There’s an interesting article headlined “The End of Men’s Magazines” this morning at City Journal.
It is a challenging media environment for most print publications these days, but men’s magazines seem to have been hit particularly hard.
Author Brian Patrick Eha provides a history of these magazines, but it is his main theme that is arresting: the men’s magazines are dying, he argues, because we now devalue traditional masculinity.
When Jay Fielden took over at Esquire (created in the 1930s to challenge the dominance of women-oriented magazines), for example, he made it clear that there was going to be none of this toxic masculinity stuff:
If a magazine for men now sounds as hopelessly passé as a private gentlemen’s club, Fielden himself helped to further this impression. When he moved to Esquire from Town & Country in 2016, one of his stated goals was to attract more female readers. “There’s no cigar smoke wafting through the pages,” he told the New York Times, managing to caricature a certain subset of men even while dismissing them, “and the obligatory three B’s are gone, too: brown liquor, boxing, and bullfighting.” The “Esquire man” would henceforth be more urbane and literary, less retrograde—altogether less specifically male.
Fielden recently left Esquire after a dry spell for the magazine that in the past won numerous journalism awards.
Even famously raunchy Playboy is no longer representative of masculinity, toxic or otherwise. I’m not a fan of Playboy but nevertheless found this fascinating:
A look inside the Spring 2019 issue shows just how far Hefner’s brainchild has traveled from its original conception. Among its contents: a profile of anti-Trump comedienne Michelle Wolf; an antimale anti-poem, the premise of which is that the female author—“of mixed West Indian and West African heritage”—has to cut ties with a friend who sticks up for men too often; a brief profile of action star Frank Grillo that opens with him “holding a pink cocktail” and singing “It’s Raining Men,” accompanied by photos of him baring his abdominals in low-slung jeans; and, not least, self-portraits by “the first Muslim woman to appear nude in Playboy,” with a cheerleading introduction by photojournalist Lynsey Addario. Here is the less than statuesque photographer-model, Yumna Al-Arashi, in her own words: For “an Arab American, a Muslim and a woman in general, our bodies are often not our own. Having a female editor ask me to portray myself the way I wanted to be seen is really badass and history-making. . . . How do I want to talk to the male gaze for the first time?” Her photos, we are told, are “the complete opposite of sexual.”
All this is in keeping with the magazine’s new allegiance. Since the May/June 2018 issue, Playboy’s cover has declared it no longer “Entertainment for Men” but rather “Entertainment for All.”
We seem to have gone back to the time when, as [founding editor of Esquire Arnold] Gingrich wrote, female readership was “valued so highly as to make a step-child out of the interests of male readers.” No comparable shift is occurring at women’s magazines, which are still written, edited, and designed largely by and for women. That many aspects of the old Playboy can still be found in its pages only makes the foreign elements that much more jarring.