Monday, February 1, 2010
Posted by John S. Wilson at 1:12 PM
But the article mentions:
Boys themselves, at a younger age, have also become increasingly self-conscious about their appearance and identity. They are trying to tame their twitching, maturing bodies, select from a growing smorgasbord of identities — goth, slacker, jock, emo — and position themselves with their texting, titillating, brand-savvy female peers, who are hitting puberty ever earlier.To be sure, boys have long had a predilection toward emulating their fathers, older brothers, and male role models. That's far from new. In many cases it is considered a rite of passage. I remember first smelling my father's Old Spice and wondering why he wore it. I also remember wondering when I would get a chance to shave (now that I do it every three days or so I can honestly say it's overrated) and grow my first mustache.
Like girls, boys criticize their own bodies at earlier ages. Ms. Wiseman, the writer, said, “As a teacher, I saw boys as young as 7 refusing to take off their shirts at swimming pools for fear of being teased about being fat.”What I don't remember is this feeling of inadequacy. And there's a reason for that. The procession toward my rite of passage wasn't one motivated by fear, it was one of natural curiosity. When my curiosity was squelched - I felt bored and a bit embarrassed. I thought to myself, "What was I in such a rush for?" But, again, I don't think there are any lingering effects to thoughts such as those. But the feeling of inadequacy that is caused by self-doubt and then morphs into hypermasculinity, is dangerous. It leaves boys with little choice but to engage in activities or habits that are increasingly "masculine." These activities/habits are likely to include high levels of unprotected sex, experimentation with steroids, and over-aggressiveness. As Lyn Mikel Brown, a psychologist at Colby College and an author of “Packaging Boyhood,” said:
[T]he products gave boys the mere illusion of choice. In fact, she said, they often preach an extreme, singular definition of masculinity — at a time developmentally when boys are grappling uneasily with identity. “These are just one of many products that cultivate anxiety in boys at younger and younger ages about what it means to man up,” Ms. Brown said, “to be the kind of boy they’re told girls will want and other boys will respect. They’re playing with the failure to be that kind of guy, to be heterosexual even.”Axe is the new GI Joe or WWE wrestling figure. It's the modern dividing line between the men and the boys, the haves and have-nots. It seems innocuous at first because it's just a spray. However Axe isn't in the business of selling deodorant, they're in the business of selling what a real man is and what he does: strong and confident and gets the girl.
Obviously, Axe isn't the only company marketing in this fashion these days. But we should be wary of the contributions companies make to the social constructionism that is constantly being interwoven with our perceptions and realizations. In other words, the choices we collectively make can either reinforce our fears and negative stereotypes (e.g., men are weak and should embrace masculinity that much more), or they can assist individuals and society at large in creating positive perspectives that propel progress.
Rosalind Wiseman, author of “Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials,”offers an interesting assessment.
“We consistently look at boys in a position of privilege and power,” she said. “But if you ask a 12-year-old boy if they’re in a position of power, they feel out of control of themselves, their bodies.” She added: “I defy anyone to tell me that an eighth-grade girl doesn’t look like she has more power and control than a boy.”So if boys aren't in control, then girls are, right? No, not really. Girls are too busy participating in the social constructionism, too. The marketing is hitting them particularly hard because not only are they bombarded with it (as boys are) but society expects them to indulge in the makeup, hair products, shopping and, yes, to a certain extent, sex. However society shouldn't expect such things. And it also shouldn't expect companies to change their practices, either.