Reason #984736284372 I dont fit in with 'feminists'

Amanda Marcotte, big internet name in skepticism and feminism just put up an article on The Guardian blag:

The soft underbelly of the right's hard abs



... I dont get it.

Or rather, I 'get it', but I find it distasteful, and I dont 'get' why she thought it was appropriate for her to post that.

At first, the June cover of Men's Health seems par for the course for a magazine that aims to stoke male anxieties about physical perfection to sell products to men the same way that the beauty industry has done to women for decades:

Umm... Its not a magazine about knitting or fly fishing. Its a magazine about... mens... health... So... there are extremely physically fit... men... on the cover... and information inside about... mens... health...


Marcotte doesnt actually give a rats ass about 'Mens Health', it was just an intro to make fun of a politician for being physically fit, who also happens to have opposing political views:

The man with the sort of abs that The Situation would kill for isn't just some male model or athlete, but a Republican congressman from Illinois, Aaron Schock... It's a choice that suggests that the congressman intends to live up to his name. It seems incongruous for him to pose half-naked - not just because of his office, but because of his track record as an outspoken opponent of gay rights and an enemy of sexual liberation who voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Schock is constantly beating back Beltway rumours that he's gay that spring up every time he shows up half-naked in public or wears turquoise belts with white jeans, a situation that would cause most people to rethink behaving in ways commonly associated with homoeroticism in public spaces.

Okay... so there are lots of things to criticize Schock for. Why go below the belt and bitch about his appearance? To question his sexuality? Hey, you know who else appreciates physically fit men? WOMEN. Or are they not 'the kind of women' Mercotte wants to address? What is the point of questioning Schocks sexuality based on his appearance, here? What the hell?

Why is making fun of Schock for being in shape and dressing well, thus totally a fag, funny, but the Republicans going after that fat dyke Elena Kagan bad?

Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest enemies these Christian warriors are mentally undressing and oiling up to fight is the gay rights movement. Perkins even testified in Congress against Elena Kagan's appointment to the US supreme court, invoking her supposed desire to foist "the sexual counter culture" on the military by repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell.

What was the fucking point of that entire intro? What was the point of that article at all? "Hahaha" yes, we all know Evangelical Christians make unintentionally 'gay' references all the time. Hurray, youre writing about something other people have noticed a really long time ago and referenced in funnier ways. But this article has the added bonus of making fun of a politician based on his physical appearance. But its okay, its not like he is covered in scars from surviving a fire or is in a wheelchair due to ALS. Hes in shape, so its totally okay to make fun of him.

Yeah, thats not funny.

Mercottes piece reeks of the cliche 'Jocks vs Nerds' fight that I wrote about ages ago.

Hitchens dying of cancer from smoking is not fucking funny.

PZ almost fucking dying from heart disease is not funny.

The over-drinking that goes on at Skeptic conferences is not funny.

The skeptical community could do with a much larger focus on 'health', mens and womens.

Glad Mercotte thinks its appropriate to be part of the problem while insincerely declaring she is part of the solution. I repeat:

At first, the June cover of Men's Health seems par for the course for a magazine that aims to stoke male anxieties about physical perfection to sell products to men the same way that the beauty industry has done to women for decades:

Well herpty derp back at you, Madame.

Maybe then, we could move into a future where we look at each other as human beings, instead of gender caricatures.

That is the reality I currently live in, Mercotte. One day maybe one day you can grow up and join me and the other people on this planet who think its just fine for people to focus on their physical health as much as they focus on their mental health, following any and all hobbies that catch their fancy, without attacking anyones sexuality or accusing them of being 'gender caricatures'.

More like this

Tell 'em Steve-Dave!

I'll bet Marcotte would be pretty pissed if someone called her a bitter, ugly hag who can't get a man with nice abs, and the whole feminism thing is just sour grapes. It would be stupid and rude to say that, but it is also stupid and rude to go after a guy because he's in shape and proud of it. I'm sure Obama's proud of his jump shot, and Bush was pretty fit too.

Considering the shape a large minority is in, maybe it is a good thing for the people in charge to set a good example?

Well, I think there are two issues here:
1. The conflation of physical appearance and health. The two are not the same thing. For example, while it is true that many ostensibly overweight people are quite unhealthy, it is very possible to be both "overweight" and healthy.

