British masculinity ‘trapped in Jay-Z mode’

By Jo-Anna K. Burnett

British men need to be liberated from thinking their only gender role model option is Jay-Z, Diane Abbott has claimed.

The shadow public health minister said the rise of a hyper-masculine consumer culture and the decline of manufacturing and apprenticeships were making men forget how to be men.

"For many young men, that sort of model, that sort-of Jay-Z model of hyper-masculine, hyper consumption is actually always going to remain out of reach," Abbott said in a speech to the Demos think-tank earlier.

"We're teaching many of our young boys the price of everything and the value of nothing."

It is not a coincidence that the most troubled areas in metropolitan London are former manufacturing hubs like Hackney and Tottenham, she added.

Two generations ago, men had apprenticeships, trained and learned skills and trades. Today, with low manufacturing output, those skills are gone and men are delegated to jobs as security officers, Abbott argued.

"This generation almost has to rediscover a new 'what it means to be a man'," she said, claiming that British boys are victims of fallacious commercial messages regarding their role in the world.

Social anthropologist Geoff Dench, who spoke at the same event, claimed women's desire to excel in the workplace is making men feel unwanted.

"We all need, both men and women need to feel like they are needed, and in this realm women are much more central and powerful than many of them like to recognize," said Dench. "Men are a bit marginal."

Male antisocial tendencies are amplified and intensified because men "feel like they are not really needed".

According to Abbott, long work hours in British culture add to the problem of absent men in a household and their failure in their gender role. Britons work more than two hours longer than their European counterparts.

"Too many British men will be diagnosed with cancer that was preventable," the MP said. "And this year, too many British men – in part because there's children, the burden of growing economic mess that they didn't correct – today will commit suicide. It's got to change."