Logo’s all-male answer to The Bachelor kicked off last week, promising much of what we expect from the straight version of the show, just dressed up in gay clothes. Finding Prince Charming is so closely modeled on the ABC franchise, it would be difficult not to compare the two. But on last night’s second episode, one big difference was made clear: There’s a shocking double standard when it comes to what men and women can say on TV. When the contestants learn they’re going to spend the day on the beach with Prince Robert, excitement’s in the
editing air. The guys are going to compete in a rousing game of beach volleyball, so Robert can see their “athletic prowess” because he wants a guy who’s a “good team player.” (Let those qualities sink in for a minute while the guys model their bathing suits and jump on the beds.)
Justin, a 29-year-old model and project manager with salon-frosted hair, is particularly excited. He likes a good competition. He wants to see Robert in a bathing suit (again, they already had a pool party, obviously). And, he tells the camera, “I’m also thinking, Thank god I haven’t eaten since 1997.”
I laughed. Honestly? I’ve made the same joke about 100 times. Then the record screeched to halt as I realized this was not one of my friends. Wait, you can’t say that on television, right? Well, a woman certainly couldn’t, that’s for sure.
Just imagine, Bethany from L.A., she’s a model too (why not?) and an aspiring interior designer with a winning smile and a spark in her eyes. She has a body that’s the envy of half the other contestants and millions of women at home. And she just cracked a joke about not having eaten in 19 years. (Crickets. And a quiet snip as the footage hits the cutting room floor.)
Maybe on UnReal, but not on national TV. So, why is it okay for a man to joke about an eating disorder — in the context of a statement about body confidence, no less — and yet, a woman could never do the same? Let’s start with the obvious: Eating disorders, and the many people who struggle with them, are not a joke. A female contestant might just as easily offer a similar remark for the camera — surely, a Real Housewife has, at some point. But we wouldn’t be laughing. Because we know how much pressure women face over their bodies, how much suffering has been caused as a result, and how much work is still being done to combat unrealistic beauty standards in the media. These are struggles that predominantly affect women: 20 million of them in the U.S. will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). But, guess what? Ten million men in the U.S. will, too. And as NEDA notes, 42% of those men identify as gay.
Wait, you can’t say that on television, right? Well, a woman certainly couldn’t, that’s for sure.
Clearly, Justin is exaggerating when he says he hasn’t eaten in nearly two decades, but the truth underneath his joke is clear: Gay men, in Prince Charming’s mansion and pretty much everywhere else, face similarly insane pressures as women do to have the perfect body. Straight men face these pressures too, obviously, but desire among men often tends to create a mirroring effect: Be as fit as the man you want to be with. Wouldn’t everyone in the house just as soon have a body like Robert as attain him? It’s hard to believe that the combination of his Thor physique and Princess Jasmine waistline isn’t actually CGI. I’d be afraid to eat, too. It all works out for Justin, though. He wins MVP at the game, goes on the first solo date with Robert, lands the first kiss, and gets called first in the rose-ceremony equivalent “black tie affair.” He seems like a sweet guy, and I wish him luck. However, if he does win the Prince’s arm, here’s hoping he takes the throne to spread a message about body confidence for everyone, all jokes aside.