Male Values and Activities - Violence and Fighting Warriors

Although sports discourses may draw on ideas of competition and fighting, some adverts in the corpus include allusions to these themes outside of sports. References to violence and fighting are relatively most prevalent in FHM4, which both constitutes and reflects its stereotyp- ically laddish nature. Several brands encourage men to ‘fight’ certain appearance-based ‘issues’. In its 2006 advertising campaign, L’Oreal, for example, encourages readers/viewers to “fight back” against a tired and worn-out look (naturally by means of purchasing the brand’s products). Moreover, cosmetic surgery provider Transform offers a way to “fight the flab - and win!” through “the very latest fat removal techniques” (FHM June 2001: 255 and October 2001: 328). The inclusion of war metaphors and references to violence in cosmetic surgery discourse aimed at men has been acknowledged in several previous studies. Berkowitz (2017: 68), for example, has argued that “articles about Botox drew upon violent tropes and warrior narratives to redefine Botox from a pampering cosmetic practice to a masculine testament about one’s ability to withstand a painful body ordeal”. Similarly, in his exploration of male narratives of cosmetic surgery in Canada, Atkinson (2008: 77, 80) found that men reframed cosmetic surgery from a passive act to an active endeavour, describing it as a form of masculine character building. In light of these observations, the explicit display of penis surgeries as discussed in Chapter 4 can perhaps be understood as a means of masculinising the practice.

A different type of reference to the violence theme in beauty advertising can be found in a humorous advert by skincare brand Simple, which shows a police evidence bag containing what appears to be a very dirty washcloth. The text on the evidence bag reads: “exhibit found: on basin, near victim” (FHM October 2001: 149). Alongside drawing on a crime discourse, the advert also underlines the general (mis)conception that men are indifferent to their appearance and grooming routine as the Skin Defence facewash is said to “[protect] you from yourself” (ibid).

Unlike FHM, the Gay Times only includes a few references to the violence and fighting warrior themes, which may indicate that advertisers assume there is a distinction between what constitutes effective marketing materials for heterosexual and gay men (see also Section 8.5).

In marked contrast to the themes of violence and fighting, references to protection and/or defence are found more frequently in the women’s magazines than in the men’s magazines5. Although this difference may in part be explained by the types of products advertised in the different magazines6, the discrepancy probably relates to the prevalence of (gender) stereotyping in advertising (cf. Eisend 2010); men are presumed to fight whereas women are expected to protect and/or defend. As explored in the Introduction, marketers heavily rely on stereotype-prone industry publications for the creation of their campaigns. At the June 2015 Facial Aesthetic Conference and Exhibition (FACE), Tony Gedge, for example, recommended reading Inside her Pretty Little Head by Cunningham and Roberts (2006), which - although raising several valid points - relies on some outdated, simplified understandings of gender identities, roles, and patterns.

Male Values and Activities - Rational Appeal and Practicality

Alongside the values associated with stereotypical (hyperJmasculinity that have been discussed above, it is also important to explore the ‘no- nonsense’ advertising approach that is widely encouraged by marketing agencies in relation to promoting grooming products and services for men (e.g. see Griffiths 2006 and WARC 2010). This advertising appeal highlights rational motives for purchase, emphasises informative facts,

Table 8.1 Percentage of adverts for surgical and non-surgical procedures per magazine


Marie Claire


Gay Times











Both surgical and non-surgical





and employs a “logic of persuasion” (Belch & Belch 2015: 301). Several aspects of this rational rhetoric are explored in this section, including the ease and simplicity of (finding) a cosmetic procedure or product; the financial aspects, such as costs, associated with grooming products and cosmetic procedures; and explanations regarding how to use various products.

Firstly, it is notable how the quick and easy theme is found more frequently in adverts for cosmetic procedures in the men’s magazines than in Cosmo and Marie Claire7. It may be tempting to ascribe this difference to the lower percentage of adverts for surgical and/or invasive procedures in the men’s magazines - certainly it is more straightforward to connect ease and quickness to non-invasive treatments. However, as Table 8.1 illustrates, this explanation cannot account for the FHM data; rather, it appears that advertisers, in their search for a way to appeal to (heterosexual) men, may highlight the hassle-free aspects of a cosmetic procedure.

