23. Januar 2006. Analysen: Wirtschaft & Soziales - Indien The Metrosexual

He consumes, therefore he is

Das sich ausgiebige Pflegen und Zurechtmachen mittels Kosmetik etc. wurde bisher zumeist mit stereotypen Frauenbildern oder aber ebenso stereotypen Vorstellungen über Schwule in Verbindung gebracht. Seit relativ kurzer Zeit wird nun auch ein neues, sexuell ambivalenteres Männerbild damit verbunden, das des Metrosexuellen. Diepiyire S. Kuku-Siemons untersucht es in seinem Artikel im Vergleich zwischen Indien und Westeuropa-Nordamerika . Er zeigt einerseits die Verbindungen zum vorherrschenden, vergleichsweise globalisierten Konsumdenken und "Lifestyle", wie es etwa in der Figur von David Beckham zu finden ist. Andererseits zeigt er aber auch signifikante Unterschiede in der Wahrnehmung und Deutung des Begriffs. Während ein eher "westliches" Verständnis des Metrosexuellen seine Rolle als Teil der Familie ignoriert, werden metrosexuelle Männer in Indien, besonders in indischer Werbung, zwar als shoppende, aber dennoch sorgende und sensible Ehemänner und Väter dargestellt. Wie der Autor argumentiert, geht mit dieser Charakterisierung des Metrosexuellen als essentiell Heterosexuellem eine subtile Aufrechterhaltung hegemonialer, heteronormativer Diskurse einher, indem Elemente der bis dahin als unmännlich bzw. schwul angesehenen Lebensweisen kooptiert werden. In diesem Zusammenhang spricht Kuku-Siemons von einer problematischen kulturellen Aneignung, d.h. es wird eine scheinbare Repräsentation, eine vermeintliche Toleranz erreicht, die dennoch oberflächlich bleibt und nicht auf grundsätzlichem Respekt gegenüber einer Subkultur basiert. In letztendlicher Konsequenz wird Homo- und Queersexualität damit auf sexuelle Praktiken reduziert oder anders gesagt, es ist trendy für einen Metrosexuellen sich ein wenig queer zu geben, aber weiterhin unverzeihlich tatsächlich queer zu sein. Eingebettet in bourgeoise Muster des Konsums (re-)präsentiert Metrosexualität daher eine Form von Alterität bzw. Andersartigkeit, insbesondere einer schwulen Subkultur, die innerhalb eines dominanten heteronormativen Diskurs eingebaut bzw. angeeignet wird und somit aufhört, eigenständig zu existieren. (Uwe Skoda)

In the twenty minutes that he has spent in front of the mirror, he has managed to exfoliate, shave with a triple-bladed razor, gel and shape his highlighted hair, clip, file and buff his nails, douse aerosol deodorant under his waxed armpits, tweeze stray hair from his once uni-brow, and apply an under-eye gel, cream or serum for wrinkles and dark circles that he will not have for another 20 years. He is the Metrosexual. He appears sexually ambiguous, which contributes to his allure. He avidly uses this ambiguity to his advantage; his ability to portray himself as sexually indistinct is a seductive mystique.

In global marketing information company AC Nielsen's 2004 report, "What's Hot Around the Globe," as compared to 2002, in 2003 "…sales of male-oriented products grew twice as fast as those of female-oriented products." An article notably placed in the Hindu's 'Business and Market' (11.06.2003) section reads: Straight men who knew and cared about fashion, food and good grooming-and didn't care that people knew they did-quickly became the mot du jour (Chandran 2003). Indeed, the social and market penetration of this contemporary, urbanized masculinity is vast. Nonetheless, one true certainty is that jours come and go, as do trends (Ghaswalla 2003). Is Metrosexuality as transient as a trend? What might be some consequences of this trend?

Imbedded in a Monday morning edition of The Hindu (08.23.2004), an article speaks directly to the would-be metrosexual-a litmus test claiming that one is a metrosexual if "You dote on kids and want to grow old with the woman you love" (Farida 2004). A quote from Hindustan Times Lifestyle writer reads: He's shopping for glow-packs, face-scrubs, jewelry, embroidered kurtis and sarongs. And he's happy changing nappies and cooking pasta for his wife (See: The Indian Metrosexual has arrived). Perhaps due to commercial success, the fellow described in such articles has essentially acquiesced in the idea of being a present and participatory father, husband, aligned with avid consumerism. If this were indeed the phenotype of the metrosexual, then perhaps society-at-large would benefit from its proliferation. Society could stand to have more physically and mentally available roles in fathers and husbands.

