Terminology – Metrosexual

I heard someone called a metrosexual on the street yesterday, in a joking laughing matter and remembered why I hate the term so much. Metrosexual is a supremely gendered term that just goes to reinforce gender roles.

A “metrosexual” is what exactly?

You might be “metrosexual” if:
1. You just can’t walk past a Banana Republic store without making a purchase.
2. You own 20 pairs of shoes, half a dozen pairs of sunglasses, just as many watches and you carry a man-purse.
3. You see a stylist instead of a barber, because barbers don’t do highlights.
4. You can make her lamb shanks and risotto for dinner and Eggs Benedict for breakfast… all from scratch.
5. You only wear Calvin Klein boxer-briefs.
6. You shave more than just your face. You also exfoliate and moisturize.
7. You would never, ever own a pickup truck.
8. You can’t imagine a day without hair styling products.
9. You’d rather drink wine than beer… but you’ll find out what estate and vintage first.
10. Despite being flattered (even proud) that gay guys hit on you, you still find the thought of actually getting intimate with another man truly repulsive.
“Some people think he’s gay, but he’s actually metrosexual.”
-via Urban Dictionary.com

Okay let’s unpack this a little bit. It’s a vile mix of enforcing gender roles, sexism and queerism. And a lot of this ties into the fact that for a lot of men the term metrosexual has taken the form of an attack on their masculinity.

Metrosexuals care about their looks, care about style, have taste and are refined in a general sense. These are trait societally expectedof women. I have many a female friend who can tell you of the horrible interactions they’ve had because they don’t practice hair removal or prefer Pabst to white wine or dress in a casual style all the time. The contempt for men who do these things not only reveals the contempt for these practices in general, practices more associated with women but also attempts to reinforce gender roles by strictly defining certain acts as “womanly” and “manly”. So there’s that. 

The contempt for metrosexuals and use of the term as an insult is a large scale version of schoolyard bullying. “These are things that men don’t do! If you do them you’re weird, not normal.”  The term itself is problematic because it exists at all, it’s main purpose seems to be to create a division between metrosexuals and “real men” who would never think of doing any of that “girly shit”. In addition to this it also acts as a form of protection for metrosexuals. It’s a defense mechanism that can be called in when they are accused of homosexuality, because any deviation from the strict male gender roles obviously must be a symptom of homosexuality but metrosexuality is still better than homosexuality. You can see this clearly in the definition above (#10). In fact almost all the definitions of Metrosexuality at Urban Dictionary contain a reference to homosexuality, usually an insult.

The discussion becomes even more complex when you bring race into it and point out that I’ve never seen anyone not white termed metrosexual, no matter how dressed up, refined or dapper they were. Because on the rare occasions we do get to see a Man of Color dressed up in any way 99.99% of times what is his role? He’s a mobster/gangster/defendant/crooked businessman/yakuza/drug dealer/pimp…you get the point.

So… in one term we have a confusing and intersecting web of misogyny, strict gender roles, queerism and racism. Is it any wonder I hate the term?

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2 responses to “Terminology – Metrosexual

  1. Thank you for breaking this down. It’s always twinged me, and I never took time to unpack it. Basically, it goes back to dandy, sissy and punk as terms to reinforce gender roles.

  2. Chris-
    It’s a really loaded word, as I was writing the post more and more threads started to become clear. It’s such a tangle of oppressions that it’s hard to unravel it and I know I barely scratched the surface here. A whole book could be written on this one word.

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