Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Gentlewoman in a world of Fantastic Men...

I am intrigued by this cover of The Gentlewoman issue n*0 . Does it mean a real gentlewoman can work out her muscles, just by figuring out how to gracefully lift her glamourous clutch? Interesting...
If you are already a reader of the fantastic Dutch man's magazine, you will know that the 10th issue of FANTASTIC MAN offers "an exclusive preview of THE GENTLEWOMAN, an upcoming new title from the makers of FANTASTIC MAN", if not, now you know.
FANTASTIC MAN, created five years ago, is the brainchild of designer Jop van Bennekom and journalist Gert Jonkers. FYI, Bennekom has also published Re-Magazine and Butt Magazine.
FANTASTIC MAN has been destined for a male audience (although, not exclusively I guess, as I've enjoyed the read immensely this last year and a half!..), but now comes along THE GENTLEWOMAN, a new biannual style magazine for women, which will launch in March 2010.
I decided to have a look closer at that word, because my very first impression, I admit, was one of frustration...I felt a bit jealous, or BAFFLED by the use of such a politically correct adjective: gentle. It did not sound as heroic as its male equivalent. So I looked up the definition for the word gentlewoman and found...

Gentlewoman's Waistcoat - 1950 Vintage Knitting Pattern- Splendid!
...in Wikipedia:
"A gentlewoman (from the Latin gentilis, belonging to a gens, and English 'woman') in the original and strict sense is a woman of good family, analogous to the Latin generosus and generosa. The closely related English word "gentry" derives from the Old French genterise, gentelise, with much of the meaning of the French noblesse and the German Adelheit, but without the strict technical requirements of those traditions, such as quarters of nobility."
Portrait of a Gentle Woman, by Correggio (Antonio Allegri), 1517. The Hermitage, St Petersburg.

...and in the Merriam-Webster online search dictionary:
Function: noun
Date: 13th century
By association with gentleman, the word can refer to:
1. a : a woman of noble or gentle birth, b : a woman who is an attendant upon a lady of rank.
2 : a woman of refined manners or good breeding : lady.

All right that sounds pretty fantastic to me! And yet, there still was this vague, lingering impression, hovering in the back of my mind, and making me feel that a Gentlewoman was not a status half as enviable as that of a Fantastic Man.
FANTASTIC MAN & THE GENTLEWOMAN. I guess I expected something...else, or perhaps, just as many suggested, FANTASTIC WOMAN. But that would have been too easy, I reckon. I understand why they had to go for the exact opposite in the staple ingredients and layout, in order to mark the difference. So I won't blame them too long if my woman's feelings have been hurt a bit in the naming process- Don't worry, I will recover and, anyway, imagine two FANTASTIC people on the same boat, that might have sounded a bit too ridiculous! The US Fantastic Four Marvel Comics Inc., one of my cousins' favourites when we were kids, might not have liked it, either. See if FANTASTIC MAN & FANTASTIC WOMAN had had two FANTASTIC KIDDIES, that would have been it; totally unfair competition to the super-heroic comics, not a good idea! However, and if I let my imagination go wild, I can easily fantasize a Hollywoodian blockbuster film based on the lifestyle of our FANTASTIC FOUR, showing us the private and public spheres of a refined family, posing in their Amsterdam, London, Paris and New York pieds-à-terre...

Oh, and also, I was a bit annoyed to see that any man interviewed for FANTASTIC MAN is referred to as Mr. FIRSTANDLASTNAMES , always capitalized in Times New Roman uppercase; whereas, the ladies are just named after their first names.
Melanie Ward is the first gentlewoman to be featured, with an interview by Cathy Horyn and beautiful pictures by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin.

That sounds a bit funny to me. But here again, they certainly wanted to change their system, and inject new ideas, new blood. I know, I know. They mean well, they probably just want it to sound more enigmatic, more intimate. And one last remark, if I may daresay, about the title, The Gentlewoman. It looks like it will be printed in extra bold, lower case Futura font, no capital letters, again for a change. I know the font is more 'forward-thinking' (as my dear husband, Marco, would say), compared to the extremely traditional, irrefutably classical Times New Roman font used for the gentlemen,of FANTASTIC MAN; so it might well be a change for the better.
Last but not least, WHY The Gentlewoman as a title? Finally, Marco, who knows everything and more in the field of graphic design and magazines, told me: "the title is most probably a reference to the stylish eponymous 1930s magazine, The Gentlewoman...The Home Magazine."
The Gentlewoman Magazine- December, 1930
A reader of the Gentlewoman magazine at home, in the 1930s.

I guess I will learn to like this title, I know I will. Will I like its content as much as I do for its male counterpart? Time will tell. For your information, the sample stories of issue n*0 of THE GENTLEWOMAN that were featured in FANTASTIC MAN'S 10th issue included a spread on cone bras...

...and an article about "the power of napping". Nice! I am a believer in the virtues of napping, not so much though in the cone bras' bombshell look; even if my addiction to the show Mad Men might incite me to wear some, one of these days, sooner or...later. I did enjoy most of that preview of the Gentlewoman's issue n*0. I have no doubt that the gentle ladies will feast on it.
The main actors of Mad Men, all styled like in the 1960s
To recapitulate, I was first baffled by this title; it sounded a bit too understated and homely to be truly gripping. But it's OK, this gentlewomanhood seems to have a plethora of twists and turns awaiting us in each of its pages. Gently but firmly poking our brain. I like this.
This being said, I love my FANTASTIC MAN, and I know he will not let his girlfriend down. THE GENTLEWOMAN will certainly again offer us journalism of the highest quality, compiled with original thoughts in its writing, photography and design. No offense taken, really!
And you know what? At the end of the day, I think the gentlewoman is a rather debonair title...Looking forward to the first issue!

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