Bromanteaus

Today, I discovered the existence of something called “brotox,” the apparent new trend of men getting Botox and other cosmetic surgeries.

I say “apparent,” because if you actually dig for the sources of the information, you’ll discover that, while the number of men getting Botox has increased by 10% in the previous year, they still represent only about 6% of the people getting Botox. This is hardly what one would call gender equity. So the evidence here is that the idea of “brotox” is not exactly rooted in anything that people actually do.

I think you could call them “bromanteaus”– the portmanteaus that the writers of every single terrible trend piece about men on the entire planet feel the need to invent. Bromance. Metrosexual. Manorexia. Guyliner. Mancession. Mancave.* I even heard of mancation once (it’s a vacation, except more dudely).

Trend pieces are not exactly known for what one would call sterling research: in general, as far as I can tell, the author gets three anecdotes, bashes out a story, and spends the rest of the day masturbating and watching Firefly. Nevertheless, the sheer popularity of bromanteau pieces says something– not necessarily about  whether men are actually using Botox, but definitely about our societal insecurities around men and their place in society.

One of the favorite topics of trend piece writers is The Demise of the Real Man. Unfortunately, this does not refer to a secret plot by supervillains to replace all men with androids, no matter how cool that’d be. Instead, it’s about how the cage of the male gender role is widening one tiny inch, and that means American civilization will fall because no one will be able to mow lawns and change lightbulbs and hang pictures anymore, or something.

Trend piece writers love that shit. Are women unable to get married now because guys are playing video games, getting drunk, and having casual sex? (No.) Will Tim Allen’s sexist new sitcom turn back the waves of political correctness and its fascistic attempts to remove privileged people’s God-given right to be assholes? (No.) Does Don Draper herald the rise of the old-fashioned retrosexual who wears suits, drinks whiskey, and flirts with everyone? (Despite the existence of Noah Brand, no.)

Which explains why trend-piece writers are so interested in brotox. It’s a whole new opportunity for them to have heart palpitations about whether Real Men are, in fact, facing their Demise, this time at the hands of people injecting botulism in other people’s faces in order to prevent wrinkles.

I’m now going to digress and talk about marked cases. Think about nurses: we assume that nurses are female, so if there’s a dude who’s a nurse we might describe him as a “male nurse,” while “female nurse” sounds bizarrely redundant. The male nurse is a marked case. Bromanteaus embed the marked case in the structure of the word. Women don’t have “guyliner,” they just have makeup. Women don’t have “bromances,” they just have best friends. Women don’t have “mancaves,” they just have rooms.

Which is why trend-piece writers love them so much, of course. It lets them say that Real Men are not, in fact, facing their Demise. Eyeliner and friendships and private spaces are still girl things, even if there are a few dudes participating. Because when men have intimate friendships, they’re “bromances,” which are clearly a completely different thing from the best friendships women have. Because… um… there’s bro in the name!

Becky CK, in an excellent blogpost about manorexia, says:

For me, “metrosexuality” is just another term we use to trivialize expression of male sexuality that is deviant from a straight, cisgender, and physically dominant narrative about what it means to be a man. Being “metrosexual” means one takes way more interest in his appearance than a “normal” man would. It follows a faulty line of reasoning that gay men inherently have more interest in their appearance (read: are more feminine), and any straight man who does so is just a little more towards gay on the scale.

I think her use of the word “trivialize” is telling. Bromanteaus make men’s gender nonconformity less threatening: it’s really dudely, after all, even if it looks like it isn’t. We’ve even given it a silly name so it doesn’t threaten us anymore! It’s the last, pathetic gasps of a dying sexist system.

*”Brony” is allowable, since it was not invented by the writer of a trend piece and is not gendered unless you are one of those terrible people who calls female adult MLP fans “pegasisters.”

