THE FACE OF MODERN MAN? – IELTS Academic Reading Passage

A. In response to the emergence of the ‘metro-sexual’ male, In other words, an urban, sophisticated man who is fashionable, well-groomed and unashamedly committed to ensuring his appearance is the best it can be, a whole new industry has developed. According to research conducted on behalf of a leading health and beauty retailer in the UK, the market for male cosmetics and related products has grown by 800% since the year 2000 and is expected to continue to increase significantly. The male grooming products market has become the fastest growing sector within the beauty and cosmetics industry, currently equivalent to around 1.5 billion pounds per annum.

B. Over the last decade, a large number of brands and companies catering for enhancement of the male image have been successfully established, such operations ranging from male-only spas, boutiques, personal hygiene products, hair and skin care ranges, and male magazines with a strong leaning towards men’s fashion. Jamie Cawley, proprietor of a successful chain of London-based male grooming boutiques, holds that his company’s success in this highly competitive market can be attributed to the ‘exclusivity’ tactics they have employed, in that their products and services are clearly defined as male- orientated and distinctly separate to feminine products offered by other organisations. However, market analyst, Kim Sawyer, believes that future growth in the market can also be achieved through sale of unisex products marketed to both genders, this strategy becoming increasingly easy to implement as men’s interest in appearance and grooming has become more of a social norm.

C. Traditionalists such as journalist Jim Howrard contend that the turn-around in male attitudes which has led to the success of the industry w’ould have been inconceivable a decade ago, given the conventional male role, psyche and obligation to exude masculinity; however, behavioural scientist Professor Ruth Chesterton argues that the metro-sexual man of today is in fact a modern incarnation of the ‘dandy’ of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. British dandies of that period, who were often of middle class backgrounds but imitated aristocratic lifestyles, were devoted to cultivation of their physical appearance, development of a refined demeanour and hedonistic pursuits. In France, she adds, dandyism, in contrast, was also strongly linked to political ideology and embraced by youths wishing to clearly define themselves from members of the working class revolutionary social groups of the period.

D. Over recent decades, according to sociologist Ben Cameron, gender roles for both sexes have become less defined. According to research, he says, achievement of status and success have become less important in younger generations of men, as has the need to repress emotions. Cameron defines the traditional masculine role within western societies – hegemonic masculinity – as an expectation that males demonstrate physical strength and fitness, be decisive, self-assured, rational, successful and in control. Meeting this list of criteria and avoiding situations of demonstrating weakness, being overly emotional or in any way ’inferior’, he says, has placed a great deal of pressure on many members of the male population. So restrictive can society’s pressure to behave in a ‘masculine’ fashion on males be, Professor Chesterton states that in many situations men may respond in a way they deem acceptable to society, given their perceived gender role, rather than giving what they may actually consider to be the best and most objective response.

E. Jim Howard says that learning and acquiring gender identity makes up a huge component of a child’s socialisation and that a child who exhibits non-standard behavioural characteristics often encounters social and self image difficulties due to the adverse reactions of their peers. According to Kim Sawyer, media images and messages also add to pressures associated with the male image, stating that even in these modern and changing times, hegemonic masculinity is often idolised and portrayed as the definitive male persona.

F. Whilst male stereotypes and ideals vary from culture to culture, according to Professor Chesterton, a universal trait in stereotypical male behaviour is an increased likelihood to take risks than is generally found in female behaviour patterns. For this reason, she attributes such behaviour to the influence of genetic predisposition as opposed to socially learned behaviour. Men, she says, are three times more likely to die due to accident than females, a strong indication he says of their greater willingness to involve themselves in precarious situations. Ben Cameron also says that an attitude of invincibility is more dominant in males and is a predominant factor in the trend for fewer medical checkups in males and late diagnosis of chronic and terminal illness than in their more cautious and vigilant female counterparts.

G. Jamie Cawley, however, remains optimistic that the metro-sexual culture will continue and that what society accepts as the face of masculinity will continue to change. He attributes this to a male revolt against the strict confines of gender roles, adding that such changes of attitudes have led and will continue to lead to establishment of greater equality between the sexes.

Questions 14 – 18
Reading Passage 2 has seven paragraphs A-G. Choose the correct heading for paragraphs B-D and F-G from the list of headings below.

List of Headings
i. Basis and predictions
ii. Revolution or recurrence?
iii. Servicing a growing demand
iv. The surfacing of a new phenomenon
v. A long-held mindset and its downsides
vi. Influence on minors
vii. Hereditary predilection
viii. Effects of external pressures

Example: Paragraph E;              Answer: viii

14. Paragraph B
15. Paragraph C
16. Paragraph D
17. Paragraph F
18. Paragraph G

Questions 19 – 22
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 2?

TRUE                            if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE                          if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN               if there is no information on this

19. Sales in the female health and beauty market have slightly declined over recent years.
20. The rise of ‘dandyism’ in England and France is attributed to similar factors.
21. Emotional reaction is contradictory to hegemonic masculine behaviour.
22. There is a correlation between men’s belief that they are indestructible and their decreased likelihood to seek medical advice.

Questions 23 – 27
Look at the following list of statements (Questions 23-27) based on changes in male image and behavior. Match each statement with the correct person A-E.

23. Male behaviour patterns have changed in a way that would have been considered implausible in the past.
24. Traditional benchmarks of masculinity are often exacerbated by the press.
25. Metro-sexual culture has developed as a response to modern men’s dissatisfaction with traditional images.
26. The need to conform to society’s expectations of male behaviour may impede men’s decision-making and judgement.
27. There is potential in a market which makes no differentiation between products for males and females.

List of Contributors
A. Jamie Cawley
B. Kim Sawyer
C. Jim Howard
D. Professor Ruth Chesterton
E. Ben Cameron