I watched Extreme Male Beauty on Channel 4 last night. It's pretty typical of a makeover/beauty show but as the title reveals it's all about men and the lengths they will go to in the pursuit of physical perfection. So there was one guy injecting steroids to achieve that muscle-bound look, another having cosmetic surgery to remove his man boobs having lost a lot of weight after gastric-band surgery, and lots of discussion in changing rooms about how guys feel about their bodies. It was quite eye-opening but I'll admit that I felt uncomfortable when a group of women were invited in to comment on the physique of five different guys standing on boxes in their pants because of the sense of objectification; I don't think you'd see the reverse on TV today where men stand around and discuss women in their underwear.
Women's relationship to the fashion-beauty industry and to our bodies is complex. On the one hand there is a lot of pleasure to be had from clothes and beauty routines. On the other there's much to critique: the fact that only a narrow definition of beauty is celebrated; the feeling that many women are left with that their bodies are deficient and must be altered to be thinner, smoother, younger. So I like this quote from philosopher Jennifer Saul, 'The fact that men too are increasingly subject to the sorts of pressure that women have traditionally faced should not be cheering to anyone. If men are now becoming self-policing subjects, this signals not a desirable gender equity but a very sad state of affairs.' What do you think?