The “Dad Body”: Male Body Image, Ancient Philosophic Poetry, and Oprah-with-Bees-Level Hilarity

With as much time as I’ve spent on Tinder feeling wary about my body and worried people won’t like it, I’ve also discovered a number of guys who feel similarly. In fact, a number have thought I was a spambot just because they thought a girl who looks like me wouldn’t be into guys that look like them. It turns out convincing people you’re not spam is kind of difficult.

So when I came across a fat shaming post on insulting the new trend of women adoring the “dad body,” specifically referring to men who are less buff and more fluff (and which also is limiting in terms of the way we conceive of the bodies of fathers) and I found myself outraged, I knew male body image was something I needed to address ASAP. Admittedly, some of Betches Love This is tongue-in-cheek, simultaneously mocking and celebrating the superficial and narcissistic habits of some women. However, I’m opposed to anything that takes body shaming and runs with it as a joke. Bodies aren’t jokes. Mental and physical health aren’t jokes.

There are two major issues with this article. It’s (A) insulting men who have the “dad body” and (B) insulting the men and women who are into men who have the “dad body.” (There are also some other issues at work with the “dad bod”/”dad body,” namely its giving more acceptable options for male bodies while still limiting women to conventional hot bodies in media, which Time addresses here, but I’m going to focus on the problems with this blog post rather than with the trope itself.)

Firstly, insulting someone’s body type can have serious ramifications on his or her mental health and in turn their physical health. I have known and loved too many men with eating disorders to overlook the fact that guys struggle with body image, too. While it’s not plastered about Men’s Health as much as it pops up in Cosmo, it’s a fairly prevalent thing among men, and just as heartbreaking as when women struggle with it. Watching someone you adore waste away because they simply can’t bring themselves to eat is honestly one of the hardest things I’ve ever witnessed.

As Stan Marsh shows us here, American Dad has brought up issues of male body image. It's time to fight the stigma against men and eating disorders.
Even American Dad has brought up issues of male body image. It’s time to fight the stigma against men and eating disorders. Though not with a gun and maybe not with pink legwarmers.

Gents out there, you get to have the body you have. You get to love the body you have. And if someone has the gall to tell you to hit the gym more, or that your hard-on should touch a woman before your tummy does, then they’re just some mean people, and do the best you can to brush your shoulders off and remember that you get to enjoy your body the way it is. That’s not to say that you and your health care professional can’t come up with a plan to make your body healthier and stronger, but as far as aesthetics go, you get to rock what you’ve got.

If you’re reading this and you feel you have a problematic relationship with the man in the mirror or with food, please know that you’re not alone and that there is help out there for you. Even if you just have days when you don’t feel very confident, please know you’re not an anomaly and that this isn’t just an issue for women. Please know that I’m sitting here sending you good thoughts of hope and health and self-love. And, because let’s be honest my positive thoughts need some real world grounding, there are some amazing resources out there. You can call the national hotline at 1-800-931-2237 or check out their very thorough and wonderfully body-positive website.

Eating disorders find some of their greatest success through shame and secrecy. The more we remind the world and each other that we will stand by each other through our struggles and the more we fight secrecy and stigmatization, the better place it will be for all of us.

Hello, Matt Bomer. You're pretty. Also, GLASSES. *fans herself*
Hello, Matt Bomer. You’re pretty. Also, GLASSES. *fans herself*

My second problem with this issue comes from the disrespect to the people who prefer the “dad body,” After all, we all have different tastes. It took me a long time to realize that I like broad shouldered, bearded guys who wear glasses. I’m just now starting to recognize that I’m partial to older men as well (though I do like guys my age, too). It just does good things for me, though honestly I’m far more invested in who someone is as a person than how they look  or how old they are. Aesthetics are just icing on the cake in my opinion, and when I care about someone, then they’re beautiful to me whether they fit with my particular leanings or not. But that’s another post for another day.

This resistance to acknowledging that people have different preferences isn’t a new issue. It’s been around literally 2000 years. Don’t believe me? Obviously, we’re going to do what anybody would do: we’re going to discuss this issue using ancient Roman philosophic poetry!

Yes, ancient poetry can make you laugh as much as women weeping while Oprah joyously releases swarms of bees upon them.
Ancient poetry can make you laugh as much as women weeping while Oprah joyously releases swarms of bees upon them makes you laugh! How BEE-utiful!

That’s right, we’re turning to Lucretius’ 1st Century B.C.E. text On The Nature of Things. I’m a giant nerd, so it’s my jam. There’s a lot of cool stuff about perception, which I find fascinating, but even more importantly, it’s HILARIOUS. Like Amy Schumer meets that gif of Oprah with the bees hilarious.

At one point Lucretius insults the way other men describe their girlfriends. He maintains that they’re using these terms to excuse and overlook their ladies’ imperfections. In the process, he ignores that these men may find these “imperfections” to be sexy and appealing qualities. He pays no mind to our particular preferences, let alone our fetishes.

Plus he comes from a place of cleverness rather than utter rudeness, so while it’s still problematic, I don’t feel bad getting the giggles. And now you can brag to all your friends that you read classical philosophy this morning, and oh gee wasn’t it a hoot and a half!

The black girl is brown sugar. A slob that doesn’t bathe or clean
Is a Natural Beauty; Athena if her eyes are grey-ish green.
A stringy bean-pole’s a gazelle. A midget is a sprite,
Cute as a button. She’s a knockout if she’s giant’s height.
The speech-impaired has a charming lithp; if she can’t talk at all
She’s shy. The sharp-tongued shrew is spunky, a little fireball.
If she’s too skin-and-bones to live, she’s a slip of a girl, if she
Is sickly, she’s just delicate, though half dead from TB.
Obese, with massive breasts? – a goddess of fertility!
Snub-nosed is pert, fat lips are pouts begging to be kissed –
And other delusions of this kind are too numinous to list.

-Book IV: The Senses, lines 1160-1170 (Stallings translation)

Why on earth is finding someone’s body alluring a delusion? Let’s think…oh wait…it’s not. EVER. Whatever terms someone uses to celebrate your beauty/handsomeness/general awesomeness, accept them! Enjoy them! If someone has swiped right on you, trust them that they know what they’re doing and they know what they want. Trust that you are their brown sugar natural beauty, their delicate beanpole, their goddess-esque sprite! Their handsome, “dad bodied” catch!

So when it comes to our friends who are into the “dad body,” or whatever our friends may be into, trust that other people know what they want. Don’t question their choices in terms of their partners’ bodies. Just celebrate that they’ve found happiness right along with them.

This says it all.
And so does your significant other.

All my love,
Your favorite spunky fireball goddess

(And again, if you are a lady or gentleman struggling with disordered eating or with body image please don’t hesitate to reach out to the people in your life or to access some of the amazing resources out there! Having trouble finding said resources? Shoot me an email at and I will gladly send some resources your way!)


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