This entry was posted in fashion, femmephobia, noseriouslywhatabouttehmenz and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Bromanteaus

  1. Ted says:

    One bit of snark before I go and think about this, What’s wrong with Firefly? Okay besides the fact that I have to share my enjoyment with the kinda folk that think Ron Paul is some sort of exceptional politician.

  2. GudEnuf says:

    If I had the money, I’d deck myself out with cosmetic surgery. Nothing wrong with using technology to make yourself look hot.

  3. Hugh says:

    “Okay besides the fact that I have to share my enjoyment with the kinda folk that think Ron Paul is some sort of exceptional politician.”

    There’s a reason that Ronulans like it, you know.

  4. marc2020 says:

    It’s a truly laughable state of affairs Ozy Mark Simpson has had their number for a while now witness

    http://www.marksimpson.com/blog/2011/02/20/manly-strap-ons-and-fear-of-the-fag-within/

  5. badandfierce says:

    “There’s a reason that Ronulans like it, you know.”

    The Operative needs fans, too?

  6. Jesus_marley says:

    I actually had a plastic surgeon in a building where I worked try to convince me to get botox injections once. I just told I didn’t need them since my hotness was timeless. He stopped bothering me after that

  7. GudEnuf says:

    Please do not say “plastic surgery” when what you mean is “cosmetic surgery”.

  8. HappyEvilSlosh says:

    As a portmanteau of metropolitan and heterosexual (no man, guy nor bro there) I’m not sure I agree metrosexual should be considered a bromanteau. Although if grouped on implication as outlined in your article it certainly fits with the rest.

    BTW as a lurker for a couple of weeks now I’m getting heaps out of your website. Kudos.

  9. Jesus_marley says:

    Actually what I meant was plastic. He was a plastic surgeon (his own description I might add) who also performed cosmetic procedures. the fact that he offered to perform a cosmetic surgery does not change anything. Please stop being so pedantic. it is not appreciated.

  10. elementary_watson says:

    Botox: Can anyone point me to an example of a person who looked better after having been botoxed than before? (Pictures would be appreciated …)

  11. kaija24 says:

    Re: Botox. “Looking good” on camera (stills or video) is much different than “looking good” in real life. A lot of professional beautiful people (like actors, models, etc) do what they do to look good for the camera though their appearance in person, on the street, in daily interactions may be weirdly altered. I find the “no facial expressions” Botoxed look to be rather disconcerting in person…yikes.

  12. Sam says:

    Botox does have its uses. A woman was pulled over for driving erratically and ordered to take a breathalyzer. She refused and was arrested; but was later acquitted in court after offering evidence that the Botox injections she’d had before being pulled over had so totally deadened her facial muscles that she could not move her lips to blow in the ‘dang’ machine. Call it the Botox vs. Intox defense…
    Wonder if a guy could similarly get off with the excuse “Gee, occifer (slurring for effect), I’d take yer ‘dang’ test, but what with all those beers I had (loud belch here) I can’t seem to make myself ‘blow’.”

    Just Passing By…

  13. dungone says:

    Mark Simpson coined “metrosexual” and I highly doubt that it was meant to degrade men. Just saying…

    Whether or not the neologism makes sense as Simpson explained it is a different story. I think that Simpson recognized a real trend… that women traditionally controlled the vast majority of consumer spending, but men are staying single longer, have more disposable income under their own control, and that this was turning these men into a very powerful and trendy new consumer group. So one of the things that people do when they have a lot of disposable income is they spend it to make themselves look good. And another thing is to pay for rent in a city that has great nightlife and lots of very beautiful single women (aka Manhattan, where women outnumber and out-earn men). And another thing, which sort of stops fitting in with the narrative quite as well, is spend a lot of time and money on gadgets and video games. Overall I think that maybe the name for it reflects the gender preferences of the person who coined it rather than the gender preferences of the men it describes. But I wouldn’t kill the messenger for that.

