April Fool's is a shit holiday. You don't get candy or presents and no and one celebrates your birth, but you do get to mine through several fake Facebook engagement announcements and avoid getting pranked by those who purportedly love you.
But perhaps the biggest fool this April is American Eagle's Aerie — a media darling of body positivity that's built its brand by using un-retouched underwear models of various shapes and sizes.
About a week before April 1, Aerie dropped a series of videos featuring real male models of various sizes called AerieMAN. Similar to AerieREAL — the female focused body-positive campaign — the video seemed to promote acceptance and inclusivity.
Alas, April...Fools? The company released a bizarre statement on the Cursed Day of Pranks, claiming that #AerieMAN was just a joke.
"American Eagle Outfitters proves once again they're not afraid to take a risk and have a laugh in support of a good cause," the statement read. "Following the successes of the Skinny Skinny Jean in 2013 and American Beagle Outfitters in 2014, the brand reveals today its #AerieMAN campaign, featuring a mix of quirky characters of different sizes and personalities sharing "real life" stories in their skivvies, was all in good fun to parody the #AerieReal campaign by Aerie, a leader in body-positive marketing."
A few questions: 1) How can Aerie claim to "take body positivity very seriously" if it makes male body acceptance the punchline of a joke? 2) Who the actual fuck thought this was a good idea? I hope they got fired, or that they're filing papers in a corporate basement with a creepy old employee who only wants to talk about his pet bird and soup.
What American Eagle doesn't understand is that body positivity — which they've clearly co-opted to be the "likable" alternative to Victoria's Secret — is that it isn't just for one gender. We all need and deserve it.
The reality is, men struggle with body image too: A new study published in Psychology of Men & Masculinity found that 21% of straight and 29% of gay men say they're dissatisfied with their bodies. Thirty-nine percent of straight men and 44% of gay men expressed disappointment with their weight.
Twenty percent of straight men and 39% of gay men admitted to hiding a body part during sex due to insecurity.
I'm not a man, but I'm offended by Aerie's "joke," because it makes light of those who, like me, have struggled to unlearn the hate we harbor for our bodies. Recently, I found out that my dad battled with the same eating disorder that I struggled with for several years. I've never been more proud of his bravery, but it still took us 23 years to have a conversation about it — a conversation many are justifiably afraid to ever have.
But still, there's a reason why those battling body image issues — especially men — have a hard time opening up about their experiences.
For one thing, it's probably because they don't want to be treated like a fucking punchline.