A group of veterans is trekking 13 miles with 22 kilograms of weight on their backs to bring about awareness for the many lives of veterans lost to suicide each day. They are, of course, wearing very little. This is problematic, not because they don’t look great, but perhaps because they do look great.
This march is no doubt for a good cause, but I’m not entirely sure what a bunch of bepantied male model quality men have to do with suicide. Something about this just kind of comes across as less of an effort for the greater good and more so an exercise in vanity. It sort of trivializes the trauma that the men and women that have taken their own lives have been through, and sort of seems like an insult to the loved ones left behind. I mean, just look at the headline on Buzzfeed: “A Group Of Hot Veterans Is Marching In Short Shorts To Raise Awareness About Suicide” There are layers and layers of messed up in that string of words. What are they doing that helps? Are they raising money? Are they volunteering to help the victims’ families in any way? Not that we know of. All we know is that they’re parading around town showing off their buff bodies. It’s not much different than this.
Retired Marine Captain Donny O’Malley put the whole thing together, and claimed that it was also to bring fellow veterans closer to one another. “[The event is being held] to get veterans and our supporters together, to put weight on our backs and feel nostalgic, to laugh, to drink, to party, and remind us all that our camaraderie and brotherhood will never die.” That’s fine. Have a party. Remember shit. Feel all at one with each other and life. But the families and friends left behind aren’t partying. They’re grieving. There will always be a pain, a loneliness that will never go away. To treat their losses as an excuse to get wasted and laugh feels like poor taste.
It seems half-assed, too. There’s a picture he posted of him pulling the symbolic weighted bags on a cart with the caption: “What? My back hurts! I don’t wanna carry that heavy ass shit!” So not only is the whole shabang an act of thinly-veiled narcissism, but you can’t even be bothered to actually carry the shit like you said you would? Why bother doing it at all if you don’t take it seriously? Just stay home if it’s that much trouble.
Also, just to be clear, I don’t care that they want to show off their pretty bodies. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. I personally don’t find that kind of body attractive myself, but obviously a lot of people do, so go ahead and show off. March down the street with signs that say “We’re Hot & You’re Probably Not.” I don’t care. But don’t try to convince me that what you’re doing is something noble, something to be applauded, that you’re some kind of hero to the millions of veterans who killed themselves.
Another thing: I’m a rabid feminist. I don’t personally care for how men sometimes are treated on certain websites because they look good naked, but I don’t think it’s as pressing of an issue as the objectification of women in our culture. When men are being shown in a sexual light, they’re usually still presented in some sort of authoritative position of power and control, whereas women are contorted and distorted to submit and shrink away. So I’m not one of those little babies who frequents Buzzfeed articles and feels the need to make comments like “Imagine if this were a woman in these pictures. People would cry sexism! Hypocrites!”
Of course, with that being said I don’t personally like how men are sexualized, but it’s mainly because I’m not a very visual nor physical person. I don’t like how our culture puts such a weight on looks, but I don’t think it’s the same for men as it is for women. When a woman is conventionally attractive, it’s often referred to as her most important attribute. “Hold on to it. It’s the best thing you’ve got.” When a man is conventionally attractive, he’s not usually told it outright. Instead, he’s praised and loved and told all his life how smart, how talented, how important he is. Just as there is white privilege, male privilege, and straight privilege, there is pretty man privilege. You don’t know how many times I’ve witnessed straight women and gay men fawn over some cute guy like he’s God on earth. “You’re taking French AND German? Wow! You’re soooo smart. Isn’t he soooo smart, Bryson?” No, not necessarily. Just because he’s taking two beginner’s language courses doesn’t mean that that’s a good idea, or that he’ll pass both of them. But it doesn’t matter. He’s cute, so he must be special.
Which of course brings me to the vanity of this whole thing. The assumption that they’re all helping by doing this, that by the grace of their thunder thighs lives are being saved and the world is being changed offends me. I’m sorry, but being fine isn’t enough, nor should it ever be. You need to do more. Still want to show off your abs and glutes? Do a nude benefit calendar. Do something other than run around half naked and get drunk. Or do that, but not under the guise that you’re helping anyone by doing so.