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'Real men' go back on prowl in Movember

Movember has now ended, and thousands of men across the country will be shaving off their 'Mos'. But as they do, many women will be lamenting the loss of this insignia of old-school, unreconstructed masculinity.

Every now and then a dirge is sung for the death of the so-called traditional male; unreconstructed, dominant, powerful and strong. With it usually comes a critique of today's apparently "feminised society" and a call for the return of the "real man".

Perhaps this goes some way to explaining the popularity of the Movember phenomenon, where once a year, in aid of prostate cancer, men across the world have an excuse to grow their facial hair and re-imagine themselves as Magnum PI.

Movember disciples are everywhere -- smilingly checking your cinema ticket, issuing you a parking fine through an upper lip full of fuzz. Perhaps the young man who serves your coffee has been looking more mature and distinguished lately? Even celebrities are at it. This year Jamie Theakston and the entire Stoke City football team joined the 'mo-vement'. As well as a reporter on the BBC who treated news viewers to his best Ron Jeremy impression for the entire month.

For some time now, we've been casting around for a way to re-invent masculinity for a modern, more sensitive age. Today's poor men, we are told, have been beaten into submission in the boardroom and the bedroom, and are now too cowed and afraid to express their true nature. Male sperm count is down, we are warned, and today's fellas ingest estrogen in their drinking water. This is the pitiable state of the modern male. At least if you believe the gospel according to Jeremy Clarkson.

But though raw, unchecked maleness might appeal in the bedroom and in movies starring Bruce Willis, let loose as a dominant force in society, it's often less than constructive. Brute force and testosterone might seem appealing in the realm of fantasy, but these are not necessarily influences that we want to see much more of coursing through our society.

It's easy to carp that the death of old-school masculinity is an undesirable by-product of feminism, but the reality is that it has simply been necessary for men to refine the rougher aspects of their nature in aid of a fairer, more equal and more civilised society. In the long run, this benefits men just as much as it does women. To whit, enter the moustache. There's the vexed issue of getting too close to one that seems to divide women a little ("it's like kissing a toilet brush" reported one Movember widow) but on the whole, ladies admire the boldness, the panache and the soupcon of humour that a well-groomed moustache bestows on the wearer.

Ample proof of the appeal of the 'Ronnie' was provided last Movember, when a collective of American women who were feeling frustrated about being excluded from the campaign, initiated a Movember solidarity group titled "Have Sex With A Guy With A Moustache Day". Touted as "The woman's answer to Movember," this demonstration of support surely represented the most fun thing one can have in the name of charity. A well-worn moustache is not just manly, it's stylish -- looking retro-cool on those with thick enough facial topiary to carry it off with elan. Not only that, but it seems to foster solidarity between men themselves. One devotee confessed to me that having a moustache feels like being in a secret club. Walking around the streets of Dublin, he felt an unspoken camaraderie with his brothers-in-facial-hair.

A man, it seems, behaves differently with a moustache -- a touch more commanding perhaps, yet also more chivalrous. He looks virile, but since a moustache requires grooming, also cultivated. This is an expression of traditional masculine values that are relevant in a post-feminist age. A man with a moustache seems macho, but he is definitely no Neanderthal.

Sunday Independent