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Metrosexual males in mascara

By Daniel Donahoo - posted Friday, 18 March 2005

Make-up for men is the latest desire of every urbane metrosexual. But do men really want to buy into the insecurity and costly world of cosmetics? Have we learnt nothing from women who have been dogged by the demands of personal grooming for centuries?

Danny Ventura is touring the country. He is a Paris-based beauty and make-up expert. Being based in Paris is important for his line of work. It is part of the spin. Paris gives male beauty integrity. It is probably the only city in the world that can.

In Australia to train an army of grooming consultants on the use of men’s make-up, Danny calls it a “non-conformist seduction tool”. He refuses to mention the products by their real names. If he referred to “mascara” or “blusher”, Australian men would probably roll over laughing. Or run a hundred miles.


Instead, Danny gently applies “tuxedo for the eyes”, and insists that Australian men are “really interested in taking up the challenge (of make-up)”. And Australian men still roll over laughing.

He is the master of saccharine spin, straight from the school of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Male image consultants are intent on playing on men’s insecurities, and harnessing a percentage of their pay packet for regular beauty treatment and product.

The continued blurring of the lines between the feminine and the masculine is not in our interest. So confused are men about who they are and how they should behave, they are losing the plot. Take a look at the anti-social behaviour of young football players, or the number of young “adultescents” who refuse to leave home. These young men have taken on dysfunctional roles and don’t know how adult men should behave.

And while men wander in a search for identity, the cosmetic industry is the latest group to move in and try to fill the void.

Men spent the 80s trying to live up to the SNAG-tag, and the 90s becoming metrosexuals. These movements focused on teaching men to become more aligned with women. Both promote qualities valued in women: sensitivity, intuition and dress-sense. This is a Clayton’s image-change: men are not doing the hard work. They are just adopting the modus operandi of the opposite sex.

This isn’t what feminism asked of men. Feminism asked for a more equal society - not someone to share mascara with.


But this doesn’t mean we should return to the forests and thump our chests. It is just another side-step of the issue Australian men really need to face. Australian men need to start thinking about who we really are.

We must improve our relationships with women and children. We must combine strength and compassion. We need to take the positive aspects about being men and create a new identity for our gender. There is no value in hiding behind a make-up mask.

The challenge we face is not whether we decide to wear make-up. The challenge is to not allow another industry to infiltrate the masculine and force yet another set of insecurities upon us. Masculinity can only endure another identity crisis if men continue to refuse change.

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An edited version of this article was first published in The Courier-Mail on March 11, 2005.

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About the Author

Journalist and columist with The Age, Sushi Das says he is ‘one of today’s young rebels’. Author and ethicist Leslie Cannold has referred to him as one of her ‘gorgeous men’.

Daniel Donahoo is fellow with OzProspect, a non-partisan, public policy think tank. He writes regularly for Australia's daily papers and consults on child and family issues. A father to two boys. Daniel's first book is called Idolising Children and explores our society’s obsession with childhood and youth. Updates on Daniel's work can be found at

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