"Real Men Moisturize." So begins an article on "Sharp Dressed Men" that appeared in a State Department funded magazine aimed at youth in the Arab world. The magazine, called "Hi" is published in Arabic and English. A State Department website explains that Hi is published "with the hope of building bridges of greater understanding among our cultures."
The article continues: "In fact, some of them, like Michael Gustman, a 25-year-old public relations account executive from Boca Raton, Fla., even have separate moisturizers for the face and body. Facial pores can clog with too heavy a salve, it seems. Not long ago, these and other habits would have been considered odd for a male. Gustman exfoliates. He gets manicures. He gets pedicures. He gets facials. He gets his hair done every two weeks. He accessorizes. He puts effort into getting ready for a date. He loves cooking complex dishes. He's a refined, evolved, sensitive guy. In a word, he's a metrosexual."
The photo accompanying the story pictures the male author seated in a pedicure chair, pants rolled up to his knees, along with half a dozen women enjoying the same treatment. (The women's faces aren't visible, but we can guess that they look puzzled or possibly even repelled.)
First things first. Is this what the U.S. State Department thinks America is really like? How many men, outside a tiny subset in major cities, are the primping, feminized "metrosexuals" the article lauds? Not many. You cannot enhance understanding between one people and another by presenting a false version of one side.
But more importantly, is this the way to "build bridges" between the Arab world and ourselves? Does the State Department believe that Arab males -- some of whom do not permit their wives and daughters to go out in public without a male family member as escort, others of whom think nothing of killing a daughter who dishonors the family by fraternizing with a boy -- are going to be impressed with a vision of America in which males are feminized "exfoliated," smooth-skinned eunuchs?
The State Department is apparently so delighted with the Hi Magazine approach that they are translating it for use around the world.
"We realized that most of the articles in Hi were suitable for youth anywhere in the world," said Christopher Datta, the director of special projects at the State Department's International Information Programs." A State Department website quotes a Hi Magazine contributor enthusing, "This is now everybody's world." Oh? What was it before?