Often spoken of favorably, a dad bod is exactly what its name suggests.
The term refers to a man whose build is average to slim with an extra layer of fat, particularly around the midsection, as a new parent may have due to the added stress and curtailed gym time parenthood brings. The body type offers a more soft, comforting feel than a man with a muscular build may provide.
Comically, you don’t even have to be a father to have a dad bod; the descriptor is wildly popular among the fraternity set, too.
Appearances aside, having a dad bod sends a subconscious message to a man’s potential mates about the lifestyle he might lead.
Your average dad bod owner goes to the gym once a week instead of five. He may have been athletic in a past life, but has since shifted his priorities to his family, friends or hobbies. He may spend his weekends having fun with his buddies while indulging in his favorite foods and a few beers. He is seemingly more carefree and approachable than a bodybuilder type.
Although the term dad bod doesn’t describe a new phenomenon — as studies have long shown that raising a child causes parents to pack on weight for myriad reasons — it certainly brought a more attainable male beauty standard into the mainstream.
In fact, a 2021 survey by Dating.com even found that nearly 75% of the 2,000 singles polled said they prefer a man with a dad bod over a man with a super chiseled figure.
This all, of course, is great. Although frequently associated with women, 25% of individuals in the United States with anorexia nervosa are male. Even worse, men are proven to be less likely to seek help for eating disorders than women due to stigmas associated with traditional masculinity. Embracing a more “average,” attainable body type could be a way to mitigate this.
But, where the dad bod soared in popularity and desirability, the mom bod — its direct counterpart — enjoyed no benefits from the movement, leaving women, particularly new mothers struggling with body changes associated with pregnancy, in the lurch.
“We need to talk,” she begins her video, which has racked up over 630,000 views. “I am frustrated. I’m so frustrated.”
Bry goes on to explain that although both Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary’s definitions of “dad bod” include positive words like “celebration” — and even go as far as to deem the physique something a man “earns” when the “increasing pressures of work life, married life, and especially fatherhood no longer allow him the time or drive to maintain a hard, toned figure” — most websites’ definitions of “mom bod” are decidedly less kind.
Pulling up an excerpt from Elle, Bry explains that typically in pop culture, the mom bod “isn’t generally thought of as appealing. It’s essentially code for a frumpy woman who has, to borrow a charming colloquialism that is almost exclusively applied to women, ‘let herself’ go.”
She also shares one of Urban Dictionary’s many definitions of mom bod, which reads, “a woman who has had at least one kid and that child has affected her body in such a way that it changes her physical appearance to the point to where she no longer looks like herself.”
The definition named some characteristics of a mom bod — including “stretch marks on the hips, thighs and boobs, rounded face, double chin, cellulite ass, saggy boobs from nursing and pumping, a rounded or sagging belly” — which were starkly negative in comparison to the previous descriptions of a dad bod.
Frustrated, Bry calls out the infuriating disparity in the language used to describe the two terms.
“You’re telling me that women spend nine months growing human life inside of them. At the end of that nine months, they’re either sliced open, or they literally push a person out of their body, only to be minimized to a fat stomach, saggy tits, stretch marks and a double chin, when men will have the same body type and they are celebrated for ‘earning’ their dad bod?” she asks. “Can someone make that make sense for me? Because I am disgusted and frustrated.”
Commenters seemed to agree with Bry’s assessment.
“This has to be written by a man,” one user wrote.
“I feel a bit sick after watching that!” said another.
Bry, who frequently shares body acceptance content with her over 84,000 TikTok followers, told In The Know that she decided to speak out on this gross double standard after one of her own TikToks received a slew of body-negative comments.
“I was sitting down in a bikini and didn’t hide the fact that I have rolls on my stomach — why would I? — and the audio I was using was a girl saying she rated herself a 10/10 and that she was flawless,” Bry explained of the clip. “I didn’t expect it to go viral, but it’s sitting at 4 million views right now.”
What the creator especially did not expect was for the video to attract nasty comments about her figure.
“It didn’t bother me. I have a great relationship with myself and with my body, but I got to thinking about how it could affect other women who looked like me and read those awful comments,” Bry shared. “And ever since then, I have been working hard to build a platform that is a safe space for everyone.”