  14. superglucose says:

    I feel like bromanteaus are mainly used in a sort of ironic sense. It’s “brotox” when a guy does it because it’s ironically pointing out that botox can be a guy thing too. I feel like these “bromanteaus” are GOOD for gender equality because it’s the first step in making something acceptable. Before, anyone who would be described “metrosexual” was simply “faggot.” Since the term “metrosexual” came around, guys could wear flamboyant button-down shirts and look faaaabulous without having their sexuality questioned: they were still straight, they were just “metro.” Isn’t that a huuuuge leap forward?

    I would much much MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH (bigger letters)MUCH(biggerletters) rather be allowed a botox injection, even if it’s only allowed if I call it “brotox,” than not be allowed an injection at all.

    Also I don’t think “mancave” is a portmanteau of anything really. Just two words sort of added next to each other with the enjoining space removed. “Brony” is a portmanteau of “pony” and “bro.” As is pegasisters, which is similarly awesome.

    Yeah, thesis in a sentence: chillax please, and let society take this gender equality one step at a time.

  15. Beebower says:

    Good post, but “man cave” doesn’t translate to “room”. It means something very specific and women do not have the equivalent.

  16. Ted says:

    @ hugh, I know and I cringe whenever Mal says something about the inherent evils of government, but I still prefer Firefly over many many tv shows that are currently on the air. Also to get back on topic, (too late), I suspect this may be related to the “dudebro” subculture as much as it has to do with the slight progress american society has been making.

  17. dungone says:

    I feel like bromanteaus are mainly used in a sort of ironic sense.

    @superglucose, I think it was invented by people who also celebrate Festivus and the comic genius who wrote the episode about The Bro (a bra for men). I think you’re correct in pointing out that coining new words for things helps people move away from the stigma associated with the old words. I would also point out that Ozy is conflating a lot of different people’s intentions when they coin those words. As I pointed out, metrosexual was coined by Mark Simpson, who is a masculinist and often writes scathing take-downs of the “End Of Men” trend pieces by traditionalists such as Horowitz. I think that the “mancession” also originates from people who were pointing out that the down economy is a gender issue. I believe that it was originally coined as a reaction to feminists who called for increased social spending to help women cope with the recession as well as a reaction to prominent people who said things such as that the recession would have never happened if women ruled the world. It was also used by father’s rights activists who were pointing out the injustice to thousands of fathers who were losing their jobs but were not allowed to have their child support payments adjusted. So people in general felt it important to point out that the recession has disproportionately affected men.

    @Ozy, I don’t know, but there is a bit of an element of a “trend piece about trend pieces” in this post. Perhaps you’re applying a pretty broad brush to all the people who use “man” or “bro” to coin some new word.

    @Beebower, “Man Cave” essentially refers to any space that serves a similar purpose to what used to be called a “den.” I think that it has a similar meaning to “bachelor pad” but pertains mostly to situations where the overall home is shared with a woman. In that case, the woman’s equivalent of “Man Cave” would refer to the entire rest of the house. We don’t really need to have an exact female equivalent of the term unless we envision a woman who marries Count Dracula and sets up a little pink room full of fluffy things for herself in his castle.

  18. noahbrand says:

    Good post, but “man cave” doesn’t translate to “room”. It means something very specific and women do not have the equivalent.

    A room of one’s own, one might say?

  19. Noah: I’m not sure the connection to Woolf really works, they’re two different spaces. Woolf’s essay reflects a space where women can do work and be productive, in this case writing or even just thinking. The essay, and much of Woolf’s fiction, hints at how physical freedom is a central part of intellectual and personal development because the author must write “with the whole person.” For Woolf, this space was central in making women visible, of becoming a visible person in both society and history because normally they (women) were the anonymous people of a society.

    I don’t know, I just don’t think the analogy quite works because the man cave, at least in most of pop culture such as TV, refers to a place of sheer enjoyment and relaxation from the world at large. It’s almost an opposite space than Woolf’s Room because it is a place where the man and his friends can escape the world of work and become invisible. Even when the man cave is working garage or wood shop, the products of that space are not connected to the daily economy of the individual.

