In the U.S., food marketing and consumption is highly gendered. In the funny pages, Cathy gobbles down chocolate and Dagwood constructs towering, meaty sandwiches. On the Internet, the Women Laughing Alone With Salad is an exemplary (and hilarious) meme. Guy vegans seemed like such a quaint anomaly that a Boston Globe reporter tried to make "hegan" happen in 2010. I say "in the U.S." because the nation apparently has an extreme case of food gendering, thanks to our robust and omnipresent advertising industry and a steady, though not necessarily high-quality or healthy, food supply. In a Salon article exploring gendered representations and connotations of food, Riddhi Shah writes "In the U.S., instead, it was an extension of one’s identity, a phenomenon made possible by the United States’ unique history of unrivaled luxury." Put another way: you are what you eat.
We pay a curious amount of attention to blue jeans specifically, a staple wardrobe item in virtually any wardrobe, both young and old. Despite Lee Jeans proclaiming in 2010 that "real men" suffer from "shop-a-phobia" and couldn't give a hoot about finding the perfect pair, the type of jeans a man slips on nevertheless seems to say a lot about how he projects his masculinity and sexuality (which is probably the culprit of the bogus shop-a-phobia). And who are these "real men," anyway? Are they the ones outfitted in Garth Brooks-y cowboy bootcut Wranglers or skin-tight indie rock frontman fare? Or are they one who prefer the saggy and baggy, or distressed and bedazzled? So many choices, so many (unnecessary?) implications about what started as a practical, durable pant for California gold miners.
Yashar Ali is the founder of The Current Conscience, which examines "politics and the personal, culture and relationship" from a progressive, feminist viewpoint. Particularly after reading his post The Key to Success: Be a Man, I was curious to mine his thoughts on how beauty and body image standards apply to men today and whether modern "masculinity" has truly reached a crisis point in Western culture.
As feminists, I think it’s easy to forget that for all of the misrepresentations and misinformation delivered to us about what vulvas and vaginas "should" look like and how they "should" respond to sexual contact, equally tall tales about penile look and length abound.
While mulling over the male quest for muscularity a few posts ago, I brought up the notion of the "sanitized ideal" that has recently become de rigueur for the mainstream masculine body image. We’re talking hair-free, sweat-free, odor-free; in other words, the same unrealistic standards peddled to women for so long, à la leg and underarm shaving. And like the hairless female ideal, it isn't just the most visible fur that men are tending to these days; statistically, men groom their pubic hair more than any other type of body hair (sans beards).