Effeminacy in the Service Of Capitalism

July-August 2004By Michael S. Rose

Michael S. Rose is author of six books, including The New York Times bestseller Goodbye, Good Men. He is Web Editor and Book Review Editor of New Oxford Review.

Trend-spotter Marian Salzman has news: A new breed of man has arrived on the North American continent, one that has evolved well beyond the knuckle-scraping Joe America of years past. He's the "metrosexual." Young, single, and hopelessly self-absorbed, he's irritated by traditional male roles -- he does what he wants, buys what he wants, enjoys what he wants, regardless of whether some people might consider him unmanly. As a casualty of feminism, he's also low on self-esteem, which makes him Madison Avenue's latest milch cow.

Salzman, author of Buzz: Harness the Power of Influence and Create Demand, was the "spokeswoman" behind last year's study by advertising giant Euro RSCG that allegedly examined the "attitudes and ambitions of 21st century man." Although the New York-based market strategist can be credited with importing the catchy new buzzword "metrosexual" to North America from the British isles, where it has been sliding off the lips of London's hippest for nearly a decade, she is not responsible for putting a name to this new breed of hyper-consumer she's now promoting. That distinction goes to British columnist Mark Simpson, whom Vogue has called "the gay anti-Christ," and meaning it as a compliment.

According to The Word Spy, a website that tracks the use of trendy new words, a "metrosexual" is a "dandyish narcissist in love with…himself."

According to Simpson, a metrosexual can be either "gay," straight, or bisexual. All that is irrelevant, says "the gay anti-Christ," because above all -- and this is the important part -- the metrosexual "has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference."

Although Simpson uses the term "metrosexual" tongue-in-cheek, Salzman takes it seriously -- and is determined to cash in on the new breed. After all, that's her job. To this end, she's redefined the metrosexual as decidedly straight. There's a reason for this. Corporate profiteers are now setting their sights on the straight male, who has long been the most difficult consumer to reach.

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