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Friday, June 21
The Indiana Daily Student

Beanpoles vs. beefcakes

When New York Fashion Week kicks off Thursday, two different embodiments of the male figure will be under scrutinized debate on the subject of manliness: beanpole dudes and beefcake bros.

I certainly know nothing of the fashion realm, and I don’t pretend to, but I am aware of the effect fashion has on people’s perception.

The fashion/beauty industries have done excellent work marketing the binary mentality that simplifies people based on their outward appearance into two categories: hegemonic (beautiful) and non-hegemonic (not beautiful).

This is a particularly damaging binary to men and women alike.

You could ask just about any woman you know, and she’ll tell you what she’s surmised from growing up as a girl: if you’re not pretty, your femininity will constantly be called into question.

The parallel for having grown up a boy is something like, if you’re not strong, your masculinity will be threatened and ridiculed.

Basically, if you don’t have a very specific set of characteristics with the right dimensions, you won’t be considered attractive on the whole.

Subject yourself to enough beauty marketing, and it’s absolutely likely that you’ll forget there are people out there who are neither beefcakes nor beanpoles.

That’s the blissful unawareness that comes with not paying attention to what is fashionable. There are no standards with which to be concerned.

I’m not saying these fashionably oblivious types have all the answers, but most of them have a tacit understanding simply from not having participated in the fashion goose-chase. People are more complicated and nuanced than to be categorized into only two different archetypes.

There are those of you reading this who already know what I’m talking about.

Men often find difficulty in understanding the pressure women feel to appear a certain way, having never been sexualized for display and analysis.

Historically, beefcakes have always been more sought after than the beanpole for sheer strength and size alone.

For thin guys, their strength, or lack thereof, is highlighted as their greatest defect. Naturally, if you don’t fit within the hegemonic model of masculinity, you will find yourself questioning what it means to be ?masculine.

Of course, there are margins to consider. If you’re emaciated to the point that the clothes you wear have nothing to hang on, that may not be healthy.

Likewise, if you can’t fit your chiseled muscles into your clothes anymore, I think you might be good for a while — there’s a difference between maintaining weight and never finding ?satisfaction.

Masculinity has next to nothing to do with whether you fit in one category or not. If being masculine means a lot to you, don’t allow anyone to define your masculinity for you.

The hegemonic archetypes of masculine and feminine beauty are probably here to stay. We should take caution in boiling down such definitive qualities to strictly two options.

It’s hard to accept people when they can be only one of two ways. It can be much harder living when you think you have to be either.

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