In November 1995, Carl Lewis, a black male athlete was photographed for Pirelli; a tire firm which has a reputation for producing calendars with pictures for beautiful women. Lewis was publicized like a superman idolizing his superbly athletic body; however his ‘super masculinity’ was emasculated by the invocation of his ‘femininity’ as he was wearing stylish, red high-heeled shoes. Some people said that it is just an advertiser’s joke, some others argued that Carl Lewis has allowed himself to exploit by the big corporate company. Others argued that he calculatingly embarked to defy the traditional image of ‘masculinity’ (Hall 234). Their reactions could have been for one of two related reasons. The ad caption pointed out that there is ‘nothing without control’. This caption when presented in conjunction with the area of anatomy pinpointed by the tip of the arrow, has the potential to raise worrying issues for some individuals. This may be in connection with the control of bodily waste (something rather than nothing) and/or issues of control associated with feminine self of a man.
In June 2010, Andreh Pejic, a Bosnian-born, Australian male fashion model was scouted for both the male and female runways at the Paris fashion shows. Unlike Carl Lewis, he was not castigated for his feminine traits and long blonde hair, rather his ambiguous, gender-bending features has bent a major buzz, made him the toast of the international fashion circuit from London to Paris to New York City and beyond. Although he initially had casting directors, modeling agencies, and designers alike wondering why a woman was walking men’s shows, he was soon booked for major editorial spreads in influential fashion magazines such as Vogue Paris, i-D and L’Officiel.
These two cases in point exemplify that how media all around the world are flouting the myths of masculinity which used to regard male bodies as empty vessels aiming to get filled up by the gender norms passed on to them from their social settings, their families and their peers. This attempt of socialization is changing all over the world. Male are now active participants in internalizing, reframing and reproducing their own versions of masculinities. In recent times this wind of change has also started to blow in Bangladeshi media. A lot of adverts of various products are being aired on Bangladeshi TV channels where tentative steps towards re-evaluating ‘stereotypical’ concepts of masculinity which cannot be overlooked. In this research I would like to read these recent changes in Bangladeshi media that attempts to deconstruct of gender stereotype which triggers the realization to refigure the convention of masculinity in the changing perspectives of Bangladesh.
This is primarily a library research, along with an intense focus on the audio-visual media. For the critical reading, Feminism, Postmodernism, Gender Studies, Cultural Studies, and Psychoanalytic Criticism have frequently been addressed here. The work plan of the paper can be outlined as below:
(a) Collection of primary and secondary source materials through library and the Internet;
(b) Viewing and reviewing of the materials collected;
(c) Reviewing of literary and cultural theories relevant to the study;
(d) Analyzing the rhetorical organization of the discourses;
(e) Data analysis: analyzing intersexuality of the discourses to explore discursive formations if any which these discourses produce or operate in;
(f) Composition; and
Operational and Theoretical Frameworks:
The paper concentrates on specific adverts being run in various Bangladeshi TV channels where a scope for re-conceptualizing masculinity is possible. The focus is on Bangladeshi adverts where the advertisers and ad-makers being inspired by the global trends are striding forward to break the rigid convention of masculinity embracing its varied types. Among those types this paper focuses specifically on ‘Androgyny’ which can be easily identified in various adverts of Bangladeshi regime of representation. Both top grossing and alternative adverts are included in the study that one of the chief criteria of choosing adverts is their available telecasting in different channels. Regarding geographical dimension, this project relies on few Indian adverts aired in various Bangladeshi channels and being dubbed and lip-synced in Bengali.
It is essential to note here that though this paper primarily uses visual discourse where the recent media re-channels the myth of masculinity in terms of language, traditional, domestic affairs, professional aspects and trends; and no political or moral imperative is involved herewith. This study illustrates various aspects of Feminist theory, Psychoanalysis, Post-modernism and Cultural Studies, related to the main issue of the research.
