GQ goes woke

October 23, 2019 • 11:00 am

We are still under curfew in Valparaiso, though I’ll go wandering about soon. But police with automatic weapons and full regalia are patrolling the streets, and it’s a bit scary.

Below is an op-ed in the New York Times (click on screenshot) about the latest issue of GQ (formerly Gentlemen’s Quarterly), featuring Pharrell Williams on the cover in a “down gown” and orange hair. The magazine’s topic is “The New Masculinity”, which apparently means “a masculinity in which men are feminized.” The author of the NYT piece is Matt Labash, author and (of course) conservative.

It’s a pretty funny piece, and I agree with a lot of it: GQ is trying to erase “toxic masculiinity” (which often just means “masculinity”) by erasing the distinction between the sexes, a lot of which, in my view, is based on biology. A few quotes:

For those curious to see just how much American masculinity is shifting — at least at Condé Nast headquarters in Manhattan — the trouble starts on the cover, in which the singer Pharrell Williams sports a canary-yellow, high-fashion Moncler sleeping-bag-as-gown, looking like Cinderella going to the Dick’s Sporting Goods ball. From there, “The Glorious Now of Men in Makeup” spread is little surprise, with lacquered-up boy-banders, models and influencers dispensing invaluable beauty pointers, such as Gen Z trans model Casil McArthur, who advises going with “mascara and lip tint. If I want to be extra, I’ll incorporate intense sparkles.”

. . .The bulk of GQ’s conversation starter is a package in which “18 powerful voices” have their say on the new masculinity. You’d think this would make for an interesting cross-section of representative men, but there, you’d largely be wrong, since traditional men seem afterthoughts in their own discussion. As the writer Rod Dreher has noted in his own analysis of the GQ spread, scratching out some back-of-the-envelope calculations, of these 18 purportedly definitive figures, “there are perhaps four who are heterosexual [cis] men — about 20 percent.” (Even though 95 percent of all males identify as hetero.)

Aside from the views of men like the filmmaker John Waters (“men are the ones who have penis envy”), or Magic Johnson’s son, who has chosen a life “embracing traditionally feminine clothing and cosmetics,” GQ seems primarily interested in soliciting women’s opinions of what being a man means. Imagine Ms. or Jezebel doing the mirror version of this, with men mansplaining what women should be. Then run for your life.

. . . Why keep fuzzing distinctions that for millenniums have resisted fuzzing? Punish the sex criminals and pelvic pinball wizards. Good riddance to them all. But otherwise, let men and women be men and women, however that appropriately breaks, without laboring so hard to fuse them. Maybe our opposites attracting, which the furtherance of our species has depended on, isn’t a design flaw, but its very essence. And maybe the wokerati ought to take their own most oft-repeated cliché to heart: Our diversity is our strength.

(Note the slight evolutionary error: natural selection doesn’t act to perpetuate a species; it acts on genes and individuals to perpetuate the DNA replicators. That’s how the two sexes evolved and how the mutual attraction, based in many animals on male traits and female preference, also came about.)

Of course I object to men lacking empathy for women, harassing them, and making their lives miserable by dominating them or pushing them aside. There are “traditional” masculine traits that are outmoded (if they ever were “moded”), like assuming women should stay in the home, cooking and making babies. And I have no objections to men who want to dress or act more like women, or wear makeup, or become full transgender women.

But arguing that the “new man” should be like Pharrell Williams on the cover is too much for me. I’m not going to wear gowns, nor will I decry all the differences between men and women—nor admit that they’re strictly “socially constructed.”

To a larger extent than many think, the biological binary is not only real, but based on evolution (natural selection, of course, is a main reason for the “binary”, which maps as a bimodality of traits, not a complete continuum). That doesn’t mean that all sex differences in behavior are acceptable or moral, but it doesn’t mean that all such differences are reprehensible and worthy of effacement, either.

78 thoughts on “GQ goes woke

  1. GQ, “The Fashion Magazine For Men” – I’m subbed to their free newsletter so as to stay tuned to fashion trends, but it amazes me that the mag has survived this long given that the covers are dull & the text contents always forgettable. It entirely lacks wit of any stripe.

    Here is the one [almost] good cover I could find & it’s over 50 years old – yes that’s the wonderful Phyllis Diller being Phyllis. If you can find three GQ covers that make you smile in enjoyment, you’re doing better than me.

