Sunday 15 September 2019

OMG! Why Omega man is replacing the Alpha male...

The 'new man' has no desire to be the leader of the pack

John Costello

Men are having a major mid-life crisis. We are working longer hours, getting paid less, losing our jobs and struggling to cope. Masculinity is in deep recession and, worst of all, women are rubbing salt into our wounds.

Not only are they living longer and working fewer hours, women are better qualified than their male counterparts.

Men leave school earlier and are less likely to have a third-level qualification, according to government figures.

Even more shocking, one-in-three Irish men aged between 25 and 34 live at home with at least one of their parents, according to the latest research by Eurostat.

So wave bye-bye to the Alpha male and herald the rise of the Omega man. This 'new man' is the polar opposite of the traditional male role model, epitomised by John Wayne, Gordon Ramsay and Michael O'Leary.

While the Alpha male is hell bent on domination, the Omega man has no desire to be the leader of the pack as he struggles to come to terms with what masculinity represents in the 21st Century.

"A few decades ago there was all this talk of women's lib and burning the bra, but now some men are struggling with their identity because of it," says TV3's Martin King.

So while the typical lads' magazine massages the macho male ego with features on how to crunch out those six-pack abs, bed gorgeous women and climb the corporate ladder, a new breed are focused on enlightening recession-ravaged Omega men.

They recommend hugs rather than high-fives and offer the "post-hunt man" who is eager to "join the real man revolution" advice about parenting, cooking and household issues.

Eager to capture this new definition of what it is to be manly, Procter & Gamble recently launched to target the growing number of American men who have been forced to become stay-at-home dads thanks to the tough job market.

But as the recession here bites deeper is the Irish male turning more Omega than Alpha?

"Our roles have changed, but I don't really think we've lost our way," says Newstalk's Tom Dunne who feels more Alpha than Omega. "I think we have just moved with the times. It's the road life has taken us down. Now some of us are stay-at-home dads, but it doesn't make us any less macho or masculine."

Indeed it is not so much about macho men, alpha or even omega males, it's about real men, according to Daire O'Brien who edited Himself, Ireland's first men's magazine, and recently joined RTE's team of presenters covering rugby in the Magners League.

"To be a man nowadays is a more fluid project than it probably was before," he says, "but I think, to use the old cliché, class is permanent. If you get a quality guy and he checks out in terms of loyalty, sense of humour and outlook, I am sure there are as many as those guys per hundred as there was 20 years ago.

"I know I'm now far from a poster boy for manhood, but I think when you are in your twenties every guy wants a reasonable job, an interesting career, a car, loads of friends and a hectic social life. I would imagine lads in their twenties still think that way, so I don't think you can define manhood.

"I think manhood is simply a function of your age, but I do think advertisers always like to pigeonhole demographic groups."

So what about magazines that now suggest to their readers the most macho thing they can do is cry?

"I would cry if Ireland edged a close rugby match or at the national anthem at Croke Park if 80,000 people were belting it out," laughs O'Brien, "but not if I saw a kitten splatted by a articulated truck."

While John Wayne would probably think the modern male is nothing but a big girl's blouse, it appears Irish men are confident there is no need to rush out and reclaim their manliness.

"The time you start talking about reclaiming it means you've lost it," laughs Tom Dunne. "I think you just have to have overriding confidence in who you are and a strong belief you can do or be what you want."

"While I do think men have changed," adds Martin King, "I'm not sure we will be taking to the streets to burn the string vest and our Y-fronts just yet."

Irish Independent

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