Last week, Salon published and then Jezebel did a discussion post on how society goes relatively easy on overweight men, compared to women. I aptly followed the Jez discussion threads and have been noodling on it ever since. Salon’s main contention was an interesting one:
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost 70 percent of men are overweight, compared with 52 percent of women. Yet, somehow, 90 percent of the commercial weight-loss industry’s clients are female, and somehow, this industry hasn’t seen males as a viable business. How can that be?
Two sentiments emerged in the comments on Jezebel:
- YES, we should be harder on overweight men. They see big buffoons married to thin, hot women, whereas overweight women are deemed sexless and loveless.
- NO, we shouldn’t demonize ANYONE for their size, period.
I see value in both arguments.
The fact of the matter is that, yes, there is a double standard. Just as men enjoy a place of privilege on a general level, they also enjoy an extension of it when it comes to media representations of their bodies, and the expectations placed upon them. Yes, fat hate is pervasive across society, but a giant helping of it is heaped upon women in particular. Why? Because women are meant to be objects to be observed and enjoyed by men. Most advertising and media is designed (oft subconsciously) around this concept, so women bear the brunt of fat shaming because HOW DARE YOU BE UNPLEASING TO THE EYE?!?!
I, too, have observed the overweight buffoon/hot, thin wife/girlfriend trope in media and it has bugged me. (This ties into a whole other subject I’ve been meaning to discuss — women ‘downgrading’ physically while mean are expected to ‘upgrade,’ and not the other way around) That said, perhaps I have merely been conditioned so, or I’m open-minded, but I don’t mind a tubby, huggy bear kind of guy. I use a Kevin James/King of Queens picture with this post to demonstrate the phenomenon… but I actually find Kevin James & his schtick totally adorable.
It’s not that you’d never see the dichotomy in real life of a big guy/thin and/or hot woman. It’s that you never see the opposite in media — fat/overweight/obese woman with a thin, gorgeous husband.
So there is a sense of annoyance, and even occasionally rage, that a man can be 50, 100 lbs overweight and be lauded, but a woman cannot be the same and get the same positive treatment. HOWEVER, to go after men and fat shame them the way we are fat shamed? Doesn’t really solve the problem or help anyone. At the end of the day, the media/people shouldn’t fat shame *anyone*.
That said, the original point of the Salon piece was with regard to Weight Watchers now marketing to men, and wondering why it took so long. I have to say, a marketing campaign directed at men about making lifestyle changes, if it strays away from a fat shaming tactic, is a-ok with me.
What do you think? Is it a unique experience to be a fat woman, verses what men experience? At the end of the day, is it the same?