Manifesto: Why do men Google, 'Is it OK to...'?

Research shows men are taking to Google to validate their manhood.

Research shows men are taking to Google to validate their manhood.

OPINION: Seventy-two per cent of guys have been told how a real man should behave, according to a new European advertisement for Axe deodorant (marketed as Lynx in New Zealand).

This ad taps into what modern men (presumably, but not specifically, younger guys) do: they take to the internet to find out whether or not something is permissible.

"Is it OK to be skinny? Is it OK to not like sports? It is okay to experiment with other guys? Is it OK for guys to be nervous? Is it OK to be depressed?" The list goes on, and if you Google "Is it OK for guys to..." you'll be presented with results that show many other wonderings from the 21st-century male mind.

Although this is a corporate marketing effort for an (arguably juvenile-smelling) grooming product, I appreciate the final sentiment of the ad: "Is it OK for guys to... be themselves?"

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It's a strange world we live in when men take to an online library of strangers' opinions to decide if part of themselves is acceptable or not. Whether it's having groomed eyebrows, wearing flip-flops, or owning a cat (all popular "is it OK?" Google searches), modern men seem entirely confused and reliant on others to validate their masculinity.

I have (thankfully) never had the urge to take to Google and ask permission to act a certain way, own a certain object or wear a certain colour.

I never thought I'd be in the minority on that one, but the aforementioned 72 per cent statistic – from research firm Promundo in the 2017 Man Box report, based on men aged 18-30 – still rings true for me.

I've definitely been told, more implicitly than explicitly, how a "real man" should behave. It's a shame that young men are growing up with this sense of uncertainty.

Granted, masculinity doesn't mean what it did in the 1940s, 60s or 80s, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a set of masculine traits everyone can agree on – we live in a world where the most vocal male on the planet thinks most things are a conspiracy against his competence and manhood, after all.

To give young guys the confidence they need to stop Googling inane questions, we older and wiser men must live by example.

If some of us wear pink, have long hair, hug each other and be the "little spoon" when we're snuggling with our partners in bed, we'll send a solid message to the masses – masculinity is merely what you make it.

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Is there an issue that affects men you'd like Lee to discuss? Send an email to with Manifesto in the subject line.

 - Sunday Magazine


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