Thursday, April 7, 2005

Women want the “man” back in “manly,” a Harris Interactive survey shows. The rough-and-ready attitude is in, women say, while the manicured “metrosexual” look is on the way out.

A full 61 percent of women surveyed said they would rather see a man’s hands rough and working hard than well-manicured, a slap in the face to the extreme-makeover, suave-guy crowd.

Ninety-two percent of women said dependability is a desirable characteristic in an ideal mate. Only 16 percent chose “fashionable,” and 62 percent chose “strong” as a desirable characteristic.

The Harris survey was commissioned by Dodge Trucks. The results, researchers say, are a testimony to the enduring power of sex roles on society.

“It just shows that there are some things that you can’t change and that, while feminism for a long time has been pushing us towards androgyny with little girls with trucks and guys with dolls, women tend to have feministic traits and guys the opposite,” says Carrie Lukas, director of policy with the Independent Women’s Forum. “If anything, it shows what feminism hasn’t been able to accomplish.”

The Harris survey was conducted among 1,003 men and 1,128 women 18 or older from across the United States. Among the findings:

• 75 percent of women said their ideal man buys his grooming products at a grocery store or drugstore, not a salon.

• 72 percent of women said their ideal man spends his free time doing home-improvement projects.

• 41 percent of women said their ideal man spends his time watching sports.

• 47 percent of women said their ideal man spends his money on electronics, compared with 9 percent who answered “designer clothes.”

• 90 percent of women said they prefer low-maintenance, easygoing guys.

If American women are interested in manly men, then why does Hollywood celebrate men who are in touch with their feelings and fashion?

“Peoples’ values that are reflected on TV often don’t translate into how people view the world,” Mrs. Lukas says. “Despite MTV and the New York City culture being hyped in mainstream media, it’s not how most American women view life and the opposite sex.”

Not all observers agree with the survey results.

“Women are looking for confident men, not manly men,” says David Wygant, relationship consultant and co-author of “Always Talk to Strangers.” “These manly men are arrogant. Women don’t want arrogant men.”

Instead, Mr. Wygant says, women want men who take a little time to care about how they look. “The second thing that most women complain about all the time over and over is that they’re sick of the way men dress. They think men dress like mother still dresses them,” he says.

Women’s preferences, Mr. Wygant said, depend on where they live.

“In Washington, D.C., they are looking for a confident, real man. In Oklahoma City, they may or may not be looking for the Dodge man. The redneck women are looking for the redneck men,” he says.

But being a backcountry boy is not an excuse to be trashy.

“The redneck woman even wants the redneck guy to look good and make somewhat of an effort,” he says. “It’s called balance.”

F. Carolyn Graglia, author of “Domestic Tranquility,” says the survey results point toward a longing for a simpler time.

“My idea of a good husband is one who is strong, dependable, is going to accept the burdens which he is going to bear in the workplace,” she says. “And he doesn’t have to buy his own shampoo, because I do all the shopping. He doesn’t have to do anything but go out to work and win the bread.”

Mrs. Graglia sees the “fashionable man” celebrated by pop culture as an emblem of selfishness. Men being more concerned about how they look than how dependable they are, she says, is a sign of the times.

“So many men are like that — so narcissistic, so self-centered. They are really afraid of growing up,” she says. “To me, a man who would look down on [being manly] isn’t a real man and isn’t in touch with the real things in life.”

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