A host of metrosexual traits can be discerned from the plentitude of widely accessible market images depicting a metrosexual and his alleged lifestyle, placed next to goods and/or services such as underwear, watches, hair gel, deodorant, spas, etc. Appreciation of shopping and basic hygiene and efforts to avoid such health hazards as obesity does not a metrosexual make! This treatise attempts to address several more profound implications of the emergence and proliferation of Metrosexuality. The initial western inception of Metrosexuality incites attempts to locate social influences on aspects urban India, which incessantly absorbs hosts of forms of lifestyles that do not overtly challenge normative kinship patterns, including diverse sexualities and gender-role modifications. Nonetheless, a 'conspiracy of silence' increasingly applies to localized social and kinship patterns, which tolerate same-sex sexuality. My interviews with heterosexualidentified and queer-identified men in New Delhi indicates a consistent willingness on behalf of parents to tolerate their homosexuality, given that they wed and produce children. For many, this tolerance extends to discrete, same-sex extramarital relationships.

Urban India has an extended history of adapting to diversity even faced with radically divergent socio-religious dominant forces, as evinced by the persistent religious hegemonies throughout the region. Northern India, for example, has a history of Mogul rule to the predominance of Hinduism (including Sikhism, Jainism, etc.). The Partition resulted in significant waves of migration to the political capital, New Delhi, most notably in number from the Punjab and formerly contested border regions near modern day Bangladesh and Pakistan. This movement gave rise to considerable movements of peoples, indelibly altering the socio-ethno-religious composition of the population, serving as the stage for diversity unparalleled the world-over. Abrupt and unmediated confrontation of sometimes conflicting communal norms and values epitomizes a social consequence of urbanization. An increasing global intolerance for non-western tyrannical political regimes as well as technological advances such as those seen in telecommunications, energy, healthcare delivery, and transportation deems that the developing world experiences urbanization at a pace unseen before. This differs largely from the pattern of development followed by existing cities whose social and political advances were in many ways funded by the exploited peoples their resources during the industrial revolution/colonial era. Northern India's recent socio-political history, so ridden with competition over resources as well as the right and ability to exploit others exacerbates urbanization.

In popular culture, parodied queer 1 men are often portrayed with exaggerated, almost absurdly effeminate characteristics and mannerisms, often depicting the absolute most facile individual. This often-satirical essentialization of patterns discernable to the masses, results in stereotyping of those traits and synonymizing them with an entire identity. In terms of Metrosexuality, it would then seem that repackaging facilitates co-opting hegemonically feminine aspects of gender performance, and the outcome is a well-groomed man who is more attentive to his appearance, spending habits, female counterparts and offspring. This contemporary list of characteristics of urban masculinity is attractive. Feminism and other socially progressive spheres that subvert masculine hegemony, are finally gaining headway with demands for men who are more physically and mentally present partners and fathers, and other roles of masculinities.

Indulgent grooming cum primping are traits most formerly associated with femininity, hence those who posses such traits are either (stereo)typical heterosexual women, or (stereo)typical gay men. The link between the metrosexual and the stereotypical effeminate, finely groomed gay male is indisputable. In the west, a great deal of the rhetoric surrounding the topic explicitly details that his traits are inarguably queer, while his actual sexuality leans towards heterosexuality. "Trends in male grooming," according to the same AC Nielsen report, are embodied in WordSpy’s definition of 'Metrosexual' as "an urban male with a strong aesthetic who spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle 2 . In an article from the Economist (03 July 2003), notably placed in the Business section, the writer describes Metrosexuals as "just gay enough to get the babes." A pattern of localization that emerges is the direct emphasis on metrosexual adherence to normative sexual behavior. In contrast to what one reads in commercial advertisements in the west, Metrosexual images in India are rarely overtly linked to their gay cultural heritage. One article characterizes the new Punjabi man as "wearing the traditionally feminine shades of mauve and pink; helping their wives do cooking and chores, or even changing diapers." (Khanna, 2004)

In the Indian context, the metrosexual is discussed in terms of his grooming habits and his improved relationship with his wife and kids. He is a consumer and caring parent. This diverges strikingly from western notions of Metrosexuality, which ignore his familial roles. This is apparently consistent with the strong cultural emphasis in India on formalized heterosexuality, which demarcates a significant localization. In an article 3 from the popular newspaper Times of India, sociologist Dr. Radhika Chopra says that, "[t]he Indian metropolitan man is rediscovering his masculinity. He is refined, reformed and softer. He has always been family-focused, but he's acquiring feminine attributes. The old gender boundaries are being crossed. And he isn't threatened by his woman." Pop culture, including the world's most prolific film industry, Bollywood, is starting to reflect this new, sensitive man, and even diverse sexualities. A recent Times of India (Pilliai 2005) article gave a rundown of contemporary popular films that depict popular actors in homosexual or bisexual roles. There is seemingly a rising trend from which to capitalize. Such popular discourse characterizes this new man by his emotional strength and maturity. The article concludes that the public has matured and is no longer seeking films for escaping reality, but to reflect it.

Notes on appropriation

The metrosexual, outside of his apparent sexual behavior, does challenge extant gender roles as they are performed, determined and enforced by the dominant paradigm. Failing to acknowledge the sub-culture from which Metrosexuality spawns, compounded with steadfast characterizations of the metrosexual as a heterosexual, effaces homosexuality from public dialogue and space. In this case, heteronormativity sustains its hegemonic/mainstream position through appropriating the other.

