Sunday, October 13, 2013

Why I'm tired of hearing about "body image"

The internet is full of positive body image literature. I recently ran across this one and it got me to thinking.

Why is this a women's-only issue?

To be clear, it's not a women's-only issue. It's just spun that way. The most of the body-pride crowd and many feminists argue the issue in a way that you'd think it's only women that are victimized by over-sexualization and physical perfection.

This is nonsense. Watch any modern romantic comedy or TV show aimed at women (Grey's Anatomy, for example) and you can see proof that women aren't alone when it comes to being sexualized, objectified, and held up to a standard of physical perfection.

It is common to hear women fawning over their favorite movie stars and musicians. Men are expected to keep their own thoughts on movie stars and musicians to themselves. "Do as I say, not as I do" is no way to rectify a problem.

In fact, I would argue that body image issues in the modern day are in some ways worse for men. I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out: who would a man talk to if he has a body image issue?

The internet is full of positive body image resources for women, but they are few and far between for men.

Are you going to go talk to your buddies about it? Unlikely. For that matter, I don't think many women talk to their friends about it either. Too close for comfort, perhaps.

Would you talk to your girlfriend? Ah, here we go. Let me relay, from personal experience, how that conversation would go:

  •  Boyfriend--I need to lose weight. I look and feel like garbage.
  • Girlfriend--Oh, babe, don't be crazy! I love your little gut and love handles! They're cute!
Now imagine how that conversation would go if the roles were reversed. I don't think I need to type all the profanity and verbal threats that would ensure for you to get the gist of what would happen.

Why is it okay for men to feel like crap, but for women to be treated delicately?

In short, it's not.

If the answer for a man is "Eat better and exercise more" then that's the same answer for women, too. We're doing a great disservice by allowing people on the margins an "out" by rationalizing poor health choices. "Love your body" is great unless you are one of the people who has an actual weight problem and need to lose weight to be healthy. Healthy doesn't mean "thin" but it also doesn't mean "fat".

If you're fat, like me, you need to take off the kiddie gloves and own it: I hate exercise and I love food and I'll die sooner than necessary but that's worth it to me. I can respect that. But when you're living an unhealthy lifestyle and using positive body image propaganda to rationalize your poor choices and be in denial about your health, I can't respect that. You are fooling yourself and hurting yourself in the process. You don't need to talk to a doctor to know that's not a good thing.

Eat healthy and exercise and feel better, or continue your ways and own it. Pick one. But don't keep pissing on yourself and telling yourself it's raining. And don't expect to be treated with kiddie gloves on the sensitive issue of body image if you're not going to do the same for the men in your life. Believe it or not, a lot of us suffer from the same insecurities as you. The difference is that it's okay for women to talk about it and lean on one another, but we men are all stranded on our own islands feeling less-than.

If your goal is to be treated equally, the way to accomplish that is not by imposing a double-standard or demanding special treatment. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, the Golden Rule, and so forth. We all know these principles from the age of preschool, but we tend to lose sight of them when we get older.

"Treat others the way you want to be treated." It really is that simple.