  2. I am suspicious of someone’s motives to be so different. Maybe they really are trying to get rid of toxic masculinity but maybe they are trying to create a new market to sell more clothes, show off their ability to be an influencer, get attention, see how far they can take a prank.

  3. ‘ I object to men lacking empathy for women, harassing them, and making their lives miserable by dominating them or pushing them aside. There are “traditional” masculine traits that are outmoded (if they ever were “moded”), like assuming women should stay in the home, cooking and making babies. ”

    In other words, you object to toxic masculinity.

    1. +1

      I’d also point out that the reason a big story is being made of this is probably because of Pharrell’s newfound contrition over his fuckwitted megasmash ‘Blurred Lines’, one of the most rancid, creepy songs of the modern era.

      Pharrell has suddenly decided it was a bit fucked up to write a pop singalong about the hinterland between dating and raping, and has thus denounced, or at least walked back, the views expressed in Blurred Lines.

      I’d imagine this is his attempt to shake off some of the icky cobwebs from his image and present himself as a new man.

      1. What has he done with the profits from the song? or future royalties?

        He is apologizing all the way to the bank..

    2. Expecting women to conform to traditional gender roles is not “toxic masculinity” but an affliction called ‘traditional conservatism’ that affects both men and women, and also expects traditional roles for men. I don’t like it either, but for every Christian patriarch, there is a concerned Evangelical mom.

      Harassment is harassment, and not “toxic masculinity”. It’s also not a male exclusive, either, as there are female stalkers and harassers as well. Another test: I never heard how harassment, if perpetrated by women, somehow makes them masculine. Pushing women to the side is violent or abusive behaviour, but violence against a partner is not something men typically do, is not looked up to, or taught. I wonder sometimes, like Noel Plum, if woke people live in their own bizarro universe where their descriptions of reality are actually true.

      Society at large does not value male harassers or abusers. Societies with patriarchalic structures are associated with Islam and southern countries (see Macho), and that’s one clue why “toxic masculinity” got this traction. It’s a kind of gerrymandering concept that seeks to include a collection of behaviours that are typically male (risk seeking, one-upmanship, violence, suppressing feelings), but excludes or downplays associations to so-called minorities.

      That means, it’s a concept that collects behaviors typically called chauvinism, sexism and machismo, but repackages them so that the stereotype is not a hispanic greaser, conservative muslim or black rapper.

      A good test for vapid wokisms is the Wikipedia article creation date. The Wokerati pretent it’s all “science” and settled and known forever. The typical extremely cocksure attitude is only surpassed by their histrionics and hostility, when someone questions their game. Toxic masculinity is from 2016.

      The first version cites prison(!) psychology and the psychiatrist Frank “Dr. Frank” Pittman is mentioned who said it’s a condition typically for men raised without a father. Another of the few sources is an Atlantic article, who took the term — and I actually laughed out loud reading it — Amanda Marcotte.

      Marcotte defines it as such:

      So, to be excruciatingly clear, toxic masculinity is a specific model of manhood, geared towards dominance and control. It’s a manhood that views women and LGBT people as inferior, sees sex as an act not of affection but domination, and which valorizes violence as the way to prove one’s self to the world.

      Fair enough, that exists, but the same problem as above, it’s just sexism, chauvinism or machismo. There are controlling, homophobe, transphobe women, too. And her definition is already at odds with the one out of prisons (where it is questionable, since honour culture and violence are a result of lawlessness inside prisons).

      It’s yet another stretch what any of this has to do with “mascara and lip-tint”.

      1. “Fair enough, that exists, but the same problem as above, it’s just sexism, chauvinism or machismo.”

        How is that a problem? So it’s a tautology – so what? Don’t see the problem there really.

        “Society at large does not value male harassers or abusers.”

        The current president of America has something like 26 separate accusations of sexual harassment against him. His support perpetually hovers around 40%.

        1. *”tautology” is not the correct word, technically speaking, but you get my meaning I think. Too lazy to re-do it.

        2. That’s not wrong, but Trump is hardly supported by 40% (your number) because society values sexual harassment and abuse so much, and he won the masses over, one abuse at a time.

