Inevitably, a vast market for Viagra opened up. Male fashion, health, and grooming magazines have taken off. Male cosmetic-surgery use has hit record highs. Men are now a third of the market for surgical procedures, and 10 percent of college students suffering from eating disorders are men. Men of all ages, economic backgrounds, and sexual orientations are more worried—some a bit, others more substantially—than they were just ten years ago.
Is it progress when both genders can be commodified and evaluated as objects? Only of the most double-edged kind. If one can draw one firm conclusion, it is that ten years later, women have a bit more breathing space to do what I urged them to do at the end of The Beauty Myth—to make the beauty myth their own. Today, many women have a sense of a measure of freedom to dress up or down, put on lipstick or take it off, flaunt themselves or wear sweats—even—even, sometimes to gain or lose weight—without fearing that their value as a woman or their seriousness as a person is at stake. Not too long ago, we did not make these choices without a bit more trepidation. Incredible to think of now, a decade ago too many of us were asking ourselves, “Will I be taken seriously at work if I look ‘too feminine’?”
“Will I be listened to at all if I look ‘too plain’?” “Am I ‘bad’ if I gain weight? ‘Good’ only if I lose every ounce?”