Man Spa—Self Care is Gender Neutral, Fact.
30 October 2019
A bold statement, but one which needs stating. Yes—spa treatments as a concept are not gendered. It’s all about marketing.
Traditionally marketed to women, traditionally marketed to men. Often, there’s two versions of products with different gender specific looks. Take razors for example—we’re all familiar with Gillette. They have gendered products, such as the Fusion Power razor for men and the Venus Divine razor for women. The male razor has a blue handle, the female—pink.
The only reason for this is sales. Promote a genderless product and its possible couples might share a razor and buy separate blades. Uh oh.
Imaginary Gender Divisions
Razors cut hairs, there’s nothing masculine or feminine about them. A gender division has been created from nothing to increase profit. We don’t question this split, because we’re conditioned from a young age to consider some things masculine and some feminine. Blue boy, pink girl. We respond without thinking to gendered advertising.
However, start querying how important it is to be a man or a woman when buying something and gender division often falls apart. A house of cards. The “big secret”, is that we’re not so different after all. Especially when it comes to self-care and wellness.
Relaxation is a Human Need
If you strip it right back to basics, visiting a spa is about relaxing. Since when was relaxing a female thing? It’s a human need. Despite this, until recently the wellness industry has focused its marketing on women.
All us spas are guilty of it. Not purposefully, it’s just what the market has defined—until now.
There’s a gender stereotype that men are machines, able to continue without the need for recharging. All men require is a pint down the pub, a brisk back slap, and they’re good to go.
“Are you okay, mate?”
“Yes, I’m fine” (no I’m not)
(“fancy a spa day?”)
Don’t Do That, It’s Girly.
The archetypal man must not show weakness—he is the alpha provider, after all, and defends the realm. You can’t scare off danger with tears.
The reality is that men get stressed, like women, and need to unwind. As a society we’ve started glorifying stress— in a life is pain sort of way. It’s worn as a badge of honour in the workplace, a requirement for success.
We’re all wandering around with tension headaches and feeling frazzled. However, it’s not seen as okay for men to admit when they’re overwhelmed. Conversely, women are encouraged to be more emotional, to be sensitive.
This division doesn’t stop at emotional expression. For men, it includes activities and behaviours deemed “girly” (and vice versa)—for example, visiting a spa. Why? Because, as above, the main reason for visiting a spa is to relax. Relaxing, is admitting you need to relax—a “weakness”.
This is not a weakness, nor are spa treatments feminine. Nature doesn’t provide woman mud and man salts. It just provides.
Male Grooming Industry Booming
As with all stereotypes, over time they are challenged. Advertising may not be keeping up, but the world is moving on. In the past male grooming boiled down to shaving kits, now it’s a multi-billion pound industry which isn’t set to stop growing—it’s only beginning. This includes moisturiser, hair products, beard oil and balms, fragrances, you name it.
Part of the boom in male grooming comes from the popularity of TV shows such as Love Island and TOWIE. In these shows manly stars unashamedly preen and are devoted to their appearance. For decades we’ve been exposed to the beauty routines of women, never men—especially not tattooed, muscular men.
For men, seeing themselves represented this way on TV has been a coast is clear moment. It’s thought that men are more vain than women, only their vanity has been repressed. Now it has been released.
The Spa-rtans Have Arrived
It’s easy for a man to buy grooming products online. No interactions, job done.
With spas, the stigma is lifting, but the process is slower. According to research by the spaguide.co.uk almost a third of men, if given the choice, would pick a spa day over a sports match or pub day.
This shows clear evidence that male desires and opinions are changing. Despite this, the footfall of men in spas is much lower than women. We’re in a transitional period, where we’re shaking off old ways of thinking. One of the biggest hurdles for men visiting spas is existential. They love the idea of being looked after and totally relaxing, but when you’ve been told spa days are feminine since day one— it’s a tough mindset to escape.
Men don’t want to have a crisis of masculinity before a massage. What is masculinity? What is femininity? Who am I? As we break down gender barriers, it’s difficult to predict the impact it will have. What’s certain, is in the future, men will be as versed in the art of chilling as women, and comfortably so.