The Design of the Paper:
The article is divided into five chapters. The first chapter, that is, the present one, discusses the objective of the project and makes the thesis statement. It also outlines the methodology and specifies the extent and design of the study. The second chapter introduces the prevalent myths of masculinity involving Gary Oliver’s five key myths of masculinity which had been a working force for the advertise makers. This segment attempts a psychoanalytic reading of these myths explicating their duplicitous prolongation to enlighten the truth that masculinity is not a fixed, inevitable, natural state of being, rather as a performance, or a mask that man often wear to shield their vulnerabilities. The third chapter is an exemplifying chapter that studies screenplays of several relevant old and new commercials of various products. Estimating the prevailing features of the adverts projected in the earlier chapter, the fourth chapter reaches to the resolution understanding that particular version of masculinity which Bangladeshi Media is upholding nowadays. Additionally this section investigates the grounds behind the promoted version of masculinity and ends up fetching its impact on hegemonic masculine culture and consumer market of the country. The last chapter-“Conclusion”- summarizes the major arguments and suggests scope for further research in the related areas.
“Acting” Like a Man: Masculine Myths and Stereotypes
“Every man has breast but it is subdued by social restriction” (Bem 60) – this famous statement made by Sigmund Freud reveals that a man is an embodiment of both masculine and feminine entities. But society castrates everything what is feminine and reduces them to simple, vivid, memorable, easily grasped and widely recognized masculine characteristics, exaggerate and simplify them, and fix them without change and development to eternity. This what Stuart Hall called, ‘stereotyping’ (Representation of Other 259) for which men are forced to emulate a fragmented identity. This chapter sheds light on how society constructs and informs prevalent myths about man and masculinity and how these myths trigger the stereotyped representation in media based. This chapter offers an explanation of these duplicitous myths, showing how far these are from the reality.
Gary Oliver’s “Myth”-Talk:
Gary Oliver, the author of Raising Sons and Loving It! (along with his wife, Carrie), has identified five key myths of masculinity:
Myth 1: A Man’s Man is Big, Brave, and Strong
Men are typically known by how big and tough they are. They are raised to be competitive. Value is placed on a man’s ability to win, to be brave, bigger, and stronger. Generally, girls are not reared with these priorities.
Myth 2: A Man’s Man Isn’t Emotional and Doesn’t Express Affection
Certainly, things have changed in the last ten to fifteen years in terms of the cultural openness to men expressing an emotional side. However, boys are still likely to be reared in a model that precludes men displaying or verbalizing emotions (other than anger).
Myth 3: A Man’s Man Isn’t Weak and Shouldn’t Cry
Historically, men have grown up learning that crying is a demonstration of weakness. They learn to repress emotions of pain and grief. Men who cry are chided for being “wimps” or “girly.”
Myth 4: A Man’s Man is an Expert on Sex
From a very early age, boys are bombarded by the culture with sexual images and messages. Adolescent boys learn to share sexual information and stories as if they were first-person experiences, even though most often they are not. This helps to create the myth that guys are experts on sex. This myth wreaks havoc with God’s design for sex and often results in a distorted view of women, an unhealthy focus on sexual performance, and hinders the ability to build healthy relationships with women.
Myth #5: A Man’s Value is Determined by What He Does and How Much He Earns
“What do you do?” “How much do you make?” These are often the first questions men hear when interacting with others. Men grow up learning how to compete and what a man does for a living and how much he earns is a key benchmark of value in our culture. This puts a lot of pressure on boys and men, placing an unhealthy focus on the material, rather than the spiritual.
These myths set off the stereotypical representation of man and masculinity in manifold levels of understanding. The mainstream media plays the most imperative role in reinforcing these myth-talks and initiates the ideas of a ‘real’ man as been projected in the media. In most media portrayals, male characters are rewarded for self-control and the control of others, aggression and violence, financial independence, and physical desirability.
The Idea of Masculinity and the Media:
In 1999, Children Now, a California-based organization that examines the impact of media on children and youth, released a report entitled “Boys to Men: Media Messages About Masculinity.” The report argues that the media’s portrayal of men tends to reinforce men’s social dominance. This report argues that the majority of male characters in media are heterosexual. They have been seen as the opposite of one dimensional gender scale where he has to be as masculine as much as possible. They are more often associated with the public sphere of work, rather than the private sphere of the home, and issues and problems related to work are more significant than personal issues. In Tough Guise: Violence, Media and the Crisis in Masculinity, Jackson Katz and Jeremy Earp argue that the media provide an important perspective on social attitudes—and that while the media are not the cause of violent behavior in men and boys, they do portray male violence as a normal expression of masculinity. Moreover, the pursuit of muscularity has implications beyond the desire to appear attractive. Physical bulk, particularly muscle, implies strength, virility, and dominance, all of which are consistent with the male gender role. Among the most widely accepted criteria for masculinity is an absence of feminine characteristics.
