Dita De Boni 's Opinion

Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni: Manly men an easy target

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Can a mere male speak his mind these days, without women pointing an accusing finger?

Illustration / Anna Crichton
Illustration / Anna Crichton

Not so long ago, I spent four years chronicling my family life for the NZ Herald website, revealing the shenanigans of the children, the buffoonery of their mother (me), and the well-intentioned missteps of their father.

One day, having emptied the think tank of all ideas, I asked my husband to write a "guest post" - a piece about what it really feels like to be a modern father, grappling not only with parenting the loin fruit, but also navigating the minefield that is the modern heterosexual marriage.

My husband made a start. He mentally masticated the issue. And he wrote. Then, after much toil, he deleted it all, telling me he couldn't do it, because the essentially female readership would flay him alive for exposing the real thoughts of the male mind.

Did my dear husband suffer from "gender issue laryngitis"? It's a complaint that is endemic in society, according to those modern oracles of social science - advertisers. Can the modern man not speak his mind without every second woman accusing him of being an "arrogant bastard"? According to advertising agency M&C Saatchi Australia, the answer to that is an emphatic "no".

Just how emphatic is supposedly laid out in a new piece of "research" - conducted over eight months and released by the agency - in which 140 Aussie men reject the notion that they are emasculated, while also professing to be traumatised about buying gifts for their partners, having to ask permission for "all and any man time or activities", or being told they are wrong so often they have developed the aforementioned "gender issue laryngitis".

"Men miss being treated like men. Real manly men," trumpets the advance press for The Modern (Aussie) Man white paper, which claims to voice what every man is thinking, but is too afraid to vocalise. Things like, men are their "most relaxed and authentic selves around other men", and are "highly romantic - more than women realise".

They also, apparently, want to laugh more at home "but don't, to avoid perpetuating the perceived female logic that male humour is immature or signifies that men don't want to grow up".

You could come up with any number of counter-arguments. You could suggest that a happy marriage depends on being considerate about securing alone time. You could suggest that men still have the upper hand in many of life's spheres, and mete out, on average, the worst violence and abuse in others.

It would still bring you up short against the jargon-spewers who tend to populate advertising agencies. Especially those who come up with a great, attention-seeking pitch for new business, go about conducting bogus research to dress up that pitch as social science, then start believing they've actually conducted real sociological research giving a genuine insight into the human condition.

The true intent of The Modern (Aussie) Man becomes clear when the modern, semi-emasculated man is declared an "undiscovered consumer" - someone who hates shopping, but "loves buying". How to fix it? Employ the costly services of the M&C Saatchi men-ologists, no doubt, who will find a way to connect your male consumer with his favourite brands without making him feel as though he's done anything so girlie as to "shop" for them.

Retail therapy dressed up as male empowerment? You bet - with the advantage of a sly, cynical swipe at womankind on the way through.

- NZ Herald

Dita De Boni

Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

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