A few days ago, I saw a flyer (which I unfortunately lost) for a local kitchen supplier. It featured a black and white cartoon of a muscled, square-jawed man in an apron, holding a frying pan over a stove in a kitchen. Above the cartoon the flyer asked ‘Do you want to be this modern man?’ Beneath it read, ‘[company name] presents new curvy kitchens’ and had a colour picture of a (quite fabulous) kitchen, followed by the words ‘Show you softer side’. And something bugged me.
Perhaps, it’s the idea that only ‘modern men’ would wear an apron and cook. Perhaps, it was the idea that only ‘modern men’ would have an interest in choosing their kitchens. Perhaps, it was the idea that only ‘modern men’ would want a ‘curvy’ kitchen, or want to show their ‘softer side’ (or that the decor in your kitchen would actually reflect your personality). Perhaps, it was the ‘modern’ in modern man.
Is our conception of masculinity so narrow that we can only conceive of a man who cooks as an aberrance or ‘type’? Do men, who are happy to show their softer sides, have to be categorised separately? I understand that ‘modern man’ is a complex category, being embraced by some men and rejected by others, but what does it mean to say that only ‘modern men’ like curves in their kitchens? From the other perspective, do cooking, kitchen choice and a softer side make the modern man?
Why did the question not read ‘do you want to be this man?’