But the reality is that men do have those characteristics such as love, tenderness, gentleness, kindness, sensitivity, empathy, nurture, compassion which aren’t often associated as male emotions, yet these characteristics are attributed to Jesus in the four gospels. Jesus, a man, experienced and expressed deep emotion. Real men have the ability to express pain and grief with appropriate tears. Apart from the psychology, females are not the only gender who has body issue. The ideal man look as shown on TV, movies and advertising become increasingly muscular. In books like The Sexuality of Men (Metcalf and Humphries,1985), the author also says, as men began to reflect critically on masculinity, was a sense of the fears, anxieties and pin expressed by these men in relation to established scripts of masculinity: anxieties about sexual performance, estrangement from emotions and poor relation with father. As children, boys experience a wide range of emotions, yet somewhere along the line, they learn that men suppress emotions and remain calm, cool and collected at all times, even in the midst of crisis. The transmission of this model is often through their fathers. As they are growing up, boys often hear messages from their dads that girls never hear, such as:
— “Suck it up.”
— “No pain, no gain.”
— “Are you a man or a mouse?”
— “Act like a man.”
The super-male has become the standard of masculinity in our culture leaving many men trying desperately to measure up. A constant barrage of media images fuels societal expectations about body appearance in males. Adding to this pressure are the messages associated with each image of the muscle-bound male: social, sexual, and financial success depends on how well you mold your body to this image. The inability of attaining the perfect body becomes burden; they waste their time with self-hatred and regret which kill them softly. But reality is, true strength has very little to do with the physical. Physical strength has its place, but being a man has to do with so much more, such as developing strong mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational characteristics. This is what it means to be a real man. Hence the recent media has re-channeled the myth of masculinity in its representational regime.
Men and Their “Beauty Secrets”: Breaking the Stereotypes
In an essay titled “Postmodernism and Consumer Society” Fredric Jameson identifies one key feature of postmodernism is that the line between high and popular culture are gone or beginning to fade, in an extended level, which co-relates the emergence of new formal features in culture with the emergence of a new type of social life. This chapter examines this key feature of postmodernism in the perspective of gender role which shows the sexist representation is also eroded in the postmodern media. In the modern period, the only accepted version of masculinity used to be the absence of any sort of feminine characteristics. Thus it showed a clear distinction between femininity and masculinity. But in the postmodern representation, the older distinctive bar of specific ‘nity’ no longer exists, thus media loses its earlier stereotypes. Hence, Jameson says,
We need only think of the way our sense of history has disappeared, of how our entire contemporary social system has little by little begun to lose its capacity to retain its own past. We live in a perpetual present. We might say that the media help us forget the past. (204-5)
Jameson’s identified features of postmodernism will be recurring devices in this section to understand how this nonsexist representation triggers the audience to re-conceptualize masculinity in the juncture of ‘newly emergent social order of late capitalism’ (193). To accomplish this task this section studies screenplays of several relevant old and new television commercials of various products.
Andro vis-à-vis Gyno language:
The advert of celebrating 75 years of the Lux brand has sparked the argument of this segment. After 50 Indian female film stars lathering up with Lux, Hindustan Lever has broken away the stereotype for the first time by featuring a male star. This advert not only changed the feminine face of its second largest selling soap brand to show reigning superstar Shahrukh Khan sitting in a tub of petals along with actresses of yesteryears who have already featured as Lux models, but it also set him to pronounce the customary female dialogue of this brand “Aaj mein aapko batanewala hoon meri khubsuratein ka raaz — Lux. Ab batayein aapka favourite Lux Star kaun hai?” (I want to tell you about my beauty secrets — Lux. Who is your favourite Lux Star?)
