I recently enjoyed a long, relaxing weekend down the shore. At some point over the course of that weekend, I exhausted my supply of reading materials, and turned to our household’s collection of magazines. After reading through all of the People Real Simples, I found myself perusing a stack of Men’s Journals. I swear, I was reading them just for the articles – most of which weren’t particularly relevant to me. However, I did enjoy the recipes and a riveting and helpful article about riptides.
What I found most interesting during this trip into a subculture of which I am not a part was the style of writing. In general, it was very macho, even brutal (barbaric?). The articles largely had to do with body image and other ways to live up to a certain kind of masculinity. At times, I was left a little stunned and offended.
For the most part, the media that I consume, even if it is geared toward a particular gender demographic, is not so blunt. The articles, blogs, magazines, and TV shows that I enjoy hardly ever talk about what it means to be a “real man” or “real woman.” To the contrary, it seems that most media created by and for millennials seeks to ignore or even undermine traditional gender roles. So it was a little jarring for me to encounter something that claimed to be for “men,” but was clearly meant for those who had a very specific set of interests (mainly meat, dark liquor, and working out – all of which are fine pastimes for all who wish to enjoy them, male or female).
And to open up a can of gender-worms (ew, what?), it was helpful for me to think about the modern conception of masculinity. Our society talks a lot about gender roles as they apply to women, in an effort to empower us, I think. We think and talk about what women can and can’t do, where women do and do not belong, what true beauty looks like, etc. That’s all fine and good, and I largely appreciate it. But as much as we talk about femininity, what about masculinity? Reading through that Men’s Journal, I thought about the guys I know and how most of them probably wouldn’t find most those articles very interesting. That doesn’t make them less masculine or more feminine or whatever, it just means that their interests lie beyond meat, dark liquor, and working out.
What does it mean to be a man in this day and age? What does it mean to be a woman? I don’t know, and I don’t think there is, or should be, a clear answer here. I think our culture is realizing that it’s much more interesting and important to think about what it means to be a (good) person, and that’s encouraging.
It’s totally fine for media agencies to produce content for specific demographics (obviously). But maybe we could take those really general terms out of the titles. Rename it Meat Journal, perhaps.