One campaign which seems to be on the minds of most glossy women's magazines is the 'Campaign for Real Women.' The feeling is that there is a great pressure on women to adhere to some ultra-skinny form which, if they don't achieve, they are worthless and unattractive. Seeing as most of the women who are hooked on this shit are largely variously-shaped office workers, it's probably a good idea to make the readership feel better about themselves. So, every time a celebrity pops out a sprog and then decides not to lose the extra weight a great cheer goes up from the editorial desks of Heat and Grazia. Every time a celeb drops a few dress sizes she is suddenly a treacherous bitch. What this essentially boils down to is that The Campaign for Real Women believes that immediate action must be taken to keep women a bit podgy. We must empower them to sit on their arses and not cave into societal pressure by taking care of themselves or doing any exercise. We must remove the guilt associated with troughing. Stop crying when eating your chips, unless you like them salty.
Obviously, I'm being unfair. Women are expected to do all sorts of things everyday that men don't even have to think about: plucking, waxing, painting their face, peeling off skin, balancing in high heels, squeezing into clothes. It's all a form of subtle but accumulative torture which, when combined with the ridiculous burden of a fully functioning baby factory and a brain whirring with extra-sensory perception, leaves me amazed that more women aren't in constant breakdown mode. All I have to do before leaving the house is wipe the crumbs from my beard and smooth my hand through my hair. And even then I'm quite picky! It's really not fair.
Of course this point of view was probably more true ten years ago. Nowadays men are plucking, waxing, felling, oiling and shaping themselves to look more like the perfectly smooth cyborgs of Blade Runner. In the good old days, sex symbols were lanky, pokey and wonky faced like Mick Jagger or had their flabby bodies squeezed and shoehorned into big pants like Kirk Russell. Men were smelly, hairy and strangely proportioned, but could always fall back on the sense of security and smugness that comes with penis ownership. Nowadays men are expected to take the form of muscular, aerodynamic dolphins. Being the CEO of a willy just doesn't cut it anymore. If anything, it increases drag.
Partly, we can blame popular music. As content has given way to packaging, superstars of today have become bodybuilders. Commercial rap and successive boybands have taught us that the making of an album happens as much in the gym as in the recording studio. Everytime Justin Bieber says something deeply offensive, his usual strategy is to take pictures of himself topless and post them on twitter. We live in a visual, disconnectedly voyeuristic, socially available age and thus seem to be slowly losing sight of what a 'dickhead' is. Twenty years ago, if you were to take a photo of your body and go around showing it to people, you would have been thought of as a bit pathetic, needy and socially maladjusted (the very stuff of a true dickhead). Nowadays, it makes an excellent profile picture and the reinforcing 'likes' roll in.
Perhaps it's time for men to be judged on the same terms as women. Perhaps it's about time that we should feel bad about our appearance because we aren't willing to spend hours every day in the gym conforming to the new expectations. But the truth is that men have never really had particularly high expectations of women. Most men aren't even aware of female imperfections. The amount of perfectly intelligent women I know who will get upset by the fact that their shoulders aren't quite the right shape or their toe is 2mm short of the national average or are convinced that the proportions of their earlobes make them look like 70s wrestler Big Daddy. Minor details which are imperceptible to the male eye. Most men are just delighted to be able to touch a woman without receiving a restraining order. Women have always had the keys to the city whilst men are merely overly eager Labradors waiting by the backdoor to be let in.
Follow Ed O'Meara on Twitter: www.twitter.com/edfomeara