Letter to the editor

A response to January 28 story “More than a pretty face”

Morgan Nunberg, Contributing Writer

The letter of the day is the letter “A.”  Here are a few words that begin with the letter “A”: Anastasia Lip Stain (my favorite shade is “Craft”), animal cruelty (a possible, unfortunate result of makeup production), and androcentrism, a term coined by American psychologist Sandra Lipsitz Bem. Androcentrism, or male-centeredness, refers to the fresh face of sexism. Through this lens, society replaces favoring men over women by favoring masculinity over femininity. 

Though told to the reader through the mouth of a complete psychopath, one may find a sense of credibility in Amy’s “Cool Girl” rant found in Gillian Flynn’s thriller novel, “Gone Girl.”  The cool girl” remains under the impression she controls men through her desirability. On the contrary, she is powerless. She does not offer perspective; rather she is supposed to take on his perspective. Don’t get me wrong; I like hot dogs and beer, too. But, the “cool girl” is a pawn in an androcentric society. 

Yet, androcentrism has become the butt of God’s cosmic joke. Within the past decades, women are no longer the sole target of the patriarchy. On the contrary, men find themselves subjected to the same pressures that women have been facing for centuries – the expectation to conform to an established, specific beauty standard. However, despite what men tell themselves, the new unrealistic beauty standard is not regarding what women think men should look like; it is imposed upon men by the realm of masculinity. While makeup may or may not reinforce the patriarchy, androcentrism most definitely makes the male body a site of self-hatred and insecurity. In short, while harmful to women, I propose that androcentrism punishes men. 

The “real man,”or more so the idea of male beauty androcentrism mandates others to imitate, is reflective of hypermasculinity and traditional gender roles. Height, the male equivalent to a woman’s weight, is deemed a valuable, desirable physical attribute of men. Men must be as lean as possible; having fat indicates a man is lazy. Men must be strong; men are ready to fight at any given moment. Most importantly, men must be a combination of these traits to even catch a woman’s eye. After all, men who can’t “get p*ssy” are not men. This ideal body is impossible to achieve; obtaining and maintaining this image becomes a job. Through this unrealistic image and the lens of androcentrism, society becomes one step closer to obtaining a screwed up sense of gender equality. Because body image is no longer solely a female issue, both men and women pay a toll to obtain beauty. 

Numerous studies reveal that a startlingly high proportion of men are dissatisfied with, preoccupied with, and even impaired by concerns about their appearance. In fact, the percentage of men dissatisfied with their overall appearance (43 percent) has nearly tripled between the years of 1975 to 2000. Since 2000, nearly as many men as women are unhappy with their physical appearance and or bodies. Occasionally, an individual’s disturbance in body image can vary in levels of severity. 

Body dysmorphic disorder, a relatively common yet highly severe psychiatric disorder, affects as many men as women. According to the DSM-V, this mental illness consists of a preoccupation with an imagined or slight defect in appearance that causes clinically significant distress and or impairment in functioning. Although the symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder might sound insignificant, it is highly likely that patients with the diagnosis require hospitalization or admission to a psychiatric unit, become housebound, and attempt suicide. 

Through reflection upon these statistics, I am led to believe androcentrism poses a more imminent risk to men than makeup poses to women. For both men and women to achieve the ideal image comes with dangerous physical, mental and emotional health risks. The root of the problem is obvious. Now what? That’s just it; I do not have a solution. Disappointing, I know. 

Yet had I, or anyone else for that matter, proposed a solution, the problem would still remain unsolved. In problem solving, one must address the first step: defining the problem. To shatter androcentrism, society as a whole must be able to acknowledge its existence. 

Morgan Nunberg is a contributing writer.