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Traditional Masculinity Should Be GQ’s “New Masculinity”

GQ magazine held its 25th “Men of the Year” event in London last Wednesday. Talents from across the fields of culture, sports, and entertainment gathered for the glitzy gala celebrating the British men’s style magazine’s honorees for Men of the Year. Curiously, over a third of the personalities on that list were women.

Of the 26 honorees named, an eyebrow-raising nine were female, including Euphoria star Sydney Sweeney, The Batman actress Zoë Kravitz, English soccer captain Leah Williamson, and House of the Dragon star Emma D’arcy, who apparently identifies as “non-binary.” Other women were Marisa Abela, Sheila Atim, Es Devlin, Myha’la Herrold, and Sharon Horgan.

Making a feeble stab at clarification, the host Condé Nast Events wrote in a statement, “Rather than honouring people in a distinct ‘awards’ section of the issue, the entire MOTY issue will become a celebration of the people who dominated culture and shaped the zeitgeist of 2022.”

So, “people” and not simply “men.” Fair enough, but then why not call the honorees “GQ’s People of the Year,” rather than lump women in under the label “Men of the Year”? In fact, given that GQ is a style magazine for men, why include any women at all? There are far more fashion magazines for women than for men; I’m unaware whether any of them offer an annual “Women of the Year” issue, but I’m highly skeptical that the list would include a man—a transgender man pretending to be a woman, yes, but that’s a topic for another day.

GQ was founded in 1931 as Gentlemen’s Quarterly and renamed GQ in 1967. The magazine originally emphasized more classic fashions for grownups. But especially under the 15-year tenure of editor Jim Nelson from 2003–2018, GQ began targeting a younger readership, pushing a wildly flamboyant style, and ramping up a political focus, including promoting activists such as notorious national anthem–kneeler Colin Kaepernick as GQ’s “Citizen of the Year.”

Current Editor-in-Chief Will Welch decided to reimagine the magazine, part of which meant a change of GQ’s take on masculinity. The 41-year-old said in an interview: “In my first days as editor, I just had this language—‘the new masculinity’—because the culture was demanding that men change, straight up. … It was an important moment for us to do two things. Reflect on this moment where the culture was demanding that men evolve, and lead; and show men what that evolution might look like.”

To announce Welch’s vision of what that evolution might look like, GQ released a fall 2019 cover with singer and producer Pharrell Williams in a sort of quilted, gown-like coat, framed by the words “The New Masculinity Issue” in a very frilly font.

The men’s fashion that GQ promotes and that the culture celebrates today leans metrosexual at best and at worst effeminate. Harry Styles, for example, a 28-year-old singer and actor who is wildly popular among young people, is becoming a fashion icon by incorporating women’s clothing and accessories into his wardrobe. He has even appeared in a recent Vogue layout (including the cover) in a dress. Brad Pitt caused a stir a couple of months ago when he appeared at the premiere of his film, Bullet Train, wearing a linen skirt.

All this talk about what attention-seeking celebrities wear seems shallow and trivial—and to a certain extent, of course, it is. But it is indicative of the confusion about masculinity, the subversion of masculinity, that has been sown over the course of decades by our cultural elites. It has reached the point where an A-list movie star like Brad Pitt feels the need to signal his rejection of traditional masculinity by flouncing around in women’s clothing and pretending that this is the next step in the evolution of manhood.

Here is a modest suggestion for GQ: In our gender-blurred era, when traditional masculinity is unfairly scorned as “toxic,” why not carve out a cultural space for men where they can be celebrated without having to share the stage (just as women shouldn’t have to share the stage with biological males identifying as female) and where they can feel comfortable expressing their natural masculinity, not the false one our culture today is imposing on them?

And rather than surf the wave of the prevailing, emasculated zeitgeist that you helped create over the last couple of decades, why not take a refreshing, even rebellious stance in defense of a more traditional masculinity? Why not revive the grown-up, classic, manly look of yesteryear as exemplified by the style icons of their day: Cary Grant, Paul Newman, or the scruffy King of Cool, Steve McQueen?

In other words, GQ, imagine what a bold, countercultural gesture it would be if you announced that the “new masculinity” is actually the old masculinity.