Where in a gynocentric universe 1970s feminist like Elaine Showalter marks a distinction between andro (male) and gyno (female) language with a view to construct a separate realm outside the male dominated culture, in this advert we see the male figure austerely uses gyno-language. Showalter coined gynocriticism which is a broad and varied field, and any generalization should be treated with caution. (Beginning Theory, Peter Barry, 118) In a most cautionary manner this advert unifies both andro and gyno language in a single whole where the lead actor emulates style, themes and structure of an established female language. Applying Fredric Jameson’s ideas about postmodernism, the dialogue ‘my beauty secrets’ (Meri Sundarta Ka Raaz), cannot be termed as ‘parody’ which capitalizes on the uniqueness of these feminine styles, e.g., D.H. Lawrence’s nature imagery, seizing on their idiosyncrasies and eccentricities in order to produce an imitation which mocks the original, because, the target audience of this commercial has been always female. Shahrukh Khan is favourite with women of all ages. So he imitates the dialogue without any satirical impulse. Jameson calls this imitation as ‘pastiche’—a blank parody. Instead of showing Shahrukh as a macho man riding a horse like the “Marlboro man,” this advert portrays him as a metro sexual male who has a soft feminine touch both in his posture and language which is purposefully done to exert a pull on the female consumer society.
Domesticating Masculinity and Masculinizing Domesticity:
Referring to Davidoff and Hall’s Family Fortunes, Sean Nixon in his essay ‘Exhibiting Masculinity’ states that middleclass men’s ‘involvement in production, design, building, accountancy and insurance’ associated them with certain characteristics and competence which contrasted with the characteristics of middle class femininity. This contrastive characteristics set man as responsible for the jobs in public sphere and woman to be responsible for ‘creating and servicing’ domestic sphere. Idealizing this notion, in media the portrayal of household also used to exclude men in advertising any sort of active function in the household environment. All domestic products were being featured by female characters even marginalizing man from fatherhood responsibilities. The U.S fatherhood movement of mid 1990s seeks to reestablish the necessity of men in families, constituting fatherhood as specifically male in differentiation from the feminizing connotations of family involvement. In this process, more male actors were encouraged to promote fatherhood-related issues or domestic products in the advertisements, both as television commercials and in billboards.
In Bangladesh also we can see the same thing happening. Recent days Bangladeshi actors Riaz or Jahid Hassan has been observed as cast for Wheel detergent powder, promoting how it washes dirty clothes without harming the soft skin, or Tahsan a renowned singer-cum actor features himself in a very feminine “Jui Coconut hair Oil” hair-care product commercial. Fathers’ participation in child rearing is not longer a “girly-thing” and is now also growing concerns in recent media mainly in the context of attempts to reconcile job and family life in dual breadwinner families. In a response to this issue, Lever Brothers introduced a series of adverts entitled ‘Pappu and Papa’ for Pepsodent toothpaste where Shahrukh Khan appears to be a more effectively caring father who can pursue his child in playful way to remain hygienic all the time. But most significantly the advert which strikes the idea of this section is the TV commercial of Pran Curry Power where we see two men cooking in the kitchen and getting nostalgic. This advert opens through the conversation between them:
: রান্না করে আমার আম্মাজান, জ়ীবনে কোনো্দিন দেখি নাই হলুদ মরিচ কম বেশি হইছে… (It was my mother who used to cook and was accurate in using the spices)
: ধুর বেটা…মা’র কথা মনে করায় দিলি (Oh dear! you just reminded me of MY mom)
In Jameson’s term this advert is namely pastiche where the past is being remade. In earlier “curry powder” advertisements we could see that the mother sheds tears remembering her son who resides abroad. This advert directly mimics the older plot and provokes the same emotion ensuing a ‘nostalgic mood’—only this time the sadness is rather other way round.
Beautifying Corporate Masculinity:
In 2005 when Emami lunched India’s first fairness cream for men ‘Fair and Handsome’, it made some clamor. Initially it was criticized as a ‘parody’ which pokes fun on the female fairness creams’ famous brand ‘Fair and Lovely’, but later it turned out as some serious scientific issues and proved it as not a matter of joke. The product description says that men have tougher skin than women. It is more exposed to pollution; UV ray and stress factors, so “Emami Fair and Handsome Advanced Fairness Men Range” products are specially formulated for Men. Research also shows that 28% of all fairness cream users are men. Moreover, in 2006 “Fair and Lovely” introduces a new brand, ‘Menz Active’, which the radical “need” for fairness face-creams for men is no longer a feminine need. As in the advertisement of “Fair & Lovely Menz Active” we see a job interview where the candidate is a user of the product. As the myth goes, ‘qualification’ is the only fact that constitutes man’s identity, beautification has nothing to do with it, and in a subversive level this advert alters this idea. Attempting a counter-narrative in the screenplay of this advert, we see a confident male jobseeker questions the employers’ panel:
: আর কেউ নয় কেনো? (Why not somebody else?)
