With the lamented demise of Toro, we continue to weigh in on the future of men’s magazines (for a past example, read this). Will they last? Do all middle-class men aspire to have a walk-in humidor? If you accidentally look at UMM, will you turn into one of these guys?
In many ways, the talk surrounding their legitimacy is part and parcel of the fact that masculinity, now more than ever, is in crisis. Manhood has shifted from a given to something that is increasingly policed, and with this comes heated debate and bruised egos. While Cosmopolitan has made a name for itself as a gal’s manual for staying thin and becoming proficient in fellatio (killing two birds with one stone, one might argue), the majority of criticisms levelled at men’s magazines suggest that the purchasable components of manhood are somehow more offensive and, interestingly, not indicative of the same larger issues. (There is one glaring exception: the assumption that there is a thinner tissue between the male consumer and a publication’s ideology. The guy who flips through Maxim is a misogynist; the woman who reads Cosmopolitan isn’t necessarily a vapid twit.)
Part of this can be attributed to the fact that men’s magazines are marketed in a more homogeneous manner, much to the detriment of publications like Toro. Once the territory of women, it would seem as if men are starting to feel universalized, and so it’s not surprising that many feel a similar frustration at having to differentiate themselves from what some publishers have decided are their interests and values.The truth of the matter is that men’s lifestyle publications are attempting to capitalize on the goods that women have been sold for decades: that desirability can be purchased, regardless of the distance between cover model and average reader.
One thing is clear: men’s magazines have a tough road ahead, and it would be a damn shame if they all went the way of the dodo (that said, the world would be a little less gross without some). They will be faced with successfully addressing a different male consumer—someone who does not objectify women, is critical of phallic substitution, and who’s unashamedly interested in the traditionally female pursuits of the arts, fashion, bodily discipline, and domesticity.
If men’s magazines want to cash in (particularly in the brutal Canadian publishing industry), they need to keep in step with the rapidly shifting and diverse definitions of manhood. What’s needed, now more than ever, is a platform which doesn’t mirror the dominant formula that a lot of women are treating with increasing disdain.
Photo by phennessey19 from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.