This process of appropriation is thoroughly and systematically problematical for it endorses and advances the perpetuation of invisibility and marginalization of segments or sub-cultures of society. Other sexual minorities in India exist in a similar milieu of marginality. A modern day understanding of Hijras could include eunuchs, hermaphrodites, transsexuals, intersexed and in some cases transvestites. Traditionally bands of Hijras appear at gatherings such as weddings and newborn celebrations to offer blessings. Hijras' presence at such occasions is auspicious because, as ascetics/ardent religious devotees, they are believed to possess mystical powers that impart good fortune to these new kinship relations of which Hijras themselves are denied.

In her vanguard ethnography on Hijras, Serena Nanda (1989) reports a particular interest taken at the birth of a boy. Sex-ratios, (the ratio of female/male births) can be employed as an indicator of contemporary normative views and practices regarding a deep seeded maleprivileged hegemony in India. Currently, UNICEF 4 reports the rates as 904/1000 and 919/1000 in non-slum and slum areas in 26 states nationwide. These statistics are increasingly skewed consistently disfavoring girls throughout India, led by affluent urban centers like New Delhi. Hijras inspect the newborn boy for signs of disfigured genetalia at these auspicious occasions. Nanda's informants reported that Hijras are expected to 'adopt' newborn hermaphrodites (or perhaps any male born with indistinguishable genetalia) and raise them as Hijras in Hijra communities. Upon offering blessings, the families pay the Hijras in cash or goods (e.g. jewelry or clothing). This is the traditional livelihood of Hijras, though it is commonly assumed, and at times true, that Hijras are also involved in sex work. Sex work in India is socially taboo, particularly for those who are traditionally ascetics. Generally, families do not invite Hijras to these gatherings. Rather, the Hijras simply appear at the events, asserting their traditional right to be present, responding to excoriation with threats to expose their mutilated genetalia. Hijras are exterior to normative sexuality and are clearly are marginalized, through asceticism to which they allegedly ascend. Incorporating hijras in rituals surrounding marriage and birth permits their participation in the socially cohesive and celebrated fecundity in a normalized setting. The strict condition is asceticismrejection of physical sexuality or any illusion therein. Such a paradigm simultaneously tolerates Hijras for their role in blessing heterosexual unions and offspring, and detests them for their divergence from normative sexuality and sexual expression.

This is akin to the 'conspiracy of silence' surrounding homosexuality, and Metrosexuality. There is an apparent acceptance of alterity, which in reality solidly and perpetually marginalizes non-normative practices and ways of being. This is cultural domination and akin to cultural imperialism. In this light, the health of the capitalist nation, and indeed the male dominate, patriarchal, misogynistic, heteronormative, homophobic ensuing paradigm resides in the metrosexual. No longer would such patriarchy alienate a wife a child. Feminism is pacified, loosing much of its anti-patriarchal rhetoric for the metrosexual is better prepared to contribute to the household beyond his (alleged) fiscal support. Gay rights proponents are silenced by this alleged achievement of widespread 'representation'. Further, his heightened sense of shopping and style pave the road for sunny stock options to come. By adopting what were formerly deemed feminized consumer patterns, yet retaining his space in heteronormativity, he effectively solidifies the role of a heteronormative, patriarchal hegemony. Essentially, the straight man has absorbed the other and marketed his presentation of alterity to the masses. This is cultural appropriation.

Sorely needed discourse is diluted and pacified by widespread imagery and apparent acceptance of gay sub-culture, all the while evading the topic of homosexuality or homosexual sexual behavior. Though sexual practices are increasingly relegated to the private sphere, there is little that evinces true respect for divergences from normative (hetero)sexual practices or even sincere critical interrogation of normative behavior. Skyrocketing rates of STI infection, and the increasing shift in public funds to less accessible means by which young people can attain information and resources in order make more responsible decisions about their sexuality and sexual health suggests that an even larger segment of society is mal-affected by rigid determinations of sexual practices and gender conformations.

Public scrutiny subjectifies the sub-culture (in this case gay male subculture) and commodifies distilled characteristics, then proliferates these superficial demarcations in the mainstream. This can lead to a dangerous falsity aura of tolerance and acceptance; it allows societies to engage symbols plurality and inclusiveness on a superficial basis. Through such abundant visible re/presentation, this appropriation can pacify liberationists' feminism and anti-homophobia struggles. In this instance, women and gays have not achieved the sort of self-representation sought by progressive movements. The underlying message is that it is widely acceptable to appear effeminate, but not to actually be gay. It is acceptable to adopt feminized traits, yet femininity is no more liberated from heterosexist, patriarchal hegemony. Appropriation sanitizes stereotypical and stereotypically ostentatious traits of gay men and renders these traits palatable to the masses. This is a form of forced assimilation. The implication is provisional acceptance of alterity, while lacking genuine interrogation, understanding and respect. This quasi-acceptance of difference is a mixed message to which evolving sub-cultures historically respond and continue to thrive, points to which shall be regarded later in the text. This appropriation through sanitation is essentialist, lacks depth, truth, and is therefore a well-disguised (and perhaps even well-intentioned) tool of oppression.