          It’s rather the opposite. His awful behaviour did not sink him, and his supporters do not view his harassment as a criterion to rule him out. I also doubt that most of the 40% even know the list of accusations. They maybe heard of the pussy-grab tape, and ignored it.

          Also, you refer to the USA, a country governed by either right wing and far right wing administrations, and that never once had a peacetime president. The 40% are not “society” and their values are evidently not generally shared.

          1. Your quote was about valuing male _harassers._ Not valuing their behaviour. I agree that society doesn’t value their behaviour – at least not openly.

            But society quite clearly still manages to value the harassers, and the evidence is there in Trump’s popularity, which has not budged an inch regardless of how many new allegations come to light. There’s

            There’s a reason they sell ‘Trump That Bitch’ t-shirts at his rallies, and there’s a reason his female fans wear ‘Grab Me’ hot-pants.

            P.S. This is not some kind of attack specifically on the US. Humans are humans, wherever they live. This kind of douchebaggery exists in the UK too.

          2. Sure, ”douchebaggery” exists in the UK and elsewhere too, but would a high ranking official behave like Trump on a single day, they’d be forced to resign, twice. I also doubt that someone could get elected with the kind of scandals that surrounded Trump at the time already, and would still enjoy any approval after three years like Trump. That’s really truly American.

            In the US, a philanthropist Renaissance Man could compete against a bag of rabbit droppings, and it would still be a narrow race, and just might happen that rabbit droppings win the election. I think that’s unique in first world countries.

          3. Perhaps the people wearing those T-shirts have actually listened to the full “pussy-grab” recording, or read an actual transcript and understand that Trump never claimed that he routinely grabs women by the pussy. The whole affair was actually a bit of innocent banter with Trump acting more as the moderating voice resisting the other’s egging on than anything else. The press mis-transcribed a bit of the muffled dialogue to incriminate Trump and they’ve done everything they can to make the Trump as pussy grabber BS a fact. It’s a game played by the media now, especially on the Left. They twist someone’s actions into something sinister so as to make it seem as if their supporters have sinister motives. In the current climate I would pay no attention, unless I was a police detective, to the number of accusations of sexual assault. Sex crimes are the go to weapon of the Left now precisely because of the power of the accusation and the “listen and believe” ethos that prevails.

          4. Al:

            Perhaps the people wearing those T-shirts have actually listened to the full “pussy-grab” recording, or read an actual transcript and understand that Trump never claimed that he routinely grabs women by the pussy.

            And nobody here is claiming that Trump did so routinely.


            The whole affair was actually a bit of innocent banter with Trump acting more as the moderating voice resisting the other’s egging on than anything else

            Trump acting as “more as a moderating voice resisting [Billy Bushes] egging on” just isn’t accurate – please support that assertion.


            The press mis-transcribed a bit of the muffled dialogue to incriminate Trump and they’ve done everything they can to make the Trump as pussy grabber BS a fact

            There is indeed a short muffled section on the audio-video recording, how did “the press” mis-transcribe it & how does that incriminate Trump? In other words I’m asking you what words did “the press” claim he spoke which are muffled?

            Here’s a Youtube copy of the relevant recording [there’s a longer one on The Washington Post site that I can’t embed] – make a case out of your assertions Al using my linked video below or one that you provide instead:


  4. Question:

    Doesn’t natural selection operate only on the level of the organism?

    Its operation would be indirect on both genes as well as species. [In that individual organisms live/die or breed/don’t breed, not genes or species.]

    In other words, selection is based on phenotype, but which generally correlates with genotype.

    1. That’s an ongoing argument. However, models that assume that natural selection operates at the level of genes have been the most consistently successful, by a wide margin from what I understand. This gene-centric view is what Dawkins famously described in his book The Selfish Gene, said title being perhaps the most contentious metaphor in the history of writing.

  5. None of this stuff is new in the worlds of fashion and celebrity. More accepted these days, but not new at all.

    GQ is a fashion magazine and this is what’s fashionable today. More power to them.

    1. More power to them if more decide to change their fashion, but more importantly if this leads to fewer refuges for toxic masculinity.
      But I doubt either will perceptibly happen.
      I think every few years some leading-cutting-edge fashion designer puts out a new line of dresses for men. We see chiseled models man-marching down the runway in what is essentially a fancy kilt. Lots of buzz about how this can at last change mens’ fashion. And…then it is promptly forgotten.

