When I started dating a bald man, the first questions my friends fired my way about him had nothing to do with his background, employment or interests. Repeatedly, they'd bypass the pleasantries and skip straight to his hair: So, is he really bald, or does he choose to shave his head? How long has he been bald? Could he grow hair if he wanted to? And after I would explain that, yes, he shaves his head, and, yes, there are active follicles up there, they'd typically marvel at his bravado for willfully joining the bald club. I wonder how their responses would change if he had advanced male pattern balding and thus had no choice in the matter. But even more than that, I wonder why his baldness is such a big deal.
Before I got too much farther in "Isn't He Lovely," I figured it would be a good idea to chat with a male about this whole "male beauty" business. Hugo Schwyzer is a proud feminist, the Gender and Sexuality Editor over at The Good Men Project, and a professor of history and gender studies at Pasadena City College. Schwyzer fielded questions about how the beauty myth applies to young men these days, how body image standards affect non-white and non-straight men, the intersection of male grooming and dress, and the modern male's latent fear of developing "man boobs."
Pop culture's image ideals for men come with their own complications and double standards, which are worth addressing as thoroughly as those leveled toward women. Just as Western female beauty ideals are modeled around straight, white women, Western male beauty standards worship at the altar of the straight, white, six-pack ab-toting man. And both are equally problematic.