The Internet is all aflutter with a new ideal of male physicality: The dad bod. Popularized by Clemson University student Mackenzie Pearson in an article for The Odyssey, “dad bod” refers to, in Pearson’s words, “a nice balance between a beer gut and working out. The dad bod 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.’ It’s not an overweight guy, but it isn’t one with washboard abs, either.” In short, dad bod is the average body sported by a lot of guys—it’s reasonably healthy, but won’t be appearing in Magic Mike any time soon. We could regard the dad bod trend as a positive step toward body acceptance because it celebrates the bodies that most men actually have, rather than holding them up to an unattainable standard of muscled, chiseled perfection. But even though a lot of people love dad bod, the trend has others justifiably asking: What about mom bod? Or, for that matter, what about any highly praised ideal of women's bodies that is realistic?
Dad bod might be a trend that releases men from unrealistic expectations of physical perfection, but are women given similar leeway when it comes to standards of attractiveness? Ellie Krupnik at Mic argues that at the core of the dad bod trend is an old, familiar double standard, writing, "Men are given plenty of space (and waistline) to reject societal standards of beauty. Women? Not so much."
An interesting wrinkle in the discussion of mom bods as a potential corollary to dad bods is that, while dad bods don’t actually have much to do with parenthood (indeed, the dad bod lifestyle that Pearson describes in her article seems more like that of college students than guys with actual children), mom bods bear the very real markers that come with having kids. In contrast to loveably doughy dad bods, women’s postpartum bodies are often portrayed as specifically unattractive, even shameful. In endless articles about celebrities “getting their pre-baby bodies back,” women are told that it’s only by getting rid of any signs that they actually had children that they will be seen as “hot” ever again. In an essay for the Huffington Post, Sarah Sweatt Orsborn points out that,
“[M]ombod" is an actual thing, yes, but also a thing to be avoided like the plague. No one writes appreciation pieces about the mombod … Because obviously, we doughy-tummied mommies are not sexual beings but rather sad sacks who need to GET THAT BODY BACK, RETURN TO OUR PRE BABY BODIES, GET A BEACH BODY, ROCK THAT BIKINI POST BABY, ETC.
Significantly, before “dad bod” blew up, “mombod” was a tag that already existed on Twitter—but it was used primarily as a negative and a motivator for women to lose their baby weight.
Now, with the explosion of “dad bod” as a label of attractiveness, Twitter users are wondering if “mom bod” – as a term to describe an average, attractive female body – will ever be a possibility:
Other Twitter users have questioned by parenthood needs to be part of the conversation at all, asking why only moms and dads should be loved and accepted for their bodies, as opposed to, you know, everybody.
Perhaps rather than #dadbod and #mombod, what we really need is #realandimperfecthumanbod. I appreciate the sentiment behind dad bod (because guys who don’t have washboard abs are hot) but can’t we try to extend that acceptance and love to everyone?