The dominant term flitting across the Internet this past week has undoubtedly been “dadbod.” By definition, men with dadbods, “drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.” Everything from photo galleries displaying favorite famous fatherly figures lounging on the beach, to detailed guides on how to attain this physique have been flooding the web. The craze prides itself for celebrating guys who are “more natural, human and attractive.” However, despite its inflated claim that the trend is at the helm of a body-image revolution, the movement is immensely problematic.
The dadbod trend further highlights the leniency with which men’s bodies are regarded in comparison to women’s. A soft tummy on a man is deemed acceptable, even admirable, while women are still expected to maintain a pristine fantasy physique. Women are held to the standards of narrow-waisted, bodacious-breasted dolls, while men are allowed to be “human.” There is no “mombod” movement for women to fall back on when we don’t meet unattainable perfection. The only “mombods” receiving widespread glorification are superhuman MILFs that give birth one week and slide into their size 2 jeans the next.
Despite the gallant goal of Internet users to enlighten us all on the idea of a man with a less-than sculpted body, this is nothing new, nor is the one-sided culture that it accompanies. In high school, one of my male classmates whose figure could easily have met the dadbod criteria, posted a Facebook status seeking accompaniment to cure his lonely weekend woes. He requested a movie and dinner companion, signing off this cyber invitation with one cruelly curt demand, “no fat chicks.” I could feel my blood boiling at this blatant double-standard display, why could he flaunt the extra pounds yet refuse to be in the presence of any girl who did the same?
While pizza-loving college bros are undoubtedly latching on to the affirmation of the beer and pizza lifestyle with zeal, eagerly dedicating themselves to the greasy Superbowl spectator diet, proponents of the dadbod trend also assert that women love the look, painfully citing an amalgam of age-old sexist offenses to back this claim. The forerunner of the dadbod trend portrays women as self centered marriage-obsessed maidens, consumed by insecurities.
One of the outlined selling points of the appeal of the dadbod is that women are drawn to the body type because we must outshine our male counterparts in Instagram pictures or because we need to feel better about the way we look in a bikini when posing next to our significant other. Another of the bullet points in the dadbod manifesto asserts that women like men with dadbods simply because they look like dads. Because, apparently, the moment we meet a man we immediately fantasize about our future families together, weighing his dad potential, and a fatherly figure will give us a clear idea of what our future prospects will look like once he’s a husband and the father of our three children. Yep. That’s entirely accurate.
The notion that women like a dadbod because “we like to be the pretty one,” not only illuminates a fixation with flawless female appearance, but implies that this body type is actually less-than-ideal, and that a certain proximity to it will elevate a woman’s appearance and self-esteem, a claim that is harmful to both parties. The dad bod trend encapsulates much of what is wrong with body image today—it allows a spokesperson of the opposite sex to define how someone else’s body should look, and asks us to determine our own body image in relation to someone else’s. It is insecurity parading about in the noble cloak of acceptance and body peace.
The dadbod is presented not as something to accept but as something to achieve; its not about embracing the beauty in the spectrum of body types. It is not about attraction to men who are naturally heavier. It promotes unhealthy, indulgent eating habits with a flippant “why bother” attitude, repeatedly citing excessive beer and junk food consumption as the gateway to this body trend. It single-handedly criticizes guys who go to the gym regularly and guys who don’t. It tells us that a certain body type is better than another, and that though women may find this particular body type endearing for its imperfection, we also selfishly relish in this imperfection, because we think it makes us look better. It uses men as accessories or picture props, while simultaneously highlighting the strict standards that women must meet. Suffice to say, we are far from the positive body-image movement that this trend pretends to be. Championing the “dad bod” should be met with a sharp swipe left, not a round of applause.