This image was originally shared as a straw man argument against feminism, but if we present it differently I think it actually raises some interesting questions. What are your reactions to this image, questions it raises, and the message it sends?
There does seem to be more outrage over (or more coverage of the outrage over) Barbie’s body than He-Man’s, though certainly his has come into question by many people. Some questions to consider:
~ Is the reason for this because there is far greater pressure from media towards women and their bodies vs pressure on men?
~ Are beauty standards more rigid for women than for men?
~ Is He-Man fantasy but Barbie closer to the reality of expectations and therefore more offensive? He-Man is a dream hero, Barbie is the norm?
~ Do we expect men to be “built” and therefore the He-Man body isn’t alarming?
~ Is there more awareness about body image for girls/women than there is for boys/men?
I am a feminist raising a son and I am concerned about his body image. I feel it is easy to avoid toys and media with body representations like this for him. It is not so easy with my daughter. When Benny was 3-4 years old he had an obsession with Spider Man and the accompanying gang of super heroes. He wore a Spider Man suit every day for four months straight, the kind with the built in muscles. We tried to take out some of the padding because the muscles were so ridiculous, and we discussed that action with him. The toys he plays with now really leave me with zero concern for his body image, I just don’t see Angry Birds and Legos as being a threat. For my daughter, though, it is an entirely different story.
As with most things, I don’t think this is a zero-sum game. I think feminists, scholars, activists and parents can focus on body image for both boys AND girls and try to make head way. I don’t want my son or daughter expecting people to look like the images above. We can make smart decisions about the toys and media we allow in, and have thoughtful discussions with our children encouraging them to take a critical look at the messages that do sneak through. It is important for us to consider what our boys and girls are learning from depictions of masculinity and the male body.
Here are two great sources if you are interested in learning more about boys and body image:
Hat tip to Lori Day for the image.