A poem by a man, a mechanic by trade and poet/writer by vocation Jim Storm, his poem says a lot about the month of October and the uncovering of the new masculinity within all people: “October is about leaves revealing colors they have hidden all year. People have an October as well.”
In a blog that I wrote (April 2018 - SOC) entitled “Masculinity Is It the Problem or A Programed Expectation?” What is Masculinity? How is it measured? What are its demands? And how is that person meant to look, think, act, and feel? and should that be according to the mores of society?
This is a continuation of that conversation, and to somehow navigate that storm of debate on the subject of Masculinity successfully using a compass with an edge, and that edge is composed of paying attention, and preparation gathered from how the storms behaved in the past, there in is the edge.
We looked at how common nursery rhymes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, from Europe and America had negative descriptors of Masculinity, and the male gender described as slugs, snails, snips, and frogs depending on where in the world the rhyme was told.
In today’s society, Advertising has played one of the important roles of carving out either negative or positive representations of gender and masculinity of late. But with a focus on women’s empowerment dominating the cultural landscape, Producers keen on selling their brand and products are forgetting their role in shaping male identity as a consequence.
Suzy Bashford, international journalist in her article for the online European business marketing website called The Drum (July 2016) wrote:
“A growing global ‘boy crisis’ suggests that we could be, in fact, empowering the wrong sex…. The difference is that we are all now familiar with the narrative around [women’s issues] and tackling these issues, thanks in no small part to groundbreaking campaigns such as ‘Like A Girl’ by Always, Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ and Dove’s ‘Real Beauty ’ [ad campaigns]…..
We are much less equipped to talk about the issues affecting boys. There’s an unconscious bias that males should simply ‘man up’ and deal with any crisis of confidence themselves…Yet, the reality is that men commit suicide more than women, and are more likely to drop out of education and get involved in crime, drugs and binge-drinking. Moreover, as women are increasingly empowered, many men feel increasingly dis-empowered, accentuating these social problems.”
Unilever known as Lynx, owner of “[Axe] deodorant brand who wants to become the number one male grooming brand in the world. Had to realize that their marketing strategy failed when sales slowed dramatically from when they’d first entered the market with the “alpha-male” concept. Lynx/Axe admits it had been relying on assumptions before its repositioning. It was only when sales growth slowed that the brand decided to invest in some proper research, leading to a 10-country study of 3,500 men, and consultation of experts such as neuroscientists, to find out what men are really thinking. The results shocked the brand explained Stephanie Feeny, head of strategy at 72&Sunny Amsterdam’s An Advertising Agency used by Lynx to research and reform marketing strategies. “Ideas of masculinity had changed and it recognised it wasn’t quite keeping pace with culture. Lynx/Axe found men are craving a more diverse definition of what it means to be a ‘successful’ man.”
One of the sectors most impacted by this insight is FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer daily used Goods). With analyst from FMCG buying practices, gender role assumptions were most challenged. It was found the person who wins the bread and the person who buys the bread isn’t down to gender these days, for example,
It is often now that the advertiser discovers that in some country’s men are doing 40 per cent of the supermarket shopping. That in the US men have been running household budgets. If producers of goods don’t recognised this, they are going to lose out because they’re increasingly ignoring their potential biggest audience. We hear a lot about women’s voices needing to be heard, but when it comes to men, it becomes strangely silent.
Campaigner David Brockway, who manages the Great Initiative’s Great Men project, urges the industry to be “more revolutionary”,
The Lynx /Axe global brand repositioning had been a “difficult”, steep learning curve admits Fernando Desouches, brand development director, he argues that he learned “men are actually more emotional than women” and that they need more empowerment than women. Desouches says, “you’ve got to ‘set the platform’ before you explode the myth.”
the Argentinian’s voice is tangible when he says” “Women have feminism. But men don’t even know they are sick. This is why we need to put men alongside women, not move them to the side to give room to women. Both genders need to be in the center.”
The Gender divisive issues are certainly at the center of the storm, and will subside through guiding principals of compassion and compass points like attention, and preparation to steer you through the storm. At the end a truly equal future, when sex becomes a far less defining characteristic than it is today.
Suzy Bashford puts it this way: “After all, you cannot fully empower either gender if by empowering one you are creating divisions and disempowering the other.
As Nobel peace prizewinner Malala Yousafzai puts it ‘we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.’ A statement that is equally true of women, as it is of men.”