Thursday, August 12, 2010

 

REVISITING THE GENDER GAP

I grew-up in the 1950's. In as much as changes were well deserved and long overdue; some of my male contemporaries might be tempted to argue that in the intervening decades men have assumed a less historically comfortable place in the struggles over gender equality.

There has been little backlash if any, but at least here in North America, it's no longer quite the "Man's World" which existed in the immediate aftermath of the 20th Century's two world wars. Everyone, male and female, has coped in their own best way with the sexual revolution, the gender gap, wage parity, the glass ceiling, two wage-earner families, and increasingly 3 car garages.

Two generations later, and on a far much softer scale however, I am sensing somewhat of a testosterone fueled revolution...or at the very least a rising level of assertiveness amongst men. One which is beyond the occasional pedagogical discussion over the place of boys in today's modern school classroom and/or social environment.

I am not quite sure when it launched. But, the return of 21st Century softer versions of the North American appropriately named "Muscle Cars" of the 60's - The Camaro, The Charger, The Mustang - is probably as good a place to start as any. In fact, in a related development the Chrysler Corporation is tackling the "soccer-mom" image of its iconic Mini Vans with what it calls the "Man Van", a special version of the Dodge Caravan designed to appeal to men, which it plans to roll-out later this fall. One company representative told the Wall Street Journal..."it's one those vehicles that gets people talking and heads turning."

Then of course there is the phenomenon of the "smell like a man" campaign which was launched simultaneously on TV and on the Internet during February's Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. In one of the commercials actor Isaiah Mustafa, the "new" Old Spice Guy declares that women "should smell like butterflies and salt water taffy", and men like "jet fighters and punching." Mustafa by the way is a former Seattle Seahawks NFL Receiver, and his cheesy commercials have: a) Magically revived a brand - Old Spice - closely associated with grandpa's after war generation; b) Already made many additional millions for Proctor & Gamble; and c) Caused competitors and more importantly the advertising industry to stand-up and take notice.

Hitching unto that bandwagon is "Canadian Tire", once the most "Male" of Canadian icons. Corporate President and CEO Stephen Wetmore told his Board of Directors recently that Canadian Tire has strayed too far from its core business. Though automotive needs are not an exclusive male preserve, Canadian Tire is going to return to prominence in Formula One, NASCAR, and Indy racing which are pretty much male dominated. In Mr. Wetmore's words: "In short, automotive is the cornerstone of our business, and now were going to act like it."



Perhaps on a smaller scale, but just as important North Americans have witnessed the emergence of male dominated television networks which are not only skewed to heavy sports programming, such as 'Spike TV'; as well as radio stations and programs with testosterone heavy content: 'DAWG-FM' in Ottawa; and the 'Manhole Morning Show' in Regina among the more recent examples.

None of these changes will affect or deter from the progress of the last two generations in the struggle towards forging a more appropriate recognition of gender equality. In fact the new assertiveness may help. And that, as Martha Stewart might say, is a good thing.

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