19 July 2013 10:45 | By Hugh Wilson, contributor, MSN Him

Are men becoming more feminine?

We fall in love at first sight, shop badly and worry about our bodies. Are men the new women?


man doing housework (© sturti-Getty Images)

So, are modern men becoming more feminine?

For those of you who balk at such a suggestion, don’t shoot the messenger. Fact is, an almost endless stream of polls, research studies and new social trends suggest that, in many ways, the gap between the genders is closing at an unprecedented rate.

Some of those ways are trivial, and some more profound. But do they suggest that the age of the manly man is dead? Read on and decide for yourself.

Shopping

According to new research for disability charity Scope, men love shopping as much as women. What’s more, we are picking up shopping habits that seem distinctly, well, womanly.

For example, the Scope research - conducted as part of the charity’s Great Donate - One month, One million Items challenge, which aims to get people thinking about what they could donate to Scope shops - found that 89% of male respondents admitted to having between one and 15 unworn items of clothing in their wardrobes.

The poll found men had bought clothes for special occasions that never happened, were convinced into buying clothes they didn’t really want, and even shopped for garments they hoped to slim into. Nearly one in four also confessed to being guilty of impulse buying when out spending.

In other words, we’re starting to make all the shopping mistakes we accuse our wives and girlfriends of making. Is that important? Not on its own, but does buying clothes we hope to “slim into” suggest an increasing male focus on body image and beauty. It wouldn’t be the first piece of evidence to point that way...

On Bing: shop for the latest men's fashions

Man shopping (© Bloomberg via Getty Images-Getty)

Men are displaying similar shopping behaviours to women

Body image

Our new shopping habits may be partly explained by a new focus on body image. In fact, research by psychologists at the University of the West of England published last year found that, against all expectations, more men worry about their body shape and appearance – beer bellies, man boobs or bald patches – than women do about how they look.

The research found that more men than women (80.7% against 75%) “talk in ways that promote anxiety about their body image”.

In other words, we’re now more likely to mention our flaws and imperfections than women are.

“These findings tell us that men are concerned about body image, just like women. We knew that 'body talk' affected women and young people and now we know that it affects men too," said Dr Phillippa Diedrichs, who conducted the study.

Not all the research on the subject suggests men are now more concerned with body image than women, but nearly all of it finds that men are becoming more focused on how they look. In other words, in this specific area, we appear to be becoming more feminine.

On Bing: what do women look for in a man's body?

Romance

Maybe it’s no surprise that we’re so focused on how we look, given that we’re always on the lookout for “the one”. Yep, popular culture would have you believe that women fall in love at the drop of a hat, and men fall in love only when they’re good and ready. If that were ever true, it certainly isn’t now.

According to research published in the Journal of Social Psychology in 2011, a vast majority of both men and women assume women are the first to fall in love and the first to say “I love you”.

And as it turned out, the very same people, when asked about their own relationship histories, reported the opposite. In real life men reported that they fell in love more rapidly and that they said “I love you” first.

All that was confirmed by a worldwide study of over 10,000 people published earlier this year. It found that, while 28% of women had fallen in love at first sight, 48% of men had.

So it appears that the desire for love and romance (as opposed to sex) - once considered such a female trait - is becoming increasingly a male one.

On Bing: how to say "I love you"

David Beckham (© Rex Features)

Increasingly men want a body like Becks

Family

Modern men may be more desperate to leap into loving relationships because of their yearning for a family. It used to be said that women had a biological clock that men did their best to ignore, but the new truth is not so black and white.

In research presented to the British Sociological Society in March, sociologist Robin Hadley found that childless men were even more broody than childless women.

Hadley claims that his research “challenges the common idea that women are much more likely to want to have children than men”, and his research showed that four out of 10 childless men feel ‘depressed’ about their childless life, compared with three out of 10 women. Seven out of 10 men confess to a ‘yearning’ to have a child. 

Of course men have always wanted to experience fatherhood - the human race would have died out without that basic biological imperative - but it seems that, today, we want it just as much as women want motherhood, and regret not having children more.

On Bing: how do you know you're ready for kids?

Work and home

That perhaps chimes with the well-documented idea that masculine jobs are in decline, and more feminine workplaces are becoming the norm. Perhaps more men yearn for family life as work life becomes more competitive (with increasing numbers of women in the workforce), less secure and less fulfilling.

In fact, statistics show that the number of men who stay home and look after children while their partners go out to work reached an all time high last year. There were 227,000 men staying at home to look after family between September and November 2012, a rise of 19,000 compared to the same period in 2011 and the highest increase since figures began in 1993.

Meanwhile, a recent European Commission report said that the sole female breadwinner was on the rise, and now accounted for 10% of households.

Of course, there are still many more households where the man is the sole breadwinner, and far more stay-at-home mums than dads, but the gradual flattening out of gender roles - to a point where couples choose the best division of paid and domestic work based on circumstance alone - seems to be a long term trend.

And that might even be having a knock on effect in the dating game. A study by researchers at York University found some evidence of the reversing of the traits men and women traditionally deem desirable in the other. As societies become more equal, the researchers said, men place more value on intelligence and earning potential, and women place more value on looks.

So are men becoming more feminine? We may be more romantic, family oriented and body conscious than we used to be, but whether that is a good or bad thing is open to question. Perhaps men are just changing with the times and adapting to new realities. Perhaps the most successful men will be those who adapt best. Or perhaps we are heading for a fall? Tell us what you think below. 

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West (© Evan Agostini-Invision-AP)

More men are yearning for a loving relationship and a family

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