So there’s this website called The Art of Manliness, and I’m really of two minds about it. On a certain level, it’s damn near my lifestyle magazine, as they do approving articles on things I wear, do, and smell like. (Disclaimer: I do not use a safety razor, as suggested in that shaving article. I use a straight razor because I am either All Man, or out of my damn mind.) Their funny articles are often funny, their style articles reflect a classic aesthetic I like, and I happen to like their site design.
So why don’t I visit there more often? What about that place kinda bugs me?
The fact is, I’m not sure how much they’re kidding.
I’ve written before about why I dress the way I do, how I use the costume of old-fashioned male power as a fashion statement, a fun look that I feel good in. I wear a hat and a double-breasted jacket because I want to, not because I have to. And Art of Manliness has this continual, pervasive tone of prescriptivism, the idea that one should perform masculinity in this way not because it’s fun, but because it’s the only correct way.
Now, it’s always in this kinda-kidding tone, where it also sounds like they could just be recommending ties and chin-ups because they’re cool and fun. But then there’s that tone, the one that suggests they’re kidding on the square, that they really do think there’s a right and a wrong way to be a man, and that you, the reader, are almost certainly doing it wrong.
I’m on record all over the damn place that your gender identity is something you define for yourself, and perform in whatever way is fulfilling for you, personally. For me, that’s bay rum and pipe tobacco. For someone else, it’s a beard and a utilikilt. For someone else, it’s a skirt and a slide guitar. Doesn’t matter.
And ultimately, that’s what makes me uncomfortable with The Art of Manliness. I can’t shake the impression that they honestly do think it matters. If so, that’s kinda creepy.