'A performance of appearance' : men, masculinities and appearance medicine : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Sociology, Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
Masculinity, masculine work places and masculine grooming are all changing. Men of the twenty-first century are experiencing a deconstruction of traditional hegemonic masculinity (Connell, 1995), as the deindustrialisation of traditional male work places erode the need for men to present a work ethic based upon physical strength.1 With this erosion of traditional work places, there are changes afoot relocating men, their masculinity and their exterior appearance away from the embedded practices of traditional hegemonic masculinity towards a new ‘performance of appearance’ within contemporary interactive service employment roles.
These changes are not merely occurring from free will, but are mediated by marketing trends and the promotion of the masculine body as an objectified resource, through which men can remain visible and successful in contemporary work places. This movement, however, requires a means to facilitate the changes, with the masculine habitus posed as being the vehicle for actualisation.
This thesis draws upon my lived and worked experiences as a Registered Nurse within the appearance medicine sector. I explore contemporary masculine beautification, and the potential paradoxical situation of the emergence of a new masculinity associated with a ‘performance of appearance’ within contemporary work places, but achieved through an adherence to practices associated with traditional hegemonic masculinity. Using a web content analysis approach, I explore masculine appearance medicine websites, the services they offer to men and the marketing trends implemented to engage men with this practice.
My research produces findings that are both multi-faceted and interrelated. The key outcomes suggest that changes are occurring within the construct of masculinity and that men need to both become aware of, and engage with, their habitus as a facilitator for change. The findings also present the contradictory practice of masculine appearance medicine treatments being marketed through the constraints and comforts of traditional hegemonic practices. My findings suggest that although the construct of masculinity is porous, and a shift in practices is occurring, with a ‘performance of appearance’ emerging as a feature of a new work place masculinity, men still require the comforts provided by traditional hegemonic practices in order to facilitate this change.