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article imageMachos Flex Their Muscles Again In Germany

By Petra Kaminsky     Feb 11, 2001 in Lifestyle
HAMBURG (dpa) - According to the 1996 edition of Germany's "Concise Dictionary of Insults", most men would dislike being called a "macho", the word for aggressive masculine pride derived from Mexican Spanish. These days it seems "real men" are on the increase.

   The manly, testosterone-laden breed of man had seemed all but extinct in Germany yet a "macho" guide and a collection of bawdy pop songs in 2000 have heaped scorn on softies, or "Warmduscher" (men who take warm showers) as they're known here.

The growing number of men's magazines also signal a changing awareness among Y-chromosome bearers - even if not all trendsetters are prepared to tattoo the provocative word macho on their foreheads.

   The change did not require a thunderbolt either: a 20 something can simply go to a bookshop and ask, without blushing, for a new book entitled "Penis Pur" which translates roughly as "everything about the penis".

   The "Instruction manual (...) for a man's pride and joy," as the preface runs, has been brought out by respected publishers the Rowohlt Verlag in co-operation with the magazine "Men's Health". Another volume in the same vein is "How To Turn Nice Girls Wild".

"The range of books for men has nothing to do with a new wave of machismo. But there is a trend towards taking a more relaxed way to rediscover manliness - guilt-free," says Rowohlt editor Bernd Gottwald.

   Uwe Killing is also happy to forget the misogynistic image of the macho of the past. As chief editor, Killing sets the tone for the new men's mag "FHM", short for "For Him Magazine". In the November issue, the first to appear on the German market ("We sold 250,000 copies"), "FHM" is aiming to be a magazine that "helps in bed, in the bathroom, in the garage, in the office."

"We are not reviving the gender debate of the 70s and 80s, 'FHM' is more about the new, easy-going art of being a man," Killing explains. It's not as in-your-face as its British forerunner "Loaded", which is replete with women, drink and football, but is now selling well in 14 countries.

   The magazine offers interviews with an executioner and a robber and murderer, who explain what it's like to kill people, a story about Latino queen Jennifer Lopez and tips on how to cover up an affair with the aid of an alibi agency. In contrast to rivals "GQ" and "Men's Health", "FHM" is not based on the cliche of the perfectly conditioned man. "We write with humour and irony for normal guys," says Killing.

   Meanwhile "Der Macho-Guide" has received a withering review.

   The 300-page paperback, edited by Petra Neumann, reveals everything men apparently need to know about being a perfect macho. It also subdivides the species into "lads" who like a drink or the ones only there for the show; Munich has evidence of both groups, whereas Hamburg is reckoned to boast a 75-per-cent macho rate among its men - most of them decked in leather jackets. Neumann, however, leaves open the central question of what identifies the modern macho.

   There is plenty of room for speculation over what happened to the sensitive "new" man of the last decade, summed up by German band "Die Aertze" (The Doctors) and their hit "Maenner sind Schweine" (Men are Pigs).

"Sometimes, but only sometimes, women like a bit of a hiding," is the watchword of a drunken slob in a new song by the band. This guy is a revolting anti-hero, it's true - but the macho chorus has a suspiciously catchy tune. A former star of the German Big Brother programme, Christian, has his own version of events: "It's great to be an arsehole," as he bellows on his top-selling German single.

   Girls who want to stay trendy have already turned insults like "slut" and "bitch" to their own advantage, making them into "quality terms".

Are men about to follow suit?

"There is evidence of polarisation in their self-appraisal," says social scientist Detlef Pech, who is currently research "Changes in Models of Masculinity" at Oldenburg University. But regardless of whether the macho or the softie is "in" at the moment, "role behaviour in everyday life, in work, in the home and with the kids is only changing very, very slowly."

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