With the rapid movement of a few fingers, a Clemson college student set fire to a whole new body debate - 'the dad bod'.
The young student's tongue-in-cheek article about the benefits of both having a "dad bod" - signified by a round belly and slumping physique - and lusting after someone with one resulted in responses ranging from a complementary #mombod to similarly snarky articles about how to get this dad bod from a real dad.
Essentially, the dad bod theory argues that less fit men actually make better boyfriends due to their willingness to participate in spontaneous fun, like afternoon beers or late night pizzas and, let's just say, a very "relaxed" approach to body image.
But it is ultimately also a commentary on the current state of adult life and parenthood. Maybe this #dadbod idea points to something positive: men’s greater role at home and the gender equality that goes along with it.
As a researcher who spent much of my dissertation studying the standards of perfection women's bodies are held to, even during pregnancy, this trend caught my academic attention.
As a real life mom with a real life mom bod, I could not help but conclude this was just one more way any standards for men and women are just not fair.
Why is everything associated with a "mom bod" negative, a prime example being "mom jeans", while the pooch-bearing "dad bod" becomes a symbol of effortless cool?
Is there any way this new hashtag-frenzy trend could come with an upside for women beyond the double standard?
Fatherhood and man-as-provider masculinity only emerges once men get married
A look at the history of masculinity provides insight into this.
Currently, young men do not face the strict requirements for marriage and having a family as part of successful young adulthood like they did a century ago. Fatherhood and man-as-provider masculinity only emerges once men get married, around age 29 in the United States.
But over time, other images of masculinity have surfaced offering men alternative ways to define successful adult masculinity.
Around 1950, Hugh Hefner’s Playboy made bachelorhood a celebrated state rather than a social outcast, allowing men to live alone in their early twenties. Hefner and others made bachelor-life acceptable as a proper life stage before marriage.
Since then, masculinity as a concept has come in many packages rather than a singular, Don Draper-esque version.
Of course, that version obviously has its flaws.
With both parents working in most families, the "breadwinner" identity no longer defines successful fatherhood.
Gayle Kaufman identified the highly involved father in her 2014 book Superdads, noting today’s fathers want more involvement with their children as part of their identity as a good father.
Millennials in particular value work-life balance, so once those college kids become dads this body standard will make for an easy transition into an "authentic" dad bod.
The non-dad seeking a dad bod does this by finding a comfortable middle ground between extremes of too much gym time and too much couch time. The real dad in a dad bod does this by taking care of kids, managing work-life balance, and accepting that working out may have to go in lieu of birthday parties and day care pick up.
Real dads keep up that skinny fat physique by chasing the kids around and finishing the mac and cheese off their plate before catching an episode of Dora the Explorer.
Sounds a lot like how I got my mom bod. Moderation, right?
Maybe the inspiration for dad bods – real dads sharing the second shift at home – provides just enough room for us women to overlook the double standard.
The dad bod comes from balance as well, but not the type college kids must work towards.
Luckily, the premise of loving these "hot" dad bod holds true for us old married folks too; I will take my dad bod husband any day if that means more family time together.
Just like those college boys, our family of four loves to put away pizza. It just happens a lot closer to 5:30p.m. than 5:30a.m.