Monday, June 05, 2006

Relevant Radio had someone on this weekend discussing the constitutional emasculation of modern men. I didn't catch the whole thing, but the guy was talking about how one battlefront in the fight against manliness was fashion: starting with male models, longer hair and earrings were introduced, and so on and so forth, until the sight of men dressing and primping themselves as women do seems perfectly natural, making the next step in the progression seem relatively small, blah blah blah. 1980s hair rock bands with their frilly sashes and animal skin print blouses and such probably have something to do with it, too, but I digress.

It's a bit of a hand-waving argument, I'll admit. Long hair was popular in the 60s to spite convention at least as much as to explicitly subvert gender roles, if such a distinction is meaningful. Jewelry, even on the ears, has not always been the bailiwick of women, nor always strictly decoration. French voyageurs sometimes took multiple piercings to indicate their skill in paddling on one side of a canoe or the other--next best thing to a resume in a society of low literacy.

Still, in modern society, long hair and jewelry have been predominantly the decorations of women.

I think the guy on Relevant Radio was overlooking something else, though, and perhaps it was just a matter of topicality. I don't think it's as simple as emasculation; I think it's the neutering of humans, men and women alike. It's not a new idea, but I'm not coming from the usual "feminism is about making women into better men than men themselves" angle.

We see men who are "metrosexual," adopting both the practices and styles of women. What about women? I don't mean the ones with short hair and combat boots. Look instead at many today's models.

They're thin, painfully so, resembling gangly boys as much as girls. Although the clothing they feature is often girly, it billows around them like they're coathangers on legs. Tops are low-cut or splayed open, revealing more ribs than a barbecue shack and nothing else (not that excessive cleavage is actually appropriate). Nominally hip-hugging slacks or skirts don't hug anything at all, which may be deliberate on the part of the designer as well as on the model. They wear makeup, but not so much anymore to look particularly alluring. All the fashion show footage I've seen in recent years, save for a few ad campaigns for a certain brand of underwear, has featured underfed women, and increasingly, girls who appear to be delaying puberty rather than fighting it off, with little more than mascara to make it look like they're coming off the cover of Crack Whore Magazine instead of making their debut in Milan.

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