      1. Some men have worn skirts/kilts/togas for centuries and others, such as men in the Middle East and East, have worn the equivalent of dresses. It has nothing to do with masculinity or femininity, insofar as I can see. Both sexes should be able to wear whatever is practical and comfortable. And, whatever makes them feel good.

        Back in the far distant past, despite doing work for which pants would have been far more modest than dresses, women were forced to wear dresses. When I was a teenager in high school and women could wear pants, as a good little evangelical Christian, I wasn’t permitted to wear pants with a zipper in the front because that was “men’s clothing”.

        As with other personal choices that shouldn’t adversely affect or offend anyone else, I will continue to wear whatever I want and not prescribe “appropriate” dress for any other human being.

        1. ‘ . . . I will continue to wear whatever I want and not prescribe “appropriate” dress for any other human being.’

          Concur. Will leave that to the NY Times Styles and Fashion editors as they pronounce from their sartorial Mount Olympus.

      2. And…then it is promptly forgotten.

        And thank goodness too! I’m probably too set in my ways to change to wearing dresses. Not to mention the costs of a whole new wardrobe. And shoes!

    2. I think the backlash against ‘woke’-ness could do with reining in some of its more fogeyish, sneering impulses, because it’s beginning to make people like me sympathise with the people it’s criticising.

      Not because I approve of political correctness, and not because I’m woke myself in any real way, but simply because the constant, grinding carping about it is often so disproportionate and so uncharitable.

      I really can’t see anything wrong with the GQ article, certainly nothing that would merit a long piece in the NYT(which I thought was ‘woke’ too? It gets confusing.).

      1. I agree. I’d add that being a white heterosexual male whose most active hobbies are motorcycling and lifting weights, I don’t feel that this article or anything in it is encroaching on traditional man-space in any way that bothers me in the slightest.

        Shit. I forgot about cooking. I like to cook. Kind of goes against my man-cred. Okay, okay. I cry at movies too. Forget what I’ve said, I’m obviously biased on this issue.

        1. I wore eyeliner at uni, that was about it in terms of my metrosexual leanings. But who gives a shit? Wear what you want as far as I’m concerned.

          I tear up at movies too, and books. Atonement, which I was dragged along to three times, was a particular problem for me.

          1. More like Kurt in the famous b+w poster shot.

            I love the Clockwork Orange design though.

          2. I preferred the film too. But the book also affected me, at much the same point as the film, ie. the end, where the narrator(Vanessa Redgrave in the film) reveals the truth.

            Any scene where someone stolidly faces up to some mind-scrambling regret will make me well up.

        1. I don’t skip the posts, even when I disagree. I don’t want to live in an echo chamber.

          And I wasn’t referring to anyone in particular. I was talking about the cumulative effect articles like the NYT one have on people like me.

  6. I cannot put my finger on when it happened, but at some point, god knows when and god knows how, the anti-SJW crowd – the self-pitying conservative types who feel the need to insert some dig about ‘diversity’ and ‘feminazis’ in every comment section – became more annoying than SJWs themselves.
    Even more impressively, they became more easily offended than SJWs too, and more ubiquitous too.

    “But otherwise, let men and women be men and women, however that appropriately breaks, without laboring so hard to fuse them.”

    …Which is what this GQ article seems to be doing. Where is the prescriptive element in the GQ article? Does the writer say men must start dressing like women? Or is this a strawman argument invented for the purposes of complaining about ‘woke’ culture?

    1. With the exception of generative functions essential for the continuation of the human race, I can think of no reasons for requiring
      men and women to dress or act in ways other than those they prefer and choose as individuals. There is no need I can think of for any of us to have to signal by dress, or other signs, our masculinity vs. femininity.

      1. “There is no need I can think of for any of us to have to signal by dress, or other signs, our masculinity vs. femininity.”

        At the risk of holding myself hostage to some kind of future Crying Game misunderstanding, yes, I thoroughly agree.

      2. I disagree. My observation and experience is that, without the proper signaling, an individual of either sex has little chance to perform the generative functions.
        Personally, even if I were single and desperate, I’d run miles away from any male exhibiting traits traditionally associated with femininity.
        There were above several comments in the sense, “What is wrong with the woke culture?”. I think that it interferes with reproduction, which is anyway difficult in advanced societies.

