Body Image Issues: More Men Are Obsessing

Weight Watchers, Spanx and others are now going after guys

Sure, we all like to look good, but lately something has shifted in body image land.

Case in point: "This is a plan for men," says the manly man in the new Weight Watchers ad campaign that debuted Sunday.

The commercial then goes on to tout guy-friendly features of the plan like a Beer Cheat Sheet (because goodness knows, ladies only drink white wine!) and even tackles the stigma guys may face for joining Weight Watchers: "Really? I look a lot better than you right now," exclaims Eddie, a successful example, who lost 57 pounds, before joining in a fratastic chorus of "Ahahahahaha!" with his weight-watching bros.

But, Weight Watchers isn't the only diet brand now going after the Y chromosome. As Jessica Grose reports on Double X (where you can also see the video) Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem have now launched their own guy-friendly programs. Meanwhile the Today Show ran a segment this week inspired by news that men received over a million cosmetic surgery procedures in 2010 -- and last February, Spanx encouraged guys to "Expect More From Your Undershirt."  You got it, girls: Girdle-like products for men!

A lot of women respond to this news with a "join the club!" shrug -- as in, it's about time that men have to deal with even a fraction of the "you should be hotter and thinner" pressure that we face day in day out. Others position this as an opportunity for schlubby guys: "Men are willing to pay to get the beauty benefits long enjoyed by women," notes Today Show correspondent Mara Schiavocampo, as if dudes getting Botox is a glass ceiling smashed. 

But making guys more insecure about their bodies doesn't help anyone -- least of all women. Instead, we're reinforcing the same negative stereotypes that created impossible-to-achieve beauty standards in the first place. We obsess about external concerns like love handles and crow's feet, because we've erased any trace of internal substance. Men are beer-drinking, meat-grilling brosefs who want to look ripped, while women are pretty princesses drinking diet soda and skipping the breadbasket to protect their girlish figures while they wait for Prince Charming. (Sit tight, ladies. He'll be over just as soon as he wrestles into his pec-defining Cotton Compression Spanx.)

Pass.

I'm all for a culture where women and men get to feel good about their bodies, whether that means losing weight, gaining weight, dying your hair or embracing your silver foxiness. And taking care of your body shouldn't be a girls-only business. But playing into stereotypes that pit men and women against one another isn't the way to get there. Because we aren't leveling the playing field if the result is that everyone gets to hate what they see in the mirror.

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