Shop till you drop

Mumbai-based model Kawaljeet Singh Anand, who spends Rs 2,500 a month at the salon, does his facials at home and visits the parlour once a month for a professional job. He has never tried waxing "but I do shave [my chest]" (John, 2003)

Shopping, manicures, and facials (See: The Indian Metrosexual has arrived) are all telltell traits of the newly redefined, polished, hygienic male. What goes unsaid in such glamour fortifying articles is that Metrosexuality is not the dawning of a new discovered man, but a palatable rendition based on a few stereotypicized characteristics of gay men.

This 'heterofantasia' of beautiful wives and healthy children is consistent in both the Indian and more global iconization of Metrosexuality. In the Indian context, however, fewer metrosexual icons seem to emerge. In India, images portraying any aspect of sexuality tend towards the discursive, rarely explicitly addressing the topic. India boasts the most productive film industry, and the majority of those films address issues of marriage, love and kinship. Images of sexual expression are indeed quite modest. Later, this treatise shall turn towards the socio-religious mores behind images that sell ways of expressing sexuality.

The metrosexual lifestyle is sold more through advertisements than icons. Individual icons valorize their public persona through conforming to Metrosexuality, rather than discursively defining it through praxis. In India, advertising is the dominant provider of images of Metrosexuality. Bollywood hero Saif Ali Khan, for example, has emerged as an onscreen and off screen metrosexual, particularly after his onscreen homoerotic duo with icon Shah Rukh Khan in Kal Ho Naa Ho. The story line teased issues of homosexuality, which was then quickly pushed it aside as absurd. According to Bollywood actor Bikram Saluja, "the metrosexual man is a creation of the media." A contemporary billboard and TV ads market images, for example, depicting highly homoeroticized, muscled and oiled men in bikini underwear, with their crotches in the center, peddling a range of products. Nonetheless, progressively more films charge the topic head on. Later this treatise shall turn towards several disconcerting issues arise from the media representation and influence on contemporary sexuality in general, and masculinity in particular.

Relatively pervasive homoerotic imagery is not a nouveau concept in the region. In their text Same Sex Love in India, professors Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai (2000) provide ample evidence for homoerotic cultural expressions through the history of the subcontinent. The text makes a convincing case that imposed Victorian mores effectively effaced homoeroticism from a wider public scope. Contemporary codifications of masculinities, however, are under heavy influence of advertisement, not religion or mythology. In popular media, there is little evidence to suggest a more widespread acknowledgement of this aspect of Indian cultural heritage.

Icons may surf ambiguity (not androgyny). Marketing is much more direct in its heterosexual assertions of the metrosexual. The western approach iconizes many more public figures from sports to Hollywood, to politics. Figures like Footballer David Beckham, Former American President Bill Clinton, actors Tom Cruise Brad Pitt and Taye Diggs who are then doted with corporate sponsorship. He is the perfect, contemporary, family-oriented, sensitive, non-aggressive, gentle-mannered, open-minded man. He is free of judgment and contempt for others, embraces his feminine and/or feminized side ultimately by embellishing his consumer patterns.

In both global and local contexts, the Metrosexual-man is rarely exposed as a shopper-he is but a passive owner of goods and a habitué of refinement. This image lends a strong bourgeois character to Metrosexuality. Save for actors and other popular icons, Metrosexuality in India is rarely linked to work. Persistent images portray his as an upperclass individual with choices in consumer habits. Increased choices in consumer patterns are a luxury clearly associated with wealth, detaching wealth from the world of work and constraints on leisure time most associated with working classes or poor.

The Metrosexual described in The Hindu, and much of the media transmutations of the term, ooze with hetero-chauvinism. The ultimate example of Metrosexuality as a capitalist co-opted term is the peddling of David Beckham as its total embodiment, save for the United States which licentiously ignores soccer. The Economist cites the popular former American President Clinton as a definitive North-American Metrosexual since he "has apologized [for his confessed adultery with a White House intern which lead to his impeachment] and now carries Hillary's autobiographies for her to sign," (Economist 03 July 2003). Beckham is the all successful superstar, celebrity, talented athlete, in holy matrimony with the woman who once shook her ass on stage for a living. Beckham 'tamed' an iconic female sex symbol and participates in traditionally masculine leisure activities, such as sports. Yet, with his success both fiscally as well as heterosexually, he has adopted hedonistic consumer patterns. He dresses in designer clothes. He parties at the appropriate cool people places. He is the ultimate urban man. These icons all have publicly visible female partners, and this heterosexual relationship surfaces as an important aspect of the metrosexual lifestyle.

