Dan Solomon follows up my post on D’Angelo and what happens to men when they find themselves treated like women with an important reminder that men talk about wanting to be objectified in a way that isn’t really supported by their behavior:
If they don’t put on a lot of weight, they do other things to mess with the way they look. They take on roles that reward them for looking unattractive, maybe, or they grow stupid beards, like Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp, if they’re able to let these things roll off their backs a bit. But it happens a lot, in any case, to men who are treated the way that women are — as objects, whose sexuality and appearance are public property…So much of the rhetoric from dudes who talk about the way women are objectified is that they’d love it if they were sexualized in the same way. And it sounds like a dumb hypothetical, something that has no real connection to reality, because there’s no real equivalence between the way society does (or even can) treat men and the way it treats women. Except, kinda, there is — and the way the men who do get treated that way tend to do whatever it takes to get out from under it. That’s probably worth considering, fellas, the next time you try to make that argument.
I don’t write about the way men’s bodies are portrayed in the media as much as I write about women, if only because women are treated so much worse. Women’s bodies are dressed up for others’ use, whether it’s to bring visual pleasure or physical pleasure to the people who see them or touch them. Men’s bodies are presented as being for their own use, as sources of strength they can use to save the world, to fight injustice, to perform feats that are impressive and valuable in their own right. Now, of course, there are all sorts of culturally conditioned ideal bodies: a skinny Jewish nerd’s dreaming his way into Superman’s body and Superman’s tights is having a different experience from a black man raised in the Pentecostal church who is grappling with the connection between body and soul. But I’m intrigued by those self-perceptions, varied though they may be. I’m used to the constant struggle to think of my body as something that belongs to me, but I’m not personally familiar with my body not performing up to an arbitrary set of standards set for it. I can imagine there are difficulties I simply can’t fathom.