        1. “My observation and experience is that, without the proper signaling, an individual of either sex has little chance to perform the generative functions.”

          LOL! That’s a memorable way to put it.

          That makes me think of Pat, the androgynous Saturday Night Live character who makes people squirm with discomfort as they try to determine his/her gender. The unstated assumption is that most people are flummoxed by androgyny.

        2. As has been pointed out elsewhere, there seem to be enough differences in hair, body types, musculature, etc. to still be able to distinguish male from female.

          “I think that it interferes with reproduction, which is anyway difficult in advanced societies.”

          Although so-called western civilizations are not reproducing as much as they used to do, the rest of the world is over-reproducing to the point of adding greatly to the climate change disaster ahead of us. And, some religions and governments assist by not providing sex education, birth control, or permitting abortion for women with health issues or who have been raped. We are unable to feed and care for the world population we have now which adds to the immigration problems that are increasingly getting worse.
          If I were a millennial instead an elder well past my reproductive prime, I would do as many of them have done and either limit or have no children.

          1. Mos thoroughly agreed. The world does not need more people. In fact it needs less, urgently.


    2. Yes, because Anti-SJW was taken over by conservatives, drowned in Koch Bros money (see Dave Rubin) and at the same time, well-meaning people helped sanitise woke ideas, and toned them down, or sowed enough confusion that nobody knows exactly what many of the stuff even means. It’s now often bog-standard progressive slogans that were never really in dispute, at least not by the original Anti-SJWs. I know the situation extremely well.

      Ten years ago, the “Anti-SJW” in Racefail 09 merely disagreed about what can one write about, the woke viciously attacked for ”cultural appropriation”. Eight years ago, atheists did not dispute women’s rights, but disputed that one guy making a double entendre in a lift is not tantamount to “rape culture” and both sides agreed, but years out of sync, that there was much ado over nothing. Five years ago, a bulk of gamers launched a ”not your shield” hashtag, showcasing diversity among gamers, thereby at least showing that racism or sexism etc was not their motivation to go against the Woke journalists. Of course, those with the mightier pencils won, and that’s the influential Tumblr crowd, forged between postmodern literarily critique and slash fiction fandoms — the early adopters of social media, then sought-after clickbait journalists.

      Also, original woke critics on the left are now busy with PragerU, the Alt Right, Trump and so on.

      1. That sounds about right. I’m particularly depressed about the political schism that occurred in the atheist community. I stupidly assumed we were all very tolerant and liberal, and there would be no reactionary atheists at all. Got that one a bit wrong.

  7. “The Glorious Now of Men in Makeup”

    Ugh! I suspect it’s a plot to pressure men into buying more beauty products. Capitalism thrives by manufacturing demand for new products, and inevitably people find themselves with wants and needs they weren’t previously aware of. It’s bad enough that women feel obligated to buy expensive cosmetics, overpriced haircuts, and designer accessories; let’s not let men fall into the same trap. I’d rather spend my money on something more useful.

    While I’m at it: that gown worn by Pharrell Williams is totally impractical. How is he going to walk around the streets of L.A. without that thing dragging on the sidewalk?

    1. Agreed. I went with a #1 crewcut eventually and so I even cut out shampoo. Beauty products? You’ve got to be kidding.

      I seriously don’t even care for that in women. (I understand why they do, of course.) To me, it’s all: Phony. I don’t like phony. (Such as our current Prez of the USA.)

      I about fell out of my chair when I noticed that Peter Sagan was wearing makeup during the podium / media-scrum sessions of the TdF some years back.

      When was “high” fashion ever practical? 🙂

      1. If there was photography and filming going on that may have been the reason he was wearing make-up. I was filmed for possible airing on TV once and was given quite the make over. Felt like I was wearing a mask but I didn’t really look any different on camera.

    2. I have the pressure on women to use cosmetics. I have resisted it for many years, and until recently, I used no make-up except lip polish (pink to be lipstick substitute, but it is good for the lips – prevents cracking, and there are colorless varieties for men). Unfortunately, I started greying, and I am not brave enough to accept it. Men can proudly wear their grey hair, and nobody gives a damn.

      1. My wife is all-gray (or silver, perhaps), has been for years. But, yes, there is a lot of pressure on women to color their hair and “look young and beautiful!”

        More and more women where I work are going with gray.

