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 Post subject: Men around the world
PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2008 6:11 pm 
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From The Times
January 8, 2008
Mamma's boys
As Fabio Capello becomes England football manager, Richard Owen reports from Rome on an identity crisis among Italian men

Fabio Capello

Pity us poor Italian men, said Andrea, my barber in Rome, as he gave me my new year haircut. The other customers nodded. "Listen," said one as he leafed through Corriere dello Sport and waited his turn. "We are all men here, I can be frank. Our women have become independent-minded, they all go out to work, they don't cook so much any more, we have to look after ourselves. We are second-class citizens."

Now wait, I said. What about Fabio Capello? Not only did he take over the England football squad yesterday, he is a fine example of Italian manhood: elegant, sharply dressed, supremely confident, a born winner. He even likes modern art. "Well, quite," said another customer.

To the outside world, and not least to Brits, Capello looks like an Italian New Man, a new breed of Italian male. He is happily married to Laura, his wife of 40 years, has no dalliances on the side — at least, not as far as British tabloids have been able to discover — likes Bach and jazz, reads philosophy, goes to Mass, spends his holidays exploring archaeological ruins in Tibet or Colombia instead of chatting up women on the beach, collects Kandinskys and Chagalls and cultivates Rome's modern artists. A far cry, then, from the unscrupulous Lotharios of old. But a welcome advance and a sign of the times?

It does not look quite like that to many Italian men. They have a sneaking admiration for old-style Casanovas — men such as Silvio Berlusconi, a self-made businessman with a buccaneering style that has involved him in several brushes with the law (which he usually wins), a penchant for risqué jokes and an eye for the ladies, to the chagrin of Veronica, his stunningly beautiful wife, a former actress. Or Marcello Mastroianni, the actor with matinée-idol looks who made an art of appearing debonair, louche and charming.

But Berlusconi is 71 and Mastroianni is dead, along with the dolce vita era that he embodied in Federico Fellini's films. Many Italian men feel sorry for themselves in 21st-century Italy — browbeaten, overworked and underpaid. Even the famous Latin lover is exposed as a myth: one medical congress in Rome heard that six out of ten Italian women claimed to be "sexually dissatisfied" with their husbands, partners or lovers, according to a survey.

Chiara Simonelli, a sexologist at Rome University Hospital, says: "On the basis of my clinical experience, I can say that these statistics are inferior to reality." She claims to know of many women in their thirties and forties who were opting for celibacy "in despair".

Claudio Cricelli, the president of the conference, says that sexual frustration often leads to hypochondria, nervous problems and tension, adding that it was also probably one reason why Italy has such a low birth rate.

Another survey suggests that Italian men have even lost the art of picking up women — including foreign tourists — at beach resorts or in bars and pavement cafés. "Death of the gigolo" ran one headline.

And yet, underneath the gloom and self-pity, many Italian men still nurture an image of themselves as effortlessly superior beings who are born to run the world and to be admired for making a bella figura. And the reason is simple: their mothers tell them so.

While more Italian women are making careers and scoring belated victories for feminism, they are also — as mammas — doting on their male offspring in the way they always have. Take Capello's widowed mother, Evelina Tortul, who told reporters when her son's appointment as England manager was announced that she was "worried about my boy", even though he is 61 and she is 85.

The media, she said at the modest flat in Pieris, near the Slovenian border, where she brought up her son and his sister Bianca, were "fine when you are winning, but when you lose they cut your throat. I'm his mother, so that is going to make me unhappy." She added: "I wanted him to stay in Italy. He's a big boy, he's old enough to make his own decisions. But your mamma is always your mamma. Fabio was such a good boy . . . he comes here every summer and it's always lovely to see him."

Hardly surprising, then, that Italy's "mamma's boys" still think, in their heart of hearts, that they are God's gift to women. About a third of Italian males, indeed, live at home until the age of at least 30, enjoying Mamma's home comforts. Even when they marry, their wives know that their mothers-in-law are usually not far away and still have a powerful hold on their "big boys".

As for feminism, every Italian newsstand is festooned with 2008 calendars depicting naked models and "showgirls", who can also be seen on TV variety shows every night wearing not much more. No political correctness there, then.

According to Emma Bonino, the former European Commissioner and now Minister for International Trade and European Affairs, 11 per cent of Italian Members of Parliament are women, which is much the same proportion as 30 years ago.

Not only that, she says, but although it is true that more women go out to work, it is often part-time because there are few crèches for younger children and because older children have to be brought home by someone when school ends at lunchtime.