Further, one necessarily interrogates the public images of the female counterparts of Beckham and others who serve as poster-children of Metrosexuality, as Metrosexuality ruptures some traditional aspects of masculinity by incorporating traits of others gender paradigms. Victoria Beckham noted for her savvy, sex-ostentatious stage persona, and Hilary Clinton, the ultimate first lady of liberal American politics are inarguably strong, assertive, contemporary, urban women. Are David and Bill simply responding to demands of the contemporary western woman? Alternatively, has appreciation of Victoria and Hilary's professional accolades been trumped by the shopping and grooming habits of their partners? The heterosexual man is further valorized and centralized for his consumer habits and refined persona. The need to label these men, and establish a marketable trend based upon this modern, urban identification, reeks of misogyny, homophobia, and maintenance of a patriarchal hierarchy.

Though challenged by queer rights advocates, local public discourse essentializes the fate of homosexuality to a set of sexual behaviors and practices. In the contemporary context, this is distinct from western struggles for the extension of civil rights to queer people (e.g. legislation for civil unions, marriage, adoption and hate-crime protection). Metrosexuality extracted the stereotypical social norms of homosexuality, rendering the traits more palatable to the masses. The traits are paired with heteronormative sexual behavior. Normative images replace the sexual behavior of consenting homosexual adults, which effectively

silences 'the other' by simply erasing them and denying their very existence. Again, the blatant statement here is that one may capitalize on acting gay; yet, it is still unforgivable to actually be gay-exceeding rejection of the other, a silencing through mainstreaming.

Metrosexuality exploits gay sub culture by simple appropriation the other; much like Elvis, Madonna and Eminen did with Black aesthetics. Beckham has virtually bottled it, sold it, and made millions off this sort of appropriation. Singer, musician, songwriter, entertainer Sir Elton John was fabulous long before Beckham. The famed transsexual disco diva, Sylvester, had glowingly smooth skin well before commercialized consumer moguls equated Metrosexual with facials and luxurious face packs. Certainly, the Black and Latino gay men and transsexuals who rioted at Stonewall, giving birth to gay rights, gay pride were fabulous. They all knew how to pluck, primp, shave, stick, stuff, cook, iron, embrace and empathize with women as friends and equals, fend for themselves, tend to extended family, and nurture like no other. Yet, they are not Metrosexuals. It is my assertion that the term ultimately emerged from a white, heterosexist, misogynistic, capitalist hegemonic media. This is not to imply that Mark Simpson (Simpson, 2002), the British journalist that is accredited with coining the term, concocted this plan. Western pop culture is highly marketed around the globe. One only need regard the plethora of polls that suggest that Michael Jackson is more globally recognizable that Jesus. Undercurrents of this marketing are several agendas, a few of which are discussed here. Implicit to these messages seducing consumers are message that seduce the masses to adhere to a social hierarchy, valorizing specific kinds of lifestyles, as defined by an elitist agenda. Employing marketed-products is then equated with increased social status, or ascension to elitism vis-à-vis the lifestyle against which marketed products are positioned. In most instances, forces far greater than the desire to raise public awareness of products and lifestyles (e.g. health seeking practices, awareness of rights and responsibilities of citizenry) that are intended to enhance humanity formulate these lifestyles. Nay, there is an ever-present capitalist underlying agenda. Public service announcement still service as the primary genre of marketing explicitly targeting the poor; little profit is gained from this segment of society. In the context of sexuality, for example, religious agendas more traditionally informed policy and suggested patterns of behavior to avoid excoriation. Commonwealth Law is based upon evolving readings of age-old, Christian-based legislation. Contemporary challenges to Indian Penal Code 377, for example, illuminate the interesting juxtaposition of local contemporary attitudes surrounding state control of sexuality, a colonial legacy (of the Raj), compounded by elitist mimicry and romanticization of the Raj. It is evident that the longing to associate oneself with the power, in this case implied by the Raj, spawns such romanticization, otherwise remembered as brutal and oppressive regime for many. Brahmanization 5 is an acute, localized and pervasive socio-religious, elitist agenda, which in contemporary rhetoric normalized an upper-caste way of life to which all others would aspire, and simultaneously categorically excluded most from ever attaining. In an urban context, Sanskritisation, has been replaced by class elitism, and manifested through materialism. Metrosexuality, then, parallels this pattern of an elitist agenda, expressed through the most powerful contemporary tool of mass communication, to proliferate images of an elite hegemony. In former times, the force and motivation behind these images was religion, as spirituality as a realm was most effective in reaching and convincing the masses of any agenda. This modern day force is a Western, commercial, patriarchal hegemony; increasingly Christian fundamentalist in it's American transmutation. Compounding the circumstance in most Commonwealth nation-states, where Victorian-era mores continue to confound public debate around sexuality, and the formation of legislation-in stark contrast to the contemporary United Kingdom where the state and private industry officially recognize same-sex couples. Accordingly, we must consistently deconstruct such emergent contemporary forms of masculinity in general, as these norms evolve with evolving circumstances, catalyzed by urbanization. In any post-colonial context, deconstruction of influences on public debate and opinion is essential in light of heavily Victorian-based legislation and judicial system, alongside an American Christian Fundamentalist dominate socio-political climate, extending the realm of the pervasive American pop culture. Else the outcome, marginalization, is clear. The Metrosexual is an ostentatiously heterosexual, active consumer. He is a refined family man. He is a possessor of goods, and frequenter of services. Yet, his presence ultimately represents intolerance.

