Her name is Phoenix. We became friends in a smoke shop on 6th Avenue and 12th Street. She was on her way home, and I was on my way to class, when we reached for the same copy of GQ. The delicate fingers with painted nails beside mine startled me. We fell in friend-love with each other, two young women on a summer day, each with a bundle of men’s magazines turning clammy in our humid arms.
The newsstand has always been my favorite place, partly because my dad never discriminated against purchases there. I’d pile up my Flaunt’s and Nylon’s and I.D.’s, and he’d meet me at the register with his Details, GQ’s, the occasional Esquire, and a Hemming’s Motor News.
It was during my junior year of high school when I came across a black-and-white editorial of a man and woman in an issue of GQ, their arms wrapped around one another, the curve in her back and the arch in his ever so complementary. This is love, I remember thinking to myself then. I recalled the erroneous tale my dad enjoyed telling me, the one about men loving women in cotton underwear, sans makeup, women who were comfortable in their own skin. That wasn’t in Vogue or Elle, I’d quip. Those glossies were all women breaking their backs for beauty.
Fantastic Man is my favorite magazine – it’s so great that it makes the staple men’s publications look like little boys. Publishers Jop van Bennekom and Gert Jonkers just gave birth to Fantastic Man’s little sister, The Gentlewoman.
A riposte to the stable of women’s magazines who’ve played hostess all these years, the magazine welcomes genuine conversation that’s been swept under the rug far too long. What women think is something we’ve discovered through gender-neutral publications like Interview, where the beloved art of questioning has been preserved. But what of the women who aren’t “passive, cool women, women that dropped from the sky perfect?” asks Penny Martin, Editor-in-Chief of The Gentlewoman.
I shirk the notion that the women featured in this issue aren’t perfect, but we all know what Martin is talking about; the newsstand may be suffering, but what we need isn’t another model haven. The inaugural issue features the ribald illustrator Julie Verhoeven and the semantic-savant Jenny Holzer, two artists who’ve I longed to know more about for some time.
The essence of The Gentlewoman is very much the same as Fantastic Man – it is a magazine about women for everyone. And let’s not forget one tale. Behind every strong man is a stronger…person.
Phoenix is also a Martin. She and Penny aren’t related, but I think they’d enjoy bumping into each other.