‘Real Men Do Wear Mascara: advertising, discourse and masculine identity’ a research project by Claire Harrison (2008), notes how the traditional concept of masculinity has been challenged by an inescapable spread of metrosexual attitudes through Western cultures, where research has been illustrated in various modes of text. Simpson (1994) coined the term ‘metrosexual’ in the late 90’s, which has assisted the breakdown of traditional concepts and stereotypes in copious countries. Harrison’s (2008) aims explore how men are intertwined with advertisement regarding the sales of cosmetics catered to men of all ethnicities, age and sexuality, tackling the ways in which visual social semiotics and systemic function linguistics are used to obtain a result, Studio5ive’s double stroke cream mascara is a product that she explores, demonstrating the type of advertisement tailored to the audience. Harrison uses harmonized ways that assist the analysis in multimodal discourses, selecting a dialect to compose a feeling of belonging. The notion of masculinity is undergoing significant social changes, as many men re-evaluate their appearance to fit in with this valued idea. Throughout this discussion, I will argue how certain themes offer insights into Butlers (2006) work on how gender is constructed, maintaining traditional concepts and exploring the feminist theory.
Integrated with Harrisons research are many interesting factors up for discussion, however, she primarily focuses on the use of discourse in systemic function linguistics (SFL) and visual social semiotics (VSS) in advertisement for male mascara. Briefly, SFL allows discourse analysts to research how people use the resources of language to create meaning, whereas, VSS is a term that involves resource use in the visual field, namely ‘what can be said and done with images and how they can be interpreted’. Both metafunctions reflect on what Gregory (1982, p. 6) said about how ‘they draw upon the speaker/producer’s experience both of the external world and of his own internal world’.
Firstly, focusing on Halliday’s (1985) notion of systemic function linguist’s Harrison looks at the title within the article ‘Two Strokes and You’re Out’, either read as a take-off baseball phrase ‘Three strikes and you’re out’ or a profane reference to a significant event in homosexual life. The discourse used in this phrase allows the article to reach out to all types of men, from this can we understand that traditional masculine traits are broken down as men are seen the same, no matter what age, ethnicity or sexuality, however, it still has masculine connotations as sport is traditionally associated with men Bordo (1999 p. 182) describes a process in the trade known as “dual marketing”’ – this evidence implies that a dialect is created to bring a togetherness, sensing equality for all types of men. The discourse in Studio5ive’s advertisement shows a varied use of verb processes, mainly focusing on the material action process, in the advertisement the mascara is seen as the ‘actor’ as it is the one doing the thing, in six of the clauses provided the mascara is actively achieving goals, ‘amplifies, ‘glades on fast’, ‘conditions’ lashes are all ways in which it is positively achieves these goals. In the advertisement it acknowledges the fact that woman’s mascara is seen to be ‘clumpy’, within the processes this is the only negative adjective to be used, making a comparison between the two genders to suggest that even though it is seen as a woman’s product, men can do it better, traditional masculine stereotypes are becoming less of an issue with regards to how Western cultures have changed, however, femininity is constructed in a way that defines woman as the powerless sex. The avoidance of the term ‘eyelashes’ is reflected within the images used to sell the product, normally a discursive feature for the sale of advertising mascara to a woman, other phrases are used to avert the use of the noun ‘eyelashes’, this proposes that the advert still remains to display masculine traits as it does not focus on the main feature as this is commonly done in women’s advertisement.
Another, metafunctions Harrison’s (2008) analyses is the function of Kress and van Leeuwen’s (2006 p. 1) visual social semiotics, they note that traditional visual semiotics has ‘concentrated on what might be regarded as the equivalent of words, on the denotive and connotative significance of the elements in images’. By focusing on design rather than on individual imagery Kress and van Leeuwen are able to analyse a broad range of visuals. Connecting it to Harrisons (2008) study, replicated in the diagrams given, the mascara resembles an upright tower, Kress and van Leeuwen (2006, p. 59) look at this notion and consider it as the ‘elements of the mechanical, technological order’ as they follow straight lines and angular designs, as opposed to curves which are seen as a natural process. Given that technological skills are traits which are associated with traditional masculinity, the diagram shows how this replicates the structure. Moreover, the text uses fonts which display a clean, modern typeface which accompanies the images within the design as it aligns the mascara also with these features. Visual social semiotics
In summary, Harrisons concluded that verbal and visual discourse in the advertisement analysed work together to create a meaning for mascara that is at odds with societal convetions