Metrosexuality surfaces from the commercial commodification of stylized and marketable aspects of gay sub-culture as known in the west. Neither commercialization nor commodification are novel ideas, nor are they obsolete. Essentially, the metrosexual is a commercialized, conveniently packaged, more widely accessible version of an ostracized group of citizens who decisively do not conform to traditional gender norms: Gay men.

Global sexualities

As we more firmly forge ahead into the 21st century, it would be remiss not to offer treatise to the place of globalization in this discourse. In light of the ideas put forth here, I join Noam Chomsky in his rally call for a social re-appropriation of the term globalization. Rampant capitalism and unbridled consumerism epitomize globalization as it has come to be used and reflected upon in the modern day. Globalization has become synonymous with the growth of the multi-national corporation. The work reviewed and discussed here clearly depicts a corporatization of Metrosexuality, markedly removed from progressive social reference. This is not surprising since corporations are responsible for profiteering disregarding social impact. Allowing the corporatization of any socially progressive form of expression naturally permits the use of the term for profit, and obviously in this case to the distinct disadvantage of any portion of a population.

Globalization stands to be the means by which to positively transform societies, and diminish inequality and exploitation. Capitalism and its most successful modern day manifestation, the multi-national corporation, only stand through the exploitation of a portion of the populace and resources. The plight for capital appropriated the entire concept of Globalization, leaving most to believe that it infers the free-market driven exchange of goods and services worldwide, which could not be further from the truth. More meaningful exchange of ideas can result in a move towards a more respectful and healthy global collective based on humanism, not consumerism. Permitting the corporation to hold exclusive rights over globalization rules that culture will continually be appropriated, and that individuals and conglomerates will suffer continual exploitation. For the corporation both means to the same end: Profit. Though eased exchange of goods, services and knowledge form the crust of what we come to know as globalization, these advances equally have the power to bring people together, traversing time and space. Instead of just easing shopping possibilities, and suffering the constant threat of legislative or corporate control, the Internet, for example, could be the tool by which conservation education and information is shared. Combats over land, water, other resources such as petroleum, could be solved rather than exasperated by globalization.

A more humanistic approach might include efforts to not only adopt aspects of gay subculture, and valorize self representation, but also to accord the individuals and communities from which they spawned, their due respect. One plausible fall-out is a leaning towards more visible, substantial and constructive public discourse (for better or for worse). Such discourse can and should trump profiteering, particularly when it exists at the expense of a marginalized few. What ensues is a wholly more inclusive global collective, continually acknowledging all members as viable and necessary parts of the mass. Our capacity for the expansion of compassion, human understanding, and even inclusiveness is only as limited as we construct them to be.

New norms: Queering representations

The popularly cited "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" has yet to make its Indian debut. Broadcast by the cable entertainment network Bravo, Queer Eye is an hour long, reality-TV inspirited, make-over show hosted by five openly gay men (hence Queer), who teach an openly heterosexual (hence Straight Guy) how to be cool. The credentials of the hosts are as follows "An interior designer, a fashion stylist, a chef, a beauty guru and someone we like to call the "concierge of cool"[fussnote:2034:9:l:6]. Bravo's website describes the show’s gimmick is as follows:

All five are talented, they're gay and they're determined to clue in the cluttered, clumsy straight men of the world. With help from family and friends, the Fab Five treat each new man as a head-to-toe project. Soon, the straight man is educated on everything from hair products to Prada and Feng Shui to foreign films. At the end of every fashionpacked, fun-filled lifestyle makeover, a freshly scrubbed, newly enlightened man emerges — complete with that "new man" smell!

Feminization of stereotypical straight male traits is quite a powerful and warranted demand. The strides, if any, that exploring and exploiting Metrosexuality takes in liberating anyone from rigid gender conformities is a noble task. Nonetheless, the result seems to be a limited form of freedom of sexuality and sexual expression; the casualty is unfulfilled promises of an inclusive and just nation-state, community or home. The result is more subversive means by which to objectify a people and maintain dominance, and an oppressive hegemony. While heterosexual partnerships in particular may most directly, benefit from a more feminized heterosexual males, or Metrosexuals, liberating same-sex oriented people rests on the backs of sexual liberationists. In the United States, the rhetoric if not content and achievements of the Civil Rights movement gave spark to the Women's Liberation, Gay Liberation and Feminists movements in the decades that followed.

