The New York Times has an article today about the shrinking of the male fashion model. Apparently, instead of aspiring to Tyson Beckford or Brad Pitt in Troy bulkiness, male models must now take after their female counterparts, staying just as tall but getting thinner and thinner. Now, as we all know, it is basically impossible for one individual to move from one body type to another (Christian Bale aside), so there is a legitimate concern here that, as female models often do, male models may be pressured to use dangerous weight-loss tactics in order to gain some kind of job security.
Now, this is a legitimate concern, and the article raises some interesting questions. But this is an article about models, so someone’s body has to be described in disgusted, horrified terms. Otherwise, how would we know which bodies are good and others are bad?! We might all, I don’t know, try to accept the kind of bodies we already have! We can’t have that, even among men who are considered handsome enough to be models, because check it out — they’re, like, so skinny! Ew!
I know for a fact that I’m extra -sensitive to the skinny-dude bashing, because I happen to have a male partner who (apparently) has near-model proportions (6’1″, 155, with, incidentally, a “normal” BMI of 20.4 — funny that the NYT writes an article about how dangerously skinny men are with a normal BMI, whereas female models have to literally starve before the mainstream media get talking… but that’s for another post, I suppose). It can be hard for him to find clothes that fit, because men’s clothes are often structured under the assumption that you’ve got a beefcake chest and not-too-short, not-too-long arms (as I’m sure many Shapelings of various sizes know). Anyway, what I’m trying to say is I’ve got this skinny guy who I think is damn sexy, and we eat a lot of the same meals and get similar amounts of exercise, and, apart from the fact that he could be a model and I couldn’t, he’s got the kind of body being described in this article.
The kind of body being described like this:
thin to the point of resembling stick figures
the man of the moment is an urchin, a wraith or an underfed runt
even those inured to the new look were flabbergasted at the sheer quantity of guys who looked chicken-chested, hollow-cheeked and undernourished
all anyone wanted to cast was the scrawny kid who looked like he got sand kicked in his face
“At that point you might as well save money and just go over to the boy’s department,”
“No one wants a beautiful women or a beautiful man anymore.”
“People are afraid to look over 21 or make any statement of what it means to be adult,”
men whose bodies were suited to a scarecrow silhouette
the designers are not looking for a male image anymore. They’re looking for some kind of androgyne.”
Got it? These are not men, let alone beautiful men: they’re androgynes, little boys, scarecrows, runts — stick figures, not even human. You could beat them up, unless of course you are skinny yourself, in which case you can expect some sand kicked in your face any day now.
How are men supposed to look, I wonder?
a buff 6-footer with six-pack abs
movie star looks and porn star physiques
The big, great looking models
Male Shapelings, I hope you’re paying attention. Don’t be fat, but for god’s sake don’t be skinny. Great-looking men look like porn stars. If you happen to be fat or skinny, well, you’re not a man at all.
There are a lot of cultural forces at play here, obviously — there’s a clear undercurrent of misogyny in this article’s disgust at “androgynous” men, who are all skinny (like women are supposed to be). There’s basically the whole homosocial spectrum being enacted: we like huge, buff, manly guys (but we don’t like them like them) and we hate guys who might be a little faggy. There’s also the sense that it’s just! not! fair! that men have to be put through the same pressures that women go through (which it isn’t, of course, but why not try to eliminate body image pressures for everyone?). And of course, despite all that, there’s a glamorization of the world of models and the lengths that people have to go to to look the way they do.
I am just so sick of this shit. When members of the mainstream media write on obesity, eating disorders, body image, and the like by serving up a heaping pile of shame with the news, they are complicit in the problem they pretend to be reporting. We need a language for our bodies that is not shot through with hatred. We need to check the spread of shame and self-hatred, not spread it to an ever-widening range of “imperfect” bodies.
Attention, skinny guys: welcome to the world of outlawed bodies. Our doors are always open, and we’ve got the best donuts.