About a month or so ago, I saw the first mention of the now hugely popular “Dad Bod” trend. According to an MSN article written on the topic, a US student blogger named Mackenzie Pearson originated the term in a post on her blog and it simply took off. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what exactly a Dad Bod is, Pearson describes it as “a nice balance between beer gut and working out…it’s not overweight, but not washboard abs either.” Pearson also says in her post that women prefer this body on their men because it’s non-threatening, a better fit for cuddling, and it’s more “honest” in the sense that the man won’t undergo a dramatic change in appearance 20 years down the line. Also note that one does not need to be a father in order to fall into this physique. Some famous Dad Bods include Leonardo DiCaprio, Jason Segal, and Chris Pratt during his pre-Guardians of the Galaxy days.
At first I was kind of amused and intrigued by it, but it wasn’t long before I started thinking about how this trend could be potentially harmful for women and the ever-ridiculous standards of beauty we’re already held to. In an ideal world, this would launch a “mom bod” trend, in which women are celebrated for less than perfect body types. However, I have to say that in our society, I don’t believe that we’re open-minded enough about female beauty standards for that to happen.
I’ll preface by saying I have absolutely no problem if a man chooses not to be a complete workout buff and overindulge in pizza sometimes – in fact, it would be a bit hypocritical since I make those decisions myself. However, my problem is that you know there’s no way society at large would applaud women for being comfortable with “imperfect” bodies. It seems like Dad Bods are going to create even more double standards for women’s appearances than already exist. The idea of men being “allowed” to let themselves go is absolutely nothing new; we’ve just given it a name and made it trendy. Therefore, I foresee men being held to lower standards appearance-wise, while women will still be expected to maintain “perfect” figures for no other reason than because it’s pleasing to men.
The Time article “Dad Bod is a Sexist Atrocity” pinpoints exactly what I feel about the Dad Bod and puts it into much more eloquent terms than I could. Author Brian Moylan says we need not look at the Dad Bod to see what it says about men, but what it says about women and the way society treats them. As he points out, sitcoms and comedy films have always been full of out-of-shape leading men. However, their romantic partners? Always women who “certainly don’t look like they stopped going to yoga class and let themselves get a little bit thicker than the day they graduated from college.” The Dad Bod simply reinforces the inequality between what is acceptable for men and women.
Additionally, Time was able to speak to Pearson in a more in-depth manner, giving light to some more troublesome motivations behind her preference of the Dad Bod. She says that women have enough problems with self-esteem, certainly more than men. She assumes that women want someone who makes them look smaller and feel better about their own physique. Basically, she says that women want men who look less attractive to help them appear more attractive. While I myself have never actually heard this kind of reasoning for finding a person “attractive,” I think one can see why this way of thinking would cause some problems. Plus, despite having significantly less pressures to look good than women, this way of thinking could be damaging for men too. Besides, who wants to be in a relationship made up of constant comparison?
I took to the Internet to see if I could find a “mom bod” anywhere. There was one very short post on Buzzfeed, one with a small selection of photos, half of which have been removed from Instagram. There were also a few articles claiming that Mom Bods are indeed the next trend, telling Dad Bods to move over, but I think the overall lack of articles on the topic seem to say otherwise. As expected, the Internet is quick to lift up men who are secure in their “average looking” bodies, but not women. There’s a great video here that makes a humorous parody while still highlighting the very real double standard at play.
Finally, one thing that gets to me is that literally any man can be considered a Dad Bod. While the name might insinuate that men have children when they possess a Dad Bod, the creator of the term said that isn’t true; it can be anyone with the fitting physique. If you look at the “mom-bod” tag, however, all you see is image after image of women showing off their post-baby bodies. Don’t get me wrong – that’s great that women are sharing this part of themselves, especially since there’s such a stigma around the female body after pregnancy. However, it’s a little alienating to those women who just happen to be a little less toned and possessing a few more stretch marks, but have never had a child before. It’s probably a small knit-picky thing that isn’t really that problematic but again, I feel like there’s a double standard between an acceptable dad-bod and an acceptable mom-bod.
I’d love to hear others’ thoughts about the dad-bod! Share in the comments below about whether you find this to be a sexist problem, a harmless passing fad, or who knows? Maybe it’s a trend that you can get on board with!