“It hit me that women’s bodies just aren’t celebrated enough and, in fact, they are most of the time criticized,” Bry explained. “The pressure for women to look a certain, often unrealistic, way is just insane. Not to mention, the pressure to ‘bounce back’ after having a baby is absurd.”
“Women literally bring new life into this world. Their bodies go through a lot of trauma to do so,” she continued. “They deal with postpartum depression, hair loss, anxiety and still juggle all that life brings while putting themselves and their happiness last to everyone else’s. In return, they are ridiculed and criticized for how their bodies look. It’s disgusting how normalized this is.”
Bry decided to use her platform to highlight this disparity, although she says her video received mixed reviews from viewers.
“It was very well received by a majority of people but, of course, there were plenty [of people] that had to be keyboard warriors and comment their negativity,” she said. “I also had to clarify that I was in no way saying that dad bods shouldn’t be celebrated and that only mom bods should be. The real message I was trying to get across was that they should both receive the same amount of acceptance.”
Still, the comments from the women she helped with her video far outweighed the negative ones, according to the creator.
“I get so much amazing feedback from women who say they bought their first bikini because of my videos, or that they actually put on a bathing suit and played with their kids in the water for the first time instead of hiding under baggy clothes,” Bry shared. “Those comments are worth their weight in gold.”
Bry believes that there are a ton of factors contributing to the way that we, as a society, view mom bods and dad bods, although she named deeply rooted misogyny as one of the main culprits.
“Thinking back on [typical] male and female roles [in society], men have been viewed as the provider for so long, and there was a time when women didn’t have a choice but to keep their male partner happy in order to maintain financial stability and social acceptance,” she explained. “A woman’s role was to keep [her man] pleased and to look amazing — not just for him, but to represent him well to the rest of the world. I believe that [this issue] originated in those old standards … when men didn’t have the pressure to have to look good, but keeping up her physical appearance was a large part of a woman’s role.”
“While we have come a long way in terms of equality, we of course still have a ways to go,” she added.
In an interview with Women’s Health, Jennifer Wolkin, Ph.D., a psychologist at the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center, shared similar sentiments, saying, “when women see a man with a ‘dad bod,’ they think, ‘he’s a family man,’ ‘he’s a nurturer,’ ‘he’s putting his family before himself.’ But when men see a woman with a ‘mom bod,’ they think, ‘she’s lazy and still hasn’t lost the baby weight.'”
Wolkin explains that this type of judgment would have probably made sense in our “caveman days,” when physical appearance was the only way to gauge a woman’s health and how suitable of a child-rearing partner she would be. After all, the future of humankind depended on the ability to reproduce. Obviously, we now know that body type is not the sole predictor of being a successful mother, and humankind is far from in danger of going extinct. But the double standard seems to have stuck around.
Women aren’t completely free from blame here, either, as a large portion of the population upholding these deeply ingrained toxic ideals is female-identifying.
As Leslie Heinberg, Ph.D., director of behavioral services for the Cleveland Clinic’s Bariatric and Metabolic Institute, explained to Women’s Health, “women striving for thinness isn’t solely about appealing to the opposite sex … sometimes, it’s about meeting other women’s body image ideals.”
So, how can we work as a society to correct this issue in order to be able to celebrate mom bods — which, literally speaking, are the more “earned” of the two physiques — the same way we praise dad bods?
“The best way to do this is to not only bring these issues to light, but to change the conversation,” Bry believes. “No matter how uncomfortable it is. No matter how much backlash you receive. Do not let anyone silence you on this issue or gaslight you into thinking you are being oversensitive about it.”
“When you see content on any platform that celebrates women’s bodies and advocates for erasing these double standards, interact with it so it can reach more people,” she continued. “Always keep the conversation going and don’t stop until real change happens. Instill these values into your children and raise the next generation to erase the double standards. And, very importantly, take every chance you can to lift other women up. Your kindness will go further than you know and start a chain reaction of others doing it, too.”
Bry says this is particularly important to her as the mother of a young girl, who she hopes to raise to love herself and her body despite any double standards or hateful comments she may be exposed to.
“I owe much of who I am to [my daughter] because she has been my motivation to be the best woman and mother I can be as I set the example for her,” she said.
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