        I feel like laughing (I’m afraid) whenever I see a couple walking in our neighborhood: The man is bald and/or completely gray, the woman has zero gray showing.

        I think gray hair probably had a survival value for early humans (if any got that old!): Marking out people who had lots of experience (hence, we young people can learn from them; let’s do that bit of extra work to help them along). Probably total bollocks of course; but I like to think about it.

      2. I, like you, use little to no makeup. Burt’s Bees products for the lips. Back in my long ago teenage years, it was Tangee, which changed color according to your skin tone. No bright scarlet stuff for me. No face or eye makeup.

        But, I laugh at myself when I remember that when I was a teenager, my parents didn’t want me to shave my legs or underarms. So, I borrowed my Dad’s razor without his knowledge…until the blade got dull and I was found out.

        And, I went to an evangelical Christian college for a year where the girls were forbidden to wear makeup. But some did anyway because they were more skillful at applying it to look natural. And many of the girls wore padded bras and girdles. Even “modest” religious girls wanted to look good for the guys.

        1. I’ve never worn makeup aside from lipstick and never dyed my hair but I must admit to a love of cool, colorful, unusual clothes. I never follow fashion but have been told that I have my own style. One of my pet peeves in current style is people feeling that they must have their jeans ripped, even at the opera. I have nothing against jeans that get that way naturally (and in casual situations), but to pay $100s for pre-rippe$ jeans and then think you’re hot stuff, I don’t think so. End of rant…

          1. pay $100s for pre-rippe$ jeans – good point.
            People lack patience. I remember when I was a kid my mom would sew or iron patches over holes in my jeans. Maybe 3 months of wear.

    3. Does anybody seriously think that men wearing makeup is remotely new?

      The Cure headlined Glastonbury this year, for Dawkins sake.

  8. Hey, Jerry, you love ducks! Why not try a yellow down gown like that? It would keep you nice and warm in Antarctica🤓

  9. Valparaiso is a neat city. Hope you have a chance to explore the narrow winding streets in the hills. Keep safe.

  10. I wonder how much ink has been spilled trying to send the message “don’t be a jerk. Follow the golden rule.”

    The outward symbolisms of wokeness also bother me for another reason: walking a mile in someone else’s shoes should be a mental exercise, not a literal prescription. It is a process of self-examination. If someone is doing it physically, it makes me suspect that they’re doing it instead of the mental exercise, and thus missing the point of the lesson entirely.

  11. GQ is meant to be fashionable and fluffy, so taking this article with a grain of salt. That said, I think the idea that fashion and negative manifestations of masculinity have much to do with each other is absurd on its face. Some of the first makeup was war paint. Some of the men behind colonization and slavery were, fashion-wise, absolutely effete and foppish by today’s standards. Good role models for young men have little to do with makeup and fashion.

  12. What strikes me as ironic here is that the article appears in “Gentleman’s Quarterly”.

    I was taught that a gentleman was a particular sort of person, in a way that goes well beyond manners or appearance.
    Most of the characteristics of what people claim is toxic masculinity are behaviors that a gentleman would simply not engage in.

    I guess in a larger sense, becoming a gentleman is a way to harness male behaviors, instincts and impulses, and express them in positive and controlled ways.
    Men who reject the concept or existence of masculine traits still have those impulses and instincts, but seem to lack the framework to address them in a positive manner.

    They are trying to run female software on a male device. It is likely to be buggy or even crash. Some guys have tended towards the feminine naturally. Some girls have masculine traits. But we are not really talking about those people. The GQ article is about what is coming into fashion, behaviors to be copied because that is what the in-crowd is doing.

    I think some of this is the result of many years of “grrl power” where, with the best of intentions, we have been doing everything possible to raise the self esteem of girls. But boys have been hearing that message as well. I think it is possible that many boys have misunderstood the point of it.

    1. Gentlemen’s Quarterly or GQ was launched in 1931 in the United States as Apparel Arts. It was a men’s fashion magazine for the clothing trade, aimed primarily at wholesale buyers & retail sellers. Gentlemen’s Quarterly was re-branded as GQ in 1967 & it’s not really a magazine about honour & manners, it’s about shifting product off shelves. [dates/names above from a Wiki]

      Being more general – I don’t recognise your characterisation of the gentleman or gentlemen you were taught to be – perhaps you’re not from the UK. For the last nearly 200 years [end of the Napoleonic Wars onwards say] it has signified a distinction of position, education & manners whereas earlier it was the description of a man, vile or holy – it doesn’t matter, without a title, who bears a coat of arms – a sort of middling chap who isn’t a lord or other titled personage.

