This is a comment by Keith Kappel on the post “The Biggest Bulges of 2012: Packing a Double Standard“.
Well, speaking as a guy, and a guy that used to be far from the ideal male body image (some 70 pounds overweight), I can tell you that this sort of thing does NOT impact men the same way it appears to impact women. I think there are a LOT of reasons for this, because yes, I agree, the objectification is the same thing. Men are just conditioned to react to this sort of thing differently.
First, lets take this backwards, to childhood. Whenever you talk about the female body image ideals and societal expectations, eventually Barbie gets brought into the discussion, so lets talk about boys toys, specifically superheroes. Comic books often catch criticism for putting women in revealing costumes with unrealistic proportions, but they do the same thing to the men. Over-muscled and clad in spandex head to toe, just about every image in your average superhero comic or cartoon is an objectified male form. Of course, we don’t call it that, we call it the “male power fantasy”.
We men love the “male power fantasy” so much, the entire action movie genre was created. The 80s were filled with muscle-bound shirtless men in “guy movies”, and you never heard a guy walk out saying the movie made him feel helpless or inferior. If anything, those movies, those images, despite the fact that the majority of men consuming that media could ever achieve a result like that without surgical assistance, come out of that experience fired up.
I don’t think men take it as, oh, women/society likes him because he has great abs/huge muscles/a huge package, I think men see stuff like that and say “Yeah, that guy has X going for him, good for him, he is being the best him that he can be. I want to be the best ME that I can be.
Basically, I think this comes down to self-esteem coping mechanisms, and I think men are just much better internally equipped in that regard, on average. Also, society gives men a LOT of options for attracting a woman. We believe we stand a good chance to attract a mate if we are any of the following: tall, handsome, hung, rich, talented, funny, have great hair, or are intelligent.
For women, the list would seem much shorter. They get told that being beautiful is the ONLY way to attract a man. Much more of their self-worth is tied to their appearance.
If a man KNOWS he is physically unattractive, and many of us DO know it, we will focus our attention on some other quality we possess from the above list. We don’t keep beating our self-esteems against the wall by trying to live up to what society says we should look like. We accept that we don’t, and either do our best to make changes, or accept that we don’t and never will, and focus on one of the other desirable qualities in a man.
I don’t think the solution to this problem is to somehow STOP objectifying women, or even to spend time drawing attention to the fact that doing that is wrong. The solution is to start emphasizing the other things women can bring to the table, and telling women that those things are just as valuable as beauty. The reason decrying objectification hasn’t worked, is because there aren’t any replacements for women’s self-worth.
Until you hear men say “well, I know she’s not all that pretty, but shes so smart/funny/talented that I find her very sexy anyway.”
Photo credit: Flickr / CarbonNYC