The Dad Bod enjoyed a flutter with fame this past fortnight.
In case you missed it, a "Dad Bod" refers to a body that is a bit squashy, a bit droopy and a bit middle aged. It's the opposite of the ripped bod. (That's the body type aspired to by male 20-something gym bunnies; it's muscly, shiny and as hard as plastic.) Over the last few days, we've had men coming out and embracing their floppy bits. Today, these guys say, we think saggy is sexy.
Except do we? If these guys feel it's necessary to do some PR for pudge, it suggests that they feel the Dad Bod is under attack. To me, furiously flying the flag for flab says that men feel increasingly pressurised to be ripped, and that they are trying to reject it.
I can see why they'd feel panicked.
Yes, there has been an increasing pressure for men to be muscly for some time now. But never has it been so pervasive and so popular as among my generation.
If you're about 40-ish, lifting probably isn't so popular in your generation. But it's common for men in their 30s, and even more so for men in their 20s. The changing shape of James Bond charts the rise of hyper-masculinity. Sean Connery was toned but not muscly. But Daniel Craig makes Action Man look weedy. My generation's image of ideal masculinity is pumped up on more steroids than a takeaway chicken.
I've been asking all my male friends, slipping it into conversations with men in bars, and collaring unsuspecting dudes over the tomatoes in Pak'n Save. About half of the men I've talked to are actively gym-ing and even more have gym-ed at some point in their life. It's everywhere. Even our Bachelor, arguably the symbol for modern mainstream masculinity, was on the paleo diet (that's your classic lifting diet.) The lifting cult has its own food (paleo, protein shakes ... ) its own language (clean bulk, leg day ... ) and its own gods (Dwayne Johnson, Hugh Jackman ... ) But guys, please. For Christ's sake, don't do this! Stop! Halt! Nyet! Nein! No!
The constant working out, the worrying over your appearance, the obsessing over your diet, tying your self-esteem to your appearance ... doesn't this sound familiar?
This is exactly what the objectification of women feels like.
Our society has been shaping, controlling and generally messing up the bodies of women for ... well, forever. It's made women pretty damn good at recognising the signs of when you're being pummelled by damaging gender stereotypes. But now we're doing this to men, too?
For God's sake, we don't need any more of this!
When we emphasise this image of the ideal mega-ripped man, we are saying any man who is not pumped full of hormones is not a real man.
This means that proving your masculinity, which is a large part of your self-confidence, becomes tied to having a certain appearance. As a friend of mine said, "All the guys I know who gym, unless they're like rugby players, do it because they were real skinny or fat and were super self-conscious about it."
As a young woman, I'm constantly tying my appearance to my self-worth. And it is exhausting. You have to maintain an appearance constantly otherwise you lack the confidence to do ... well, anything.
That's not even the scary part. The scary part is what sexism does to our relationships with other women. To quote the great sage of our age, Drake, "You don't do it for men, men never notice." It's true. I'm fairly certain the only thing men notice about my appearance is whether I'm clothed or unclothed.
But women? Oh no. When I'm going out, I'm dressing to impress other women. Will I pass? Will they approve? Will they even notice?
I know they will critique me because I critique them. I, a fully signed-up feminist, meet women and think, "Why are you wearing beige? You look a bit like a biscuit." Or, "oh God, you're way hotter than me. I hope you're a bitch. You're not allowed to be hot and nice."
Why can't I just meet them and explore their personality? They could be smart, kind, and amazing at balloon modelling.
Yet I'm hung up on their hotness. The approach misses all of an individual's brilliance and can alienate people who should get along wonderfully.
This is what happens when you start judging yourself by appearances. Do you want this to happen to you guys? Really? Because it's superficial, dehumanising and makes you feel like a massive bitch.
Women have been suffering under oppressive gender stereotypes for God knows how long. Now it's getting worse for guys. Run while you can.