It was only a matter of time before the unfortunate term “Brotox” became a cultural catchphrase. This lovely new concept was broadly introduced to the nation on Good Morning America this week in a story about the spike in new clientele for cosmetic surgery: men.
So, it looks like the once gender-uneven practice of sticking needles in your face to erase signs of wrinkles is slowly but surely becoming equal opportunity. This reveals of course, that men are sweating about all the things that are part of the road to Botox: their hair. Their weight. Their skin. Their eyebrows. Their age. Congratuations men. Welcome to body image hell.
On one level, it might be argued that this trend a good thing. After all, it mitigates the particular problem that these kinds of expensive treatments used to be a burden thrust primarily, unfairly, on women.
But is this really the direction in which we want beauty standards to be headed? It disturbs me that instead of a society that’s more tolerant of flab, wrinkles, hair and imperfections on all of us, regardless of age race and gender, we’re heading further in the Barbie and Ken direction.
In recent decades, women have been expected to be hairless, thin, ageless and so on in an increasingly frantic way. Meanwhile men could be greying, disheveled, slightly overweight, unkempt and still exist as sex symbols (look at Johnny Depp or any stringy-haired, bearded male rock star for a example of this). Naomi Wolf’s seminal book The Beauty Myth was a clarion call to recognize the dangerous sexism behind the beauty culture–unforgettably linking it with myriad other abuses of women, their commodification and dehumanization by society. Later Courtney Martin’s Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters linked physical perfectionism among a new generation of young women with emotional emptiness and crippling outside social pressures. The spreading of that toxic culture to men is alarming.