The 'Daily Show' totally nails why the "dad bod" trend is problematic
For the past couple of weeks, the “dad bod” has been sweeping the Internet as the latest “preferred” body type for men. Chris Pratt (pre-Guardians of the Galaxy), Seth Rogen, Leonardo DiCaprio, and many other celebrities fit the “trend,” and news outlets across the board were quick to praise the dad bod (sometimes written as “dadbod”) for its inherent body positivity. Allegedly, the term’s popularity began when Clemson University student Mackenzie Pearson published an essay about the phenomenon on The Odyssey, in which she suggests that men with an average physique are by default more attractive than their chiseled counterparts.
“The dad bod is a nice balance between a beer gut and working out,” Pearson writes. “The dad bod says, ‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.’ It’s not an overweight guy, but it isn’t one with washboard abs, either.”
But many were quick to point out that while, yes, it was great to see “normal” bodies being celebrated so openly, the fact that there was no female equivalent to the term should give us pause. Quite the contrary: Rather than celebrating the “mom bod,” it seems that both media and society only celebrate the mom bod when a woman gets rid of it. And now, in a brilliant segment on The Daily Show from Tuesday night, we have a hilarious explanation as to why.
After a brief introduction on dad bods, Jon Stewart brings out Senior Women’s Issues Correspondent (and all-around funny woman), Kristen Schaal, to further delve into the trend.
“What a great day for men!” Schaal begins. “It’s time society finally accepted that a man’s body changes when he has kids. He spent nine months eating too much because his pregnant wife is stressing him out, and then there’s a scream-y baby at home, so he’s got to get out for pizza and beer as much as he can! It’s just biology, Jon.”
Stewart is quick to point out that most of the celebrities used as examples of dad bod aren’t even dads themselves — to which Schaal quickly quips, “You don’t have to be a dad to have a dad bod, you just have to be really lazy.” (Or, as The New Inquiry Editor-in-Chief Ayesha A. Siddiqi put it on Twitter, “mom bod = ability to bring new life into the world, dad bod = lack of muscle definition.”)
Schaal absolutely kills it in the segment. Objectifying anyone isn’t cool, but it’s important to note the major double-standard coming into play here: While the media is currently praising men for having “dad bods,” it also continues to praise women for shedding their “mom bods” as quickly as possible. It all further feeds into the idea that women are valued for how we look, rather than for what we can do.
“We’re already obsessed with ‘mom bods,'” Schaal says, “or, at least, how fast moms can get rid of them.”
And she comes armed with examples, from the 2012 trend of “momshells” (a mash-up of moms and bombshells) to clips from endless news segments praising celebrity moms with svelte physiques (the closer to childbirth, the better). Schaal acknowledges that while men are subjected to “impossible body standards” from magazines and other sources (she tears a men’s health magazine in half with her bare hands), those standards are not nearly as overwhelming as they are for women.
Sure, the dad bod trend is refreshing. Embracing bodies of all shapes and sizes allows us to expand our perceptions of what is attractive, and to dismantle the idea that any one body type should be held as the “ideal.” All bodies are beautiful, and we should be celebrating them in all their forms — and this applies to men as well as women. But the standards to which women are held are, without doubt, more rigid than the standards to which men are, and that’s why the trend is so problematic. As Ellie Krupnick points out in an article on Mic, “Men are given plenty of space (and waistline) to reject societal standards of beauty. Women? Not so much.”
“Admit it, Jon,” Schaal says. “Women will never be able to relax about their bodies the way that men can.”
One glance at a tabloid and it’s easy to see how much a celebrity is valued for shedding all signs of motherhood from her body after having a kid. While men are being celebrated for their “normalcy,” women continue to be reprimanded for it. On the bright side, women have begun reclaiming “mom bod” by posting pictures of their postnatal bodies to Twitter and other social media platforms in order to show just how diverse and beautiful mom bodies can be. But, of course, it’s doubtful that the “trend” will pick up in the same way.
“Show off how your looks are not what society values most in you,” Schaal jokes to Stewart as he twirls around — and we all collectively laugh before getting super bummed over its truth.
Watch the hilarious and thought-provoking segment below.
(Images via video.)