A new meme celebrates the oh-so-average bodies of men in fatherhood—but why are women left out of the love?
"Dadbods" are everywhere on the internet right now, and we're not talking about the Facebook pics from your last family reunion. Rather, the term refers to a kind of man who has a body best described as, well, average. Men in #dadbods pics often aren't even fathers, but sport the type of physique a man might settle into during the parenthood years: un-cut arms, sloping shoulders, and a rounded belly that hangs just a bit over the sides of his pants (what women not-so-lovingly call a muffin top).
Makenzie Pearson, the 19-year-old girl credited with starting the meme, explains that a guy with a #dadbod is the kind who 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." All in all, a very normal guy, but perhaps not one you'd drool over.
But you'd be dead wrong on that last point, as social media has shown us more and more women posting their love of the dadbod over the last few days. "While we all love a sculpted guy, there is just something about the dadbod that makes boys seem more human, natural, and attractive," Pearson told BuzzFeed News. "He isn't worried about being perfect. He's someone who knows who he is and loves his body."
We're all for people not worrying about being perfect and loving their bodies, but we have just one problem with the dadbod movement: Where's the love for mombods? There is no equivalent celebration for the average settled-into-parenthood female body—and, no, the hype over MILFs doesn't count. Moms and women of maternal age are celebrated not for looking like a mom but only for not looking like one. We are cut no slack for aging and are even shamed for things we can't control, like stretch marks and cellulite. Even worse, thanks to contradictory "beauty" messages, we're not even allowed to feel bad when we don't measure up. (Find out more in Has Body Image Become Oppressive? A Look at the Backlash Against Beauty.)
But self-esteem aside, there is the issue of health. Super-cut, 'roid-ripped dudes on magazine covers aren't necessarily healthy (or realistic!), but neither is drinking heavily, eating eight slices of pizza in one sitting, or only having a casual relationship with the gym. Decades of research have shown that maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly have benefits far beyond how attractive you are. People who live a healthy lifestyle are happier, more resilient, stronger, live longer, and have better sex lives—all things we definitely want for the men in our lives. Why can't loving your body mean taking care of it in a healthy but non-obsessive way?
Pearson says she sees the dadbod as a celebration of normal guys over male models, saying, "It's almost as if I started a movement for positive male body image, which is something I don't think our culture realized we need."
We don't want to take away from the positive message this gives men, and we certainly don't want our dads, brothers, and lovers held to the extreme and unrealistic standards of perfection that women so often are. But celebrating ill health doesn't do men any more good than it does women. In fact, focusing on the dadbod as a new standard of hotness for men keeps the conversation surface level, focusing on their bodies instead of on personal and professional achievements and traits.
We can and should do better than this—not just for our "dads" but for ourselves. Because do you know what our favorite part of all the #dadbod pictures are? All the happy, loving-life smiles! More of those, please.