Gays and Straights and Everyone Else, Too

My response to a comment that my good friend Paul Sheldon made about my September 10 entry on GQ led me into some interesting waters, so I thought I would just make it today’s blog entry. 

Paul writes, “GQ is basically a fashion magazine and ‘read’ for the ads, not for the text.  I always heard that GQ stood for GayQueer, but that redirection does not change your basic premise (I agree).”

My response: Although I think some studies show that a higher percentage of gay men than straight men are interested in fashion it would still be wrong to dub a fashion magazine as “gay,” unless of course, the magazine’s stated audience were gay men (or the wider GLBT market); GQ has never done so.  Plenty of straight men, sometimes called metrosexuals, have a keen interest in high fashion style. 

In short, the remark is mildly homophobic.  I know Paul well and he definitely is not a homophobe, and in fact supports freedom of expression and lifestyle pursuit for all groups (except perhaps warmongers, if I can put words into Paul’s mouth).  I just feel I have to point it out, and hope that if I ever write anything even mildly homophobic, racist or sexist, that someone points it out to me.  

And yet, by interjecting the topic of a sub-group into the discussion of the “fashion as weltanschauung,” Paul makes me think a little more deeply about the pervasive issue of the use of the news media to commoditize the pursuit of happiness.

In fact, there are a large number of lifestyles for which there are magazines that indoctrinate men (and women) into the idea that by purchasing a certain set of products and services, you will be living this lifestyle and thereby achieve either general happiness or the sexual pleasure you seek.  Let’s see, there’s…country, motorcycle, grunge, several varieties of Christian lifestyles, sports, tech geek, fitness.  And let’s not forget Disney! 

So it’s not just what you choose that defines your existence and your relationship to others and to objects, it’s also what your attitude is to the all-encompassing cultural imperative to consume as the primary or only way to express or pursue your choices. 

By the way, I think the deep recession has affected U.S. consumption patterns far less than what the media is reporting.  Even with the cutbacks, those with jobs or abundant assets are still spending at levels that seem fantastically regal by even the elevated standards of western Europe.  To say that there has been a real turn in the attitude of Americans towards consumption since the recession began is a bit of ideological subtext meant to make us feel good and virtuous for our profligate ways.

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