This is the thesis of my critical project:
Semiotics, Post-structuralism, and Feminism, as theoretical frameworks capable of reading and revealing the implicit values concealed in the writing of the body, are the meta-hermeneutics to which we are indebted for the ability to advance the interrogation of the still dominant masculine discourse as it is being written by the narratives of insecurities, achievement, utility, and sexual expectations. The 20th and 21st centuries have witnessed the proliferation of the masculine discourses into realms, which in the recent past and still in the present, have privileged, and certainly negatively, the female body as it is located in the matrix of power relations, imposed upon and assimilated by capitalism, morality, utility and sexuality. The marketing and branding of the male body has grown in recent years as a result of the saturation of the discourses that define the female body as a consumer, sexually free, and financially independent. Cosmo, Elle, Good Housekeeping, and teen magazines like Seventeen, now have their masculine counterparts in periodicals such as Men’s Health, GQ, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, Playboy, Popular Mechanic, and Boy’s life. The dramatic magnification and inclusion of the male body by the systems of power and control that turn the sprockets of a capitalistic mechanism have inflated the language of inadequacy among men and women at such an alarming rate that it is now ascending and competing for equal status with the aesthetics, performances, and utility of the female body. Maintaining a language particular to the masculine ideal, but adopting the instruments of distortion that have proven successful in exploiting the female body to the ends of the surrender of capital, submission to various forms of cosmetic shaming, imperfection, and augmentation, and the subjugation of an ideal feminine sexuality, the men’s magazine has become a significant discourse in the writing of the male body, and thereby a critical component of the pathologies, myths, limitations, and expectations, plaguing the masculine discourse, simultaneously preying on a perpetuating the insecurities and inadequacies of men. That the apparent masculine ideals of muscularity, impeccable style, excessive grooming, extra-satisfactory sexual performance, and high economic status, are emphasized and expressed, disproportionally to reality, within the pages of popular men’s magazines, is evidence of an intentional distortion of the male body that circulates and manipulates the masculine discourse beyond the physical space the magazine once occupied. It is written on ads, films, locker rooms, performance enhancing products, power tools, automobiles, books, and the bodies it subsumes, including the female body, which it intends to bring under its control through chivalrous, relational, economic, and sexual dominance. The masculine discourse no longer announces its influence to the public; it is a secret discourse that conceals itself in the unexamined cultural norms and performances of the body. It continues to pervade the feminine discourse; and it writes itself on the body of boys and men, ignoring the effects of its consequences. The increased diagnosis of eating disorders among males, and the lack of treatment options or rehabilitation facilities for those in need of professional help, demonstrate the scale and speed of a masculine discourse that has interfered and gone undetected long enough, and has outran the systems capable of containing it. To subvert and expel such an extensive system of control we must de-construct it, and thereby assemble a realistic picture of its components and consequences. The intended result of such a difficult project: to strip the idealized masculine discourse of its power and position, and in its place construct a discourse capable of sustaining a healthier expression of individuated masculinity.