The Rise of the ‘Himbo’ and the Problem of Reverse Objectification

Entertainment news outlets recently reported that Channing Tatum will star in a gender-swapping remake of the 1984 comedy Splash. Tatum will play a merman who saves a woman from drowning. Why? Because Hollywood is officially out of ideas. Brands sell, even dusty ones that today’s young movie goers might never have heard of before.

But the other reason a Tatum reboot of Splash is happening? It’s become totally acceptable in popular culture to ogle men. Behold the rise of the “himbo”—an attractive (and, the assumption goes, unintelligent) man that is the male equivalent of the “bimbo.”

Actress Daryl Hannah became a star for playing Madison the mermaid in the original Splash movie and much of her appeal of the film was movie-goers’ appreciation of her, um, physical gifts. It’s hard to be a demure mermaid, especially when the actress playing her is a statuesque blonde.

However, remaking Splash in today’s politically correct climate poses a challenge to Hollywood. Body shaming op-eds might flow should the actress cast in the critical role not match up to feminist expectations. What if the movie poster showed too much of her skin? Could she be sexy and empowered and still be a mermaid?

In short, how do you hire a mermaid without opening yourself up to charges of female objectification? Simple. You hire a hunky male actor known for stripping in the Magic Mike franchise and objectify him instead. Problem solved.

It’s hardly the only example of the new reverse objectification trend. Take Cosmopolitan, the magazine that strives to “speak” for American women. Two years ago, the magazine published a blistering essay, “Confirmed: Men who objectify women are effing horrible.” The title speaks for itself, but it followed of another screed suggesting that objectification led to an increased risk of sexual assault of women.

The feminist magazine may have had a change of heart given this recent headline: “36 of the Greatest Summer Olympic Bulges: These peens deserve the gold.”

Yes, that’s an actual headline.

Buzzfeed joined the male objectification parade, too, asking its readers, “Can You Guess the Country Based on the Speedo?” Not to be outdone, New York magazine seemed to pat itself on the back for its clever way of celebrating the male Olympic form: “Your Guide to Gratuitous Male Objectification at the Olympics”

And consider this summer’s reboot of Ghostbusters: the new film updates the heroes’ secretary character with yet another gender switch. Out went Annie Potts, the wisecracking co-worker, and in came a dumb-as-a-post replacement played by the attractively buff Chris Hemsworth. Why did these smart, empowered ghostbusters hire an incompetent male? Because he’s so darn easy on the eyes, that’s why.

This would not have been an acceptable thing to do to a woman, of course.

Women must be protected from images of other women’s bodies, evidently. Self magazine recently applauded London’s mayor for having pictures of beautiful, bikini-clad women banned from London Tube advertisements, claiming the ads body shamed women who lack an ideal physique. Would the magazine take the same stance if the ads featured fit male bodies? Not likely.

In fact, judging by the social media swoon over flag bearer Pita Taufatofua of Tonga during the Olympics opening ceremony, women can’t get enough of his oiled-up chest. Today show personalities Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager couldn’t resist his charms; they fondled his suddenly famous pecs on national television, smirking all the while. Imagine if Matt Lauer did the same thing to a curvy female athlete. He would be fired immediately as a result of the likely uproar.

Feminists howl over female objectification. They say it leads to diminished self image, eating disorders, and other emotional burdens. It’s wrong to applaud a woman’s physical gifts without getting to know them as people, they argue, and celebrating their intelligence and other non-physical traits.

So why is it OK to objectify men? According to feminists, it’s because men have always had power, so treating them this way is their just desserts. As one Washington Post reporter wrote:

In sports, as in the workplace, men have been privileged, their athletic prowess not slighted in favor of commentary about their bodies. “When we objectify men, their economic and professional power isn’t reduced or threatened,” writes Daisy Buchanan in Marie Claire UK.

Appreciating the male form is perfectly fine. The men in question clearly worked hard to look attractive, and chances are they won’t lose much sleep that women across America are noticing.

But feminists and women’s magazines such as Cosmopolitan want to have their beefcake and eat it to; they want to enjoy the physical charms of actors playing himbos and athletes flexing their pecs, while also insisting that women not be objectified. That’s not equality; that’s hypocrisy.

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7 responses to “The Rise of the ‘Himbo’ and the Problem of Reverse Objectification

  1. Usually those who object over women’s sexual objectification are really objecting over not being objectified enough themselves.

  2. So why is it OK to objectify men?

    Because men, unlike women, like to…hey!….HEY!!! My eyes are up HERE!

  3. Most men pay good money to be objectified. This “himbo” movement is a cause for celebration.

  4. All of this stuff coming out of Hollywood is garbage. Men and women who can’t act directed by people who can’t direct, written by people who can’t write, for the enjoyment of people who can’t think. I hope there are three or four $200 million bombs over the next couple years that humble the studios into making less manure. I hope all those comic book scripts get burnt in a fire.

  5. They’re not truly “objectifying” these men (there’s no such thing as “objectifying” anyway) they’re just trying to get even for all the “objectifying” they think they’ve been subjected to (funny how the women complaining are never the ones who are being “objectified”.- it’s always about the attention another woman is getting). It’s all about evening the score.
    “Objectifying” is such a phoney-baloney concept. Sexual attraction is natural, human and necessary. Finding someone attractive is humanizing, as people are not sexually attracted to inanimate objects. It is exactly the opposite of “objectifying” – but they already know that.

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