hairspray, put their polo collar up, drink lattes, have fuzzy little dogs, be urban, eat tofu or soy sausages, carry a man bag, be a metrosexual, drink sparkling water, have designer luggage, wear cologne, have a sweater around your neck, wear crocks, shave your chest, use lip balm, or eat crossaints.
UPDATE! Reader Jeff Kaufman added a class analysis (in the comments) that I think is spot on:
We’re misinterpreting the toyota ad. It’s not primarily about gender. It’s about the urban / rural divide. The setting is an (imaginary, of course) border crossing from urban to rural australia. At the checkpoint there are rules about what can be brought in from the city. The claim is that the outback is no place for people, pets, and objects that are fragile, soft, faddish, environmentalist, or useless people. The outback is a harsh place where you need a tough vehicle, which toyota would be happy to sell you.
So I disagree with the summary that the toyota ad is saying “men are not allowed to use hairspray, put their polo collar up, drink lattes, have fuzzy little dogs, be urban, eat tofu or soy sausages …” Primarily, it’s saying that in rural australia, none of this is allowed for anyone. A customs official takes away a fluffy little dog from a little girl riding in a car with her parents!
There *is* a men-should-conform-to-gender-roles message here too, but it’s complex. It’s saying that one aspect of urban culture which is not allowed in the outback is men being concerned with health or appearance. Rural people considering urban men to be dandies and fops is nothing new, though, and has its parallel in urban people considering rural women to be unladylike.
Steve W. also sent in this Dodge Charger commercial with the same theme. It, too, lists a whole slew of things that men are supposed to eschew:
Patriarchy: nobody wins.Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.