Mark Simpson on America’s metrosexual backlash and phoney ‘menaissance’
(The Guardian, October 10, 2006)
There’s a war going on in the US. A war on metros. After years living under the cruel designer heel of those triumphant metrosexuals, poor old retrosexuals – alias “regular guys” – are fighting back. Old-time, unself-conscious, un-moisturised masculinity is in.
Guys are guys again, with manly, painstakingly shaped and trimmed beards. They eat manly food, drive manly trucks and read manly books on manliness.
Or so you may have heard. Truth be told, this is a phoney war. The “menaissance” is mendacious. This isn’t retrosexual at all, but hummersexual – a noisy, overblown, studied and frankly rather camp form of fake masculinity that likes to draw attention to itself and its allegedly old-fashioned “manliness”, but tends – like driving an outsized military vehicle in the suburbs – to be a tad counterproductive.
The hummersexual, you see, doth protest too much. Rather than “reclaiming your manhood”, as the recent US Hummer ad campaign trumpeted, hummersexuality tends to make people wonder whether there’s some kind of compensation going on. This is a fetishised, “strapped-on”, unsustainable, gas-guzzling masculinity which, like the metrosexuality it is supposedly a reaction against, is a needy product of consumerism and media. After all, it is Madison Avenue – with those Hummer, Burger King “manthem” (“We are men, hear us roar”) and Dodge “Anything but cute” ads – that styled it.
However, unlike his better-looking metrosexual younger brother – whom he usually refers to as ‘that fag’ – the hummersexual is in denial. He thinks he reeks of heterosexuality, but is blissfully unaware that he often seems to have just stepped out of the funkier kind of gay leather/bear bar.
Despite his best efforts to convince you, the hummersexual is not retrosexual. Since when did “regular guys” need several tons of military hardware, or “new macho” lifestyle magazines such as Best Life, or books such as the bestselling Alphabet of Manliness and Men Don’t Apologise, to be “regular”? The hummersexual is clearly, hilariously, faux-retrosexual. He’s an off-the-peg, drag-king idea of “real” masculinity: stuffed crotch and joke beard included at no extra charge.
Speaking of stuffed crotches, President George W. Bush has exhibited some pronounced hummersexual tendencies. Not only does the former male cheer-leader have a walk that tries a little too hard to reference John Wayne, as Commander-in-Chief he used the USS Abraham Lincoln as a giant nuclear-powered electioneering strap-on (“Mission accomplished!”). “Reclaim your manhood” was practically the Republican’s mendacious re-election slogan – actual war hero Kerry was portrayed as the flip-flopping metrosexual girly man, to Bush’s real, manly, bring-it-on, gay-baiting Air National Guard bravery.
Like Bush, the hummersexual is already past his sell-by. He’s an end-of-line sale. Hummers themselves, sales of which are threatened by the massive hikes in gas prices (in part because of Bush’s hummersexual foreign policy), were never going to sell themselves as green. BK were never going to sell themselves as purveyors of exquisite Mediterranean salads. And the Republicans were never going to sell themselves as a modern party.
Whatever his life expectancy, the hummersexual is simply an annoying fraud. In his manly coup against male consumerism and self-regard, the hummersexual is busy hogging two parking spaces instead of one at the mall.