Sports meets cars meets lads mags - all things male?

Post date: Feb 06, 2011 11:49:42 PM

As promised, things are going back to my favourite topic - men and consumption. And let's call it what it is, men are truly recognised these days for 'consuming'.

As far as the sports calendar is going, the year is starting with a bang: premier league seasons - Scotland and England - are in full swing, the 'six nations' started, Magners League and Heineken Cup... and let's not forget about the super bowl. Since my loyalty is with my friend Mike and his Pittsburgh family, I'm all for the Steelers. Thanks to Cynthia I'm waving my 'terrible towel'. But then I'm a rugby girl and know little about American football. And this weekend it's tough to admit that France looked on fire. Wait and see, long way to go yet. Lots to look forward to.

With sports back on track and TV programmes picking up again after the Christmas break, it was also hard to avoid the latest on-air scandals... of female refs not knowing the offside rule... along with Mexicans being stereotyped by a car dude. I'd love to give Jeremy Clarkson a run for his money - and his jokes. Any other day we may have simply said 'who cares what this guy is saying - he is only a car dude' but instead of laughing it off, things are suddenly taken seriously. Are we not making him bigger than he is? Now, the regular joking and mocking which is perfectly 'normal' for this kind of programme is being clamped down.

What else is happening in the men's media landscape? Well, lads mags such as Loaded and FHM are in serious trouble as sales have been plummeting, leading to the recent re-design of Loaded. However, to me it looks like things haven't changed enough to cater for rapidly changing (consumer) culture of men and masculinities. The signs seem to say that a lot is happening in the world of gender relations which is affecting men in their ways of 'doing masculinity' and also 'consuming masculinity'. But, with things on the move this can turn out to be really positive for everyone involved. This may not be a crisis, but rather opportunities - and I mean for men too.

When really, jokes and 'banter' can be a male way of making friends, of building relationships, of saying 'I like you, I think you're ok'. The only problem is that it appears to be a kind of language that in some occasions only men can understand. What's more, with FHM and Loaded in decline, this leads to believe that the masculine 'New Lad' discourse of cars, sports, booze and girls seems to be going out of fashion. It's not only women and 'ethnic minorities' who are growing tired of it, but men also feel stereotyped and restricted in their choices. While the joking ambiguity of sexism and racism may have previously provided spaces - and excuses - for doing all things masculine, there is more to masculinity these days than just this. Moreover, it may not be the best way to relate to one another. Maybe it is time to start communicating and compromising a little more with all the 'others' out there. Ambiguous spaces are great and good and often misunderstood, but why hide behind some kind of mockery when really - let's face it - it's only a cover of insecurities that are perfectly fine and healthy.

With spring on the horizon and further sports and non-sports events approaching, it's time to come together and embrace diversity - but also understand the healthy side of 'banter'. It's ok to laugh at each other and what some may see as strengths and weaknesses. But really, strenghts and weaknesses are relative and illusive. Let's laugh at that too. We all have both and whoever doesn't admit to it is very sad. These guys may all feel powerful for their ability to label and pass judgement, but they'll never be able to show their soft side. And I'm saying this as the Steelers are losing, oh no. Let's just enjoy the games lads!!