image source: hellopoe’s flickr photostream
This week for class we’re reading about “lad culture” and masculinity. The first reading is the introduction from a 2003 book called Masculinity and Men’s Lifestyle Magazines, which explores the way men’s magazines articulate masculinity, and the way they negotiate and contribute to modern gender politics.
It’s an interesting read and I think the students will get into it. I’m not an expert in masculinity studies, but from my understanding, it’s a burgeoning branch of gender studies that is largely feminist and draws on recent gender, feminist and queer theory to interrogate masculinity in today’s society.
In this sense, masculinity studies overlaps quite a bit with my research interests in postfeminism. Both are focused on an examination of gender and a negotiation with feminist politics and discourses. (Please jump in with a comment if you would like to elaborate on what “masculinity studies” means. I think it differs quite substantially from the worrying anti-femnism of some of the “men’s rights” politics, although I suppose there are some connections to those discourses. None of these things happen in a vacuum.)
So, anyway, because the reading is about men’s magazines, I thought it a good excuse to buy myself one. I haven’t looked at one for years. I used to occasionally pick up Ralph or FHM for a laugh. Or I’d peruse copies that flatmates had left around the house. I find them pretty entertaining on the whole. I suppose I’m half caught-up in moments of “OMG! That’s, like, so sexist!”, while simultaneously appreciating some of the humour and silly bloke-ishness of them.
(Incidentally, is ‘bloke’ a useful replacement for ‘lad’ in the Australian context? “Lad” seems to me to be a very British term.)
This afternoon I visited my local newsagent to hunt down an FHM or a Ralph or a Loaded (the latter being the mag most mentioned in the academic chapter I’d been reading). It took me a moment to find them. Women’s lifestyle magazines take up a huge section of the shelving. Next to them were the bridal magazines, and then a massive section of pink, which turned out to be crafting+quilting mags. Then, fishing mags and car mags. Ah ha! I must be getting closer, I thought. Blokey things like hunting and fast-moving machines. Newsagents’ shelves are gender-stereotypes in action!
But nope, still no “men’s magazines” as such. I turned the corner to look at the second long shelf. Photography mags, sports mags, fitness mags. And then I remembered where the men’s lifestyle mags are always shelved. They’re in the sealed magazines section! Among the Hustlers and the Playboys and the other titles I couldn’t quite read because there were more boobs than words on the cover, I finally found the magazines I was after. I settled on this month’s Ralph.
It has a bikini-clad women on the front. To be expected. In fact, it has twelve bikini-clad women. But I chose it because alongside the “sexiest star” and “hottest bikini models” headlines, it also includes:
* diary of a male stripper.
* the 100 biggest wankers of the year (and when I flicked open the mag, the first ‘wanker’ pictured was Tony Abbott).
* boozing with an Underbelly bloke.
Surely all these things will stimulate some interesting class discussion about how these magazines are constructing masculinity, I thought to myself.
After spending far too long browsing the front covers of the mags in the porn section, I decided it was time to make my selection and get out of there.
The owner of the newsagent kind of knows me, in that I buy the paper there fairly regularly. He also knows I’m some kind of teacher because I said something about “my students” last week when I was buying three different kinds of newspapers for their coverage of the Budget.
As I approached the counter I wondered what I might say if he asked me why I was buying Ralph – although I didn’t really expect him to say anything. Somehow I didn’t think “I’m getting this for my students” would sound convincing. I hand over my change. As he passes the magazine back to me, he looks at me quizzically and says, “Is this for you?”. I laugh and tell him half-seriously that it’s for research. And we both laugh. “Ah, I know, that’s what they all say!”, I continue, and we both laugh again as I head out the door clutching my magazine.
I may as well have said I was buying it for the articles.