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Ubersexual: The New Masculine Ideal?

The authors who popularized the term "metrosexual" say a new type of masculinity is taking hold.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

The American Dialect Society named "metrosexual" the "word of the year" for 2003 after marketing consultant Marian Salzman helped popularize it.

Now the "ubersexual" is replacing the metrosexual, Salzman writes in The Future of Men, a book she co-authored with Ira Matathia and Ann O'Reilly.

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What's the difference between these two types of men?

In a study they wrote in 2003, the three trend spotters wrote that "One of the telltale signs of metrosexuals is their willingness to indulge themselves, whether by springing for a Prada suit or spending a couple of hours at a spa to get a massage and facial."

In contrast, they claim the ubersexual is less concerned with fashion and more inclined to develop his own sense of style.

"Compared with the metrosexual, the ubersexual is more into relationships than self," they say. "He dresses for himself more than for others (choosing a consistent personal style over fashion fads)."

Examples of Ubersexuals

Holding up actor George Clooney as an example, they say the ubersexual's "best friends are male; he doesn't consider the women in his life his 'buddies.'"

And the ubersexual is more concerned with principles and values. Bono, of the rock band U2, represents this, they say, by the way he campaigns to reduce poverty in Africa.

In short, the ubersexual possesses what the authors call "M-ness," a type of masculinity "that combines the best of traditional manliness (strength, honor, character) with positive traits traditionally associated with females (nurturance, communicativeness, cooperation)."

Although The Future of Men is based on interviews with 2,000 men nationwide, it is not an in-depth sociological analysis, as Salzman, a trained sociologist, readily admits.

"I'm in the business of marketing," she told WebMD. "The job of understanding men was undertaken from the perspective of how we can do a better job marketing to them. I have no apologies for that motivation."

Masculinity in Flux

But by arguing that the ubersexual is already succeeding the metrosexual, the authors of The Future of Men underscore an indisputable fact of life in the U.S. -- the concept of masculinity is in flux, leaving many confused about what it means to be a man.

"It was clear that men were questioning the feminization of men," said Salzman, explaining the origins of The Future of Men.

"We wrote the book to focus on the question, 'what is the byproduct of 40 years of increased rights for women?' The instability of the male role model has been a reaction to the rise of equal rights for women."

This is not the first time in American history that notions of masculinity have shifted.

"It seems like every time the country is in a crisis there's concern about masculinity," said Sonya Michel, a history professor at the University of Maryland and the author, with Robyn Muncy, of Engendered America: A Documentary History, 1865 to the Present.

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