GQ and How Not to Talk About Men’s Bodies
June 14, 2019 9:14 AM   Subscribe

GQ and How Not to Talk About Men’s Bodies "It’s no secret that the media reinforces our beliefs about our own bodies and other people’s bodies, and that it’s much worse for women and nonbinary people than men; our sister site Jezebel has been grappling with this for at least a decade, and is still grappling with it. As Atlantic writer Amanda Mull pointed out yesterday, however, men’s media is so far behind (with a few exceptions) that it doesn’t even know it has a problem." Paul Blest

From the Rock personally devastating cod stocks to the article in question, "there’s got to be a better way to both gas up your buddy and offer advice to your readers on how to eat and exercise without glorifying malnourishment and exercise to the point of overexertion."
posted by Carillon (31 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
People seemed to like my tweet response about how many men apparently never get compliments on their appearance. I've fluctuated from ugly duckling to regular duckling so I've seen a lot of the spectrum.

Amanda Mull is one of my favorite Atlantic writers right now.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:27 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]

I was recently served an ad on Instagram for under-eye concealer that said something to the effect of "Imagine how your friends and coworkers will treat you better once you don't look tired all the time." I'm barely paraphrasing. I was appalled that an ad would explicitly tell me that I looked tired and ugly and people were being mean to me about it. I took a screen capture and sent it to my group chat.

And all the women in the group chat were like, "Yes, and?"

I mean obviously I understood that things were marketed to women this way, but since I don't read women's beauty magazines I didn't realize how bad it was until something was marketed to me that way.

I and basically most of the gay men I know already suffer from some level of dysphoria over our appearance, and it's sad to see that the trap has now also sprung for straight guys.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 9:51 AM on June 14 [22 favorites]

Once again, Writers of this timeline: emphatically not the equality we had in mind, you goddamn gleefully malicious monkey paws made manifest.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:12 AM on June 14 [58 favorites]

you goddamn gleefully malicious monkey paws made manifest.

That is one fantastic bit of invective.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:28 AM on June 14 [19 favorites]

This is the same man: The Mary Sue on how Hugh Jackman is portrayed as SHREDDED! Wolverine in Muscles & Fitness, while he's just hanging out in a blue sweater for Good Housekeeping, talking about his "recipe for romance."

(Eyebrows McGee originally posted this in a prior thread)
posted by filthy light thief at 10:34 AM on June 14 [9 favorites]

I see this as the inevitable end result of the necessary min-maxing lifestyles we've cornered ourselves into.

Being too sedentary, as is the trend, is also destruction of the body. I know I personally have had health issues caused by prolonged sitting for work (not by poor posture, unless there is a sitting posture that does not involve bent knees or hips), that resulted in physical therapy to remedy, and now I have to continue to follow a prescribed daily pt regimen of stretching and mobility work to prevent those specific issues from happening again due to my individual proportions. I don't think this is an unusual case. It's not very controversial that sedentary lifestyles can lead to ill health effects, often discounted a "just getting older".

It's hardly surprising to me then when the pendulum swings to the other (equally harmful) extreme in what precious few outlets we have to attempt to take control of our heath.
posted by ToddBurson at 10:40 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]

> the Rock personally devastating cod stocks

I always feel bad about people picking on my good friend, The Rock (admittedly we've never met but why let that limit our friendship). What else is he supposed to do, go vegan? Not go to the gym as often?
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:51 AM on June 14 [9 favorites]

the GQ guy: I really leaned into it to a quasi-unhealthy level, especially with my diet...I didn't know what the hell I was really doing. I was looking at food as the enemy...I definitely don't recommend that. Everyone else was like, “What are you doing?” I dipped down quite a bit in was still an unhealthy obsession because it was all I could think about.... if I'm also obsessing about food, that's where it tips too much over the scale. My life becomes miserable and I'm a miserable person to be around...

mull et al.'s big complaint about this one piece I guess is that this very self-aware guy clearly and explicitly describes how he has to be careful of his tendencies to fall into disordered eating, saying what he means with specific examples, instead of eliding it all under the generic clinical-code phrase of "eating disorder"?

or else it is that he follows the men's-mag convention of asserting that he looks good and blustering about how good he looks, instead of playing the equal-and-opposite oh gosh we all hate our bodies don't we and mine is nothing special, it just so happens to fit Society's expectations game.

neither of those conventions is behind the other in any meaningful way.
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:07 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]

The Rock is a wholesome and exemplary national treasure and anyone who says otherwise can fight me
posted by ToddBurson at 11:09 AM on June 14 [7 favorites]

the Rock personally devastating cod stocks

Speaking of unrealistic, this phrase makes me imagine him swimming around underwater, knocking out schools of fish with individual one-two punches.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:18 AM on June 14 [30 favorites]

The Rock is a wholesome and exemplary national treasure and anyone who says otherwise can fight me

Also, I don't see him going the Stallone route, so eventually time will catch up with him and he'll go into "fuck it, time to live it up!" mode and switch to normal (and better tasting) diet.

