Growing up in south central Indiana, I had one bookstore, a Borders, that I could walk to from my home. I was a pretty inquisitive kid growing up who had interests in everything, from historical nonfiction to comic books (Marvel > DC) to construction and carpentry to the history of rock and roll and heavy metal in America and Europe, so to me Borders was the place to be. It had everything. I could listen to old NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) albums, then thumb through a few cookbooks before making my way over to the new “Wolverine” collections before sitting down to see what Romantic literature I should check out next. I bought my first copies of Robinson Crusoe, Dracula, and Crime and Punishment at that Borders.
In relation to my previous column, this was a place, along with the other independent bookstores scattered throughout town (Borders was the only one I could get to sanz car), where you could find solitude and engage in independent thinking. It was that last glimpse of light before the internet assumed the role of the leading purveyor of the written word (and years before Borders Group, Inc. went belly up; contemporary seller Barnes & Noble is also planning on closing nearly 700 stores in the next decade [http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/01/barnes-noble-is-planning-to-close-stores.html]).
Today, we turn a lot of our attention to shorter writings that we can read on the go: magazines picked up from drug stores or through apps on our phones and e-readers,; short columns from our favorite websites that are merely compilations of parts from larger and more thorough pieces, maybe sprinkled the opinions of the person that piecemealed it all together; or by seeing what’s trending on Twitter. Which is all well and good – with some half-assed searching you can find some generally good writing out there (the people behind the app from http://offline-mag.com/ are doing some really nice work), so this is not to bemoan those who slave for months over longforms and investigative pieces or those that put genuine effot into their research and writing.
Instead I take exception with the types of writing that today are geared towards young men today. Take a look at a magazine rack during your next trip to the drugstore or through the airport and notice what kinds of magazines are geared towards men: cover pages with scantily clad women (or even magazines wrapped in plastic kept behind barriers to block their covers), magazines that feed into the stereotypical ideas of masculinity (GUNS! CARS! LIFTING BIG THINGS!), multiple offerings of sports magazines that all say the same thing, and, again, more scantily clad women. It’s the print version of SPIKE TV.
We pigeon-hole our thinking when we allow these forms of print to tell us what we should be interested in. When we buy these issues, we are reaffirming to their publishers that we want what they’re selling us, but all they’re selling is a distorted sense of who we really are as men. They play to primordial instincts, as if we are still so unrefined as to only be entertained by loud noises and buxom women.
The internet is the same way. Websites like the Barstool family, Total Frat Move, or even TheChive (for all the philanthropic good it does) perpetuate these ideals, this image that they want us to literally buy from them, that the things that should concern us are women deemed attractive by impossible standards, by humor and stories centred around partying, alcohol, and drug use, or by photo dumps deemed “epic” or “win” by their creators. Where is the real information? Where are the writings for actual men and not for what those editors “think” men should be?
Conor and I hoped that this space could be used to provide men (and women of course) a place to read things about what real men like, how they fit into society, how we compare to men of yesteryear and how can we can take that version of him and mold him to today’s world. But it’s those aforementioned mediums that are partially responsible for shaping the types of minds that hold us back. We’re not just gun-shooting, engine revving, women-ogling simpletons. We’re passionate, compassionate, diverse beings and I think our writing and reading should reflect that.