Thursday, May 26, 2005

I thought public diplomacy was supposed to give Arabs reasons NOT to bomb us!

Has the enemy infiltrated the State Department's public diplomacy shop again?

One might think so in a recent issue of its monthly "Hi" magazine, an attractive, soft and light publication aimed at youth around the world, especially in Arab countries.

Among the features on NASCAR, whitewater rafting, health and science is a story about how some American men are - well, let the article speak for itself:

Real men moisturize. In fact, some of them, like Michael Gustman, a 25-year-old public relations account executive from Boca Raton, Fla., even have separate moisturizers for the face and body. Facial pores can clog with too heavy a salve, it seems.

Not long ago, these and other habits would have been considered odd for a male. Gustman exfoliates. He gets manicures. He gets pedicures. He gets facials. He gets his hair done every two weeks. He accessorizes. He puts effort into getting ready for a date. He loves cooking complex dishes. He's a refined, evolved, sensitive guy.
In a word, he's a metrosexual.
Pass the suicide vest, please. Now meet Faisal the American metrosexual:

"Before it was men do this and women do that," [Faisal] says. "But since so many successful, educated and talented women have entered the workforce, many of those lines have been blurred, if not erased. Women today want more out of a man. They want a man who's not just a beer, football and hairy knuckles dragging on the floor type of guy. They want someone who has interesting interests and dresses a certain way and takes care of himself as well as he takes care of his work."

[Faisal] will not deny that he spends a lot of time on his appearance. He coordinates his shoes and belts with his clothing. He has a history of spending a lot of money on clothes, although he confesses he scours discount stores for just the right look. He recently spent his first day at a spa, and he says it won't be his last.
Now, I'm not one of the "Hi" haters who objects to its popular culture content. It's a potentially important magazine that's attracting a generation of younger adult readers in parts of the world where we never did any public diplomacy at all. It has a cool website with Angelina Jolie dressed as modestly as you've ever seen her.

But moisturizing men who get hairdos? The State Department is supposed to be spreading messages that make the United States look appealing to foreign audiences. Not giving new reasons why we all should get blown up.


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