The Metrosexual typifies corporatized representations of contemporary, urban masculinity. A consistent point of struggle involved in liberation is confronting oppressive forms of representation. Representation is undoubtedly a tool of oppression, and there are numerous examples from around the globe that attest to oppressive regimes intentionally, negatively portraying enemies of the state as the antithesis of goodness and righteousness. The concept of Propaganda speaks to this.

Yet, as true as the notion of propaganda exists is the notion that those emitting the representation skew propaganda to fit their interests. Propaganda is by virtue single sided, filled with ulterior motives, and captivates masses by purporting to re/present all. In this light, self-representation is the antithesis of oppression. Oppression silences, while self-representation reprises this voice. This does not imply, for example, that internalized oppression or prioritization of capital gain over public interests may not spur one to represent oneself in degrading manners, consistent with the dominate oppressive rhetoric.

Queer Eye, for example highlights five allegedly gay men who covertly reinforce Generica's (Generic + America) mold of the modern, well adjusted, gay (white) man. Queer Eye typically climaxes with a fantasy date between the newly reformed straight man and his belle; the five queers observe from behind the scenes and offer commentary on the new man's wondrous transformation. This framework posits those being represented on the social fringes, incapable of determining representing themselves. The Fab Five, mirror a significant role of the Hijras of India. Hijras appear at weddings and newborn celebrations to offer blessing for an entire paradigm that marginalizes them. Hijras may not marry or have kids, which itself contributes to their powers of blessing. The Fab Five spend an entire show blessing straight men. Queer Eye presents stereotypically gay men as emasculated and desexualized, whose sole function is to reinforce Heteronormativity, like Hijras hovering over bouncing baby boys. Both Hijras and the Fab Five actively centralize heterosexual relationships, relegating themselves to the fringes.

To date, the Fab Five are sensationally America's most accessible, consistent imagery of gay men. For the masses, the Fab Five represent gay America, for few other images in their lives reflect an alternate view. In India, Hijras are arguably the most widespread and accessible image of any form of alternate sexuality. Representation is the weight carried by minorities, vis-à-vis the hegemonic dominant culture: Each is somehow transformed to represent the whole. Hence, representation is indeed a serious and contentious motif. Self-representation thereby becomes more than a struggle for profit, rather a struggle for existence-for in the modern set of mores around nationhood and profiteering, one does not exist if one is not represented. "Come out," and represent oneself is more than a personal affirmation but an open acknowledgement of a shared identity and shared adversity. Coming out, even if only to oneself, acknowledges and accepts one's alterity.

Representation in the western context is white supremacist, imperialist, misogynist, heteronormative, capitalist and increasingly Evangelical. These characteristics are vicious towards divergent views and ways of being. The corporation is the most efficient and effective tool of capitalism. Like a cooperative or other formal collection of people, the corporation pools individual interests towards a common good. Corporations however harbor profit as their common good, entrusting leadership of the collective to a few, relatively ungoverned individuals, who act in any manner against public interest so long as it serves the good of the corporate collective's profits. Naturally, to benefit one such corporate collective, the corporation must prey upon and defeat any entity seen hinder profit. Obvious consequences are all the usual suspects: Dilapidated environment, global famines, annihilated indigenous peoples, genocides resulting from competitions for resources made scarce by environmental degradation and silencing of dissident voices or alternate forms of representation. Corporatization of these norms is dangerous; it provides a global context in which to exploit more people and annihilate anyone seen to oppose this capitalist worldview.

Though it is in the public's interests to have all of itself mirrored through art and media, capital rewards prey on this need and regurgitate whatever appears marketable and profitable. In this context, self-representation becomes less of a struggle for artistic freedom, and more as freedom itself. This again elicits Metrosexuality as deeply steeped in bourgeois values of self-serving, conspicuous consumption at the total expense of the working poor and those otherwise held firmly at the margins of society.

Corporatized forms of representation inherently work towards self-sustenance. Naturally, this means silencing dissident voices. Dissidence is often plentiful in the context of oppression. Self-representation is then subversive as soon as it challenges its own oppression. Providing space for (corporatized) representation then competes with a variety of forms of self-representation, which may inherently hold tones of subversiveness; the corporate presentation of alterity obliterates this subversiveness. Only selected views, traits and stereotypical characteristics of alterity are absorbed, and regurgitated to the public in forms unrecognizable to its progenitors. Metrosexuality, for example, is a re/presentation of a form of alterity, namely gay men. Portraying gay men in a heteronormative palate is oppressive and effaces alterity.

Corporatizing sexuality by corporatizing its more predominate forms of representation dangerously relegates human behavior to the corporate sphere. Corporate representation is dominant because its public composites, e.g. artistic, spiritual, or theoretical expression lack capital resources and fail to compete with corporate counterparts. In essence, when public forms of expression, those which enable discursiveness or divergence, for example, work towards the public good by reflecting a world steeped in a reality as only people can name it. Corporations create the reality that suits their products and peddles this virtual reality to the public, even at the expense of the public. Metrosexuality then, emerges at the expense of the public.

