Essay: At some point over the past decade or two, macho men fell out of style. But is that really a good thing? Die Welt columnist Judith Luig suggests that machos actually have some advantages over their modern 'metrosexual' replacement
BERLIN - A couple of years ago, a postcard made the rounds that had this text printed on it: "What would the world look like if there weren't any men in it?" The card also provided the answer to the question: "It would be full of fat, happy women."
Really? Okay, if there were no men we could close down a few prisons, and the ranks of corporate execs would be thinned to a pathetic trickle. In Germany, both prison and executive populations are 95% male. The manufacturers of three-quarter length khaki all-purpose pants would go out of business. Plus, travelers would reach their destinations faster because they could ask for directions if needed.
But would women really be fatter and happier? The goal of the women's movement was to open up male-exclusive territory to women -- and by and large, from trash collection to the Catholic Church, that goal has been achieved. Women can lead nations, and men can talk about their issues. Women can decide on their own if they want to continue working after childbirth. And men -- provided their wife agrees -- can stay home to look after the kids, cook and clean.
The macho – a particularly fine specimen
You could say that today's women are now free to do whatever king of male-free activity they want -- go on gals-only trips, read chick lit, meet up at the sauna for girls night. For men it's now the opposite. As soon as a guy wants to do something not involving women, women come running, saying it's not fair and they want to be a part of it.
From the female point of view, this is certainly a fine development. Another development is this: by invading all that was previously male-centric, women have all but eradicated one particularly pronounced type of male: the macho. If the proverbial macho man still had some stock in the 1980s, by the 90s, the metrosexual, with his facial tonics and washboard abs, had won the day.
Until now, that is. Even if, as most seem to agree, the macho is an anachronism that has largely been shelved, the "classic macho" genre is one that is again being hotly discussed.
The current issue of the German edition of GQ men's magazine carries an article about how men don't like behaving like machos. This premise is based on a 2011 poll that found that men have a cozy, home-loving side and love the feeling of soft skin – their own. Justin Timberlake is also quoted in the same issue as saying that men have overcome their macho side.
But whether or not that makes women happier is another matter, especially if you consider that the American pop star went on to say that the new type of male posed a different set of problems – like not wanting to commit. Today's less macho guys are also "a bunch of career-obsessed egotists," according to Mr. Timberlake.
Uh-oh. Maybe it's time we gave the macho man a second chance.
Machos are more exciting
There's a new American romantic comedy called Crazy Stupid Love. In the movie, comedian Steve Carell plays a man whose wife leaves him because he's too bland and unsexy. It takes a real macho to teach him how to become a hero in women's eyes.
Another movie -- this time a German one that is number one at the German box office -- is What a Man. This tells the story of a nice guy whose girlfriend runs away with a testosterone-driven stud because he's just so much more exciting. Again, the abandoned boyfriend seeks to become a new-school macho.
The Macho 2.0 guys in both movies, by the way -- played by Ryan Gosling and Elyas M'Barek respectively -- may be compulsive womanizers, but they're also a lot better looking than the nice guys.
There are a lot of other good reasons why we won't be able to do entirely without machos in the future. This is the most important one: the macho sees himself as the center of the universe. While that probably means he's not very aware of the feelings of others, it also means he's not very aware of his own feelings either. And that can come in handy for a partner.
Take these examples: on long trips, the macho is not constantly saying he's too hot or too cold, and he doesn't quibble about being tired or hungry. He doesn't have a boss who treats him unfairly and doesn't suffer from illnesses whose progress he reads up on anxiously in a medical encyclopedia.
The macho believes he knows how to do everything best -- which means he takes care of a lot of stuff. That can be a very positive thing if you're thinking in terms of assembling flat packs and keeping the lamps in functioning bulbs. He also doesn't have to take a nap when he gets back from the office because he had such a hectic day, or go to the day spa with you on Saturday -- he's off doing guy stuff.
Machos keep it simple
Machos – particularly the younger ones – are in love with themselves. The upside? They look after themselves and are highly presentable. They also think nobody can get enough of them, and don't know the meaning of the term "self-doubt" -- so they don't tear themselves to pieces trying to make a decision. A kid? A new job? A move? Mr. Macho just does it. Machos also have a childish streak: he simply won't let in any notion of reality that doesn't tie in with his self-image.
Have we really eradicated machos? Not even GQ believes that. The visual accompanying the Justin Timberlake interview shows a nude, post-coital beauty lying on a sofa. The prince of pop himself is shown getting dressed and giving the camera a "You talkin" to me?" look.
No, a world without machos would be one-dimensional. We need these most anachronistic sort of males -- if only so we can all have a good laugh at just who the heck they think they are.
Read the original article in German