Manly Men Drive Pickups and Motorcycles, Eat Tubes of Cheese instead of Meals

Evidently, to be a man, you must drive a pickup truck (or motorcycle), eat at BBQ joints, go fishing, do your own home improvement, watch a lot of pro sports and auto racing, subscribe to sports and men’s magazines, and eat a lot of “salty snacks”.

At least according to Sperling’s Best Places, Weber Shandwick, and Mars Chocolate.

I try to keep an eye on media items that relate to men and masculinity in the media, but I missed this one: America’s Manliest Cities, a campaign this summer from a Mars Chocolate subsidiary selling junk food (errm, I mean a cheese-food salty snack product) which rates cities in America based on (their own) criteria for manliness.

And it’s such bullshit.
Here are Mars/Combos/Sperling’s criteria for manliness:

  • Sports: In addition to the number of professional major league sports teams in a city (football, baseball, basketball and hockey), the number of nearby NASCAR tracks and racing events was taken into account along with the quality of pro sports, based on ESPN’s “Ultimate Standings” fan survey. // Seriously? Wouldn’t the number of men who actually PLAY sports count higher than the couch potato man?
  • Manly Lifestyle: Various consumer behaviors in each city were analyzed, such as the number of pickups and motorcycles registered in the city, sports TV viewing, fishing and home improvement. // Key word here: Consumer. If you buy a lot of shit, you’re more manly?
  • Concentration of Manly Retail Stores: The number of manly stores and businesses were evaluated for each city, including BBQ and chicken wing restaurants, steak houses, sports bars, Harley Davidson dealerships and home improvement stores. // Eat out a lot, buy lots of toys and stuff. Yeah, that’s soooo manly. With this logic , you can be a man by just covering your dinner table with Table Throws of Nascar or of beef jerky.
  • Manly Magazine Subscriptions: The percentage of households subscribing to manly publications were analyzed. Examples of manly publications include Sports Illustrated, Car & Driver, Maxim, Playboy, Men’s Health, Popular Mechanics, Boating, etc. // Maybe they mean manly men don’t know how to get the same content for free, online, or at the library. Sheesh. Buying magazines is like throwing away money. Ergo, manly men throw away money?
  • Manly Occupations: The number of construction workers, police officers, firefighters, and EMT personnel in each city were analyzed, using the “Occupational Employment Statistics” survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. // OK, I’ll go along with this one, if I could figure out if it’s total number in the city, or per capita. Men who put their bodies on the line at work everyday definitely get manliness points.
  • Salty Snack Sales: Total sales for the “Salty Snack/Cracker” retail category were measured for each city. Combos is a product in this business category. // Men who buy the products they’re selling are more manly. Or are they saying that manly men eat these because they don’t know how to take care of themselves in the kitchen? I know some pretty manly old guys who’d laugh their asses off at you for thinking these types of food are manly (cheese-food and crackers in a tube? Sheesh).

They listed one manly “Kryptonite” Category / Emasculating Criteria – Cities lost points based on factors that reduced a city’s manliness rating:

  • Concentration of Retail Stores: The number of home furnishing and décor stores, cafés/coffee shops, sushi restaurants and “modern” male apparel stores was analyzed in each city and cities with higher concentrations of these stores lost rating points. // This might be the most ridiculous one yet. In my mind, a true manly man is so sure of himself that he has no problem patronizing these stores himself if need be – and that need might be for himself, while accompanying a friend or to purchase a gift for someone. I guess they’re saying that these types of stores are scary and intimidating and emasculating to men, but I’m wondering about the manliness factor of a man who thinks that way…

I’m not that kind of manly man.

It took me a long time to be able to figure out that I already was a man, that I wasn’t going to get any outward sign or external validation of it, and since then it’s been a heck of a journey to actually accept it and speak it and act in that way.

So when I see or hear of these types of advertising campaigns, I’m pretty insulted, and even if I did eat the types of so-called “food” that Mars manufactures (note, I didn’t say made or prepared or baked or anything that might imply that actual food is involved), I sure as hell wouldn’t buy any of it now.

How long will PR firms, ad agencies, and companies continue to perpetuate the type of gender stereotyping that isn’t even funny (it’s just stupid)? There must be a bunch of freakin’ marketing snake oil salesmen just waiting in line for the next opportunity to make money by convincing men that the way to be a manly man is to buy more crap. We’re all considered dead inside, so why not?

