Metrosexuality: Effeminacy, aesthetics and toxic masculinity
By: Abdullah Hassan Erikat
“You faggot, may god damn you. Alas, life is nearing end.” I will never forget these exact words from a Facebook comment, written tauntingly on a picture of a person who looked neither masculine nor feminine. What upset me was not only the comment’s homophobic language, but the fact that the man who commented is metrosexual.
Metrosexuality is an ongoing dilemma, throwing its toxic cobweb all over the world and infecting the already suffocated sex and gender diversity of Palestine where I’m from, among other places. The metrosexual always has eyebrows on fleek, poses with duck face in pictures, and looks and behaves more feminine than masculine.
However, he balances this non-masculine behaviour by oppressing gender and sexually fluid people, by expressing disapproval of a girlish looking boy, voicing out homophobia and transphobia, and practicing socially-sanctioned masculinity, such as acquiring a muscled body and getting engaged to a girl.
Metrosexuality is not a new phenomenon. It most often occurs in cultures that strongly believe the natural sexuality is girls to boys and boys to girls. But, in a way, metrosexuality complicates this rigid sexuality even further.
I remember my first inflamed interaction with a metrosexual friend of mine at age 17. I remember his patronizing comments towards my effeminate self and towards homosexuals, using ‘faggot’ as an insult and viewing us as perversions. I also remember his eyebrows, his 30-minute to be ready hair styling, and being pushed by him onto the wall, where he leaned into me as a joke and inhaled my body’s odour. I remember standing there with dilated eyes, and a confused feeling that didn’t prevent an inflation in both our pants.
You can imagine my fear, my suppression, and the reason we are no longer friends.
For most of my teenage years, I was confused about what gender I fit into and what sexual orientation I should pursue. I was surrounded by so many metrosexuals, and apart from all the social expectations, these metrosexuals were soaked in social discourses that created more confusion, fear and exclusion. As I never fit into their masculine image, I was also not allowed to ever be metrosexual.
Metrosexuals get away with it if they have already established enough masculine behavior to get away with some aesthetic effeminacy. On the other hand, there is me and so many others who would be singled out as gay and too feminine if we decided to associate ourselves with metrosexuality. After all, we haven’t accrued enough masculine credentials to do so.
The problem with this metrosexual behavior in a place like Palestine, where addressing fluid identities is a taboo, is that these people are unconsciously expressing a suppressed identity that they don’t want to understand and, instead, want to shape it into a socially accepted form.
I witnessed a lot of culturally accepted male-male intimacy while growing up. It is a practice so dominant that it makes any outsider who is unfamiliar with our country wonder about us. Is it that those men are so comfortable about their sexualities that they hold hands while walking in the streets, or are they actually couples hidden behind their metrosexual and highly macho façade? Are they absolutely unaware of what signals they are sending when one lays his head on the other’s lap or are they just being what they are?
This is the impact of “let’s not talk sexuality” and the culture of the forbidden, which creates a fiasco of insecure masculinity. Of course, my answer is not a new or unknown one. Metrosexuals pose a huge danger to the concept of homosexuality, sexual health, and psychology.
It’s this conflated unawareness that makes two males in my country flip-flop the exact minute you mention the word gay as they are holding hands or have heads onto each other’s lap. The sad part I think, is the fact that they are unaware that they should be aware of such behavior.
When exposed to metrosexuality, boys who are still exploring their sexual or gender identity and who don’t conform to a masculine paradigm often end up feeling confused about the sexual vibes incited by them. On a psychological level, these signals prompt additional discomfort and uncertainty about sexual orientation.
Furthermore, this would cause a feeling of exclusion and a suppression of identity by the heteropatriarchal practice of metrosexuals that wouldn’t allow this boy to be his different self. Moreover, it could lead to some implication that a simple gay kiss deserves being put down or rejected as unnatural to the metrosexual’s society and beliefs.
In the end, metrosexuality is encapsulated by the heteropatriarchy, which keeps on molding identities to conform to a religious and social pattern that doesn’t fit everyone. The behavior of these metrosexuals, who straddle feminine and masculine, do so by excluding, marginalizing and policing others who don’t have the same social and sexual masculinity credentials.
In Palestine, awareness to the diversity of sexual and gender expression is needed. The discussion of a phenomena like metrosexuality should be tackled and a fight for an inclusive space must go on.
Abdullah Erikat is a biomolecular and stem cell therapeutics research assistant based in London. He is a bookworm passionate about and dedicated to research and academia. His other passions include making art and writing to promote awareness in the field of social, religious, and bio-political discourse of sexual and gender identity.