There are all sorts of very negative effects for conflating appearance with health. Take anorexia, bulimia, liposuction treatment, and many more. For men, we might consider some steroid use to fall into this camp.

2. I see the criticism of Kagan for her appearance and the presentation of Schock's abs are one and the same thing: valuing appearance over the qualities that should matter in a government official. I don't buy for a second that she's criticizing him for his appearance, but rather for focusing on his appearance when it shouldn't matter.

By Jason Dick (not verified) on 15 May 2011 #permalink

I usually enjoy your musings, but I think you have missed Amanda Marcotte's point which seemed to me about the hypocrisy of the right, not about keeping fit. Your deliberate misspelling of her name did not really help make your point either. I really don't get feminist bashing by smart capable women such as yourself, but I look forward to your next posting anyway.

By Malcolm westley (not verified) on 15 May 2011 #permalink

The over-drinking that goes on at Skeptic conferences is not funny.

I really like your posts most of the time, and totally like, dig you, but this I have to take exeption with ! I mean, you're like, totally wrong here, completely missed the point and all that. Over-drinking ? Is that even possible ?


Amanda Marcotte has a pretty good sense of humor (IMO) and I enjoy her writing on conservatives.

But sometimes she just seems totally NUTS. Like, recently she had a blog post complaining about a cake with sperm decoration (cartoon sperm, not actual sperm) congratulating a guy on being a father to be.

Check out the post:…

Because there are just a lot of men out there who really need to believe they made the baby by having an orgasm, and that no one should credit the person who gained weight, contributed a quarter of her daily nutrients for 9 months, threw up a lot, saw her feet change size, and then pushed an 8 pound human out of her genitals while suffering massive pain. Because if you admit that bitches can pull that stunt off, you might have to admit that theyâre good at other things, too.

Last I checked a man having an orgasm actually is an integral part of producing a baby. It may not be as much work but it's still relevant.

I can see Ms. Marcotte's first/initial point, to an extent. Sure, if/when people treat altered images as a realistic and healthy ideals, then they could very well do unhealthy/dangerous things to try and attain the unreal physical appearances. (Single Dad Laughing posted a passionate piece on this subject:

However, that potentially valid initial point was soon left far, far behind. Ms. Marcotte went vaguely from, how unfortunate that a men's health magazine is using photo shopped images to portray an unrealistic physical ideal. Wouldn't it be healthier to use realistic images, instead? to a rant against a specific political figure. Bonus points for going on to attack said figure in way previously labeled as repugnant.

Aaaawkward turtle, for sure.

Well you might be a crazy bitch with no sense of perspective but at least you see the Herp-de-derp in Mercotte's writing, and you're in damn good shape, no lie. Much better than I :(

Malcolm westley-- I think you have missed Amanda Marcotte's point which seemed to me about the hypocrisy of the right, not about keeping fit...
The irony of someone needing to be a hypocrite to point out someone elses hypocrisy was not lost on me. It also perpetuated the stereotypes that she appeared to be trying to dissolve. Not impressed.

Your deliberate misspelling of her name did not really help make your point either.
Typos on ERV?? NEVER!!

When Im making fun of someones name, you know it. "Mareface" "Mercock", etc. Accidentally changing "Marcotte" to "Mercotte" halfway through was an accident.

I decided (for once) to keep my big fat mouth shut when I saw Amanda Marcotte was a VIP on the Skepchick speakers schedule.

She is complete disappointment all round.

1. She has a history of defending false rape accusers. In so doing she undermined the credibility of rape victims to make some political point.

2. She has no academic credentials whatsoever.

3. She worked for one of the most egregious examples of male privilege, power differential abuse and exploitation in modern politics.

4. Her perpetuation of the disgusting depiction of black men as pseudo monkeys lusting over white women was unforgivable and her response of "Meh, kay I'll take those illustrations out of my book if you are going to get huffy." was blisteringly goddamn inadequate.

I am not sure what is going on in Austin but between Jill Posey-Smith, Marcotte and Kissy Kissy Kirshenbaum some sort of critical mass is forming of reparation feminist fabulism that has about the same intellectual accountability as "Biblical Archeology".

