Why Do Men Feel They Have Such a Say on Women’s Bodies?
This weekend I had some free time, so I decided to read through my collection of magazines that had piled up. I came across an article in my Glamour that really caught my attention.
It was written by the wonderfully hilarious comedy writer Jill Franklyn, and she’s discussing a relationship she had. The article is named My Body, My Sex Life: He Was Fat, and the Sexiest Man I’d Ever Seen.
In the article, she addresses how even though she’s never been overweight, she always had those complexes that most (if not all) women have, of finding flaws and trying to look as perfect as we can. She came to meet a man that she grew to really care about, because he was so unapologetically himself. While she was consumed about the way her body looked, as a thin woman, he was completely comfortable and confident in his own skin as an overweight man.
The article was going really great as she detailed the first time that they spent the night together. He had no qualms about disrobing, being free, and expressing: “This is me.” After a wonderful time, while they’re basking in the afterglow, he tells her (and I’m quoting the article when I write this): “You know, if you lost about five pounds, you would be so perfect.”
SCREECH! “What?!” I didn’t even realize that I yelled that until my daughter started yelling it back, excitedly (a word to replace “crap,” I guess).
I don’t want to take away from the article with my cynicism, because the two continued to date, but eventually broke up after a year. Jill explained that she could never fully get over it (after he apologized), and wished that he was as accepting of her body at that time like he was of his own. But the takeaway was that she learned to stop worrying about her own body, and love it as is.
Now, I’m glad that she had a takeaway from this situation, but… I’m still mad after reading it! To me, it was just… the unmitigated gall of this guy to even SAY that… Are you kidding me, dude?! All I could think was: “Okay, so she learned something, but did he?!”
It took me back to the times in middle school where the boys would make those lists, ranking the girls from one to… however many girls were in the class. Then they would rank all the girls in the entire school. I remember refusing to look at the list to see where I ranked, because I had finally started to grow comfortable with my looks by that time.
My head, teeth, and ears were the exact same size then as they are now, and I had finally grown into them, and didn’t dread looking in the mirror anymore. I had felt empowered, finally, and would think: “Not bad, Kendra. Not bad,” when I looked in the mirror, and I didn’t want to lose the freedom that I had finally achieved.
But to make matters even more bizarre, when I tried to rally the girls to do the same thing for the guys (“let’s rank them, and show them how it feels!
Right ladies! …Ladies??”) no one joined me! It was as if the girls were okay with being judged, and ranked. No one wanted to break the status quo.
The sad part is, that isn’t just the status quo in middle school classrooms, it’s the status quo of life. We’re fed all of this advice about what we should do to catch a man, keep a man, make him happy, but what about us? We’re drilled on what to dress, how to wear it, and how to look, and men can just wear jeans and a tshirt and feel like they just did something in the fashion department! Do men go out buying relationship books about what to do to make us happy? NO! They don’t even WRITE books for men about these things!
Society is geared to let men know that they are accepted, through all their flaws, and women need to do whatever we can to fix ourselves to make men want us.
This is why men can go around looking like Jabba the freakin’ Hutt, and still have a Princess Lea on their arms. ARE YOU KIDDING ME, SOCIETY?!
But just like the girls in my eighth grade classroom, I don’t know who to be more upset with, the guys who judge, or the women who allow them to.
Just like Jill, my dream is that each woman will have an opportunity to be fully comfortable in her skin. That if she decides to work out, she does it because she wants to, not because that’s what men are telling her they want to see (here’s a middle finger to thigh gaps). That if she posts a selfie on social media that she does it because she likes the picture, not to get validation from men who are objectifying her. Finally, I hope that the two sexes can agree to accept each other unconditionally, and if you want better from the other person that you step your own game up to meet your own expectations.
…*Bleepin’* thigh gaps…
Kendra Koger is full of acceptance and the occasional Star Wars reference on twitter @kkoger.