Today, I discovered the existence of something called “brotox,” the apparent new trend of men getting Botox and other cosmetic surgeries.
I say “apparent,” because if you actually dig for the sources of the information, you’ll discover that, while the number of men getting Botox has increased by 10% in the previous year, they still represent only about 6% of the people getting Botox. This is hardly what one would call gender equity. So the evidence here is that the idea of “brotox” is not exactly rooted in anything that people actually do.
I think you could call them “bromanteaus”– the portmanteaus that the writers of every single terrible trend piece about men on the entire planet feel the need to invent. Bromance. Metrosexual. Manorexia. Guyliner. Mancession. Mancave.* I even heard of mancation once (it’s a vacation, except more dudely).
Trend pieces are not exactly known for what one would call sterling research: in general, as far as I can tell, the author gets three anecdotes, bashes out a story, and spends the rest of the day masturbating and watching Firefly. Nevertheless, the sheer popularity of bromanteau pieces says something– not necessarily about whether men are actually using Botox, but definitely about our societal insecurities around men and their place in society.
One of the favorite topics of trend piece writers is The Demise of the Real Man. Unfortunately, this does not refer to a secret plot by supervillains to replace all men with androids, no matter how cool that’d be. Instead, it’s about how the cage of the male gender role is widening one tiny inch, and that means American civilization will fall because no one will be able to mow lawns and change lightbulbs and hang pictures anymore, or something.
Trend piece writers love that shit. Are women unable to get married now because guys are playing video games, getting drunk, and having casual sex? (No.) Will Tim Allen’s sexist new sitcom turn back the waves of political correctness and its fascistic attempts to remove privileged people’s God-given right to be assholes? (No.) Does Don Draper herald the rise of the old-fashioned retrosexual who wears suits, drinks whiskey, and flirts with everyone? (Despite the existence of Noah Brand, no.)
Which explains why trend-piece writers are so interested in brotox. It’s a whole new opportunity for them to have heart palpitations about whether Real Men are, in fact, facing their Demise, this time at the hands of people injecting botulism in other people’s faces in order to prevent wrinkles.
I’m now going to digress and talk about marked cases. Think about nurses: we assume that nurses are female, so if there’s a dude who’s a nurse we might describe him as a “male nurse,” while “female nurse” sounds bizarrely redundant. The male nurse is a marked case. Bromanteaus embed the marked case in the structure of the word. Women don’t have “guyliner,” they just have makeup. Women don’t have “bromances,” they just have best friends. Women don’t have “mancaves,” they just have rooms.
Which is why trend-piece writers love them so much, of course. It lets them say that Real Men are not, in fact, facing their Demise. Eyeliner and friendships and private spaces are still girl things, even if there are a few dudes participating. Because when men have intimate friendships, they’re “bromances,” which are clearly a completely different thing from the best friendships women have. Because… um… there’s bro in the name!
Becky CK, in an excellent blogpost about manorexia, says:
For me, “metrosexuality” is just another term we use to trivialize expression of male sexuality that is deviant from a straight, cisgender, and physically dominant narrative about what it means to be a man. Being “metrosexual” means one takes way more interest in his appearance than a “normal” man would. It follows a faulty line of reasoning that gay men inherently have more interest in their appearance (read: are more feminine), and any straight man who does so is just a little more towards gay on the scale.
I think her use of the word “trivialize” is telling. Bromanteaus make men’s gender nonconformity less threatening: it’s really dudely, after all, even if it looks like it isn’t. We’ve even given it a silly name so it doesn’t threaten us anymore! It’s the last, pathetic gasps of a dying sexist system.
*”Brony” is allowable, since it was not invented by the writer of a trend piece and is not gendered unless you are one of those terrible people who calls female adult MLP fans “pegasisters.”