On Feb. 4, the first trailer for “Magic Mike XXL,” the sequel to the popular film centered on male strippers, was released. While many enjoyed the trailer and were excited for the film’s release, it also sparked a discussion about male objectification.
The problem of male objectification remains a point of contention among activists. Many “men’s rights” activists argue that men also have to live up to standards of beauty that are just as damaging as the standards women deal with. This is a common argument between men’s rights activists and feminists, and one that I’ve had multiple times here at K and on the Internet.
Men, as well as women, are held up to an unhealthy standard. Today’s view of masculinity emphasizes an unemotional demeanor, along with a sort of physical brute strength and musculature only a Greek god could achieve. These views are proclaimed on the various covers of men’s magazines or in advertisements.
Of course, this view is destructive with many consequences. Pediatrics recently published a study in which men saw the toned and muscular body as an ideal, with many of these men hitting the gym and chugging protein shakes to build muscle mass instead of trying to stay healthy.
While women may go through more to attain a damaging standard, men are also susceptible to these ideals. This can be seen in the “Magic Mike” trailer: Channing Tatum and his fellow strippers all possess stunning physiques and washboard abs. Just like a young woman might feel insecure looking at a Vogue cover featuring a top model, young men might look at this film and see a standard they cannot hope to attain.
While there are certain beauty standards that men feel pressured to attain, I would argue that men are not objectified as severely as women. If we define sexual objectification as seeing people as no more than their parts and what those parts can do for the viewer, then yes, women of course can objectify men. But, as always, it’s not as simple as that.
There’s been a long history behind female objectification, while what has been called male objectification is only a recent phenomenon. Due to the status quo of a patriarchal society, men are the subjects and women are the objects. When a woman’s body is used to sell a product, or attract viewers, there’s a whole system of oppression behind it.
But for men, nothing like this exists. Men have not been murdered because they’ve been seen as less than human due to society’s objectification of their bodies. Usually, male objectification is done in the form of tongue-and-cheek references to media that has objectified women for years, and these instances aren’t nearly as common.
In this sense, men cannot be objectified because it doesn’t contribute to an overarching system of oppression. While male beauty standards can be dangerous, objectification for men is not nearly as damaging as it is for women.