The Marlboro man is an American icon, and represents so many things about American culture; however, the one thing he does not remind you of is an emotional, open, and sensitive man.
I picked the man that is named after the product he represents as the stereotypical red blooded American male. What adjectives would you use to describe him? I could type in a list a mile long, but let’s just use a few; masculine, strong, sturdy, honest, quiet, and finally, manly. Here is another male label, “Manly.”
Just a few facts about the advertising mascot: Marlboro was considered a “woman’s” cigarette, but in the 50s the brand was given a huge shot of testosterone and was turned into a “man’s” smoke. That was all done with a new slogan and idea of a lonely rancher out on the plains smoking his worries away. It also helped Marlboro become the largest cigarette company in the world. See? Advertising does work. Marlboro was the ‘Manly’ smoke.
When I think of manly I think of my father, he was a man of few words. He let you know when you had done something wrong or let him down, but the accolades were far and few between. He was strong, good with a chainsaw, and an axe, and was a master of the grill or smoker. He just could never seem to say the word “love.” Yes, I knew he loved me, and he said the ‘L’ world to me on rare occasions, but I wanted more. I know my mom wanted more emotions and feelings from my dad, but he just could never do it.
That was how a manly man acted, right? Bottled up and never showing weakness or being vulnerable. When I was around twelve years old I told myself I would never be like that and I was breaking that cycle and mold. I was going to be weak and exposed to be strong. See my father ended up like his dad, closed off and lacking emotion, and my grandfather learned it from his father, and so on. I even remember my father in a rare moment of openness tell me he was nothing going to be like his dad. He could never fulfill that promise and I don’t think he really tried, but I knew when he said it to me he was sorry for being “Manly.”
Given all of this, it is safe to say that most people think the Marlboro man and my father represent a strong man. Well I am here to disagree. I think being strong as a man means being weak. Think about that -– being fragile to be sturdy.
This came to me when reading an article on Elephant Journal that in a nutshell gave men excuse to be closed off and emotionally shallow. That to me is bullsh_t. Why do men need an excuse? Is it part of our genetic code, did our hormones put a wall around our hearts? It’s none of that. We are all in some way taught to be like the Marlboro man. Strong, Silent, and there to bring home the bacon, and then once we’re home to glaze over and have nothing to share or talk about. What was your father like? Was he the “strong silent type”? That is another stereotype of how men are supposed to act.
Woman have had to fight off typecasting for decades and still do. We just got our first major female nominee for President this year. The female stereotype has for the most part been shattered, but the male one has not.
Let’s break that mold. I really believe that men need to show their sensitivity and softer side to show how strong they really are and not hold onto centuries of behavior that have said to be strong you have to put on a mask that hides all your hidden emotions and tears. Take that mask off and show how strong you are. Cry in front of your partner and children. Tell someone that what they did hurt your feelings and explain why.
I might live in Texas and might look like the Marlboro man, but I never want to act like him. Men, it’s time to break the mold handed down for lifetimes and show the world that we are sensitive and caring.