Words | Leon Fleming, Illustration | Andrea Jones
No man issue would be complete without a critique of the male gender stereotype. Leon Fleming identifies a new tribe…
I want to talk about men. Not man, not mankind, but men. We men, we are tribal. As individuals we may be lucky enough to be surrounded by our tribal kinsfolk, or be forced to stand alone amidst a sea of other tribes, but our tribes are our breeds. We are breeds of men. It is the bastardised child of two particular breeds I want to discuss. Two fathers; one a real historically authentic creature, and the other, a mutated character, a sub-breed that has evolved out of the modern world.
There has always been the Geezer, a man inherently drawn towards contact sports involving a ball of some shape or other, gallons of lager, late-night curries, chips and kebabs, whose taste in literature does not often delve intellectually any further than The Sun or one of its equally vapid compatriots. These are men in the way that we have always thought men to be; builder’s cracks, flatulence, drunken rowdiness, and a lacking of interest in fashion, style, gastronomy, culture and anything that isn’t based in sport.
In a camp almost opposite in every way is a recent breed of man that we lovingly call the Metrosexual; in basic terms an effeminate male that has somehow managed to be born heterosexual. The world is a very confusing place for the Metrosexual with his love of style, good food and high culture. And to make things worse for him he is determined to coiffure his hair, and has the audacity to parade as a straight man while committing such offences as using moisturising cream, even makeup.
But all that is in the past, and now, well now it would seem that things have changed. From out of nowhere at all these two breeds of men, tribes at war, have metaphysically procreated and given birth to a beautiful baby boy; left to grow and fend for itself while its paternal entities retreat into a messy divorce, continuing to sling defamations regarding the masculinity and intellect of each other.
That child is grown now, nurtured by popular media, raised by programs like the X-Factor and encouraged by glossy magazines.
And what is this creature born out of opposing forces, this brand spanking new breed of man? Its fathers were in such a rush to remove themselves from the embarrassing product of their drunken fumble in the dark, they neglected to give the child a name, so in deference to those that have cultivated him from birth, I shall call him Pop-Lad.
Pop-Lad cannot be reviled by the Geezer because he is able to represent all that is masculine; he works out in the gym and is bulging with muscle, he wears cologne, manly cologne. He loves football, and curries, and his mates. He wears clothes that show off his masculinity, and he marks himself with tattoos that cover large areas of his body.
And the Metrosexual too is proud of his progeny because Pop-Lad looks and smells good. Time is spent sculpting his hair and shaping his nails. He shaves his chest to better show off the shape of his body, and he is styled to within an inch of his life in well-fitting designer clothing. His tattoos are precise, and multi-coloured; they are works of art. Pop-Lad takes care of his skin, and uses fake tan and make-up to make the best of his features.
But it goes much deeper than appearance, for he has an understanding of the opposite sex, and of his own sexuality; he is educated, and has an appreciation for food, and wine, and music.
Who could ever have imagined that two extremities of man could come together to produce something so perfect, not only in their own eyes, but in the eyes of all the breeds of man?
And where does that leave the rest of us; we that combined make up the majority?
Well of course all we can do is stare in awe, attempt to emulate, and hope that we will be granted asylum in Pop-Lad’s tribe.
Or we can do the opposite, which is often more empowering, and deride this creature that seems so perfect, because we have our own breeds to protect from the media’s attempt to plasticise us all and turn us into Pop-Lads; walking, talking, singing and dancing television-friendly dolls.
We are not just men;
we are breeds of men.