That someone, inevitably, is mamma. It is invariably the women who "make sacrifices" to ease the strains of daily life, Bonino says. So the lot of the Italian man is perhaps not so bad, after all — and the advent of the Italian New Man may still be some way off.

How Italian is your man?

1. After lunch, does he drink
a) a cappuccino
b) a camomile tea
c) an espresso macchiato

2. When driving on the autostrada, does he
a) Bowl along in the middle, occasionally veering without warning into the overtaking lane
b) Edge tentatively into the slow lane and remain there unless absolutely necessary
c) Weave expertly through traffic, driving very close behind anyone doing less that 90mph in the fast lane and flashing his lights until they pull over

3. At what age did he leave home?
a) 18
b) 28 (but only after his mother put her foot down about the washing)
c) Hey, what's the hurry?

4. Does he regard a scooter as
a) A bit infantile but nevertheless quite fun at weekends
b) A cheap and efficient way to avoid the London congestion charge
c) An instrument of extreme manliness, especially when revved excessively at traffic lights and with its exhaust modified so as to make an ear-splitting noise

5. How many man-bags does he own
a) One (and it"s more of a briefcase, really)
b) None. No way
c) 17 (and that"s just from his autumn/winter collection)

6. Does he wear his jumper
a) Over his shirt
b) Around his waist
c) Tied jauntily, at an angle, over his shoulders

7. How many cashmere items does he own?
a) A few, mostly presents from you
b) 325 (not counting the socks)
c) One, moth-eaten

8. What kind of pants does he wear?
a) Crumpled boxer shorts
b) Very tight, white Y-fronts, bought and lovingly ironed by his mother
c) Stylish designer ones

9. Does he wear a vest?
a) Only in the height of winter
b) All year round, including August (you can never be too careful)
c) As soon as the temperature drops below 10C

10. When skiing, does he
a) Launch himself out of helicopters, power through the powder and generally behave like a teenager on heat
b) Materialise, unsmiling in an all-in-one, at the top of the blackest mogul run he can find before descending, skis glued together, in a bum-wiggling display of prowess
c) Join the queue at the ski school and head out with a group of six-year-olds

11. On the beach, does he emerge from beneath his towel wearing
a) Sand-bleached surfer-dude shorts
b) Tight black Speedos
c) Slightly small and slightly elderly swimming trunks

12. At weekends, he helps out with the children by
a) Drafting in his mother (or, worse, his terrifying spinster sister)
b) Taking them for a pizza while you treat yourself to a nice massage
c) Remembering a very pressing business meeting that can take place only at the football stadium and is likely to last for at least four hours. Ciao . . .

Answers: 1 a:1 point, b:2, c:3; 2 a:2, b:1, c:3; 3 a:1, b:2, c:3; 4 a: 2, b:1, c:3; 5 a: 2, b:1, c:3; 6 a: 1, b:2, c:3; 7 a: 2, b:3, c:1; 8 a: 1, b:3, c:2; 9 a: 1, b:3, c:2; 10 a: 2, b:3, c:1; 11 a: 2, b:3, c:1; 12 a: 2, b:1, c:3

If you scored 15 or under

Your man is not very Italian at all, is he? Perhaps he's Swedish? No? Oh well, never mind. He may not rake in millions from babysitting spoilt football players, but at least he knows how to change a nappy.


Your man is distinctly al dente, but in a good way. Stylish, full of life, loyal, a little bit excitable — all the best things about being Italian. Maybe a little too fond of his Mamma, but there"s nothing wrong with that. Watch out that he doesn't start to slide, though: if he starts doing things like tucking his napkin into his shirt, put your foot down.


You"ve got yourself a proper Mamma's boy. There's not a lot you can do about it while the sainted parent still walks this earth, so the best thing to do is get her on side. Swap depilation tips, share recipes (remember: hers are always superior). Keep your friends close, keep your mother-in-law even closer, as the Italians say . . .

Source: Times Online UK.

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 Post subject: Re: Men around the world
PostPosted: Tue Apr 01, 2008 3:05 pm 
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LOL - a bit under 15. Brits just aren't good Italians, I guess.

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 Post subject: Re: Men around the world
PostPosted: Sat Mar 01, 2014 4:35 pm 
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Bit by bit, macho stereotypes lose ground
12 February 2014


NEW YORK (AP) -- Traditionally, the American male was measured against the stoic hero who shook off all doubts, vanquished all foes and offered women a muscular shoulder to cry on.

But that was before feminism, gay-rights activism, metrosexuals. Husbands took on a greater share of housework and child care. The military welcomed women and gays. A romantic movie about gay cowboys, "Brokeback Mountain," won three Oscars. And this week, the ground shifted under the hyper-masculine realm of America's most popular pro sport - the National Football League, it seems, will soon have its first openly gay player.

