Thursday, May 23, 2013

Am I The New Urban Man?

Move beyond the insecurities embedded in the “mancession.”

Between Gandhi’s ideology, Don Draper's style, working hard enough to afford expensive restaurants, vying to be the next Master Chef in the kitchen, finding the time to be able to sneak into the gym and ensuring that our little ones' homework gets done—all while the Media screams divergent definitions of what it is to be a “Man”—trying to find ourselves can sometimes be an uphill battle. We are the “New Urban Man.”

It amazes me how most designers of women’s clothes are men and how women possess the best aesthetics to dress up their Men. Ever give it a second thought? Thinking about it, the way society perceives me is more often decided by the opposite sex, namely by the dear women in my life who take it upon themselves to dress me with the latest “look.” I have recently learned that spring colors suit me best after all.  I use the concept of “Perception” in a broad manner—more like the social concept of “Me.”

The concept of “Me” is like my shadow, though physically I remain the same throughout the day, depending upon the time of the day my shadow keeps on changing. It works similarly with the way I am perceived by others.
Within these fluid definitions, the question “Who am I?” arises again and again. Though the answer will never be a perfect 10, one craves it in order to avoid some semblance of a midlife crisis. I consider myself to be part of the legion of men who define themselves as part of the “New Urban Man” tribe, but what does such membership entail? What are the new dos and don’ts? If there are any to begin with, are we complicit in defining them or can we look to society?
I think we find ourselves in a paradox where social norms are diluted in order to accommodate every possible tribe, which is remarkable in theory, but as there are so many choices to be navigated through and subsequently made that we are often left in a confused state.

Twenty years back a Man’s role was rather well-defined: follow the clichés of patriarchy and you were on the path to success, replete with a white picket fence and a job for life. Provide for your family by securing a job for life, be good to your parents, marry and, of course, reproduce. Today it’s a lot different, not only do we find ourselves in an economy where such employment opportunities have gone the way of the dodo bird, as we progress as a society we have reached a point where we are looking into the fine details of each decision in order to configure our lives. At this juncture, what role men can play within such a society remains quite open for suggestion. Then again, we are supposedly in a "mancession."

As we welcome more and more women stepping into new professional spaces, they are thereby creating new positions in the domestic sphere of employment for other women (jobs that they historically took on for free). With this in mind, I would highly recommend that all readers pick up a copy of Hanna Rosin's recent book, The End of Men: And the Rise of Women, to understand the changing economy before us, which favors women and the talents and skills they tend to offer. In some instances, there is a void at home which needs focus, but in others, women leaving the domestic sphere for work are employing other women to take over their jobs as caretakers to elderly parents, or as cooks, cleaners and child minders. In many ways then, the modern man needs to balance family life with work, but also the competing demands of having a partner in the workplace and a female “employee” at home. As discussions of maternity leave for women have reached agreement in many western countries and are awaiting implementation in others such as India, isn’t it time we look into paternity leave options for men? Surely this must be expected of the “New Urban Man.”

As we move into these modern times, it’s also important that we look into our partnerships with the opposite sex beyond the sexual realm. We have to acknowledge, fulfill and conquer the social, economic and psychological challenges of our partnerships in real terms. It’s a tough task, don’t get me wrong, but we are venturing into new areas and there will always be primitive cynics who will happily criticize those who choose to embark on this journey. Despite the risk, it is essential that we step out of our comfort zone to discover and redefine our new comfort zones, the ones which can also be shared with our partners. It’s time to move beyond the insecurities embedded in the “mancession” and redefine our role in the new economy where we will achieve mutually secure spaces.

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