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I Probably Don't Matter

14/06/2016 15:11 | Updated 14 June 2016

The internet exploded in joy this week as London's new Mayor, Sadiq Khan, banned adverts that promote negative body images.

A quick search on Twitter of the phrase #BeachBodyReady will show you the campaign that broke the camel's back, and its fairly obvious why people could be upset by it. Personally, I wasn't offended. I see it as OK that we promote healthy bodies and lifestyles, and I say that as someone who struggles to get into shape.

However, I also see how some people may have found them upsetting, given that we are all of different shapes and sizes and that there is a lack of promotion of other body types. Please let's stray away from saying 'real' to mean curvy, skinny shaming as just as bad.

No, I wasn't offended, not by the ad. But I was by the uproar around it.
Have a look at the search-engine and social media responses for the campaign, you'll not see one image of the campaign featuring a man. Even if you search for 'beach body ready male' you'll only see one image, in hundreds of the actual advert, that featured a very in shape man, and that one had been defaced.

Then remember back to the 'ride me all day' bus advert. People were outraged at an unnecessarily suggestive advert on the back of a bus. It featured men and women holding up signs in strategic places that said you could ride them all day for £3. It was clever, but mildly offensive.

But have a look at the uproar, it was almost entirely around the image of the woman. Hardly anyone seemed offended at the fact that an apparently naked man was offering himself for just £3 a day.
Part of this lop-sided outrage is going to be because we live in a society that's only just learning how to treat women properly. So there are hundreds of years of sexism and hurt that needs to be healed. But I worry that we are sliding towards a place where we place more value on the life of a woman than we do on that of a man.

I recently read a new take on 'the trolley problem'. People were presented with a choice. In order to stop a runaway tram, you have to push a fat person off a bridge, into the path of the tram. Usually the test was to see if you would kill one person to save many. The new test asked you to choose between a man or a woman, to test the value that society places on each.

Now in a common piece of bad journalism by me, I've lost the original article. But the results stuck in my head clearly. Overwhelmingly people chose to kill the man over the woman, to a ratio of about 8:2.
This isn't surprising, the whole 'women and children first' thing seems ingrained into our society. I still let women through every door first, including in a rush hour tube. I'm not doing it for any sexist reason, it's just what I do naturally.

But when I read that, along with the outrage over 'body-shaming' I got a little depressed. As a middle-class white male, does my life now mean less than that of others?

If I slip behind, what schemes and programmes are there to help me back up? If I did bad at school, would there have been after-school clubs aimed at me? And more importantly, what do I do if I am ashamed of my body and get put off by adverts? Why is no one else complaining that these adverts, and many more promote a set image of what a man should be? Why is Gillette not running a 'real man' campaign where the likes of James Corden and Johnny Vegas shave and attract women?

I joined a gym a few years back and have struggled to stay consistent. One of the reasons is that it's a strange atmosphere. City boys lift insane weights and literally grunt at each other, whilst I'm struggling away with my 50Kg, or puffing away on a treadmill. I should be pleased with myself, I'm putting in the effort. But every time I see an advert, like the #BeachBodyReady nonsense, I take a look down at my belly and wish it wasn't there.

To be honest, I am not too upset that I feel that way. Seeing those adverts motivates me and pushes me to want to be in shape. But every now and then they get to me. When the weight isn't shifting they depress me and I know many other guys feel the same.

People will claim it's due to culture. Apparently men don't talk about our problems, there is some truth to that. But I believe it's also down to a worrying form of feminism, a false feminism. When 'fat-shaming' or 'skinny-shaming' press appears it's the women's movements that are outraged. Society leaps to the defence of the 'fairer sex'. But it says very little about the men.

We now live in a UK where two adverts equally degrade men and women, but where we are only outraged by the degradation of women. Couple this with the casual joking about old men being paedophiles and much more, you are left with a very worrying picture.

The UK values the lives and mental health of women more than that of men's.

And that leaves me feeling a bit dead inside.

*This post was originally published on www.digitalgruel.com

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