As part of the rational appeal, the adverts - particularly for grooming products and services - found in men’s magazines are more likely to highlight financial aspects associated with (the purchase of) products or services than adverts found in the women’s magazines8. Prices of products, for example, are far more frequently included in beauty advertising in the men’s than in the women’s magazines9. Moreover, in an attempt to entice men to buy grooming products, ample freebies, offers, and discounts are offered to readers of FHM and the Gay Times. Brands such as Circ and Original Source, for example, urge readers to visit their websites to order free samples of the products advertised; moreover, an advert for Monster Supplements highlights the various ‘freebies’ - e.g. a drinks bottle, a mouse mat or an unidentified ‘free gift’ - which customers will receive when ordering particular products.

Alongside emphasising the simple and financially attractive nature of products and procedures, the adverts and editorial content relating to grooming found in men’s magazines may also highlight the functionality of a product or offer ‘professional advice’. Compared to the women’s magazines, FHM and the Gay Times include more references to information and advice in (other) beauty adverts10. This difference may be connected to the relative novelty and precariousness of the men’s grooming market where men are expected to know little about grooming and therefore need information and advice. An interesting example found in the broad corpus related to this can be found in the August 2015 issue of Esquire (p.63), which states:

People have been aware of the virtues of charcoal for years, eating it to treat heartburn and lower cholesterol. But activated carbon is also highly porous, making it perfect for trapping toxins, chemicals and grime. Clinique has just announced its first charcoal face wash for men accompanied by its Sonic System deep cleaning brush that lifts oil from the skin and detoxifies without drying it out. If that’s not carbonic enough for you, add Fig + Yarrow’s decongesting face mask to your morning regime, before washing it off with Origins’ new active charcoal scrub and brushing your teeth with Morihata’s Binchotan charcoal toothbrush. It helps to freshen breath and remove plaque while deflecting negative ions. Got it?

Whereas the question in the final sentence could be checking whether the reader has understood what the writer has tried to convey, it may also be tongue-in-cheek as it makes fun of the overly technologised and scientised discourse that is used to describe some of the products; I doubt many people would know what ‘negative ions’ are. This ironic tone is frequently found in both editorial and marketing content in the men’s magazines, as will be discussed in a later section.

Male Values in Women’s Magazines

Significantly, a couple of the women’s magazines include articles on grooming written for a male audience. An article in Marie Claire, for example, urges the female reader of the magazine to “leave this piece where [your man] can read it - it’s for his own good” (Scott, in Marie Claire, broad corpus, December 2015: 299). After having addressed the female reader, the imagined audience shifts as men are addressed by ‘you’:

What’s true is that while some men are confident enough to buy their own products, we’re willing to bet our Creme de la Mer that most of you are more into ‘borrowing’ your partner’s. And why not? Well, women’s products are designed for women and - spoiler alert - your skin is nothing like that of a woman’s.


It is interesting to note that the tone of the article changes when men are addressed - it even includes mild profanity when discussing the after-shave “hairs all over the bathroom sink” which can be found “every damn day” (my emphasis, ibid: 300). Furthermore, as with the adverts and editorials in men’s magazines, the article attempts to appeal to men by drawing on sports as it draws a parallel between the anxiety felt entering the skincare aisle and “watching your team in the FA Cup Final” (ibid: 299).

Although a few articles in the women’s magazines address a male reader, most of the articles and promotions related to men’s products are written for the female reader of the magazine. Encouraging women to buy the product as a gift for “their man”, these texts emphasise how particular products will make men (sexually) irresistible. A Dior Flomme shower gel, for example, is described as having “such an irresistible scent, you’ll never let him take a shower alone again” (Cosmo February 2006: 143) and a collection of facial products and “scent-sual treats” is claimed to “send his sex appeal through the roof” so Cosmo recommends to “book an afternoon off...” (Cosmo October 2006: 229). It is not surprising women have been addressed by male beauty and grooming brands, as they generally were the ones buying the products; however, as a recent report by WARC (2015) suggests, men are increasingly buying their own grooming products.

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