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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Men’s Body Wash: Liquid Masculinity in the Shower…or is it?

I remember when men’s body washes did not even exist. Men used to use bar soap (because they were “manly” men, and they did not want to smell “girly”).

Now, there are entire ad campaigns for men’s body washes that seek to make it socially acceptable and even desirable for men to use these products.

In another Dove commercial, they discuss “man-hide” and the toughness of men's skin in relation to cow hide or leather. What is interesting is Dove’s argument that its product is actually made to soften the man-hide. Does this mean that American culture has actually shifted so as to allow men to have moisturized, soft skin like their female counterparts? Perhaps, as long as there is there is first an allusion to the toughness of such hide… Are gender roles shifting gradually, or are they equally present but masked by effective marketing? Hmmm…

Old Spice, on the other hand, tells men to “be comfortable in your own skin”. Its commercials allude to one man’s “muscle body” and his “striking brown eyes” while a man in another ad encourages men to use Old Spice instead of lady-scented body washes. The marketing this company employs appears to also appeal to women to a certain degree. In placing attractive male models in their commercials, these companies are not only trying to appeal to men who use the products but to women who will (in the minds of the marketers) shop for the products and smell the products their partners use when they bathe. Are these men’s or women’s products?? Again, does it matter? It’s just soap…

I still remember the original Old Spice that my grandfather wore when I was younger, and I will never forget that smell…. I knew that I probably did not want to smell like that when I grew up, but he, my other grandfather, and my father encouraged my interest in body care and cologne. This connection we make with the male figures in our lives can result in our long-term commitment (or lack thereof) to body care and maintenance of our appearance and bodies.

It is fascinating that as we get older we often keep similar if not better hygiene routines that we learned from such figures in our lives. The focus on hygiene, however, becomes less of a connection with male figures in our lives but how appealing or masculine men are when they use such products.

What do you consider when you purchase masculine hygiene products (aka “soap”)?

Mark Halastik

Update: Sesame Street takes a jab at Old Spice with "Smell Like A Monster" and makes you think how ridiculous this approach to stereotyping men through hygiene products really is:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is definitely a shift, even if it is just in advertising, making it more acceptable for men to use traditionally female dominanted products. I made the switch to body wash a while back because I think a bottle tends to last longer than bars of soap. But maybe it was really because I saw all these commericials. What happened to the old "Zest fully clean" commercials where men and women were both using Zest?