Last night on Love Island’s penultimate episode, one half of the favourite-couple-to-win, Dani Dyer, got the chance to video chat with her parents, Jo and (ahem) Danny Dyer. She excitedly called her boyfriend Jack into the room, for him to e-meet her parents for the first time. While exchanging semi-awkward chit chat with the parents, Jack and Danny had a pretty heartwarming moment. “I love the fact you’ve got a little derby”, said Danny (derby, short for Derby Kelly, is Cockney rhyming slang for belly. Thanks Google for that one). “It’s not about abs is it?”, asked Jack, to which Danny replied: “Takes a brave man to bowl in that gaff, they’re all there abbed up, ain’t got nothing about ’em”.
Okay, so it’s not Shakespeare, but Jack and Danny’s exchange was a rare thing to see on reality TV – two men sincerely complimenting each other on their appearance. It can’t be easy for Jack (who is not in bad shape by any means – he just doesn’t have ridiculously defined abs) to live in a house packed with airbrushed-esque bodies around, on a show that’s as much about appearance as it pretends to be about relationships.
At the end of the day, however, Jack has received the real prize – he’s found actual love in the villa with Dani, while the other contestants were too busy grooming themselves to grow personalities.
While Jack hasn’t had to deal with any direct insults about his body, it seems that male body shaming is one of the few social trends that we still deem acceptable. While the world is (extremely) slowly starting to wake up to the damage of body shaming on women, it seems many of us still think it’s OK to be mean about men’s bodies.
Just a few weeks ago, a Twitter exchange between rapper Post Malone and one-fifth of the Queer Eye Fab Five Karamo Brown brought attention to the effect social media bullying can have on real people. Legions of fans of the show had been requesting that their next project be a makeover of pop star Post, to which Brown replied confusedly: “Lol why does everyone want Post Malone to be on the show. Did he request it?”
no they just think I'm ugly and smell lol. love the show tho guys, keep crushing it
— Posty (@PostMalone) July 17, 2018
While Brown classily replied that he “personally loved [Post’s] style and music”, fans were quick to jump on the bandwagon with yet more cruel comments (“We both know he looks like dirty dishwater”).
While women have had to deal with body shaming of disgusting degrees for decades, at the very least, we have each other to turn to for comfort. I don’t know what I’d do without regular reassurances and compliments from my girlfriends on how I look, especially when I feel self-conscious about a certain feature. Men, however, don’t have the same type of dynamic. Compliments, even genuine ones, are seen as awkward displays of affection and are normally avoided in favour of ‘banter’ (read: straight-out insults). While I love a bit of banter as much as the next girl, I would never dream of calling someone fat, ugly or pointing out a particular feature to make fun of, even in jest. Because I know how much it would hurt my feelings if someone were to do it to me.
So why are men’s feelings less valid?
The success of shows like Queer Eye and the casual compliments from Dyer on last night’s Love Island shows that men need body positivity and positive discourse around their appearances and feelings as much as anyone else. The bottom line is that a compliment can make someone’s day, and it doesn’t cost anything to tell someone that they look great – for so many reasons, we should all be a little bit more like Danny Dyer.