Trend Report Lowdown: Enlightened Masculinity

Date:Friday, January 25, 2019
Author:Charlie Gilbert

Men are challenging preconceptions of masculinity. From breaking out of the ‘Man Box’ to championing non-rugged role models, our latest Consumer Attitudes report uncovers what this means for brands.

Boys will be boys, eh?

Ah, so you’ve seen Gillette’s We Believe ad. Well, boys will indeed be boys, but parents – alongside educational organisations – are ensuring that today’s boys grow up without the restrictions of stereotypical masculinity.

There are, it turns out, many ways to be a boy. If more positive, inclusive mindsets are fostered, tomorrow’s men don’t have to default to rigid male gender roles.

Is this the ‘enlightened masculinity’ from which the report takes its name?

It’s one aspect of it, for sure. Enlightened Masculinity is basically broken down into four sections, of which Raising Good Men is one.

One really interesting thing mentioned here is the role brands are playing in highlighting damaging gender norms. Take Axe, for example, and its Senior Orientation workshops, which aimed to tackle ‘locker-room talk’ in schools.

What are the other sections?

Out of the Box, which unpacks – quite literally – how men are breaking out of the ‘Man Box’ of traditional values (self-sufficiency, toughness, being sexually experienced etc.) they’ve long been stuck in.

Representing Real Men, which reveals how brands like Bonobos, Schick Hydro and Harry’s are portraying, and encouraging, a wider definition of masculinity (perhaps exemplified by Getty Images naming ‘masculinity undone’ as one of its visual trends for 2018).

And Strength Through Support, which looks at the innovative apps, campaigns and services helping to raise awareness of male mental health – now a serious global concern.

So we couldn’t not mention Gillette. They tried to show men breaking out of the ‘Man Box’, didn’t they? Where did they go wrong?

Christian Ward, our head of Media & Marketing, wrote about this in the days after the launch of Gillette’s controversial ad. The campaign was clearly well-intentioned, but Gillette’s top-down approach doomed it to failure.

Compare it, for example, with Axe’s attempts to address toxic masculinity in 2017. Not only did its Is It Ok For Guys campaign partner with anti-bullying organisation Ditch the Label, but it was underpinned by research from real people.

What else will Enlightened Masculinity teach me?

That men who remain in the ‘Man Box’ are far more likely to get drunk compared to those who’ve broken out (and, more alarmingly, to be the perpetrators and victims of violence and bullying).

You’ll also learn why masculinity is becoming something to be earned rather than inherited, and how male role models are moving away from James Bond and the Marlboro Man.

If you’re a Stylus member, you can read Enlightened Masculinity now. If you’re not, discover the benefits of joining.

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