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FaceLube: The Perfect Storm of Anxious Masculinity

The revolution will be fought with $150 skin care products.

Are you a man who finds the process of washing and moisturizing your face inherently emasculating? Indulge in FaceLube, a three-part, $150 skincare system for what the company refers to as the "real man," "manly man," and "man's man."
"We think of ourselves as an automotive company that happens to market an anti-aging skin care product line for men," FaceLube founder Candace Chen told me about her line of cleansers, moisturizers, sunscreens, and anti-aging serums. Chen describes herself as the "rare female executive in the testosterone-centric automotive aftermarket industry," a sector she calls a "wonderful mix of testosterone and motor oil."
When Chen decided to enter the beauty business, she stuck with what she knew. Sold exclusively at auto shops—better to avoid the creeping feminizing effects of shopping malls and drug stores—FaceLube "utilizes car talk to help men like you grasp the concept and importance of putting your face on a maintenance schedule.” The FaceLube man does not listen to “girly words.” He does not "like things complicated." He is "as masculine and meat-and-potatoes as they come." He wants a “Trophy wife. Power suit. Power car. Power face.” He needs a moisturizer committed to "staying true to a man’s nature.”
How does something like FaceLube happen? It is the perfect storm of anxious masculinity: An economic downturn framed as the "end of men," a marketing environment increasingly comfortable alienating women, and a founder who has built a career on being "one of the boys."
The automobile is one of the few truly male-centered products in the United States, where buying itself is feminized. Women make 85 percent of all consumer purchases in this country, and they're spending on behalf of both women and men. The economic downturn may afford women even more purchasing power in traditionally male sectors. Other products "get sneaky and go around your back to your women instead," Chen tells her customers. Then, your women turn around and "nag you into using their products."

Industries that do target men directly deploy writhing women, thinly-veiled phallic imagery, and sophomoric humor to emphasize how manly it is to buy. When manufacturers attempt to sell traditionally feminine products directly to men, the masculine undertones are rendered more explicit. Slip on a pair of khakis to really "Wear the Pants." Sip that diet soda—it's "Not for Women." Spray on a little bit of fragrance, then "Get Some."

FaceLube crushes those puny masculine ad campaigns in its strong, capable arms. Take the FaceLube jingle: “Don’t wanna' smell like no rose garden / Don’t wanna' prance around in some stupid shopping mall / Don’t wanna' search around for stuff meant for no woman / For me it’s FaceLube or nothin’ at all." Or its logo: The FaceLube man is best represented by a golden splooge of, uh, motor oil. The iconography "celebrates the automotive industry, and at the same time pays homage to all the masculine men out there,” Chen says. Even the product's name connotes a money shot.
Chen calls the company's masculine emphasis "unapologetic." At times, it's amazingly transparent. Wearing a little red dress and a string of pearls, Chen takes to YouTube to decry the “social stigma” surrounding men using beauty products, which can make a man “vulnerable to ridicule by his peers.” Then, she declares war on the feminine beauty industry that made men feel this way. "We've had ENOUGH!" the jingle goes. "We're under ATTACK! We're manning UP! We're fighting BACK!" The revolution will be fought with $150 skin care products.

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