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Open Access Publications from the University of California

From Metrosexual to Retrosexual: The Importance of Shifting Male Gender Roles to Feminism


The study of gender in feminism should not only concentrate on female gender roles and queer transgressions of established gender roles, but should also include an in-depth discussion on male gender roles as they exist in society. This paper focuses on the metrosexual and the retrosexual trends which have recently affected the male gender role in society. The emergence of the metrosexual in the 1990s through 2005 was a profound change in the traditional male gender role which allowed men to explore fashion, food, beauty, health, and etiquette in new ways. During this time what it meant to be a man included visiting spas and salons, having plastic surgery, eating gourmet or healthy foods, carrying a “man purse,” wearing male makeup, “manscaping,” and using proper etiquette to create and maintain relationships with women as well as impress business associates. In response to this popular metrosexual trend, a social backlash emerged to the perceived “feminization” of men. This current retrosexual backlash stresses what it means to be “real men” with appeals to virulent sexuality, violence, sport, machismo, and a lack of interest in fashion, etiquette, and health. Through pop culture and media, my research tracks the history of these metrosexual and retrosexual trends while at the same time questioning the importance of shifting male gender roles with respect to the feminist ideal of eradicating the binary gender system in society.

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