Friday, August 27, 2010

Atomic Dog: It's Okay to be a Man by TC Luoma

TC is the editor at T-Nation, a weight training and nutrition site aimed at hard-core guys. T-Nation stands for Testosterone Nation, so you get the idea. I've posted some Atomic Dog columns here in the past in which TC waxed poetic (or raunchy) on all things manly and masculine.

TC is a dude - he likes to lift weights, digs cool cars, likes to watch football (or better, play it), and he loves pretty women. But he is also intelligent, educated, and a little more emotionally aware than he might like to admit. So when he writes about masculinity issues, which he does frequently, beneath the raunchiness, mock sexism, crude jokes, and so on, he generally makes some good sense.

This new article is one of those times - I'm cutting to the chase, so go check out the whole column (link below) if you are not easily offended. I like this rant (he calls for substance over style), and for what it's worth, I am in total agreement on the issue of Crocs.

ATOMIC DOG: It's Okay to be a Man

If you spend any amount of time on YouTube, you're no doubt familiar with Isiah Mustafah, the Old Spice body wash spokesperson and alleged avatar of manhood.

Isiah and his "Smell like a man, man" campaign was introduced in February. It featured a shirtless Mustafah extolling ladies to, "Look at your man. Now back at me. Now back at your man. Now back to me. Sadly, he isn't me, but if he stopped using ladies' scented body wash and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like me."

Smell like a man.

The commercial has drawn more than 13 million views, but never mind what that says about the way we choose to spend our time. The popularity of the campaign has spawned another commercial and 185 quickly produced video clips where Isiah responds to Twitter and Facebook questions.

The chutzpah behind this campaign is breathtaking. For those of you lacking in history of cologne studies, Old Spice cologne was your grandpa's cologne, the stuff they stocked between the condoms and hemorrhoid cream at the local drug store. Old Spice is what I used to put on my socks when I was in college to nullify odors and eke another day out of them (I saved the good stuff for my body).

But now Old Spice is taking a marketing ax to the popularity of Axe Body Wash (another olfactory offense). Yes, the Old Spice ads are partly targeted to women, who presumably pile their grocery carts up with shit they think their men should use, but it's also targeted to men.

The campaign "touches on a very subtle but powerful sentiment that is bubbling under the surface of American culture now, and that is that it's O.K. to be a man," said marketing author Rob Frankel.

"Axe turns women into scent-sniffing bimbos and nymphomaniacs and is more about, 'Use our product and it will enhance your sex appeal,' but Old Spice goes to your character, and they're really reaffirming masculinity."

Using Old Spice says it's "okay to be a man"? Using Old Spice "reaffirms masculinity"?

Oh Faddah, forgive them for they know not what they do.

Are You Fucking Stupid or Something?

Body wash sales have since skyrocketed, overcoming two main obstacles to its acceptance, 1) It leaves a film on you and you don't feel like it got you clean, and 2) You need a "pouf" (one of those webby things on a string that looks like a fishing net with a clenched asshole).

Wash Me

The problem was that guys felt wussy using something called a pouf, but Axe and Old Spice fixed that real quick. Old Spice slapped a rubber grip on it and renamed it a "Deck Scrubber," while Axe called its version the "Detailer."

Suddenly, it was okay to use poufs and it was okay to use body wash.

American men, I offer the slightly modified Gumpian interrogative:

Are you fucking stupid or something?

Is our sense of masculinity so muddled and befuddled that we need advertisers or Hollywood to tell us what it means to be a man? And make no mistake about it, they are the ones writing all the definitions of masculinity, the definitions that are transmitted through commercials, movies, and songs that trickle down into the primitive consciousness of the adolescent bloggers, the sneering frat boys chugging down beers, and the Cro-Magnons leaning against the lockers in your high school.

But what the advertisers are dictating is just style masquerading as masculinity.

Is wearing pink unmanly? Only because you've been told that it was since the day you were born. If you'd been raised thinking pink was manly, your underwear drawer would resemble the bargain panty bin at Victoria's Secret.

Is trimming your eyebrows unmanly? Evidence suggests that George Bush and Adam Corolla might think so, but if you want to look like you just learned to walk upright this past Thursday, be my guest and don't trim them.

It's just that you can't picture your movie-cowboy heroes doing that sort of thing, or for that matter any of the Hollywood action heroes, when in reality their careers depend on such things, lest a forest of nasal hair in 30-foot high cinematic glory scare the bejesus out of all the women and children in the audience.

Hell, to the majority of the population, bodybuilding is unmanly; all that attention to how the muscles look and how little body fat they have and all that shaving and oiling up and looking in the mirror.

How do you feel about that, bunky? You going to quit because a bunch of confused, brainwashed assholes think your passion is suspect?

How about being smart? Is that unmanly? Nerds are still being persecuted in high school because, unlike their brethren, they have interests outside cars, girls, and sports.

Is using moisturizer unmanly? Sure, better to have skin like a lava lizard of the Galapagos. How about being gay? I've seen bull queers who look like WWE wrestlers who could rip your head off. Are they unmanly?

Is wearing Crocs unmanly? Hell yes. A guy's got to draw the line somewhere.

Anyhow, we could go on all day, but all those examples are questions of style and not substance.

The substance of masculinity has do with things that appeal to a masculine nature, things that tug hormonally at your soul, and those are things that represent power, strength, courage, confidence, conviction, and integrity of soul and purpose. It's part of the masculine nature to abhor security and seek risk. It's part of the masculine nature to be authoritative; to take charge in a bad situation.

This is why you might like the idea of war, or at the very least, Mixed Martial arts. This is why you might find a muscle car appealing, or music with a driving beat. This is why you might like sports. That is why you might like lifting heavy things and the visual appeal of muscle.

These are things that are intrinsic to the nature of man (and many women). All the rest is fashion, and fashion is determined by businessmen who want to play, play, play you.

If you think using a pouf is unmanly, so is using a "deck scrubber." A man with confidence and integrity would look at the item, assess its functionality, and use it or discard it based on his reasoning.

If you want to use a body wash and smell like a high school kid who broke into grandpa's medicine cabinet, use body wash. No problem. If you want to use a pouf, use one. Shit, I've been using poufs with bar soap as long as I can remember and amazingly, I still can get my newly exfoliated penis up to service them-there women-folk.

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