: কারণ যোগ্যতার বাইরেও আরো কিছু আছে (There is something beyond qualifications)
The quick cut reveals the secret explaining what this ‘something’ is. Yes, it is “Fair & Lovely”—as it helps to add that “maximum impression.” Menz Active is also positioned along the same line as “Fair & Lovely” when it was launched. Menz uses the punchline “Change Your Story”. The ad features a stuntman succeeding to become the model after using the brand. This changing story is changing the stereotypes of masculinity by putting prominence on men’s desire to be attractive where in a postmodern world they are not shy anymore about trying to look good, fair and handsome by using fairness creams.
For years, the Day Spas and Beauty Salon were a woman’s sanctuary with a man rarely in sight. They have always known the value of having a facial, a manicure or even a spray tan to help lift the spirits and make female feel good about them. How times are a changing! The number of male visitors to day spas and beauty salons has been rising and these days, salons and spas appeal to men of all walks of life. Girls’ little secret are no more unknown to men. This is what Dennis Wong rather jocularly wrote in the online version of Bloomer Businessweek. In Mashrur Shahid Hossain’s words:
[T]his casual joke metonymies the nature, spirit and consequences of metrosexual masculine culture: The concept of masculinity is changed and queered, and metrosexuality has foregrounded male body beauty which has brought about a pattern of ceaseless consumption and increased masculine stress. (Hossain 16)
Bollywood stars Shahid Kapoor and Asin have been featured in an advert of “Clinic All Clear shampoo.” In this specific commercial roaming around the famous shopping malls and buying a brand new black suit even cannot provide the men the sense of perfection in grooming until having the confidence of wearing Black (which initially defines that in the background of black suit white dandruff flakes might be visible.) “Clinic All clear shampoo” gives this manly confidence promising zero dandruff claiming that this shampoo is the ‘license to wear black.’
Androgynous Symptoms and Evidences
Our society has always been shaped by the suggestions of the television advertisers who influence consumers’ belief on how people should look or act. In the past the advertisements in Bangladeshi media used to perpetuate the myth of two-and-only-two genders — a construct which used to exclude many. They had considered sex and gender as an inseparable entity where men were masculine and women were feminine. But interestingly consumer behaviour researchers recognized long ago that some men were more feminine than masculine while some women were more masculine than feminine. This realization leads the recent Bangladeshi media to reshape the consumer society with view to target everyone. The marketers are challenging the long-held norms and notions about what it means to be a man or a woman. In this new spectrum, there is no longer binary, people are encouraged to work out their own issues in order to talk about it, accept it, and move on.
The series of adverts that I have examined in chapter 3 are the first fruits of breaking the stereotype. Shahrukh Khan instead of assuming the tough and traditional masculinity, emerges as in a rather feminine posture of showering in a bathtub with rose petals and talking about his beauty secrets. Again the narcissistic, agile, stylish guy in the shampoo advert gives his best endeavor to hit upon the best suit which will make him look cool, fit and eye-catching. Following these advertisements men in Bangladesh are increasingly becoming conscious of their looks. They do not mind being full-throat by embracing traditional female interests like an overly vested interest in clothing, fashion accessories, hairstyles, manicures, spa treatments, neat eyebrows and so on—something that always been seen as a feminine trait. As Hossain explains—
If the 60s narrative cinema had invoked what Laura Mulvey called the ‘male gaze’ the spectacle of men in the fashion ads today invoke the ‘female gaze.’ Here are men to-be-looked-at and here are women to look at them, deriving aesthetic and scopophilic pleasure regardless of what the biological sciences and religious proclaim. (Hossain 16)
Androgynous Culture in Bangladesh:
Gender-roles are also immensely redefined and re-understood in these recent advertisements. For example, men are equally part of household domestic works like cooking, washing clothes or rearing children. Furthermore the dress code for today’s corporate world also rejects the gender binary. Blurring the fashion gender lines, the ability for men and women to dress down at work presents more options where unisex dress codes are more encouraged. Examining the genders massages in these adverts it seems Bangladeshi media is ‘applying all things to all people’ philosophy. This visual representation of masculinity palpably offers a negotiation between what is traditionally called ‘absolute feminine’ and ‘absolute masculine’. Dr Sandra Bem names this version of masculinity as ‘androgyny’ which is currently introduced in Bangladeshi media.
