Why Body Positivity Means Absolutely Nothing If We Still Body-Shame Men

Photo: Courtesy of the author / Casey Brannon Photography
Why Body Positivity Means Absolutely Nothing If We Still Body-Shame Men

The Body Positivity Movement is one of the most wonderful social changes to come about during my lifetime. Watching women step out of our generation's long indoctrination to embrace what we look like and scream "EFF YOUR BEAUTY STANDARDS!!" moves me to tears regularly.

It's an incredible feeling to watch women of all shapes and sizes come into prominence as our varied styles are finally accepted and celebrated.

This is a wonderful gift my generation is giving to girls of the future...which is why I cannot believe we are still collectively making fun of dudes' bodies.

I'm not usually one to clutch my pearls over pop culture, but when the Bad Moms trailer came out last summer, I was horrified when I watched Kristen Bell's character expressly tell Mila Kunis to "run away" from a guy if he was uncircumcised.

The whole bit was played for laughs to entice women to see this movie. It was disgusting, embarrassing, and hypocritical as hell.

If had been a movie about guys talking about women's genitals, there would have been outrage - and with good reason.

My exasperation obviously isn't limited to one movie's tacky commentary on men's genital appearance; that's just a symptom of a much more pervasive problem.

I routinely see varied media taking potshots about how women shouldn't desire men who are balding, have too much body hair or stand shorter than 6-feet tall, and those are just the most common supposed "offenses."

How is this still socially acceptable?! Feminism is about equality. Period. If we want women's thoughts, actions, and bodies valued, we have to give the same respect in return.

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Listen, I understand women face exponentially more cultural brainwashing to convince us of our inherent inadequacy than men do.

I clearly see that a millennia-old patriarchal society is to blame for these female beauty standards we've been conditioned for centuries to believe we must adhere to in order to be respected and validated as people.

In no way am I arguing women don't still struggle every single day to trust their own beauty  both external and internal  because we are inundated with messages attempting to convince us that our natural state is unlovable. Women have it rough when it comes to body image. I get it because I live it, too.

But it doesn't somehow balance the scales for us to ridicule men for being short or tall or bald or too hairy or overweight or too scrawny or any other bullshit social stereotype of masculinity. Insulting a male body is just as problematic as belittling a female's. 

This should be a given, but for some reason, it still isn't. The days of passive-aggressively undercutting men's physical attributes, because women are otherwise powerless in a male-dominated society are drawing to a close, and our habits need to change with the times.

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Mocking men who don't fit some arbitrarily assumed ideal of "perfection" is not only insulting to both sides, it's holding us all back from escaping these superficial paradigms that keep us miserable with ourselves and each other.

Right now, men who step way outside societal gender norms are getting a lot of positive attention, and that's fantastic. I'm elated to see common drugstore cosmetics brands and clothing labels finally beginning to acknowledge gender diversity in their model casting. This is an exciting time to be alive.

But what also needs to happen is the acceptance of every man in the same way we keep fighting for the acceptance of every woman.

If we actually want sustainable peace and equality between the genders, we have to build bridges, and that starts with showing mutual respect through our language.

If we want our bodies to be accepted and celebrated, we have to stop flinging judgment out about others, regardless of gender. It really is that simple.

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Elizabeth Z Pardue is a creator and polymath based in the South. Her words have appeared in Huffington Post,, XOJaneRavishly, and in a bunch of Letters to the Editor columns.