Flabby male bods are in, but women cry foul over double standards

Celebrities such as Seth Rogen (above) and Leonardo DiCaprio are deemed to have the quintessential dad bod. -- PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Celebrities such as Seth Rogen (above) and Leonardo DiCaprio are deemed to have the quintessential dad bod. -- PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Celebrities such as Seth Rogen and Leonardo DiCaprio (above) are deemed to have the quintessential dad bod. -- PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Celebrities such as Seth Rogen and Leonardo DiCaprio (above) are deemed to have the quintessential dad bod. -- PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Radio deejay Andre Hoeden says a dad bod is inevitable with kids around because dads have no time to work out. -- ST PHOTO: DANIEL NEO
Radio deejay Andre Hoeden says a dad bod is inevitable with kids around because dads have no time to work out. -- ST PHOTO: DANIEL NEO

Chiselled abs, bubble butts and impeccable pecs - move aside.

The newest trend in lad bods is now the dad bod - a male physique that is much more about the beer belly than it is about bulging biceps.

It is a pop culture fixation that started earlier this month after an online article by 19-year-old American university student Mackenzie Pearson titled Why Girls Love The Dad Bod went viral.

In it, Pearson describes the quintessential dad bod as that belonging to a man who goes to the gym occasionally, but also "drinks heavily on the weekends" and enjoys "eating eight slices of pizza at a time".

The cuddly mid-section which results from this laissez-faire lifestyle, Pearson says, is what women find attractive, primarily because it helps them feel better about their own bodies.

The article has since sparked a flurry of online discussion, with international media outlets such as Time, GQ and The Washington Post covering the phenomenon.

The New York Times even did a quantitative study of the dad bod to see if the stereotype really held any water.

Citing national nutrition and health surveys, NYT concludes that fathers on average are 10 pounds (4.5kg) heavier than non-dads and often carry nearly an extra 2 inches (5cm) on their waist.

While paunchy men worldwide were quick to share the article, some women have slammed the idea of the dad bod for being sexist as it reinforces the different expectations of male and female bodies.

Flabby dads are now deemed sexy, while mums are supposed to lose their baby weight as fast as humanly possible.

Others pointed out that many of the celebrities deemed to have the quintessential dad bod - actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Seth Rogen - are not even dads to begin with.

It is a dichotomy that stems primarily from the terminology of the phrase du jour, says Associate Professor Michelle Lazar from the Department of English Language and Literature at the National University of Singapore.

"On the one hand, the term dad bods caught on linguistically because it sounds very hip and effectively takes some slack off men in an appearance- oriented society, which is a positive thing," she says.

"However, to have terminology that allows men an escape route of sorts while continuing to insist that women work on their bodies at all stages of their lives is where the term becomes problematic - especially since it places undue pressure on women and girls."

It is a sentiment shared by Ms Marissa Leong, 36, a personal assistant and mother of two girls aged eight and four.

When asked her opinion on the new controversial catchphrase, Ms Leong said: "Why is it that men get body-positive terms such as dad bod while women have to deal with body-shaming terms such as thigh gap?

"It highlights the ingrained double standards we have for judging men and women's bodies, and that makes me upset as a mother of two young girls."

Others such as undergraduate Kelsey Tan, 22, were not sold by Pearson's argument about dad bods.

"To say that the appeal of a dad bod is in making women feel better about their own bodies just highlights how insecure women can be," she says.

"I, like most women, would prefer a fit guy over an unfit one. It's silly to want to date a man with a dad bod just for the cheap thrill of feeling physically smaller next to him."

Still, there are those who have embraced this new body type - especially if they themselves have a dad bod.

Human resources manager Abdul Hafiz, 36, is a father of twin boys aged seven who admits he has put on nearly 10kg since his wife got pregnant.

He says: "Even though men don't get pregnant, we're still buying treats for our wives, getting them the food they crave and eating all their leftovers. And once you're caught up juggling the kids, a few kilos around the mid-section is inevitable, right?"

Mr Stewart Lim, 29, a marketing executive, agrees that the dad bod phenomenon also takes some pressure off men who are struggling to stay in shape as they grow older.

"Even though women have to deal with more gender-stereotyping in the media, I still think it's good to celebrate more realistic body types across the board," says the bachelor.

"Men also feel the pressure to look good and the trend just serves as a reminder to be comfortable in our own bodies - whether you are actually a dad or not."

Despite all the rejoicing from the male camp, there is still some stigma associated with the dad bod.

After all, none of the male newsmakers interviewed for the story were willing to be photographed, saying they were "shy" to put their dad bods on display.

Radio deejay Andre Hoeden, 40, who took one for the team says that the dad bod is a free pass that should be extended only to dads with two kids or more - singletons need not apply.

He says: "When you've got three kids like me, you're outnumbered.

"I can't just leave my wife at home to handle the kids while I pump iron at the gym. That's totally unfair.

"That's why most mums and dads are content with their parent bods. It might not be perfect, but it's real and at the end of the day, that's all that matters."

avarma@sph.com.sg

Women, do you find the dad bod hot? E-mail stlife@sph.com.sg