    Both, however, have a certain amount of class blindness as Woolf’s Room and the man cave require a certain level of wealth to be considered successful. The Room needs to also be supported by 200 pounds a year whilst the man cave needs a big TV, beer fridge, and all the other things shown in a Bud Light commerical.

  20. dungone says:

    I don’t know, I just don’t think the analogy quite works because the man cave, at least in most of pop culture such as TV, refers to a place of sheer enjoyment and relaxation from the world at large. It’s almost an opposite space than Woolf’s Room because it is a place where the man and his friends can escape the world of work and become invisible. Even when the man cave is working garage or wood shop, the products of that space are not connected to the daily economy of the individual.

    Ok I got it now. Man Cave = snips and snails and puppy dogs tails. A Room Of One’s Own = Sugar and spice and all things nice.

    I was almost following along with you with man cave as a negative TV trope, but then you brought in working garages and wood shops and dismissed them as being insignificant. One of the interesting things I found while reading Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years by Elizabeth Barber is the theory that the way in which women have been erased from history because even in spite of having been significant pioneers in developing things such as the textile arts, it was always men who moved it beyond home life and into mass production. So it’s ironic that you would dismiss working garages and wood shops as insignificant as opposed to, say, writing, when one of the many interesting things that one could build there is a printing press.

    I honestly do not understand how men’s work spaces are insignificant to the daily economy of the individual. I don’t even know what in the world that’s supposed to mean. Does it mean that if President Carter produces a good portion of his family’s home furniture by hand in his wood shop, which will undoubtedly be passed down in history as national treasures, then his “Man Cave” is a meaningless place for enjoyment and relaxation?

    I think you got “Man Cave” quite wrong. Even in pop culture, “Man Cave” refers to the space where a man can have autonomy to pursue his own interests. It’s pop culture that portrays men as fumbling idiots who drink beer and watch football all day, but the fundamental premise of men needing to have a place of their own in the home is a fair idea.

    Let me tell you a story about life in my mother’s house. As a child, my existence was strictly regimented – from taking off shoes to folding clothes and making beds and having everything be “just so” – those were things that were to be put up with because Mother Knew Best. But I can’t even tell you how betrayed I felt one day when my mother went through the garage and literally threw away my tent, my energy drinks and supplements (I used to run track and field), and other things that she deemed were “useless” and “taking up space.” Yes – I kept the really important things in the garage because they were not allowed in the rest of the house, but then she still threw them in the garbage. A few years later, in my twenties, when I left for the Marine Corps and left my belongings in her keeping while I was away, she not only gave away my cat because she didn’t happen to like it, but she screamed at my little brother until he pushed my motorcycle out of the garage and left it outside – and it got stolen. This is what life is like for a man in the home of a controlling woman – the things that matter to you the most as a person can end up getting completely shot to shit. Some women are so convinced that they are the masters of the home that they don’t seem to think that it’s up to them to share it with anyone else, not even their children.

  21. Anastasia Bright says:

    There’s a place in my town that advertises “Broga” — Yoga for men, open to all.

  22. “working garages and wood shops and dismissed them as being insignificant.”

    Sure, but there is a massive difference between working garages and the garage-as-man-cave, and it’s an important distinction. I don’t think it’s possible to conflate the two spaces. The “man cave” is, in it’s most well-known and popular conception, a place free from the constrictions of the outside world. The working garage is a space that creates products vital to the survival of the family or the individual and in no possible way can be an escape or shelter. Normally the products of a garage or workshop don’t have the option to become personal heirlooms. Carter made his family’s furniture, but his family didn’t really “need” that furniture. He made those objects in a space free from the demands and routines of his “real” job; it was space that had no pressure to be productive. It was space in which he could relax. In that way, the space was much different from a working space. My grandfather had to use his carpentry and his workspace so his family could eat. He created functional items and some really beautiful items, about which he would fondly reminisce until the day he died. And he sold the lot of them. Both he and Carter made furniture, but they made them for different reasons and in different spaces.

