The New Metro Man: Is he a great gift to women?!

Date: January 1, 1970
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– Men have entered domains traditionally held by women, but don?t clap your hands yet ? the new man may be more of a curse than a gift to women.

I don’t know what is more repellent: a die-hard male chauvinist or a Metro Man.

Metro Man is under 40, urban, and mostly South African. He exists, thereby he shops. Having examined this specimen and his living and breeding habits, the advertising industry dubbed him Metro(-politan) Man. (Note for older  readers:  Metro man is the younger brother of the New Age man that roamed and still roams Cape Town.)

Metro Men come in two types, under and over-25. Young Metro Man sculpts his pecs, waxes back and chest, and poses as a sexy hunk in cell phone ads. In the latest advert, 10 meters tall at Johannesburg airport, the cell phone beckons against his gleaming, nude, muscular black torso. Does gender equality mean that both men and women can aspire to be sex objects?

Older Metro Man is sensitive, post-modern and post-feminist. And guess what? Faced with this new crop of male gourmet cooks who read self-help books, I find myself yearning for the Marlboro Cowboy, forever riding alone into the sunset.  He didn’t take up bathroom shelf space with his sun block PF30, body lotion, waxing cream and hair gel. He didn’t leave his boots in my closet since he wore them while riding into said sunset.

I know. This is so unfair. First women complain about non-committed, uncaring men. Now we scorn them. I bet you are asking the million-dollar question – what do women really want?

No, really, it is wonderful that gender roles are less rigid for all sexes. What I don’t like is the marketing that comes with the change.

I meet this handsome man at a pub. Over margaritas, he proudly says he changed the diapers of his baby son every other day while he was married.

Now, excuse me: is this an interesting topic of conversation? I’d rather talk politics than soiled nappies. My daughter’s nappies were never a tool for seduction, rather a drag I endured as part of motherhood, and was damn glad when she was out of them.

But this Metro Man is pleased as Punch with himself. He looks like a Labrador who has retrieved a bone and waits expectantly, tongue hanging out, for a pat on the back.

"Shame," I offer sympathetically. "Were you too poor to afford a nanny?"

He looks hurt and soon wanders away in search of greener, sweeter pastures.

At bars and parties, Metro Men coast along and intone, in emotional tones, what deep mystical joy they derive from one or more of the following: cooking, Pilates, aromatherapy, whale watching and raising children.  Men’s recent discovery of traditional women’s domains has invested these with an aura of seriousness that was lacking when they were just women’s things.

I met my first Metro Man at a two-week NGO seminar in Oxford in 2001. First I dropped off my ten-year-old daughter in Rome with her godmother so I could devote all my attention to said seminar. 

A married male journalist participant who lived in London, one hour away, knocked off at five sharp every day to catch the train back and put his two-year old son to bed. He and his wife were moving to Bangkok soon and wanted the baby "to have as much of a normal life as possible in the last days". 

Never mind that the movers had taken away the furniture and they were sleeping on mattresses on the floor. Life was not normal anyway for said baby but at 5 PM sharp, Dad was off while the rest of us slaved for another couple hours.

The NGO workshop women literally melted. "Oh, he is so sweet," they crooned. Had I done the same, I suspect a different reaction.  "Oh, she is so unprofessional."

Two weeks later, America starts bombing Afghanistan. Off is said journalist to Kabul, never mind baby’ s nighttime. I guess war is more fun than a seminar.

After Harry Potter, the best-selling book in the UK that year was the sugary, corny story of a single dad raising his child and in the process finding sex and love.

Author Tony Parsons embodied the new sensitive father, full of self-importance and self-congratulations.

Women across the UK swooned over the author. Female reporters wet their panties while interviewing him. None had the courage to say the book is silly, the plot sags, and is not much different from the Sweet Valley Girls crap my pre-teen daughter reads.

Let’s look at childbirth. Now this was one area exclusively for women. You’d think we ought to keep it this way. After all, how many women urologists do you know? We don’t enjoy poking men in their private parts to find varicose veins in the testicles or prostrate cancer. Yuk.

Conversely, I don’t see the need for male gynecologists. I am wary of them. I suspect they are weirdos.

One hundred years ago, male doctors took over pregnancy and childbirth from midwives.  Today men are trooping into the delivery room as spectators – yet another encroachment on a traditional women’ space.

There is worse to come. Two authors (women!) argue that, historically, women have excluded men from birth and child-rearing. Their exclusion has not allowed men to develop "maternalistic"  feelings, as seen in other mammals.

Oh, really? Cro-Magnon pleaded to stay at home while Mummy goes hunting mamuts, and wicked Mummy said no, you go, I stay.

Contemporary medical studies seriously examine husbands who suffer nausea and other pregnancy-related nuisances along with their beloved wives. .

Gimme a break. They are trying to steal the show. In many cultures, pregnancy is the only time when we are treated like queens. Can we please enjoy it as our privilege?

Don’t get me wrong. It is nice to avoid rigid gender stereotyping. But please, guys, can we treat domestic chores and raising children as normal things we all do, not as men’s great gift to women?

Mercedes Sayagues is a freelance journalist based in South Africa.

This article is part of the GEM Opinion and Commentary Service that provides views and perspectives on current events. for more information.

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