As explained earlier, an androgynous male is a more balanced person who is able to incorporate a high degree of both feminine and masculine traits. A “traditional” feminine individual is high on feminine (expressive) traits and low on masculine (instrumental) traits. A “traditional” masculine individual is high on instrumental traits and low on expressive traits. But an androgyny embraces both of them depending on which behaviors best fit in a particular situation which makes them better adjusted, consequently happier.
This inauguration of androgyny in Bangladeshi media has direct connections to changes in country’s consumer markets. Where gender has been a significant segmentation and targeting criteria in our local marketing, gender roles used to persist and influence consumer behavior, the behaviors of androgynous male consumers are now clearly defying these stereotypes. Keeping pace with the global trends Bangladeshi male are now updating their wardrobes, piling accessories and jewellery for different events, trying skin and hair care products to look appealing. Further boosted by male fashion magazines like Canvas and beauty contests like ‘You Got the Look’, men’s grooming now has a huge market in Bangladesh. To feed the men-grooming wave many stylish and expensive male beauty salons have been establish namely Persona Adams and Total Care. There is a well equipped gym in almost every corner of the capital, which shows how men are striving to obtain a good physique. Apart from the menswear, grooming products and toiletries, many grocery products are solely aimed at men with a persuasion to make family life easier.
Androgyny and the Gay Consumers:
On the heels of Dr. Bem’s theological revelation in 1974, the gay liberation movement embraced the idea of androgyny, for it allowed lesbians and gay men to show their gender characteristics openly in western societies. Though quite late, with the contemporary change in the role of gender in marketing efforts, Bangladeshi markets are also focusing on the gay communities as a distinctive market segment in their concerns. The fashion and modeling industries have emphasized on the distinctive value of gay consumers. Several marketing communication firms have emerged that specialize in understanding the gay market and major advertisers across an array of products are devoting increasing resources to target the gay market. Consequently, the prevailing wind for social changes started to sweep across the country, empowering women and softening the image of men, while altering the perception of human nature consisting of opposite sex roles to human nature unifying two complimentary sex roles as a legitimate gender. Its impact is one where the established masculinity is being destabilized not just at the “fringes” of society, but in mainstream lifestyle, media, fashion, and art. The traditional hegemonic masculinity version is therefore strongly alive in kicking the emerging ‘androgyny’ in both fabulous and stereotypical way.
Reaction Towards Androgyny:
It is interesting to see how masochist people are defensive in the face of these changes. Many of them fear that the moving up of androgyny is the inauguration of becoming woman as man are loosing their desired ‘ideal’ masculine traits. To them if nothing else, it shows the effect of willingly and deliberately led onslaught on strength of men and women. Now people aspire to become the other gender and remain detached from themselves; “When you can no longer tell a man from a woman, it is the end of the world.” Manipulating religious sentiments they claim that magnanimous God created man and from man, women to serve him. Blurring this distinction is against God’s plan for us and continuing society. Their conversations about ‘androgyny’ finally strain transgender and wrap up with an apocalyptic account of gender ending.
I am always taken back by the audacious cis-privileged comments of anti-androgyny and oppositional sexism as a defense to the gender binary, a sentiment that even permeate within the transvestite community. It is factual that sex differences are authentic and a number of are most likely present at birth. Gender is also important to our identities, and it orients us in interacting with others. Theorists acknowledge that one byproduct of eliminating gender would be “gender vertigo,” an unsteady and vulnerable feeling. But I do not believe that this isn’t insurmountable. We would have to adjust and recover, but it would be worth it in the end. With the oppressive structure of masculinity gone, men will be freer. Refuting the hegemonic allegations Sean Nixon comments, “[It] is argued that there is no true essence of masculinity guaranteed by God or nature which we could appeal to in analyzing men’s gender identities. Rather, like all identities, masculinities are to borrow Jeffrey Week’s phrase, invented categories” (Weeks 1991). They are the product of cultural meanings attached to certain attributes, capacities, dispositions and form of conduct at given moments (Nixon 301).
