A recent ad by Peloton that featured a man buying his wife a workout bike for Christmas went viral and sparked outrage on social media. The ad was accused as being “sexist,” “dystopian,” and “creepy,” just because the man was trying to give his wife a convenient way to work out that fits around her busy schedule as a working mother.
Now let’s reverse this ad for a minute. Say Peloton had released an ad with a woman who bought her husband a workout bike for Christmas. Do you think we would have seen this kind of outrage and anger? Undoubtedly, no.
A recent article in The New York Times underscores this point. Titled, “The Beauty Myth for Boys,” the author Cara Natterson, M.D., a pediatrician, writes, “Boys feel the exact same body pressures that girls do, just in different directions.”
“One of the biggest myths about the beauty myth is that it’s female. Boys suffer from unrealistic beauty standards too. What tween boys do notice is the endless parade of perfect male imagery in front of them. Broad shoulders beneath chiseled jawlines and six-pack abs. Despite the omnipresence of these images, multiplied by professional athletes, superheroes and gaming avatars, it’s a lot to ask a tween or teen boy to share feelings around body goals. That’s because when guys enter puberty, they also tend to get quiet,” Natterson contends.
Many were outraged at the Peloton ad because it seemed to some that the husband was “body shaming” his wife, subtly hinting that she needed to lose a few pounds through his gift. But like the Times article shows, boys experience a similar kind of pressure, but it seems our society almost never speaks of that.
This seems to get at something deeper in our culture. Our society has bought the lie that men are bad, and that women can do no wrong. Just ask Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) who during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing, told all the men in the country to shut up. “I expect the men in this country and the men in this committee to demand an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh. Guess who’s perpetuating all these kinds of actions. It’s the men in this country. And I just want to say to all the men in this country, just shut up and step up. Do the right thing,” Sen. Hirono said.
If you listen carefully to the rhetoric of our politicians, you’ll note they never speak of the problems facing men today, specifically white men. Most problems are almost solely focused on the difficulties facing women and minorities. How many times have you heard a politician decry the gender pay gap, claiming that women make only 77 cents on the dollar compared to me, despite the fact that the statistic is false?
Indeed, practically every statistic shows that the opposite is true. Men are falling behind women in very important categories, and almost no one is talking about it.
For over a century, girls have received better grades than boys. More women now attend college than do men and nearly 60% of bachelor’s degrees are awarded to women. And average life expectancy of a woman is five years longer than that of a man.
On the flip side, men make up 97% of combat fatalities, are 10 times more likely than women to die in the workplace, are nearly four times more likely to die by suicide, comprise 77% of all homicide deaths and constitute 75% of all chronically homeless people.
This is combined with the fact that men are constantly told that they are society’s biggest problem, and that their very nature (their masculinity) is toxic.
As the facts show, there is a crisis among men in our society. Yet rather than solving, or even discussing these problems, more people seem to be concerned about an ad depicting a man buying his wife a $2,000 gift to help her workout around her busy schedule.
Additionally, exercise is one of the best things a person can do to live a longer, healthier life. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), those who exercise vigorously for at least one hour and 15 minutes a week live three to seven years longer than those who don’t. So, a man buying his wife a workout bike is most likely trying to help her live a happier, healthier and more productive life. And the woman who buys her husband a nice Peloton bike is doing the same thing.
Here’s what I think is the most important lesson we should learn from this. Men and women, though biologically different, have equal value and worth. Both have difficulties in life, and neither sex should try to claim the victim-card.
Rather, men and women should see the best in each other and want to help the other succeed.
St. Thomas Aquinas said that true love is to “will the good of the other.” If a man buys his wife a Peloton because he cares deeply for her good, that’s a real, tangible expression of love.
As you’re doing your Christmas shopping this year, remember to will the good of those in your life. Even if society calls it toxic.
You can follow this author on Twitter @MettlerZachary
Additional Resources: The Unique Matter of Manhood
Photo from Peloton