The hell with that. If they hired me, I wouldn’t tell them what they want to hear, which is “This is great, this will totally work.” I’d be saying, “What, are you daft or something? What the hell is wrong with you?”. Then they could pay me all the money they’ll save by not spending it on those types of campaigns.

Because they’re obviously so deep in their own BS that they can’t smell the stink.

[Check out the ridiculously lame “Manly Guy Test” at Sperling’s, and you can read the whole release on the Mars website. And then see how they market Combos to men: “The meal that’s not a meal”.]

Image: One From RM at Flickr

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

12 thoughts on “Manly Men Drive Pickups and Motorcycles, Eat Tubes of Cheese instead of Meals

  • this is one great post. I have nothing to add. 😀

  • Now, that is hilarious! If there version of mainly were correct I sure wouldn’t want to be one. The problem is that there are still men that might fit that stereotype.

    Great analysis of the topic though. Basically they want to make men look stupid (Homer Simpson) and die early from all the junk food, be couch potato consumers, who try to feel manly by buying a truck or motorcycle.

    Now I’ll be off to do something manly; change my kids diaper, now that stinks!

    • Derek Markham

      Changing diapers is indeed one of the manly arts… Cheers!

  • I’m grateful that you put this out there. Some of these ideas, are firmly implanted in our male culture, sometimes we need to shake things up, specifically point out to people.. “seriously?.. why do you believe going to that store makes you emasculated” So many blindly follow what those around them do, or say, or beleive. I’d like to beleive that people think for themselves, but sadly, they often don’t. Asking questions, pointing out hypocrisy, laughing at it all… all these things help people to examine their beliefs.. see if they actually fit or is it something picked up by someone else/somewhere else. Thanks!

    • Derek Markham

      I wonder how many men actually identify with any of this – I certainly don’t know any. I do know men who have one or more of those traits listed, and perhaps even do them to a fault, but I don’t think they consider that it makes them more manly. But what happens in a boy’s mind when the messages he sees convey this type of thinking?

      And if the products are so great, why don’t they try using that as a selling point instead of latching on to these sorts of psuedo-studies, eh?


  • Oh, the shame. I am such a wuss. I am such a wuss for using the word wuss (I figure a real man would use more actual profanity).
    Well, thankfully they won’t be marketing Combos to me. Such is the benefit of not being a “manly man.”

    Thanks for the post Derek

    • Derek Markham

      Jeremy – Yup, we’ve got some benefits of our own…


  • Great post!
    What a load of crap! My husband doesn’t do any of those so-called “manly” things (other than home renos by necessity) and I would never consider him anything less than a “real man.” He eats healthy and takes care of himself so that he can be around for his family. He chooses to spend time with his family rather than waste it plunked in front of sports or car shows. He has even been known to read the occasional gardening or parenting magazine. And horror of manly horrors, he even enjoys cooking and was the one that did most of our canning this fall as I was unable to.
    There’s no way I would trade my husband for one of those “manly” men and I actually feel bad for the women who have to put up with them.

    • Derek Markham

      Thanks –

      And I drive a truck, I like to play sports, I used to have a handyman business, but I don’t consider those to be signs of my manliness. I think that by far the manliest of skills are the ones similar to those you attribute to your husband. And I have to wonder just how many of the men with those other so-called “manly” traits listed above are happy, healthy, and wise? Or how much those behaviors have cost them – in time, money, health, marriage/family…


  • You definitely pointed out how self-serving this survey was, Derek. Well done. Subconsciously, I might have believed the “real men don’t eat sushi” rubbish until I “manned up” and tried it. It is delicious! How many other things are men afraid of trying because someone at one stage decided it was “un-manly”?

  • Crystal

    This is a great post. I’ve got two little boys and I worry about the impact this kind of marketing has on them. My husband’s family attempt to enforce gender stereotypes on my kids, shaming my son for his favourite pink Dora backpack or my other son for loving and fathering his baby-dolls. I protect them as much as possible.
    And my husband himself is a very good role model for them. He changes diapers, cooks, gets up with the baby at night and will take all three children to the park by himself frequently. He rarely yells and never spanks or physically disciplines our children. To me that is a “manly” man. 🙂
    He’s a far cry from his own father who won’t touch a diaper if there is anyone else there who can do it for him (meaning a woman) and who put my husband through a wall at the age of 6 because the small child spit at him, while trying to talk.


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