      The modern version of gentleman [code of conduct] were as weird & variable in their habits & tastes as anybody – not unknown to indulge in a bit of humiliation & bondage & healthy buggering in the experimental years of their youth [at Eton & such places], before moving on to respectability & the occasional firing of maid servants who had the bad manners to get preggers via the Lord & Master [An Inspector Calls just about sums it all up – a remarkable three act play which takes place on one night in April 1912 – Edwardian London]. The UK government cabinet is infested with a wild bunch of “gentlemen” who went to the right schools & who break the rules as is their natural right.

      I don’t think the gentlemen you’re thinking of are any more historically real than the heroic, pistol shooting sheriffs & marshals myth – burnished by the dime novel, Hollywood & the convenient passage of time.

      Acting like a gentlemen is the distillation of a powerful myth & it isn’t fit for purpose as a notion, because it’s a code for only approx 50% of adults & the rules change with the years, some of those rules have entirely flipped, new rules drift in to focus & others die out – it’s often all a bit condescending to the other 50%. A look back at the various ‘dandified’ periods over the last two hundred years shows rivals to David Bowie happily & unremarkable prancing about the streets – kosher gentlemen with portfolio.

      It also seems like Dr. Jordan B. Peterson mythologising too – linking honourable behaviour to the male & the male role when really it’s qualities we all should aspire to irrespective of identity &/or chromosomes. 🙂

      1. I appreciate the information on the origin and history of the magazine. I am sort of disappointed in myself that I addressed the issue without doing that research myself.

        No, I am not in or from the UK, although I did attend a C.E. school for several years. But being a gentleman is a basic code of conduct that I was taught while growing up.

        I am certainly not referring to a person automatically conferred the title as a result of social status, wealth, or education. I was referring to the term in Steele’s sense- “the appellation of Gentleman is never to be affixed to a man’s circumstances, but to his behaviour in them.”

        I don’t concede that such people are imaginary, as I am descended from and live among a great many of them.

        But I absolutely get your point. I did not have aristocrats or upper class degenerates in mind when I wrote my comment. I do not consider such people to be gentlemen by the definition of the word that I was raised with, or to which I was referring.

        1. Cool. I still think being a gentleman in behaviour leaves the problem of what do you call correct, ideal behaviour from the other 50%? Isn’t it better today to ditch the concept of ‘gentlemanly conduct’ as opposed to a more neutral formulation such as ‘considerate conduct’ that 94%* [my estimate] of adult humans can get behind?

          * leaving out the sociopaths & grifters

          1. Well, I have to admit that conversations on WEIT certainly lead me to some measure of introspection.

            For one thing, my recall of the Eton quote was wrong. It was not about the Great War, but rather Waterloo.

            I would counter that although there is a large overlap between behaviors that could ideally be expected of men and women, there are intrinsic differences in the sexes. I think awareness of those differences leads to differences in how kids are best raised to be useful adults.

            To revert to my hardware/software analogy, even if the goal of both programs are to achieve similar outputs, the programs are written differently, appropriate for the intended hardware. Not a perfect analogy, but it sort of gets my point across. I think if we conducted “lord of the flies” experiments with groups of male and female child savages, they would result in different sorts of dystopias. I am confident that repeating that experiment would illuminate which savage traits in boys and girls are best eliminated through behavior modification. We might find, in retrospect, that those undesirable behaviors were actually addressed by traditional child rearing practices, before we discarded them in our desire to “reject the four olds!”

            And I don’t think the problem with the GQ article is just changes in fashion. There have always been times when fancy lads and dandies were trendy. I see a larger scale rejection of masculinity going on, driven primarily by people who don’t understand what healthy masculinity even is. Or I could be completely mistaken.

          2. I think it is inappropriate to distinguish masculine vs. feminine behavior by characterizing it as either “gentlemanly” or “ladylike”. One can’t help but notice the comparison of the common citizen with his/her so-called betters. I think that treating all people humanely, as you would want to be treated is still to be highly recommended.

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