It is tragic and ultimately this will blow up in everybody's face. It hurts the movement by muffling the great battle cry of feminism as a force for social pragmatism and egalitarian meritocracy.

By Prometheus (not verified) on 16 May 2011 #permalink

I'll second your contention that the article was disjointed, it seems like she changed her mind about what she was writing about halfway through it. However, I'll say this: Men's Health is about health like Cosmopolitan is about healthy relationships. Most of the magazine (aside from ads of course) was the following:

1. Flavor-of-the-week exercise tips (that were immediately contradicted by the next issue's tips)
2. Advice on being a "real man," usually involving being borderline homophobic, obsessed with exercise, or both
3. Food advice, which could have been good if they weren't completely terrified of offering a healthy meal that didn't involve meat. I'm an omnivore, but seriously, you're calling yourself Men's Health and can't find a vegetarian meal to feature?
4. Sex tips that I swear were written by the Cosmo writers and given to the Men's Health writers as a joke.
5. Fashion advice at the advanced Queer Eye level. If you want to be a "manly" magazine, try to eliminate the "manly" fashion mistakes: socks with sandals, wife-beater T shirts, chest hair creeping over the collar. The vast amount of man-purses, $100 T shirts, and skin-tight clothing options was probably my first indication that the magazine wasn't so much masculine as it was obsessed with superficial bullshit.

IMHO, it would have been a much better article if she'd just stuck with making fun of all the hyper-masculine stuff the right wing loves, and contrasting it with all the gay-hating. I mean really, most gay men I know thought 300 was over the top, but apparently CGI abs really get the Christian Right a-panting!

By Rob Monkey (not verified) on 16 May 2011 #permalink

The over-drinking that goes on at Skeptic conferences is not funny.


By The Chimp's Ra… (not verified) on 16 May 2011 #permalink

You may want to check out this article that Greta Christina posted on Facebook recently:

You, too, canât have a body like this
To get the abs, male models have to starve, binge, booze, suck sweets, slap on fake tan and be Photoshopped…

I'll agree with you that health and healthy exercise are worthwhile goals and the atheist/freethinker movement should not discourage healthy pursuits.

However, the regimen used to obtain the "Men's Health cover model physique" may not be healthy.

Steve-- On any given day of the week, fitness models are physically amazing. However, before a shoot, they go to extreme lengths to define their muscles. Fitness/Figure competitors do this before competitions.

But think about it this way-- right before a test, a biology student might go to extremes to get the best grade on the test that they can get. Stay up a couple nights in a row, forgoing their normal food/social activities, not leaving their room or the library, etc.

Saying 'There is no point to aspire to be in fantastic physical shape, because look at all these awful things fitness models do!' makes no more sense than 'There is no point trying to get an A in biology, because look at all these awful things biology students do!'

If a fitness model just showed up to a shoot, they would still look great-- they just want to look as great as they can for that occasion. If a good student who had attended class and paid attention just showed up for a test, they would probably still do well-- they just want to do their best on that occasion. Both are willing to make temporary sacrifices to do so. Saying its okay for the biology student to do so, but not the fitness model, is bullshit.

Using the extremes a fitness model or A student goes to as an excuse to neglect your health or flunk a class is also bullshit.

This is an entertainment media as an advertising delivery system.

Any criticism or defense that involves treating pop culture magazines with the same gravitas usually reserved for medical journals, fails to meet definitions of what constitutes human "fitness".

Res ipsa loquitur.

By Prometheus (not verified) on 17 May 2011 #permalink

Having read it previously, I think the actual point of her article was that there's a double standard in that male politicians who show off their bodies don't get labeled as slutty or vacuous or otherwise have the attention focused on their having posed underdressed rather than on their political views. Whereas the same thing is known to happen to women in politics, and the latter part even happens to women who don't go out of their way to show off their bodies, or other facets of their appearance.

In fact, I think you'd have to work really hard to read that article any other way.

...unless I'm confusing it with another blog post on the same article by another feminist blogger, which is possible given my sleep state the past few days. Those quotes, assuming they're direct, don't look familiar.


Its okay, Azkyroth ;) I hope we have some kind of timed edit button on New SciBlogs for comments :)

ERV wrote:

On any given day of the week, fitness models are physically amazing.

