We all know the media places incredibly unrealistic expectations on women. It’s a hot-button topic. I’ve talked about it before.
Because this is a topic that needs to be discussed. We need to fight back against the ridiculous standards that the media sets for women. But there’s another half to this equation, and this part doesn’t get addressed as often.
What about the men?
Now don’t get me wrong, for all the enthusiasm about gender-equality and gender-neutralism, there are still very distinct differences in the standards set by the media for men and women. I’m not saying men have the same struggle, but that the cultural expectations they face (in terms of aesthetics and superficial values) are equally unrealistic and equally deserving of a counter-attack.
Clearly, I don’t have the most direct perspective on male body-image issues and the related challenges that arise from ridiculous media propaganda. But the upside of packing fallopian tubes and that whole bit is that I can tell you gentlemen, for sure and for certain, what gets a red-blooded American woman’s engine revved, [To all potential future employers: That previous sentence was intended in the most benign, professional, and non-sexual way. I promise I won’t talk about fallopian tubes while I’m on the clock.]
Spoiler alert: We ladies don’t want you to look like Ryan Gosling.
Well, except for the flannel. You can wear flannel, because that is a serious turn-on, especially if you roll the sleeves up.
[Ok, I’m done.]
Yes, Ryan Gosling is good-looking. That’s a scientifically-proven fact. BUT…
No, he is not the standard to which we compare you.
The standards the media sets for men are just as unrealistic as those set for women. If the media tells ladies that they should look like Barbies, it tells me that they should look like Ken. Aesthetic standards are just as unnatural for both genders.
Example one: Chest hair. What happened to chest hair in the past 20 years? I’ve waxed poetic about pectoral topiary before [pun thoroughly intended], but it bears repeating. Chest hair is a delighfully manly thing, just like an hourglass figure is a delightfully feminine thing. Sure, there are some folks that prefer otherwise [on both accounts], but it hairy chests and lady-topography are both physical features that are uniquely inherent to their respective genders. Just like women should not be pressured into starving and surgically-enhancing themselves, men should not be bullied into shaving, exfoliating, and Pilates-ing themselves into life-size Ken dolls.
[But that’s not to say you shouldn’t exfoliate regularly. That’s just proper hygiene. You don’t need to be shaving your whole dang body unless your Michael Phelps in Beijing and it’s 2008.]
And what about the ultra-low body fat obsession? So many of you menfolk- at least those of you in your twenties- have this preoccupation with creating a body that has as much muscle and as little fat as humanly possible. That’s all well and good, if that’s what makes you feel fulfilled and you’re going about it in a relatively healthy way, but spoiler alert #2: We ladyfolk don’t really give a hoot if you’re sitting at 8% bodyfat or 10% bodyfat. Believe it or not, there comes a certain level of leanness/vascularity/etc. at which we start thinking you look better in your clothes than out of them.
Don’t get me wrong, a Costco-size beer gut is not cute. But neither is this:
Maybe it’s just me, but I’d feel better if everyone kept their thigh veins on the inside. I get that this level of leanness and muscularity takes an incredible amount of discipline and hard work [and possibly special “vitamins”], but I’m telling you in all honesty, most women just ain’t about that business.
And by the same token, the lithe male-model figure isn’t as hot as some guys seem to think, either:
Oh whaddup, Edward Cullen. I mean, I just have a hard time being physically attracted to you if you’re that much prettier than me. (Sidenote; There comes a certain point where you can have too much ab definition. Nobody wants to cuddle up to something that literally feels like a washboard.)
As with Oreos, sometimes the good stuff is found somewhere in the middle. [That’s a terrible analogy, because everyone knows the cookie part of an Oreo is the best, but you know what I mean.]
Aside from the part where three of them are wearing skirts, these guys all have pretty good bodies. They’re muscular, but they’re not “huuuuge” or super lean. This is a nice middle ground, am I right, ladies? Very nice, indeed.
And here’s the biggest thing of all: Different girls find lots of different things attractive. This ain’t one of those “one size fits all” operations.
Some guys are [their words, not mine] “chubby chasers.” They prefer a bit more “pleasin’ for the squeezin’,” and a pleasantly-plump gal is their dream come true. By that same token, some women love their men to look more like teddy bears than Ken dolls [is it just me, or is the children’s toy metaphor getting a little weird?]. Other girls have an affinity for guys who are rail thin, and still others like them somewhere in between. There are girls who are all about the biceps, and others who go crazy for a man with great calves. Some ladies, God bless ’em, prefer guys who are as hairless as a trout…and some ladies prefer a guy who is carpeted with so much hair you might as well call him “Lambchop.” Some ladies like really tall gents, and other like them pocket-size [Daniel Radcliffe, we’re looking a you. Keep your head up, champ.] Some women like men who look more lumberjack-like, and some women like men who look more like a Cirque de Solei acrobat.
The one thing most women can agree on is this: As much as we go nuts over your facial hair/chest circumference/GQ wardrobe/high-def abs/flannel shirts, we’re even more crazy about who you are.
That you’re a gentleman, and you’re keeping chivalry alive.
That you show up- for work, for us, for life.
That you take the time to educate yourself.
That you know your strengths, and are still humble.
That you know your weaknesses, and are still confident.
That you respect yourself, and show the same courtesy to others.
That you can dedicate yourself to something and see it through.
That you take care of yourself, and strive for improvement.
That you have integrity, and it shows in all that you do.
That you seek wisdom, and justice, and truth.
That you show generosity and compassion whenever possible.
That you know God and your life is defined by Him.
That you are the man He made you to be.
Fellow females, let’s make it a point to remind the men in our lives that we respect them for who they are, that we love that they look good and live better. The world needs more real men as it is- we can’t afford to let the ones we do have go on thinking they are unneeded.
Men, keep your priorities straight. Health is sexy, strength is sexy, muscles are sexy, flannels is sexy. Please take care of yourself, because it’s good to look good, and you know we ladies are doing the same. Just make sure you put even more effort into the things that matter more and last longer.
Ladies like a handsome face and a hot body, but we love a man of great character.