Thursday, October 2, 2008

Men as Consumers and Fashionistas

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In Kenon Breazeale’s article titled In Spite of Women – Esquire Magazine and the Construction of the Male Consumer, it is clearly noted in the beginning that the basic consumer has always been viewed as the middle-class female. Because of this Breazeale suggests that “…some of our era’s most aggressively one-dimensional representations of women have resulted from attempts to court men as consumers” (231). Breazeale suggests that Esquire magazine was the first attempt to attract an audience of male consumers. Because women were regarded so highly as the consumer, Esquire magazine had to take itself away from things that had been identified with women for such a long amount of time so that men would be attracted to the magazine. In that Esquire became a men’s magazine and “confronted the popular periodical industry” saying that “women as women have no legitimate social role to play” (235).
Breazeale goes on to write some of the implications and areas in which Esquire gained its popularity. When Esquire was first founded, the art of illustration was also developing. This helped Esquire in that illustrators could illustrate pictures of provocative women which were not tagged as pornography. The magazine also produced “adult” cartoons which had the same effect on men. These illustrations basically degraded women into ‘dumb’ creatures who were too “giggly” and “jiggly” to really have any impact on men other than for aesthetic pleasure.
It is interesting to me how little Esquire magazine has developed and how similar it is today as to what it was in the 20’s. The goal of the magazine seems to be quite similar. Breazeale writes, “Esquire demonstrated that…women-trashing as such could be packaged and sold to a large, prosperous bourgeois audience” (240). What I receive from this is that in order to attract the male consumer, which is a large portion of society and will bring a lot of money, women must be “fantasized sexually and trashed socially” (240). To me, this is extremely unfortunate and not only degrading to women, but also to men in that a majority of men are interested in the messages of magazines such as Esquire.
Johnny Depp - Real Life
I chose this image because it suggests that Esquire magazine has other things to offer other than images of attractive women for men to 'gaze' at and think about. I believe that another huge aspect of the attraction of Esquire magazine is that it gives men the ability to hear or view powerful men in society and learn from those powerful men.
On this cover of Esquire, Johnny Depp is portrayed as tough and manly and powerful. Behind him on the cover are the words "The Meaning of Life" as if Johnny holds the answers to the questions of life. I believe men are as attracted to this image as women are; of course in a different way. Men see Johnny as powerful and edgy and because of this he could possibly have the answers to the questions of life. Esquire knows that men will eat this up because through this magazine not only are they able to look at attractive women, but they are able to get advice from the men who seem to have it all together and know all of the answers regarding the difficult life of a man.

In the article written by John Beynon entitled, The Commercialization of Masculinities – From the ‘New Man’ to the ‘New Lad’, the idea of a ‘new man’, or new masculine identity is introduced. The first change came in the 1970’s and the 1980’s. Men’s changing role was a result of pro-feminism and the feminist movement. Men who agreed with the feminist movement and agreed with social change changed their own goals in that they “attempted to raise both their own and their fellow men’s consciousness and foster a more caring, sharing, nurturing man” (199). The idea of a mixed ‘breadwinner-homemaker’ role came about during this time as well.
The second identity Beynon writes about is that of the ‘new man-as-narcissist’ (202). This identity came about mainly during the 70’s and was associated with style and fashion. Beynon identifies some results of this new image. Places for men to purchase clothing exclusively flourished in the 80’s. Representations of men changed in the 80’s in that the male body began to be “eroticized and objectified” in ways that were initially applied to females (203). And, magazines regarding style for men were produced. Beynon continues to describe the “yuppie” image in the 80’s. The “yuppie” was thought to be successful and wealthy with a huge desire to spend his money. He lived in the “chic” areas of the city with “café’s” and the like. Beynon refers to Soho as a place where “yuppies” would reside. Much of the “yuppie” image was about style and a certain “look”.
Beynon continues to write about “laddism” and how ‘lads’ lives consist of nightclubs and style and parties as a reaction to the “men’s style press and to the growing assertiveness of women” (210). The new ‘lads’ could live risqué lives without censor. Loaded was a major magazine that supported this lifestyle.
Beynon finishes by suggesting that new types of men are the result of inventions by the media. However, Beynon writes that there is no agreement on what the ‘new man’ exactly means or who he is. The ‘new man’ is not his conservative father, however. Beynon writes on page 216, “…new man-ism remains a highly pervasive and masculine’ message” which is constantly changed and portrayed through media.

I chose this image because I believe it really portrays this 'new lad' idea in terms of style. The fact that this male model is carrying a purse around as a fashion statement goes to show the changes that men have made in terms of what is acceptable in style.

Another change in the identities of men that is portrayed in this image is the idea of male models. I believe traditionally, females were regarded as the only 'models'. Today, however, men are fashion models as well. It is interesting to think whether or not this is an expression of men flowing into a more traditional female role as women are gaining traditionally male roles in society. Men are possibly trying to find their places in society and maybe male modeling and male purses are the keys.

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