Wednesday, October 28, 2015

You Look Marvelous/Handsome Today!

The pictures below are from a restaurant where one of my roommates works. Needless to say, I’m a relatively frequent customer seeing as though I usually get hooked up with a sweet employee discount. Before I was enrolled in Theories of Masculinity, I never really thought twice about the mirror in the female restroom that reads, “You look marvelous today.” During one of my recent visits it struck me as something worth ruminating on, so I decided to investigate the mirror in the male restroom. Low and behold, the mirror reads “You’re a very handsome man.” My first thought was why even have a distinction? Doesn’t it stand to reason that the majority of customers won’t ever know the mirrors have different messages? And can’t generic messages of affirmation about our physical appearances be the same? It reminded me of the fragility of masculinity, and how even words like marvelous are gendered. Not to mention the mirror in the ladies’ room didn’t have to mention the implied target for the message. The mirror in the men’s room is a perfect example of how the very concept of worrying about your appearance or craving some sort of reassurance about one’s looks is tinged with femininity. While men face very real traumas related to body image and beauty standards, theirs is an experience compounded with the societal ignoring of that particular side of the male psyche. I was also reminded of how ostracizing public restrooms can be to nonbinary and trans folks. Messages like “you’re a very handsome man” can be yet another reminder of a person’s feelings of isolation and unsafety due to not identifying as a man, or feeling as though they do not fit into “the man box.”

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