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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Dylan Jones: men have never had it so good

While manxiety the portmanteau is easy to unpack – yes, we’re talking male anxiety – its exact definition is anything but. Loosely, it’s the general sense that men are left confused by their place in today’s world. Unlike our forefathers, who lived within rigid, patriarchal tramlines, today’s men are left to unpick a spaghetti junction of expectations. Breadwinning is no longer taken as standard; testosterone-driven behaviour has an Alpha toxicity; men are asked to show their emotions but still knock up an Ikea flat pack without so much as a swear word. Out of the melee comes manxiety.

If it’s a messy horizon, Jones is in as good a position to comment as anyone. The 56-year-old journalist has been involved with men's magazines for the best part of three decades and helmed GQ since 1999 – a period during which he’s commissioned enough zeitgeist thinkpieces and style guides to fill, well, a monthly magazine. From his vantage point, one of the primary issues with manxiety seems to be that it is nothing terribly new.

"I've worked in this field for a very, very long time and what it means to be a man is something you're always thinking about," says Jones, as he refills what looks to be a crystal whisky tumbler with water. “But we were far more worried about what it meant to be a man 20 or 30 years ago. I think men are more confident now, there’s less of a difference between us and women. In sexual relationships, men don’t need as much guidance, peer discussion. And women are less subservient. Sex is more balanced.”

From bedsheets to spreadsheets. Jones has seen the rise of the man as a consumer target over the past three decades – indeed, he’s had a front seat, with GQ writing for an increasingly self-aware reader. Men are now objects to look at and sell to, be it through advertising or culture. Jones terms this an “emancipation” – although he isn't blind to the flip side to consumer marketing, which can render as image pressure and empty materialism. “As men have become more targeted … they have become subject to the same complications that women have had forever.”

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