What strikes me is the internalized self-hatred which we deflect onto people like us. One one level, this story is about “people like us,” i.e., fat people criticizing other fat people. However, since this was an interaction between a man and a woman, more is happening here. Displaced self-hatred enables some men to distance themselves from their own bodies, and put everything they feel about their bodies onto women. It used to be effortless for men to do this, because their bodies were generally beyond contemplation. Recently, men’s bodies are becoming commercialized by the beauty industry and therefore increasingly criticized, and many men are experiencing a profound loss of body privilege. Another way to say this is that men’s body knowledge is being “feminized.” In nine years of workshops and slide shows on “Familiar Men”, I’ve listened to many men talk about the ways in which they hate their bodies, and I’ve come to realize just how devastating this is for them.
As men are being made more and more aware of the ways their bodies fail to match a mythical perfection, one thing that can happen is that some men’s criticisms of women’s bodies can become angrier and more explicit. In this way, the world works to keep us from forming the cross-gender and so many other alliances that can help to create change.