The tobacco industry is yet one such contributor to the incidence of cancer among numerous populations worldwide. Yet, this highly unregulated industry simply shifts markets each time government regulation, acting in the interests of the public, restricts tobacco corporations' ability to prey on the public through marketing. In a similar light, the fashion industry's projection of radically idealized femininity by models to create dreams. The casualty is the health of many modern young girls who deprive themselves of nutrition because they are convinced that it will help them achieve the idealized feminine body shape, as sold to them through fashion. These are yet but two examples of capitalist elite's massive exploitation of consumerism as a human behavior. This stands in the face of governments of many forms that are unwilling or unable to protect its citizens from such carcinogens or images that are destructive to youth and adolescent psychosocial health. So-called democracies and tyrannies alike allow their citizens to fall prey to a corporate agenda, even at the expense of the public. Interestingly, a less healthy population, for example one with massive incidences of obesity, hypertension, Type II Diabetes, heart and lung diseases, ultimately suffer from a less able and productive workforce and tax base. In this light, only the corporations gain. Even as rates of death due to diseases clearly linked to systematic corporate environmental degradation, a new consumer is born, perhaps one ready to smoke cigarettes, gel his hair or enhance his wardrobe if it appeals to any of his senses, including the one to consume. The lifestyle that the corporation sells to this young man is the only lifestyle he knows.

Images, particularly those imbedded in fiscal profit, are regurgitated to the full extent of investors' funds. Images of the archetypical metrosexual are imbedded in a western, capitalist hegemony, and must be seen as part of a machine, which ultimately works to proliferate itself. Corporate marketing dictates widespread images of the metrosexual-this culturally appropriated morph of convenience. Ending corporate cultural imperialism necessitates interrogation of the interests of those who proliferate these images.

Commercial, corporate marketing exists for the purpose of lifting profits, and generally does so at the expense of another. Here, the culturally appropriated homosexual is drained of marketable traits, which were then transplanted into a paradigm that demanded Heteronormativity, and regurgitated to the masses as more than a marketable trend, but a way of being. Those who sell products by selling ways of being celebrate the influence of cash on humanity. Corporate marketing dictates lifestyles and images of how these lives are lead because corporate marketing is the single greatest producer of images. In an urban setting, no parent, schoolteacher, uncle or clergy can compete with corporate media for the attention of a child. As corporate profiteering trumps that which serves humanity, then one must stand firm to hold media accountable for its mis-imagery and presentations of lifestyles that lure humanity to self-destructive behavior. Corporations profit from peddling cigars, cigarettes, when scientific and anecdotal evidence has known the addictive and carcinogenic properties. In the west, women still mutilate their bodies through toxic breast augmentations, poisonous Botox injections, potentially fatal liposuctions, hours on tanning beds, etc. Others simply deprive themselves of nutrition hoping to grow thinner or eat until they forget their social ostracization due to their body image. Though mis/imagery of women in corporate marketing is linked physical and psychosocial harm to masses of women, the most pervasive industries have yet to respond. Again, Fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry, yet prominent peddlers image their goods with rail thin, exotically tall women of a very specific hue. These images taunt many young women through their struggles to learn and love their bodies through all of its changes. Corporate media preys on these feelings, addictive behaviors, exploitable labor, and even lack of legislation to protect the Earth. All of these practices are harmful to humanity.

The traction with which Metrosexuality is embraced indicates a longing to obtain a lifestyle of dreams. In India, this is compounded with skin lightening creams, which image their products, linking lighter skin with improved popularity and success. Certainly, advocating for light skin preference is detrimental to any heterogeneous society. Corporate media provides images of those dreams, and leads the public to believe that by purchasing a product, one gains privy to these elite dreams. Marketing associates products with bourgeois lifestyles widely inaccessible most. The public is duped, for obviously, purchasing Air Jordan shoes will make one neither play, nor spend like Mike. Purchasing those shoes implies to the Nike Corporation that their labor practices in South-East Asia are acceptable. Purchasing Michael Jordan's shoes does mend the deep racial drifts or massive Black poverty in Michael Jordan's hometown of Chicago, reputed to be the most racially segregated city in the United States (Hirsh 1983). Purchasing Nike's shoes will tell others that as the wearer you aspire to flythrough the air like Mike, and equally that the American dream is not a charm but a commodity obtained through cash!


[ 1 ] Here "Queer" means gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex, or other forms of sexuality outside of the dominant heteronormative paradigm.

[ 2 ] See

[ 3 ] "The Indian Metrosexual Has Arrived." Times of India: Spirituality. 25 June 2003. co-opting every trace the fabulous, effeminate gay male, rendering him invisible therein.

[ 4 ]

[ 5 ] For further discussion of Sanskritisation and Brahmanization, see Srinivas, 1966 and especially Shah, 1996.

[ 6 ]


Dieser Beitrag gehört zum Schwerpunkt: Queer South Asia .


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