Therefore I think ‘androgyny’ paranoia is not apocalyptic. Rather it is an escape from the pressure to conform in everyday life, largely as a result of prejudice or misconceptions, and is a welcome release. An androgynous male does not negate all of those that clearly embody the binary. Differences do not “end” in gender, rather it broadens it. Gender is growing up and it is rapidly moving away from the previous limitations of the binary, in order to encompass a more genuine reality and understanding about the sexes. To achieve this understanding, neutral parenting is one of the most important lessons. As for example, Kathy Witterick and her husband, David Stocker, are raising their 4-month-old child, Storm, without revealing the child’s gender. According to the birth announcement from the Toronto couple: “We’ve decided not to share Storm’s sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm’s lifetime. This couple accepted the gender rule-breaking appearances, action and identities. This gender neutral parenting is an encouragement for their child to be gender explorer rather than gender police. This child is not limited in his choices because of gender stereotypes and s/he does not have to grow up and limit other people (men and women) because of gender stereotype. Does stereotype really matters? In a country with the ideal of treating everyone fairly and equitably, do we really need to know if someone is a boy or a girl? The discussion is not about creating a neutered “gender neutral” existence, rather, developing an acceptance for people living their chosen gender, loud and happy. Neither we can “make” our children anything nor can we really “stop” them from being anything in particular, either. But we can help them explore the fullest definition of who they are and try to accept it so that they feel good about whomever they discover themselves to be. It seemingly looks like Bangladeshi media is moving towards the familiarization of the idea of androgyny.
Media has proved itself as an effective tool to change the design of gender inequality in society. In terms of Bangladesh, today’s media is noticeably taking interest in exploring the various versions of masculinity. This endeavor is being strongly felt in every sphere of life. The term ‘androgyny’ has become a proverbial term to describe this phenomenon and it has been considered as a phenomenon because the hegemonic masculinity does not welcome variety in its stereotypic definition. Emotion, beauty, fashion and image enhancement have long been the province of women, yet it has become increasingly accepted for men to enter into the territory. And so, the purpose of the research was to identify the recent adverts widely run in various television channels in Bangladesh that contributed the media in promoting androgyny with a view to break the myth of rigid masculinity.
The upshots of this study indicate that this movement has a strong correlation with the consumer market. This is not surprising, considering the strong body of knowledge on the effects of media on male appearance ideals. Through these adverts, men are increasingly exposed to the glamour world telling them, “you don’t look good enough” (Pope 4). The importance of appearances is causing men to spend more money on grooming products and therefore, effective marketing through media is the key to attracting and retaining this growing demographic. The burring of gender roles in society is calling marketers to appeal to both male and female in uni-fashion and household responsibilities. This is tied with the fact that women are working outside the home, and thus men’s role as provider in the breadwinner family is in a state of flux. But men are now subjected to be better fathers, better husbands who share an equal hand in domesticity. Therefore men are now defining themselves through what they consume and what they contemplate and their masculinity is reinforced through the media adverts they are barraged with. This has led men to re-conceptualize their masculinity. Further, because men are not given the discourse to talk about their feeling of inadequacy, they internalize their feeling, which appears to reveal the femininity—a stereotypically considered threat to their social-esteem. Thus, the increasing importance on promoting androgyny through the media now appears as a revolution which gives man space to celebrate their true self.
Scope for Further Study:
- The results of this study suggest that the future research regarding the role of media on promoting androgyny would be beneficial in understanding the various sexual orientations in Bangladesh. Feminine androgyny is still unexplored in this arena will come in focus. A link between the emergence of androgynous male and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is also an interesting avenue to explore, men with BDD are high consumers of image enhancing products. (Pope, et al., 2000)
- Lastly this study attempted to determine a relationship between the androgynous and demographic characteristics. Although initial analysis showed a relationship did exist, the lack of representation in the sample did not allow for this relationship to be adequately determined. Perhaps a larger study of this relationship would better determine whether a relationship does in fact exist.
- To conclude, the current representation of androgyny highlights this idea that masculinity is not fixed, rather it is plural social construct. The findings of the study indicate the important role of the media in re-conceptualizing masculinity, in this construction. Further research relating both of these variables to the contemporary identity of men as consumers and family man is essential as the stereotypic versions of masculinity has become superseded.
Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. New Delhi: Viva, 2010. Print.
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