Maybe it’s because, in this post-Zoolander society, no one takes male modeling very seriously. But maybe—shocker—it’s because skinny male models just aren’t as widespread a problem as skinny female models.
Even though everyone realizes models the size of an Olsen twin are unrealistic for 99 percent of the population, but pop culture nevertheless glorifies skinny women on TV and movies. Most people who suffer from anorexia or bulimia are women or girls. Some dance clubs won’t let a women through the door if she’s “fat.” New moms freak if they don’t lose their baby weight immediately. Even Obama’s nominee for surgeon general, Regina Benjamin, got flak for being plus-sized. Even women who are considered sexy for having a nice badonkadonk, like Beyoncé or Kim Kardashian, are still traditionally skinny and beautiful “on top.” This is Women’s Studies 101 and it is (painfully) obvious.
True, male models may also the bodies of 14-year-old boys and for sure, that’s problematic, too. But the reality is that men get a lot more leeway in our pop culture. Jack Black. Seth Rogen (pre-weight loss). Kevin James. Danny DeVito. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Being a chubby guy doesn’t limit those guys’ careers one little bit—and even if The Frisky had a woman write in to our “Dear Wendy” column to complain that her boyfriend is getting “fat,” dozens of other wives and girlfriends couldn’t care less about their pudgy boyfriends. Of course there are examples of plus-sized female actresses, but my point is that men are accepted at more body sizes than women.
This is the point of my blog post where some readers take to the comments thread to point out that improving body image for everyone is what’s important. Well, yes, of course—I’m not saying male models deserve a soured body image, too, as some kind of cosmic comeuppance. But let’s get real: society is, and always has been, far harsher on women’s bodies, not men’s; acknowledging that reality and focusing our efforts on fixing it is the only thing that will solve the problem. Asking why skinny male models aren’t a problem is just a red herring—and Robin Givhan, who won a Pulitizer Prize for cripe’s sakes, should know better than to bring that up.