As an aside, my good friend's bro is hang out pals with The Rock, and from what I hear he is just a wholesome dude in real life as he is as a public person.
posted by sideshow at 11:22 AM on June 14 [4 favorites]

the Rock personally devastating cod stocks

I think about that real time response to learning what The Rock eats at least once a week.
posted by Reyturner at 1:00 PM on June 14 [19 favorites]

the Rock personally devastating cod stocks

posted by Greg_Ace at 2:04 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]

The Rock is a wholesome and exemplary national treasure and anyone who says otherwise can fight me

His journalist murdering friend, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia agrees!
posted by haileris23 at 4:01 PM on June 14 [5 favorites]

The fat kid doesn’t want to be seen eating cake.

Well, there’s 43 years of my own personal food issues in a single line. I’ll eat chocolate, but only the kind that you can break off and eat, piece by piece. People of my age group, having grown up with Goonies, they’re always astounded that I don’t absolutely love the movie. It has all kinds of great memories for them, but that’s because their stand-in character wasn’t the fat kid with chocolate smeared all over his face, made to embarrass himself before being allowed to play with the tormentors he called friends. So, yeah, I can’t bring myself to eat a snickers bar because that’s what runs through my head. What if someone sees me? What if no one sees me, and I’m the sad fat guy sneaking food so no one will see me do it (and I’ve definitely done that, even in the last six months).

How fucking hard is it to have positive feelings about yourself if the body you’re stuck with gives you nothing but shame? The answer goes from “very” to “downright impossible.”
posted by Ghidorah at 5:34 PM on June 14 [35 favorites]

During that three-week Spring 2018 visit, MBS "talked about the movie business with Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Dwayne Johnson over dinner at Rupert Murdoch’s house. He discussed space travel with Richard Branson in the California desert, and philanthropy with Bill Gates and technology with Jeff Bezos in Seattle. He visited Harvard and MIT, brokered arms deals with President Donald Trump and sat down with Wall Street financiers. He even met with Oprah Winfrey." (The Independent)

"Money talks in America, and it is no coincidence that Salman’s visit coincides with the announcement that movie theaters are set to open in Saudi Arabia for the first time in decades." (DailyDot)

Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in October 2018.

If Johnson and MBS are 'friends' now (the kind of friendship where one brings tequila to Saudia Arabia to dine with the royal family)... yeah, then The Rock would deserve all manner of grief about it.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:38 PM on June 14 [5 favorites]

As for the High Jackman as Wolverine thing, it’s an excellent way to view how far things have come. When he was Wolverine in the first X-Men movie, there were articles about how in shape he got. If you compare him to the “jacked” picture, through our current fucked up lense, you’d think he’s sort of chubby. Dad-boddish, even.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:38 PM on June 14 [8 favorites]

Hollywood and Steroids: When A-List Actors Go the A-Rod Route...if the superhero bod is now what men are supposed to aim for, that definitely makes me think of all the "gracefully aging" actresses whose continuing career and wealth depend on the interventions of peels and injections. They're aging!'s not just sunscreen. It's not just choking down a pound of cod every day. But of course, acknowledging that is tricky for the talent (because they'd be admitting to "artificial" intervention and definitely not from whatever products they're endorsing) and the outlets featuring them (because they sell more snake oil ads than doctor listings).
posted by grandiloquiet at 7:36 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]

(Ahh to clarify, I'm not trying to switch the subject away from men's body image. I'm trying to say that a very small fraction of women are likely to ever hit the "skinny with unblemished, unwrinkled skin" baseline for beauty, and it gets less likely as women age. If the culture is pushing low body fat/high muscle mass as the baseline ideal for men, well, that's going to require some obsessing at 25 and obsessing + chemical intervention at 35+.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:03 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]

I gathered a handful of links for a post on eating disorders among men, but should I just share them here instead?