That may be true in some cases, but that assertion stands in marked contrast with this quote from the article link I posted:

"Yet the fitness gains are often aesthetic rather than functional, says [James] Fricker. 'I took part in a Menâs Health "survival of the fittest" event with four of their cover models who looked really fit but werenât. They finished at the back of the field, behind ordinary members of the public."

For the record, I will repeat what I said earlier. Health and healthy exercise are worthwhile goals and the atheist/freethinker movement should not discourage healthy pursuits. I think you and I are in agreement with this.

However, the evidence is certainly not conclusive that the fitness magazine cover model regimens are healthy nor do they promite athletic fitness (especially if the cover models are finishing in the back of the pack in the fitness contests mentioned in the article).

There may be some fitness models who really are fit but it appears that some are more aesthetic than fit.

Hmm I dont know, Id say those eight super abs arent health or even fitness, but show-off. Chest thumping. Well, abs thumping. Whatever.

She doesnt find amusing the fact that hes physically fit, but the image of tough uber masculinity as parallel of the good right winger mentality. They are TOUGH, the MAN in the house, not like those four eyed bleeding heart pacifist softies on the left, with their fancy "books" and stuff. We must LEAD the war on Lybia! Groarrrghhh!! *thump*thump*thump* They dont need a nanny government to take care of them because they have MADE THEMSELVES, the same way they have made their super abs, through HARD WORK! They dont need no safety net, no unemployment benefits, no pensions, no social security, no collective bargaining, because they can take care of themselves, unlike those lazy, puny socialists.

That this attitude is now acquiring a physical manifestation too is something worth commenting about. And its funny. She also finds ironic that such display of super manliness ends up being something similar to what we would see in a gay pride parade.

A little frivolous article, but I didnt find it as bad as you did. I think the main difference in interpretation comes from whether we see super abs as health or as show off.

By the way, the second paragraph in the last comment is not about what they *really* think or what they are *really* like, but about their attitude, their schtick.


"That this attitude is now acquiring a physical manifestation too is something worth commenting about. And its funny. She also finds ironic that such display of super manliness ends up being something similar to what we would see in a gay pride parade."

Funny and ironic how?

I find it rather icky for Marcotte to use Aaron Schock's body to promote her agenda despite the fact that the only agenda Aaron Schock specifically uses his body to promote is national fitness...and Aaron Schock.

He may be a homophobic fetus fetishizing misogynist but his body represents a capacity for persistence,commitment,self discipline and dedication.

That's neither funny nor ironic. That's scary. If I were a progressive liberal instead of a bitter old recreational nihilist I would be frightened instead of yucking it up with a featherheaded hypocrite like Marcotte.

As for the gay pride parade, unless you are a Wodaabe tribesman, men have always decided what is attractive as regards other men regardless of sexual orientation. Just like men, regardless of sexual orientation, still get to decide what is attractive for women. Perhaps Marcotte should have bounced off Schock's abs into that very real issue instead of churning up baseless crap to draw attention to herself.

By Prometheus (not verified) on 18 May 2011 #permalink

Gay is frequently seen by some people who aren't very fond of gays themselves as 'effeminate' or not manly enough. I'm sure you have heard that many times. Or the claim that a guy is gay because he hasn't found the right girl for him. Given that notion of what's gay that someone boosts his super macho figure to unheard of new heights to the point of being worth a magazine cover, and the result ends up being similar to typical gay imaginery is ironic.

The funny part is the physical version of the tough, self-made republican rethoric. America needs a strong leader! Just look at my triceps! It's a step closer to actual chest thumping :-) Big, extremely defined abs have little to do with health, national or not. A guy whose only goal is to be healthy doesn't have a belly, he will have abs, but he doesn't have that kind of musculature either. This guy for example looks perfectly healthy. This one is very fit (professional soccer player), still the abs don't look inflated like the guy in the cover of that magazine. Theres a difference between health and show. What this guy does with his body is not focusing on his physical health.

I dont know what is the agenda of Marcotte, and I'm not sure about the attention. To be frank, Ive learned nothing about Marcotte by reading her article.

Wow....we agree on something!! Truly amazing. Maybe one of these days you'll cross over to the dark side and blog for us...;P