Monday, January 03, 2005

Metrosexual Male vs the Contrasexual Female

Superwomen await the new Indian male

The new Indian woman, they tell us, has renegotiated her role in society. Moving out of the household and into the office, with added bounce to every step.
And, they tell us, she'll let you know as she moves along. Societal pyramids are crumbling, they'll tell us, and the new Indian woman is beginning to wriggle out from under the bottom.
One question then, where does that leave the Indian male? Or the 'new' Indian male, should you be willing to accept that he too might have changed, from old to new, and survived, in the midst of this topsy turvey.

Try Jerry Pinto, author of 'Surviving Women and Executive' Editor with 'Man's World': "The new Indian male is the one who's got himself a new Indian female. She's the one responsible, in general, for the change. She's plucked him out of his comfortable universe where Maaji had enshrined him as a demi-god.

"She's forced him to re-assess his attitudes to women and to men. She's made him realise he can't have everything on his own terms, if he's going to get her as part of the bargain."
He adds though, "The old Indian man was largely a creation of the women in his life who treated him like a tinpot god." Or the ones who apparently unknowingly have turned him into today's very popular catchphrase - 'a mama's boy'.

That tagline too, however, comes with its accompanying problems. For if we are to believe Freud, we're all mama's boys. If we are to believe the cliches, all Indian men are mama's boys. And while most cliches have a grain of truth in them, says Pinto, we seem to have made a granary out of that grain.

Or to quote Sandhya Mulchandani, author of 'The Kamasutra for Women and The Indian Man: His True Colours', "Oh yes, a lot that has been said about Indian men is most unfair."

To start with the idea that the new Indian male, should such a species actually exist, is no more than a cosmetic makeover. Chocolatey on the outside and good to look at but really no different from the old Indian male on the inside.

You could though go one step further and ask whether changed appearance might indicate changed behaviour. Should a man wish to look good, keep a good home, would that make him a different sort of person?

"Yes," says Mulchandani. "But that is part of the problem, that we should think it surprising that a man might wish to keep a good home, as opposed to a woman living in not so good a home. Both of which do happen."

Pinto adds: "To talk about gender at all, is to talk in categories. The next step? We talk about types of men. If we were to stop for a moment and think about it, the sheer variety of men would dizzy us - old Indian male, new Indian male, metrosexual, contrasexual and so on and so forth. So we fall back on received wisdom."
That men are from Mars and women from Venus. And that is how things might stay.

Mulchandani though would like to differ, saying, "Men and women and the equation between them is a process of change. The need to find balance. Say in a home with a strong, dominant woman, you will find the man compromising to provide balance.
"So if you think of the Indian woman as having redefined her position in society over the last couple of decades, then the man again will have to provide the balance."

That said, Mulchandani though does stress that this process of change or provision of balance is generally woman centric, that the new Indian woman is the person egging it on.

She, otherwise stated, does not allow much space for the notion that the new Indian male himself might have allowed his counterpart a certain amount of space or perhaps even encouragement to find her new place in society.

Jawaharlal Nehru University Professor Hemant Adlakha, while agreeing the new Indian male has undergone a certain amount of change in his living with the new Indian woman, too seems to think it is the Indian woman who has done much of the changing.
The common new Indian male though seems to find that notion a little difficult to stomach. Take Vikram Badhwar, 25-year-old language and behaviour trainer, "The idea that the new Indian woman has found herself a redefined place in society. And, that in some way scares me is something I find hard to understand."

Twenty seven-year-old Vivek Saraf: "Would I use violence to dominate or control women? No." He adds, "The trouble is the idea that all men, or all women, can be clubbed together - bad on one side and good on the other. That is subtle bashing, both male and female."

Ask Pinto for an answer and he says, "When we begin, as a society, to see that women hold up half the sky; that it takes a village to raise a new Indian male; we'll see the end of this syndrome."

Prahlad Kakkar too has an opinion: "The new Indian male is a rare creature. The word 'metrosexual' and the qualities attributed to him are probably the figment of some copywriter's imagination. But yes, do allow the new Indian male to play catch up should he wish to."

The one thing Mulchandani does emphatically agree with is the idea that the Indian woman has had much part in nurturing the Indian male. That a mother will rear the kind of son she would like to have.

Pinto too would like to take a minute to analyse the mama's boy syndrome. "It takes two to tango, right? The boy and his mama are both implicated. Why are mamas so invested in their sons?

"I'd guess it is because in the traditional patriarchal set up, Mama is a sex toy for her husband who seeks his own pleasure; a whipping post for her mother-in-law who wants to work out her frustrations; and a servant for everyone, a servant whose labour is unpaid, unnoticed and unsung.

"Naturally, the warmest relationship she experiences is the one with her son. (In patriarchal families, again, daughters are paraaya dhan.) Naturally, she can't let go. Naturally too, for him, Mama's unconditional love and total devotion is irresistible."

He adds that it is once we can break out of these notions - that men wear black suits and women wear colour, that men should think only about sport and war and women should think about cutlery and soft furnishings - that we're going to stop thinking in categories like the old and the new Indian male.

Have other societies been able to do this? Find balance? Mulchandani says yes, but that the West and other quarters of the world have found their own even keels... not ones that we can emulate. That we'll just have to do our own work.

Long time coming? Yes in all probability. And when we're finally able to get to some sort of even keel... balance... there, unfortunately, is not going to be a happily ever after. For by then, the new Indian male would have become the old Indian male.

Going metro, or is it bi-metro?
Perhaps it would be a good idea at this point to
define metrosexual.
Contrary to what the term
suggests, a metrosexual is not someone who is sexually
attracted to conveyances of public transportation (that would
be a trainsexual).
Rather, a metrosexual is a straight
male who pays attention to things such as fashion, personal
grooming, diet, culture, design, art, food and all the other
stuff you are never going to see a beer commercial built
P Diddy, who used to be Puff Daddy, is a
metrosexual. So, too, is English soccer star David Beckham,
who wears sarongs (not that there isn’t everything wrong with
Hetrosexual, metrosexual, contrasexual… or simply
confusexual, perplexual? Key in a query into the virtual
window and you are likely to find 59,800 web pages
devoted to this word on

‘Metrosexual’ — it’s everywhere, it’s coming out
of our ears, popping out of our eyes, peeking from David
Beckham’s pretty panties, flowing in Justin Timberlake’s
tears and peering from Ben Affleck’s polished ha-LO.

It has spawned an industry of opportunities for
the guy who thinks men and women require separate
under-eye creams, skin softeners, complexion smoothers,
etc, etc, etc.
We’ve had enough of it making an
appearance in our papers, why even the men are showing
it the manicured-middle-finger salute!
Call it a case
of metro-sexual saturation. No sooner did the word become a part of everyday vocabulary, the death knell
has been sounded.
In its annual compilation of
language irritants, Lake Superior State University
singled out 17 words and phrases that it says ought to
be banned as overused, trite, euphemistic or just plain
inaccurate. The 2004 losers were chosen by a university
committee from more than 5,000 nominations from around
the world. And ‘metrosexual’ topped the list.

Coined in 1994 by British journalist Mark
Simpson, the term refers to urban, usually heterosexual
men with a keen interest in fashion, shopping and
elaborate grooming. Interestingly, Bob Forrest of
Arizona, one of many to nominate the term for
banishment, says it “sounds like someone who only has
sex downtown or on the subway.” Fred Bernardin of
Massachusetts, asked, “Aren’t there enough words to describe men who spend too much time in front of the
Here we present two persistent voices — one
insistent, one confused. You decide.

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