Anyway, yeah, it’s crazy how much people normalize really unhealthy behavior. I put on some weight after my breakup, and it’s been a challenge. I don’t know that anybody should be in a place where they feel more proud the hungrier they are. But, you know, if you ask the right people that’s just willpower.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:42 PM on June 14

How fucking hard is it to have positive feelings about yourself if the body you’re stuck with gives you nothing but shame? The answer goes from “very” to “downright impossible.”

The best part of this lovely feedback loop is that the absolute top thing which people find attractive in men, in my lived experience and from anecdotal feedback, is "confidence". Hooray.
posted by maxwelton at 11:10 PM on June 14 [11 favorites]

The Patriarchy has never seen an uneven bar that couldn't be lowered for everyone

I remember nearly 20 years ago reading about the increase in eating disorders in men and hoping maybe that would change something. It didn't.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:15 AM on June 15 [3 favorites]

What if someone sees me? What if no one sees me, and I’m the sad fat guy sneaking food so no one will see me do it (and I’ve definitely done that, even in the last six months).

My heart goes out to you, Ghidorah. What a terribly painful trap.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:51 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]

If you compare him to the “jacked” picture, through our current fucked up lense, you’d think he’s sort of chubby. Dad-boddish, even. -- Ghidorah

I was on a date a couple of years ago and the woman I was with said she thought dad bods were hot, and the example actor she used (who I cannot remember) was basically a pretty fit dude. I that standard I'm a fat dude who is also wearing a fat suit.
posted by maxwelton at 5:31 PM on June 15

If you compare him to the “jacked” picture, through our current fucked up lense, you’d think he’s sort of chubby. Dad-boddish, even. -- Ghidorah

I guess I'm not a normal part of society, and I count my blessings.

Early version is a pleasant looking man who's considerably more athletic than average. Jacked up version looks completely artificial-- like computer art by someone who's only been looking at comic books rather than human beings.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 5:35 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]

I used to work in branding / marketing and had a meeting with a company about the greatest untapped market in the world: men's make-up. Now, how can we make men feel hideously insecure about their natural physical looks?

Also, if people haven't seen it they should check out the recent thread on incels and their touching up one another's photos to show what they would look like as "Chads". It's a bunch of reasonably good looking men who've convinced themselves they are hideous and need costly surgery to meet impossible standards.
posted by xammerboy at 5:54 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]

It makes me a little sad whenever a perfectly nice-looking man (sometimes a man I find very attractive) makes a self-deprecating comment about his appearance. Is he just making a harmless joke? Is he actually happy with the way he looks? Or is this a brief public glimpse into his internal defence mechanisms, disguised as humour?

There's something really messed up about the mainstream perception of male attractiveness, and in particular about the "objective" hierarchical models promoted by various segments of the manosphere. The incel plastic surgery thing is an extreme that most people recognise as harmful, but milder versions go unchallenged all the time.

(How can people who are not attracted to men be so wrong about what attracts people to men? Truly it is a mystery for the ages. )
posted by confluency at 3:16 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]

Are there many people who aren't attracted to men? The attraction may not be of the "I want to sleep with them" type, but looks sure seem to influence men's relationships and "fandom" of other men as much as women's looks draw notice and a kind of desire that may have little to do with purely sexual want. I've read a fair amount of sports posting at different sites and looks frequently make their way into conversation. Sometimes with direct claims of visual attraction/admiration, or lack thereof, and and other times the issue of looks come up in more subtle ways. The things that draw attention may not be exactly the same as it would be were it sexual desire, but the attention over looks is there just the same.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:02 AM on June 17

Then again, even trying to draw some line between attractions might be the wrong approach given how homophobic society is. There may well be more bisexual desire involved than could be accounted for by normative claims of sexual preference in such a warped system.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:26 AM on June 17

@gusottertrout I was referring specifically to sexual attraction -- which I think is greatly influenced by presence and charisma, and therefore has considerable overlap with platonic crushes and platonic "likeability", for want of a better word.

But I'm not sure to what extent that's what drives men who are not sexually attracted to men to express admiration for the physical appearance of sportsmen, and how much of it is driven by a desire to look like them, because they believe that they are what is considered attractive to people who find men sexually attractive.

The crucial difference is: do they want to be with them (not necessarily in a sexual way), or do they want to be them? I think these can both be intense emotional reactions, and it may not always be easy to identify the desire at the root of the emotion.

And maybe for people who both identify with and are sexually attracted to men they can overlap in the same object of admiration? I dunno. I consider myself to be entirely heterosexual, so I use my feelings of admiration for women as a baseline of what is "platonic" when evaluating my feelings towards men. The differences might not be so clear-cut for me if I were bi.
posted by confluency at 4:29 AM on June 17

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