Can you believe it? Arnold Schwarzenegger went braless again!
Or at least that’s what they’re saying on the Daily Male, a cheeky new Twitter account that shows how tabloids objectify women by using pulled-from-the-headlines phrasing to describe famous men.
It’s not just the former Governator who’s baring some major skin on the Daily Male. Click onward and you’ll see The Rock practically bursting out of his button down:
And while Chris Evans is coyly covered up today, we all know what he’s working with under that sweater:
The account is sendup of the Daily Mail, the British newspaper that, despite having a majority female readership, famously takes a leering approach to writing about women’s bodies.
Case in point? Recent headlines from the Mail include: “Amber Rose lets her baby bump hang out in revealing leopard print bikini and crop top at 8 months pregnant” and “Cara Delevingne displays her taut abs” at the London premiere of her new movie.
Not even seasoned politicians are exempt from the Daily Mail’s male-gaze-on-steroids treatment: In May 2017, the newspaper drew immediate criticism on Twitter for a front page featuring Theresa May, Britain’s then-prime minister, and Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland.
The two women had met to discuss pressing constitutional issues, but hey, who cares about that when you’ve got legs for days?
By using the same horn-dog language to describe men, the creators of Daily Male point out that certain publications have no boundaries when it comes to writing about women’s appearances. (And let’s be real, this isn’t exclusively a tabloid problem. Few sites are completely blameless and we’ve certainly had our moments: In years past and under prior management, HuffPost’s extensive “sideboob” coverage was frequently mocked by Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.”)
At the Daily Mail, Piers Morgan is a columnist, a pundit with a perpetual axe to grind. (More often than not, against Meghan Markle.) At the Daily Male, he’s simply a man of a certain age, showing off his “famous hourglass physique.”
We wouldn’t bat an eye at the weirdness of that headline if it were about, say, Amal Clooney, a human right’s lawyer who’s arguably had more stories written about her celebrity marriage and so-called baby bump than her work.
Women ― no matter their accomplishments or field ― are written about as if they’re nothing more than a sum of body parts to be either leered or jeered at, said Jai Mackenzie, a British Academy postdoctoral fellow at the University of Nottingham. (MacKenzie studies language and gender but is unaffiliated with the Daily Male Twitter account.)
“Whenever you point this out, people will inevitably roll their eyes and say it’s ‘PC culture gone mad,’ or we are making a fuss over nothing,” she told HuffPost. “That’s because objectifying women in this way has become so normalized that sometimes people hardly notice it’s happening.”
A tabloid editor creepily homing in on one specific body part in a headline about a celebrity ― and using verbs like “displays,” “reveals” or “flashes” ― suggests that the woman is showing off for the benefit of others. With those verbs, it hints that she might even be a little complicit in her objectification. This all might seem minor but language, however subtle, has bearing on our everyday lives.
“It ends up being a very real problem,” Mackenzie said. “If we see the fragmentation and evaluation of women’s bodies as ‘normal,’ we could assume that a woman walking down the street is somehow displaying their body for others’ benefit.”
As the parody account shows, men rarely get that treatment and if they were to, we’d rightfully call it silly.
That’s why the Twitter account is so effective, said Kara S. Alaimo, an assistant professor of public relations at Hofstra University who’s written extensively about this double standard in media coverage.
“Daily Male starkly shows how men would never really be victims of the same kind of superficial treatment that women need to contend with when they try to make serious contributions to the world,” she said. “If readers all started recognizing this double standard in reporting and shaming media outlets that practice it, we could put an end to it quickly.”
Obviously, the answer isn’t to objectify men equally ― men don’t like to be picked apart like that, either. “Mad Men” actor Jon Hamm was clearly peeved when photos of his bulge in tight pants and sweats began popping up online.
“They’re called privates for a reason. I’m wearing pants, for fuck’s sake,” he told Rolling Stone in 2013. “When people feel the freedom to create Tumblr accounts about my cock, I feel like that wasn’t part of the deal.”
Jon ― and the Daily Male ― have the right idea; no matter how tight the trouser, we should cool it with the prying pics and coverage.
Head to the Daily Male’s Twitter profile for more.