Off the playing field, in their daily lives, countless American men are trying to navigate these changes. For some, it's a source of confusion and anxiety. "Men are conflicted, ambivalent," said James O'Neil, a psychology professor at the University of Connecticut who has written extensively on men's struggles over gender roles. "On one hand they've been socialized to meet the old stereotypes." he said. "On the other hand, particularly for men in their 30s and 40s, they begin to say, `That's not working for me. It's too stressful.' They're looking for alternative models of masculinity."

But for other Americans, the upheaval is a good thing. "Ultimately, confusion about modern masculinity is a good thing: It means we're working past the outmoded definition," wrote journalist and blogger Ann Friedman in a article last fall titled "What Does Manhood Mean in 2013?"

After World War II, at least on the surface, there seemed to be an overwhelming consensus of what American manhood was all about. It was typified by Gary Cooper and John Wayne on the movie screen, by the GIs on America's foreign battlefields, by the executives with homemaker wives and no corporate worries about gender diversity. The feminist movement that emerged in the 1960s fractured this consensus and fueled significant, though gradual, changes in many Americans' perceptions of gender roles and stereotypes. By now, although women remain underrepresented as CEOs, they comprise close to half the enrollment in U.S. medical and law schools, and are being welcomed into military combat units.

Over the same period, perceptions of manhood and masculinity also have evolved. Surveys show that husbands are handling far more housework and child-care than they used to, though still less than their wives. Soccer icon David Beckham proved that a male sports star with a celebrity wife could embrace nail polish and flamboyant fashion without losing his fans. "The women's movement showed that women didn't want to be restricted by their gender role, and it's opened things up for men to not be restricted as well - they can be stay-at-home dads, they can be nurses," said Bonnie Grabenhofer, a vice president of the National Organization for Women, though from her perspective the pace of change has been "agonizingly slow."

Fatherhood remains a key element in the discussion of masculinity, and there seems to be broad support for encouraging fathers to be more engaged in child-rearing than they were in the past. As evidence, Christopher Brown, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, notes that the military is investing more energy these days in supporting soldiers' roles as parents. "Fathers are really embracing that broader role," said Brown. "It's become accepted that they can share more of the work, and more of the joy."

Ask Tom Burns of Ferndale, Mich. He chose his current job with a Detroit-area publishing company because it offered flexible working hours that give him more time with his daughter, who's in second grade. "I could have taken a better paying job with less flexibility ... but I can't imagine how I would function," said Burns, 36. "I use the time piecemeal to make sure I can attend concerts, do class functions. It was important to have a career that allowed me that work/home balance."

Among the growing (but still small) cohort of stay-at-home dads is Ben Martin of Brookline, Mass., husband of a physician. "My wife, Wendy, brings home the bacon, I cook it, and our two kids (ages 9 and 7) would eat it, except our 7 year old is too picky to eat bacon," Martin wrote recently on his blog. In a telephone interview, Martin, 35, said his goal "is to be as good a husband and father as I can be." "I'm going to do what's practical, what's right for my family," he said. "I like to think of that as a trait that a lot of men would appreciate." Still, Martin says he knows few other stay-home dads. "I get curious looks sometimes when I drop the kids off at school," he said. "It's a little isolating at times."

James O'Neil, the UConn professor, would like to see an expansion of psychological support for men wrestling with changing expectations. "There's denial about men having problems related to gender roles," he said. "We need to break through that."

Gays as well as heterosexuals have played a role in the changing concepts of masculinity. Certainly, Michael Sam - the all-American defensive end who this week told the rest of the country what his University of Missouri coaches and teammates already knew, that he was gay - is already helping break down stereotypes about gay men. But there were many examples before him, including Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis and NFL players such as Jerry Smith and David Kopay who came out after they retired. Louganis, while still in the closet, impressed the world with his fortitude at the 1988 Seoul Olympics by winning the gold medal despite suffering a concussion in a preliminary round.

"When it comes to gay men, the script is being rewritten," said Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD, a leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization. "It's a wonderful thing happening as the definition of manhood evolves, and it becomes more inclusive of more types of men."

Merriam-Webster defines manhood as "the qualities (such as strength and courage) that are expected in a man." Such qualities should be preserved, even amid all the changes, says Holly Sweet, a Boston-area psychologist and co-director of the Cambridge Center for Gender Relations. "There are so many good things about being a man - being a provider, being honorable, taking care of others, taking responsibility, being fair," she said. "It's not about picking on gays or dissing women."

Source: AP.

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