Is “Dad Bod” Really Body Shaming?

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Fast and Furious franchise star Vin Diesel recently had a run-in with the Dad Bod police.  The typically buff actor was unknowingly photographed, topless, looking like he put on some extra pounds in the area reserved for his once precious six-pack.  Diesel responded by posting a few pics of his indeed still there abs on Instagram (though some speculated that the images were old).  And that was the end of the story.

Or, is it?

Dad Bod, a viral phrase that will probably make its way into Webster’s dictionary, is basically a new term (wrapped in an old package) to describe men who aren’t quite overweight, but aren’t exactly fit.  Pillsbury Doughboy adjacent is more like it.  Dad Bod, which applies to fathers and non-fathers alike, is a good thing.  No, it’s a great thing due to the attention it brings to a serious issue.  And that’s what was missing in the whole Vin Diesel weight conundrum.  Though some were quick to call him “fat,” Diesel was ultimately thrown into the Dad Bod category, which heralds men that look like him for being more like the average American man.  For being cuddle-worthy, endearing and squishy in all the right places.  All of this displayed the privilege of being a man.  There is no female Dad Bod equivalent (no, not even a MILF, which takes on an added sexual element lacking in Dad Bod). Women and girls are labeled at all shapes, sizes and ages, for that matter.  We’re judged by antiquated beauty standards that never fully encapsulated, let alone accepted, the full range of beauty that comes in the female package.

Women aren’t congratulated or celebrated for having the aforementioned Dad Bod physical qualities.  Instead, we’re labeled fat, out of shape, and unattractive.  Products are thrown at us so we can “fix,” hide or enhance our imperfect, messy selves.  These labels, by the way, are more often associated with women than men, and I posit that they’re more detrimental to our psyches because of the unfair and gross attention that’s paid to our physicality, attention that’s often not warranted or necessary.  And these labels aren’t fly-by-night, post-a-proper-pic-and-then-I’ll stop-body-shaming-you type labels.  The effects are troubling, potentially lasting, and can spawn unhealthy body issues.  I think Vin Diesel’s going to be just fine, but a young woman who’s publicly lambasted on Twitter or at school or even at home for being too skinny, too fat, too curvy, too flat, too round, too hairy, too dark–she’s going to have a harder time.  Body shaming happens to women and girls no matter our physical size, and it’s wrong no matter who it happens to, girl or boy, woman or man.

But forgive me if I sound a bit over this whole Dad Bod thing, that to me isn’t really a thing.  The playing field is hardly level.  Men have it easy when it comes to their bodies.  And often, the expectations they have for us women and our bodies are unrealistic.  Women don’t complain about, or worse, leave men whose bodies haven’t bounced back after having a – oh, wait.  Men can’t have babies.  My bad.  But think of all the pressure put on women to return to pre-baby weight.  Or to lose more weight than what they initially had, pre-baby.  And don’t forget about Girdles. Girdles aren’t made for men.  Same goes for body shapers.  And weight loss programs and pills aren’t created in their namesake.

You get the point.

It all boils down to the belief that women are supposed to look a certain way and men – they can look and be however they want to look and be, and still go about their business, and that’s okay because they’re men.  If Vin Diesel were a woman, body shamers, critics and haters alike would have been way harsher on him, both for his initial unflattering picture and his ab-filled response.  He might have taken down his Instagram altogether and vowed never to post another picture of himself on social media again.

Until body shaming is no more, let’s at the very least acknowledge its penchant for tipping its scales toward the female body.  And then, let’s work to make it a thing of the past for women and men alike.

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