Manscaping my manly mandibles

This is cross-posted over at I Fry Mine in Butter.

Once upon a time, I balked at the prices of toiletries marketed to women. Just the sticker shock from the tampons alone! What the hell? Little cardboard or plastic tubes of fabric cost how much? I did a quick calculation: a woman in the US with an average number of total monthly cycles could expect to shell out something around $40,000 to $50,000 in her lifetime for these damn things, and that’s not adjusted for inflation. It’s not as bad as the cost of a carton of cigarettes, so good thing I wasn’t shoving those into my own private Idaho. But where was my tax write off? If this shit happened to men, they’d have a tax shelter for it, I figured.

Flicker razorEverything else related to my personal hygiene was overpriced, too. This would have been somewhat more tolerable if the products themselves had decent quality. Not even great quality, just decent, as in don’t take a half-inch strip of my skin as a token of my esteem when I’m just trying to shave my legs. I let the stubble get longer and longer between shaves because I just wanted to avoid the pain of my shaving gel mixing with my fresh-oozing bloodstream. Ankles, it would seem, are not designed for flat, sharp pieces of metal to be dragged directly over them.

Nair was even worse. I might as well have poured gasoline on my legs and lit them on fire—the torured sinuses would have been the same, at least.

Why was I doing this? It didn’t make any sense. Except I saw how other girls in school were ridiculed for not being as feminine as possible, and I bought all the messages that were sent my way: to be beautiful, one must be hairless, wear makeup, be submissive, pretend to be dumber than the men one encounters. I wanted to be liked, and so I sold my soul to the culture for the price of my allowance.

Finally, 15 years and one sex change later I have no more relationship with women-marketed products. Bam, just like that. Okay, not really. And it’s not really full circle, but I’ve come around enough that I need to deal with shaving again, this time on my face. Men aren’t expected to rid themselves of hair anywhere else, right? Right?

Something shifted in that decade and a half. Gillette, Philips Norelco, and friends decided to go after the male consumer. But to do this they had to motivate men into buying increasingly expensive products where before a $2 can of Barbasol and a straight razor—totally reusable—would do the trick. They couldn’t have men thinking these new products would adversely impact their machismo, of course, because 1.) they really like traditional masculinity just as it is, and 2.) gay men are like beach front condos, they sell themselves. Or rather, gay men will buy all kinds of cosmetic products because they already have a solid interest in grooming, it’s like, totally part of the stereotype, all right? Geez!

Kevin Sorbo as Hercules
Lots of manly hair, very attentively groomed.

So what was poor, lonely Philips Norelco going to do to shift the frame enough that men would show up at their product party? They’re going to come up with the Bodygroom. Sounds like a helpful friend, right? Or a protector! Hey, men can be groomed too, and still be manly masculine men. It’s brilliant. In fact, if we posit them as better than the men we used to say were perfectly fine being unkempt sweat hogs, it’ll be even more brilliant. It’s not that it’s manly enough to shave off or shave down your man hair, it’s that it’s super manly! Go you, super man!

All you need is the Bodygroom. “With a hair-free back, well groomed shoulders, and an extra optical inch on my *bleep*, well, let’s just say life has gotten pretty darn cozy.” Or so says the actor in a white robe similar to the one my mother stole in 1998 from The Four Seasons in New York.

So shaving makes one’s junk look bigger? That’s the selling point. I recognize that the messaging is slightly tongue in cheek [sic], but it seems perfectly fine playing to mainstream masculinity even as it opens up a little more room in the concept, just so it can sell more products.

I’m not just harping on Philips Norelco—there is now a whole slew of products out there for men’s grooming since the Bodygroom came on the market a few years ago. And they all sell the idea that men will be more sexually appealing and don’t have to lose an inch [sic again] of their egos in the process or take on the metrosexual label. Dove, Aveda, Nivea, and other companies that have traditionally marketed to women now have products, all clearly and loudly labeled for men. And there are a whole host of products made for men that don’t use a brand name ever associated with women, that sound just like a guy’s best friend, like Jack Black, Molton Brown, and John Allen. The Molton Brown face scrub (yes, facial scrub) sells for $30.

A shaver ahead of his time.Razors keep adding blades in some bizarro world’s version of the grooming arms race. I remain content with my junior varsity three-bladed razor, and it still costs me $25 for a box of four razors. If I were to add up all of the prices I would have to procure just to shave my face with these high-end things, it looks like this:

Gillette Quattro razor: $30

True Gentleman pre-shave oil: $18

Jack Black shaving cream: $20

Nivea for Men after-shave lotion: $15

Total: $83

Of course Barbasol and disposable razors are still available, and you could get them both for about $10. But they’re not in this marketing push. If I want “the best shave,” “the closest shave,” and more importantly, the chicks (even though I’m married I’m supposed to want chicks, right?), I need to pay to play. And God forbid I grow shoulder hair because I’ll need to plunk down $70 for the Bodygroom. Friendship does not come cheap.

When I was hoping hegemonic masculinity would change, it wasn’t like this. And it sure wasn’t for shaving. I suppose I could go all Mountain Man and grow a beard.

And women will still have to pay way more for feminine hygiene products. Nothing like a captive audience.

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4 Comments on “Manscaping my manly mandibles”

  1. Alexis
    April 21, 2010 at 12:44 pm #

    “Except I saw how other girls in school were ridiculed for not being as feminine as possible, and I bought all the messages that were sent my way: to be beautiful, one must be hairless, wear makeup, be submissive, pretend to be dumber than the men one encounters.”

    See this is where our lives diverged in HS. I never once felt this. Possibly because I spent my HS career being blissfully clueless of the fact that there were other people around me who held opinions about my self worth…

    • evmaroon
      April 21, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

      Well, your Catholic school was better than mine, then, in that regard. But we had the better basketball team, so there.

  2. Skippy
    April 21, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

    “and more importantly, the chicks (even though I’m married I’m supposed to want chicks, right?)”

    Still don’t get it do you? It’s all about the chicks, every waking moment of a mans life. How do you think Axe body spray sells billions of dollars of badly scented alcohol based man-perfume? Ever see there TV Ads?


    • evmaroon
      April 21, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

      You are not actively calling yourself Skippy, are you? I got hit with a menacing pillow the last time I uttered that in your presence!
      Yes, I know it’s all about the chicks, whether they’re a possibility or only in my head, no matter my marital status, age, sexual orientation, or even if I’m at death’s door and the best I can do is fake spill my medication on the floor so my nurse has to bend over in front of me. It’s all about the chicks. That is such a ridiculous way to sell a product.

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