Friday, August 14, 2009

Male Bodies

So which of these male bodies do you find more attractive? According to the New York Times' Guy Trebay, it's becoming more and more prestigious for men to look like picture 2 rather than like picture 1. According to Trebay's article, "it's hip to be round" for a man.
Of course, different body types attract different people. What's curious about Trebay's article, however, is the ideological spin he puts on male potbellies. There are two main reasons why, according to Trebay, men don't favor having ripped bodies anymore. One is a dislike of President Obama and the qualities we associate with him. Men, says Trebay, "may be reacting in opposition to a president who is not only, as the press relentlessly reminds us, So Darn Smart, but also hits the gym every morning, has a conspicuously flat belly and, when not rescuing the economy or sparring with Kim Jong-il, shoots hoops."
Another reason for the alleged male cultivation of potbellies is a resistance to being seen as gay: "“I sort of think the six-pack abs obsession got so prissy it stopped being masculine,” is how Aaron Hicklin, the editor of Out, explains the emergence of the Ralph Kramden. What once seemed young and hot, for gay and straight men alike, now seems passé. Like manscaping, spray-on tans and other metrosexual affectations, having a belly one can bounce quarters off suggests that you may have too much time on your hands. “It’s not cool to be seen spending so much time fussing around about your body,” Mr. Hicklin said."
As we all know, a patriarchal society places the burden of chasing after an impossible standard of beauty on women. If we are seen as nothing more than a piece of meat, the best we can hope for is to be an attractive, always ready for consumption piece of meat. The idea of being judged according to the same standard often reduces men to a nearly hysterical state. The Washington Post's Mark Regnerus is a prime example of how far men would go to convince themselves that a wallet can more than make up for the lack of beauty and youth in a man. That's it, if you pay a woman enough, she will overlook your lack of physical attraction. Regnerus prefers to believe that there is some part of a female body that gets physically excited at the sight of a big wallet. (We all now that if there is something big we want in a man, it's something other than a wallet, but let's not stress Regnerus out too much.)
I would have really appreciated it if Trebay and Regnerus just honestly said that the contemporary standard of beauty is difficult for both men and women to maintain. That it's painful like hell to be ashamed of your body. That it's a waste of time and energy to chase after the images of beauty sold to us by the media on a daily basis. That it creates feelings of insecurity and promotes eating disorders.
Instead, these authors go to great lengths to convince themselves that they can somehow escape from the cruel demands of today's media-inspired standards of appearance. Even when the very existence of articles such as theirs betrays a profound angst at being judged solely on the basis of their looks.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Have you noticed how male Hollywood stars have put weight recently: John Travolta, Robert de Niro, Di Caprio, to name but a few? There is also that false consicousness some anorexic starlets expose about weigth. When asking what kind of man they prefer, these starlets often answer they like men with a little belly, or something like that. They seem to suggest that they are not obsessed with weigth, but in fact it is the opposite!

Now I don't know what to do with my skinniness anymore! Should I eat Big Macs to be more attractive and to herald standards of hetero-normativeness? But then, sporting a big belly would show my antagonism with Obama. Is that really what I want? What can I do!!!


Clarissa said...

Yes, showing solidarity with Obama is too important, especially at this juncture. :-) Besides, who wants to follow in the footsteps of Travolta? :-)

In a serious vein, though, you know that you of all people don't have to do anything to look great. Actually, I think your great appearance might be intimidating to many male employers who are afraid of the competition.

Life is tough for us, beautiful people. :-)

Anonymous said...

That used to be the feminists for whom personal was political... Now I have an identity crisis here. How can I consider myself a feminist if, upon looking at some female body, beautiful or otherwise, in some random situation, I never have my mind jump to thinking of Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton or Condoleezza Rice?.. :)
But I am afraid it will now... :( :(

Clarissa said...

I was so tired last night that I dreamt of Hillary Clinton all night long. I dreamt that she came to my place and kept complaining about Bill and bragging about her accomplishments for hours. Of course, I'd much rather have dreamt of naked male bodies, but not this time. :-)