Saturday, 16 January 2010

If this is challenging patriarchy ...

Image courtesy of The Telegraph.

then keep it coming.
According to The Guardian the lone image of Cristiano Ronaldo, in a pose which almost seems to defy gravity - as though he were suspended in space, six-pack glistening in classy black and white, like the perfect life-drawing - is a direct challenge to patriarchy. I thought it was just about selling pants. Well pants and sex. Or just sex if you don't wear pants. Either way its about selling something. And haven't women been doing this for, like forever?

So the tables are momentarily turned, men across the land are sheepishly lifting their shirts to expose flabby, blubber bellies covered in sporadic hair, moles and whatever else they keep hidden under their fleeces, hoddies and parkas. And they are thinking, damn I don't look like Cristiano Ronaldo, I better go on a diet and get my lazy arse down the gym. Like hell they are.

The world's highest paid footballer's pecs are hardly about to upturn centuries of sexism and free stories from the stranglehold of history. All it will do is give some straight ladies and gay men something nice to look at. It will probably shift a few million pairs of Giorgio Armanis. And that's it. Nothing more to see, let's all move along. The banks will continue to be run by money grabbing fat cats (mostly men), countries will continue to be run by crazed despots (almost entirely men) and lad mags and tabloids will continue to proliferate the type of sexist imagery we're all too familiar with in our local newsagents - the pneumatic woman, alongside our pint of milk.

In the face of this Cristanio Ronaldo in his pants seems ancient, a relic from another time - an aesthetic wonder - the Greek beautiful boy sculpture. Its something nice to look at, but there are no tangible messages about what men's bodies should ideally look like to be found here. How do I know this? Well last night I watched Big Brother's Big Mouth. I know what was I thinking? Anyway, there was a segment (commonly known as a VT) involving John MCririck, you know, the incredibly handsome horse racing pundit who starred in Celebrity Big Brother 05. He's mostly remembered for picking his nose and eating it and getting the hump about not having any cola. In the VT McCririck danced in an enormous pair of Y-Fronts, wobbling his belly in an ironically sexually suggestive manner.

If we can have Cristiano Ronaldo in his pants alongside John McCririck in his stained Y-Fronts, then we can safely say men have absolutely nothing to worry about. Sure both images are sport - one's intention is to make us swoon, the other is to make us laugh, but I ask you are there any equivalent, diametrically opposed images of women to be found in fashion and the media?
I can't find any.

Unless that is if you look in the showbiz section of The Daily Mail, were the images of slightly overweight women are used entirely as sport and are scrutinised and poked at. The big difference is there is nothing funny about them. For the mythology of the six pack might momentarily make some men feel bad about themselves, but the tyranny of body facism is still, at least for now, something almost entirely directed at women.


  1. This is right on. I was thinking about this across the pond. In Hollywood, the tubby male has made his way onto hot lists with the thanks of jack Black, Seth Rogan, Zack Galifina(whatever the hell his name is). These men are loved and even (dare we admit it?) lusted after for their very imperfect images.
    However, can you say the same for any anorexia-challenged females? Are they headlining new movies, making it onto E!'s top lists? No, no amount of lovable self-deprecation, scatological humor, or cheeky grins can similarly elevate the less-than-ideal woman to the upper echelons of Hollywood "it"-ism.

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  3. Here, here! Agreed - no woman in the public eye would achieve similar success/recognition as any of those men. If they did they'd surely be criticised for their looks - there is a limited idea of what beauty is in our culture and its soley directed at women ...