“We Aren’t Sissies”: The Tales of Gen-Y Men

Author: Josip Petrusa

Of the many changes Gen-Y has brought to society, the transformation of men has gone largely un-noticed.

Apparently, “traditional man” is drastically different from their Gen-Y counterpart. The rugged, tough and “manly man” archetypes are being overtaken by stylish, metro-sexual personas.

A type of man that, in the eyes of men, needs to harden-up.

A recent survey, sponsored by Gillette and targeted at men between the ages of 18 and 64, suggested that 72% of respondents believe Gen-Y men need to harden-up.

Furthermore, the survey reported:

  • One-quarter of those aged 18-29 have never have popped the hood of their car
  • 69% believed Gen-Y men took as long as women to get dressed and ready; 20% received a waxing treatment
  • 40% said they or their friends have used a text message or Facebook to facilitate a break-up

Without a doubt, this survey elicits some immediate thoughts. However, like many other aspects of their lives, Gen-Y has some contributing factors behind the scenes…

Being a history buff, avid reader, lover of documentaries (and any piece of information I haven’t yet absorbed) I know society has drastically changed over the decades. And I understand the “hero” aspect of men – from cowboys to veterans – has changed with the times.

However, even though I know a great deal about military conscription and the daunting elements of the Cold War myself through family and relatives who escaped Communism, Gen Y may not recognize anything before 9/11; in our minds, all else has been de-emphasised by notions of terrorism.

Perhaps sorely missed, the expectation that Gen Y fills the role of “hero” man conceivably no longer exists.

Away from these sociological aspects, there are other realities the survey fails to take into consideration…

First and foremost: what owning a car once meant to society is undeniably different from what it represents now. Not only are members of Gen-Y waiting later in life to purchase their wheels, technological advancements have made many engines untouchable. Other than basic maintenance, which often can be done faster at a at local oil-change outlets, many aspects of the engine are a mystery for Gen Y, X, or Boomers. I would guess that it has been awhile since members of any generation has spent significant time under the hood.

Equally important in the alleged change of “manly men” to “metro-sexual”: one of the fastest growing segments of consumerism – and one that many companies have traditionally not been concerned with until our generation – are those focusing on the male appearance.

Male hygiene, style and appearance are of one of the largest untapped market segments.

And they’re raking it in with the Gen-Y male. After all, how could we not be concerned about our image, especially after Axe, Old Spice and Jersey Shore invade our marketing psyche and self-esteem? With or without our waxing treatments, let’s face the facts… it’s all about the money.

Another major issue: how the Gen Y male is perceived is largely affected by social media – an industry that didn’t exist for preceding generations.

We all put our best-self forward – how we want to be perceived – through social media. Even though it actually might not represent who really we are. It’s a matter of showing exclusively the “good-stuff”. To be honest, I can’t say I’ve ever seen a profile suggesting otherwise; Gen Y or other.

The subject of break-ups via text messaging or Facebook is a tough one to answer. Is it callous compared to times past? Maybe it seems that way; although I’m not sure the “Dear John” letter delivered through snail-mail was considered any more comforting to the recipient. Texting and Tweets are the “snail mail” of our generation – our method of communication. I’m just saying: if the technology is available, people will most likely use it – even for a break-up.

The reality is that Gen-Y men don’t have to harden up. With the “hero” version of man disappearing, huge advances in technology, and a constant emphasis towards a greater personal image, it’s quite clear why the Gen-Y male represents the characteristics depicted in the Gillette survey.

None of this suggests Gen Y men are weak.

To pay my way through school, I’ve worked in a car-manufacturing plant and demolition for years. I regularly go to the gym to stay active, and catch a pick-up game when I can. And I’m very fashionable. Even when I do pop the hood of my car, I look good doing it.

I’ll admit, life is easier now. I’ll also confess that among Gen Y males there is a nostalgic want for men of times past (a good marketing concept… the Gen Y Old Spice Guy…).

But maybe all of this is not about hardening-up.

With slight variation, much of what it is to be a man has remained the same. We struggle in our professional careers (maybe more than any generation before us). We work hard to “provide” and maintain family lives. And many of us have served community and country well, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Maybe it’s about “living” a harder daily life… as “real” men did before us.

If that’s the case you should know: Gen Y life is harder than you think. And trust me, we – the Gen Y man – is tougher than you know.

Josip Petrusa – an idea creationist, marketing strategist, and conversationalist – blogs at http://itsjosipnotjoseph.com/. He can also be reached on Twitter: @josippetrusa.

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