    You are correct to note that Woolf’s Room was/is closer to a working garage than a man cave, since thinking and writing was what she did to acquire an independent income (which is one of the reasons I quibbled with the Room=Man Cave analogy).

  23. dungone says:

    @havebookswilltravel, I disagree with your logic. Ancient women who fashioned tapestries in the home did so because their families needed clothes to wear. But the men who created textile empires were probably all in a position of already having had their basic needs met. President Carter, as a woodworker, is doing something that isn’t strictly necessary, but it does create something very valuable.

    Anyway, it seems to me that you view the idea of men having a personal space that they have control over as a largely negative phenomenon. Men should work because they don’t have a choice, right? Because they have to feed the wife and kids, right? Because someone is telling them to do it, right? Not because they’re relaxing or doing something that makes them happy. I feel that this pretty much sums up the negative reaction that some people have to a “man cave” and why they consider it to be such a negative thing.

  24. laughingdove says:

    Sometimes I idly wonder if there’s a very old form of this in the word ‘handsome’. I struggle with it because while I love the word, it’s pretty and it’s flattering and it rolls off the tongue and looks very, very good in text…it’s existence sometimes ends up cutting out all the other words I could be using. When I describe a male character as ‘handsome’, I resign myself to it and feel obligated to find more ‘masculine’ adjectives, which is frustrating because to me, it is a very specific form of the word ‘beautiful’.

    While ‘beautiful’ has a ton of potentially gender-neutral adjectives not many of them fit well with handsome, which means I’m stuck with it. And so I get frustrated, and wonder why we needed to make this distinction at all, and end up flagrantly ignoring the main use of the word and turning it into something else–a ‘beautiful’ synonym with characteristics closer to dignity, and quiet, strong grace, applying it gender-neutrally because really, it’s a lovely nuance and I’d like to use it freely. And other people do this too, not necessarily for the same reasons; I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard the term ‘handsome’ for a woman in a text, and how gleeful I am when I come across an author (usually a woman) gushing over a ‘beautiful’ man.

    But the very fact that that’s extraordinary vexes me, because I know very well that the likelihood of finding couples who will use those words in each other’s presence is very low. I’ve always wanted to tell my partners that they’re beautiful, regardless of gender–it so happens that the majority of my partners identify female to a degree, so it tends to go over fairly well, but I flail horrendously when I come across a cis man. Because I try to tell them that they’re beautiful and they make a face and tell me not to call them that. Because there is an unacceptable way to tell someone you’re sleeping with that you think the way they’re put together is fucking pretty.

    Now my point, which I have been ambling to distractedly, is that these aren’t negative words; oh no, as a matter of a fact they are a gateway! But they’re a gateway that becomes an obstruction, and their use is shortsighted and honestly it would be much healthier to take the full leap than stumble over the wandering steps. But like all things cultural evolution is slow and ponderous and frankly more than a little ineffective, taking the path of least resistance and most immediate gain because that’s how every creature in the history of the world has worked ever.

  25. Jade says:

    I’m really not sure i see why Brony gets a free pass.it seems to be exactly the same as the others even if it wasnt coined in exactly the same medium.

    men cant like things designed for girls – put bro in front, now its totally masculine, and any previously femininity is erased.

    yea that seems exactly the same to me. i get that you might have a problem with the femininity that’s involved, but you just have to wrestle your head around the fact, that being feminine and liking feminine things is ok regardless of your gender, and the dominant cultural veiw is just plain wrong.

  26. elementary_watson says:

    Hmm, as this thread was resurrected right now, I wonder why “mansplaining” isn’t here … Just sayin’

  27. Botox for men, huh? What will they come up with next? Bro-ginal implants?

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