Erica Barnett emails, which I am sharing with permission:
A real gem from the WSJ: "Mixed-Weight Couples Report More Conflict." [Currently titled: "Put a Stop to 'Do I Look Fat?'"]The article is full of awesome stuff, like: "Even people who aren't overweight can obsess about their appearance (sadly, these mostly tend to be women)."
Accurate translation: Douchebag dudes who say things like, "I guess you're one of those people who looks better in clothes" justifiably piss off female partners.
But don't worry, there's a happy ending: If women just count calories and lose weight, their partners will find them attractive again!
(The "study," such as it was, included just 43 hetero couples and only found "increased conflict" when the woman was fat and the man was critical.)
Sadly, that is incorrect. Literally, I cannot think of a single man I know well who hasn't, on multiple occasions, said something to me denigrating and/or worrying about his appearance. It is more socially acceptable, to the degree that it is expected, for women to publicly "obsess" about their appearances, but it is flatly untrue that men do not share this eminently human reaction to living in a vicious culture of judgment that encourages shameless body policing.
The difference is not that men don't have body issues, but that:
1. We are all socialized to view women's bodies as public property, and thus women are disproportionately subjected to criticism on any failure to conform to a kyriarchal beauty standard.
2. Men (especially men who partner with women) are encouraged to police their partners' bodies for beauty, while women (especially women who partner with men) are encouraged to police their partners' bodies for health. A man is supposed to be responsible for making sure his wife doesn't "let herself go," while a woman is supposed to be responsible for making sure her husband eats his vegetables.
3. Men who are partnered with women are judged by their partners' appearance more than women who are partnered with men. A man with a fat/unattractive wife is judged in all sorts of ways that a woman with a fat/unattractive husband isn't. He, with the fat/unattractive wife, must have something wrong with him. He, with the more attractive wife, must be a pretty great guy and isn't she lucky!
These are not absolutes. But there is a whole world at play here that explains why, exactly, it is only the couples with the fat wives and critical husbands who experience "increased conflict." And what underwrites that criticism in the first place.