Written by Katherine Ryan, our UK-based comedian, host, friend, ex-roommate who never calls or writes
Who’s more vain? The girl touching up her lipstick or the guy who can’t stop pumping up? Maybe neither. But it’s the girl others are probably whispering about.
The media is quick to condemn young starlets like Hilary Duff, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie, and Mary-Kate Olsen for their obvious weight changes. Even in local high schools, it’s not uncommon to overhear cafeteria gossip about the group of girls who seem to be sharing fewer grapes this week. From Tinseltown to small town, it’s clear people are quick to criticize girls for being weight obsessed or even weight conscious.
But, hello? Walk over to the school gym and you’ll be sure to find a group of oily guys sporting cut-off sleeves, lifting weights, and smacking each other’s butts as they sweat out lunch on the treadmill. Anyone who has witnessed this will agree that guys and girls can be equally obsessed with their bodies. So why do girls get the short end of the yoga mat when it comes to getting criticized for it? You probably haven’t seen a magazine with the headline “R&B sensation Chris Brown gets too muscular—stop the madness!”, but, you’ll likely turn the page to read all about the chocolate chips a certain celebrity’s worried assistant has been slipping into her low-cal morning protein shakes.
Seriously, what gives? Maybe it’s time to turn the body image spotlight on the guys for a change and examine what drives some of them to become fitness fanatics. And, more importantly, how they get away with it.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the vainest of them all?
Anyone who calls a girl shallow for fixing her lip gloss and running a brush through her hair between classes should’ve seen Greg, 17, lifting weights until his face turned purple and then jump up and pose like a show dog when I met him at a local gym. “Girls definitely want someone to protect them,” he boasted, “and you can’t do that if you’re out of shape.” He smirks. “Being big helps me play hockey and playing hockey helps me get girls.” So if the intended result of working out is to get the girl, does it (pardon the pun) work out? Greg obviously seems to think so.
Girls don’t need saving! Do you see any hungry lions around here? –
But Kerrie, 16, has a different impression. “It helps,” she admits, “but not when it’s over the top. And wait, girls don’t need saving!” She laughs, “do you see any hungry lions around here? If a guy is strong enough to carry my history textbook for me, then that’s all the muscle he needs to get to my heart.” (Aww.) But if it’s so ridiculous, then why don’t guys get teased for their weight consciousness like girls do? “I guess it’s [healthier] to try to be strong and muscular than weak and anorexic,” adds Kerrie. “But now that I think about it, too much of either one is equally bad.”
Right or wrong, society views girls as being more fragile. So maybe they’re teased (read: picked on) because their health is more immediately at stake when they’re striving for an “ultimate” image. It’s just not fair that girls have to deal with all the negativity when often both sexes pay equal attention to how their bodies look. I guess some inequalities are hard to explain.
Just remember one thing: no one will respect you until you respect yourself. Caring about your appearance to an extent is cool, but going to any extreme (especially one that’s unhealthy for your body) is definitely not. So girls, the next time you’re obsessing over that cupcake, go easy on yourself—we’re all not so different when it comes to body image. And psst…guys, the next time you feel like blowing off a date to spend that extra hour in the gym, remember what girls like me think when they see big arms: bouncer for life.
Illustration by Faze’s Samuel Buensuceso