Image credit: Marko Milivojevic, CC0

ITO

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  • Avatar
    Rick Besecke
    November 21, 2022, 11:53 pm

    I’ll simply say that I totally agree, and leave it at that. Saying anything else would be counter-productive.

    REPLY
    • Avatar
      Annie Duke@Rick Besecke
      November 23, 2022, 12:06 am

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  • Avatar
    James
    November 22, 2022, 1:02 am

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31299692/

    Sadly, we are past the point of no return….

    REPLY
  • Avatar
    Mark Reed
    November 22, 2022, 1:16 am

    Wonderfully relevant commentary. As this country continues its toxic slide into amorality, the now popular contemporary cultural evisceration of what it means to be a man is perhaps evil number one. Our children are taught in elementary school that they are free to change their gender while keeping parents totally in the dark. This is Marxist doctrine at its most fundamental. Destroy the family, seize control of children’s minds, and usher in what will certainly be a totalitarian nightmare.

    REPLY
  • Avatar
    Kalikiano Kalei
    November 22, 2022, 1:22 am

    Bravo, Mark! Square on target. Whole books, let alone dozens of papers, have been written on this volatile subject, but your main points are well-articulated and well-taken. Anyone daring to argue this to the contrary would be hard pressed to validate the argument that traditional masculinity is not today a prime candidate for the ‘threatened species’ category of wild beasts.

    As was recently pointed out by Jeff Minick (in a separate, recent article), ‘traditional manhood’, as it exists in America at least, is foundering and drowning in the toxic brew that is ‘woke’ social consciousness (in which conservative traditional manhood is being subsumed by feminism, and in which small, disparate, fragmented elements of society are elevated to the status of cultural idols).

    Is this in part perhaps because today’s male youths are so terrified by their own gender uncertainties as to what it means to be ‘a real man’, due to constant attack by shrill-voiced harpies who secretly wish they were born men instead of biological females?

    Is it because so many of today’s young men lack strong, positive and benevolent male mentors who can inculcate in them an awareness of what it is to be manly, principled, courageous and decisive (yet wise, morally generous and maturely balanced)?

    Is it attributable to the immense sums of corporate money spent on pushing virtue-signaling fads that socially and politically emasculate any ‘male’ who dares to stand up and say ‘enough’ to the moral degenerates who command the central circus spotlight of ‘woke social consciousness’?

    There are many causative factors at work here, and GQ Magazine, in pandering to all of this gender uncertainty and confusion (and always has, for that matter), is, as you point out, one of the worst adverse influencers.

    ‘Fashion’, per se, is a superficially hollow, highly narcissistic nuance of status-seeking peer behavior, but when fashion prostrates itself at the foot of callow, uncertain youthfulness, it’s merely another example of the worst aspects of ‘social media’ peer-review processes coming to the fore in what is largely crass, commercial exploitation.

    Of course, youth and ignorant adults (the so-called arrested juveniles among us who never quite matured themselves) are terrible models to emulate by any society at large and the shameless pandering that is done by mega-monied interests, playing exclusively to that group of individuals, is motivated principally by unconscionable, corporate profiteering aimed at mercilessly exploiting this ignorance.

    As for ‘male style and fashion’, the very best norms to champion would be a return to acceptance of the basic fact that, biologically speaking, ‘men are men, women are women, and anything else is freakish and unnatural.’ That isn’t to say that individuals shouldn’t be allowed to pursue whatever fantasy gets them through the dark night of the human experience…be it natural or unnatural…but let’s stop encouraging a small but shrilly vocal minority to demand the femininization of masculinity (and vice versa), and let’s declare an immediate moratorium on the fantastical, unnatural nonsense that would have EVERYONE in America accept this illogical, perversely unrealistic claptrap as reality.

    REPLY
    • Avatar
      Ross@Kalikiano Kalei
      November 22, 2022, 6:14 pm

      Well said!

      REPLY
    • Avatar
      Ronnyooo @Kalikiano Kalei
      November 23, 2022, 5:25 pm

      Well said!
      You may now dismiss any political asperations you may have had for speaking truth. Pilot: "what is truth?"

      REPLY
  • Avatar
    lynn
    November 22, 2022, 1:37 am

    GQ has no longer been the classy men’s magazine, that it once was. It has become a WOKE rag!

    REPLY

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