Against the Grain

The “thinspo”: a modern manifestation, yet it embodies the societal standards set in place for women. A “thinspo” is a piece of media featuring a female who is extremely lean, with defined muscles at every angle, and sites (and sights) of sensuality are rather large and robust in comparison to their waists. For women, this portrayal reinforces a construct that women must meet certain bodily standards, which affirms entrenched gender roles for femininity. Moreover, we see females featured in Vogue, Good Housekeeping, and Cosmopolitan, solidifying notions of not only body norms but also for the woman as homemaker, in contrast with the frequency that we see them on Sports Illustrated, Time, and Science, which are dominated by male-subject articles, suggesting that men are more athletic and intelligent; these magazines are just the tip of the iceberg.

As a man, it is difficult for me to put myself in the shoes of a female, where it seems that every move one makes is criticized, whether it be for being too masculine or not perfect enough. As a gay man, I can still see how being too far to the stereotypic side of the other gender can constitute name calling, teasing, belittling.

Susan Bordo, a famous philosopher and feminist from the University of Chicago, claims that the human body, more than any other form, is permeable to cultural influences from the environment. In the case of the media, women are still portrayed as homemakers, still portrayed as extremely skinny, still portrayed as objects rather than as people. We are exposed to these depictions of women left and right, subconsciously interacting with the material, allowing it to diffuse through our skin and create a home.

America has constructed itself around the idea of standardization: standardized education, standardized examinations, standardized laws, standardized governmental hierarchies- you know it, it’s probably uniform across all fifty states. Carrying on with this trend, there is a yearn for a standard body, a creation of the human which is flawless in all aspects, moulded from schemas which push them until they have reached the pinnacle of flawlessness. Yet, a standardized human race would leave no one exceptional or different from anyone else, just a uniform society of standardization.

What it boils down to is abandoning the idea that uniformity is possible. Rather than attempting to force people into roles etched out for them, let them go against the grain, let them pick their direction- let them live.

Kendrik is a freshman at Duke University.