Monday, October 6, 2008

Gauntlett On: Men's Magazines and Masculinity

Chapter eight in David Gauntlett’s book, Media, Gender and Identity, an Introduction, Gauntlett writes about modern men’s magazines and how these magazines shape men’s identities. Gauntlett suggests that magazines may play a crucial role in the way men shape their identities in terms of masculinity (154).
Gauntlett begins by describing how men’s magazines have emerged. Gauntlett points out that the lack of men’s interest or lifestyle magazines was not important to producers of magazines because ‘glossy’ magazines or ‘lifestyle’ magazines were seen as something only for women. Pornography magazines existed, however. Gauntlett writes that it was not until 1994 that the men’s magazine market took off with the emergence of the UK magazine Loaded. Gauntlett continues in his chapter to describe what material particular men’s magazines such as Loaded, FHM, Maxim, Men’s Health, Front, and GQ include. Most of these magazines portrayed a specific ideal or image of men and how they had to be well put together, smart, well-dressed and associated with many beautiful, sometimes naked women, which would somehow define them as successful.
Gauntlett describes these men’s magazines as ironic. He writes, “The irony is used as a kind of defensive shield: the writers anticipate that many men may reject serious articles on relationships, or advice about sex, health or cooking, and so douse their pieces with humour, silliness and irony to ‘sweeten the pill’ (167). Apparently men can relate with humor and irony more than anything else. I suppose I can understand this in that I can see something similar in women’s magazines. Women’s magazines tend to focus on the emotional in terms of getting their female readers excited about a specific story.
Men’s magazines tend to use iron for a few different reasons. One of the reasons gauntlet points out that irony is used is to ‘protect masculinity’ (170). I suppose in terms of lifestyle magazine, learning how to live effectively, especially with women, can take away a man’s masculinity if told to the man in a truthful way rather than a humorous or entertaining manner.
I find it extremely interesting when Gauntlett continues to write that most men’s magazines today are focused on the social construction of a masculine identity. There are many factors today that affect the ‘masculine’ image. There are choices that men must make in regards to other prevalent views in society such as feminist views. Gauntlett suggests that the fact that the male image changes and continues to change results in men finding solace and advice in men’s lifestyle magazines.
Men’s magazines give men a chance to learn about a ‘masculine’ identity in a society which requires the male image to change over and over again. Not only can men learn about a specific lifestyle that they can create for themselves in present society, they can also learn through humorous stories all the while finding entertainment in women portrayed in the magazines. To be completely honest, I believe that men’s magazines hold the same goal as women’s magazines. Women’s magazines also shape a woman’s identity and sense of lifestyle as well as pictures of good looking men. In all I disagree with Gauntlett when he writes that producers of magazines do not believe that men would be interested in lifestyle magazines, I believe that it is proved today through many modern men’s magazines that men do enjoy lifestyle magazines. The only factor is attracting men to these particular magazines through humor and sex.
Obama: The Ideal Identity of a Man
I chose to look at this picture on the cover of GQ mainly because of the relationship between the words on the cover and the individual shown on the cover of this magazine. I believe this magazine is the September 2007 issue. It is interesting to look at who is on this cover (Obama) and who he is (a successful presidential candidate) and then to look at some of the titles placed on the cover of the magazine. Some of the words that really popped out to me were "winner" "Barack Obama Rules" "All Hail the Young" "Most Powerful People" "He's Rich, He's Your Friend..." Although I could be reading into much of this, I interpret this to mean that many of these words, or titles of articles included in the magazine define or directly relate with the magazines view of Obama. What this magazine cover is portraying is that Obama is a winner because he is young and he is powerful and the men who read this magazine are striving to be winners just as Barack Obama is a winner. The magazine is using Barack Obama and his success and power as an image or example for men to model and live their lives according to. This magazine cover accurately shows how a magazine can influence a man's idea or perception of his identity and masculinity.

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