On the Surface

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As gay men, we put a great deal of pressure on how we present ourselves. How we're perceived by others is important to some of us who want to shatter common gay stereotypes. We fight a constant inner battle about what it means to be a man. The situation gets more psychologically intense when another layer is added: racial stereotypes. For instance:

The soft-spoken, shy and nerdy Asian coworker or classmate may be hardworking and successful, but he rarely exudes sexuality.

Some Asian men are stripped of their masculinity and have their sexuality feminized. Today, the Bacchus blog looks at sexy beautiful Asian men, but can't help wonder why stereotypes persist and culture shifts are occurring. And by "beautiful," we mean "beautiful by Western tastes."

In Asia, men's magazines are filled with articles about beauty care; cosmetic companies have set up special counters for men; travel companies sponsor day-long Transformation Into a Beautiful Man tours in Tokyo that cost about $500.

The ideal male in the Japanese culture is not a stoic, stubble-cheeked masculine macho man, but is rather a smooth-skinned, slender androgynous boy with elaborately dyed hair.

“In Japan, we like guys to be kawaii— 'cute.'"

This would not be the stereotypical ideal look for a man in the west. The market for men's cosmetics in Japan increased 70 percent between the mid 1980s and 1990s and reached the $2 billion a year mark in the early 2000s. Cosmetics for men include skin lotions, whitening agents and anti-aging beauty creams made especially for them. One of the hottest items is an "eyebrow designing kit" for men with a tiny comb, scissors, tweezers and eyebrow pencil.

Young Japanese men are not the only customers for this kind of stuff. Middle age men buy “Moving Rubber” hair wax, get injections of hyaluronic acid and botox to get rid of their wrinkles and read articles like “To Become a Beautiful Man” in the popular men's magazine and Bacchus trivia night question, Popeye.

South Korean skin-care products incorporate everything from regenerating snail mucus to animal placenta. Men are also buying into the beauty obsession that has swept this land, boosting the nation’s already booming cheap cosmetics business.

The men’s market has been growing at about 9 % each year for the past four years in South Korea. The most popular products for men include skin-care preparations — toners, essences and lotions — and pencil kits for filling in the eyebrows.

In South Korea, getting ahead is not just about having a good résumé but a good complexion to go with it.

The advertising campaigns seem to be working. The trend is starting in the US. Of course, men have always primped and fussed in front of mirrors, this new fad, however is something completely different.

What could cause the disruption of masculinity, a strong foundation to these patriarchal cultures?

The brief answer, according to mindthegapless.com:


We'll look at what this really means next Wednesday in Part 2 of our look the skin deep beauty of Asian men.