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Praising a husband for fancying his “curvy” wife shows just how little we expect of men

Can we not treat him like some kind of body positivity pioneer for liking his objectively hot wife?

Can’t say I’ve ever bought into the idea of penis envy, but man, being a man looks like a goddamn breeze sometimes, and if that’s what having a nob gets you, then heck maybe I am a bit jealous. 

Take, for example, looking after your own kids. When a woman does it, no one cares. In fact, she’s just doing what she’s meant to. In actual fact, it’s nice of everyone to let her do it and to be honest isn’t she slightly taking the piss by having time off work, and she’d better not embarrass everyone by showing a bit of nipple. But let a dad so much as pick up a bottle, and watch the world swoon while angel choirs descend to sing oh isn’t he great and isn’t mum lucky that he babysits. Pass the wetwipes, I seem to have been sick.

Low expectations. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s the great bonus of masculinity. But even I was taken aback to see a man getting praised for, um, fancying his wife. Robbie Tripp describes himself as a “wordsmith, public speaker, and creative activist” and the author of “an abstract manifesto for disruptive creativity”, which to be honest sound like the kind of things you’d make up to get worried relatives off your back. (“No grandma, I’m not unemployed, I’m a creative activist.”) He can now add to that CV the impressive achievement of being keen on the woman he married. 

Yeah, I said impressive. It must be, because otherwise why would his saccharine ode to his wife Sarah Tripp’s “beautiful stretch marks on her hips and cute little dimples on her booty” have pulled in likes on Facebook and Instagram by the thousand, and ended up reported by Buzzfeed, the Mail, E! Online and every other content-thirsty outlet on the internet. 

Not that Tripp always felt able to be as open about his love. “As a teenager,” he writes, “I was often teased by my friends for my attraction to girls on the thicker side, ones who were shorter and curvier, girls that the average (basic) bro might refer to as chubby or even fat.” I can only assume that this is the kind of silver-tongued chat that Sarah Tripp finds irresistible, but as a quick FYI to any dudes looking to play the charmer, DON’T DO THIS. If your compliment game starts with “some men would call you fatty but I’m much smarter than them”, then what you’ve actually got is an insult game and can I suggest you kindly shove it.

But luckily, young Tripp found feminism and learned that he could objectify any woman he wanted! Um, feminism? Yes: “Then, as I became a man and started to educate myself on issues such as feminism and how the media marginalizes women by portraying a very narrow and very specific standard of beauty (thin, tall, lean) I realized how many men have bought into that lie.” Andrea Dworkin, if only you had lived to see this day and know you had liberated a man to share his love of “thick thighs, big booty, cute little side roll.”

Look. I’m happy Robbie Tripp is happy. I’m happy he’s making Sarah Tripp happy. But can we please, please get over this idea that a man is a hero for talking about what body type gives him a boner? And can we not treat him like some kind of body positivity pioneer for liking his objectively hot wife? (Contrary to his claim that “Her shape and size won't be the one featured on the cover of Cosmopolitan”, Cosmo has featured plus-size models.) Dude: finding your partner beautiful is kind of what you’re supposed to do. 

Sarah Ditum is a journalist who writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman and others. Her website is here.

CREDIT: CREATIVE COMMONS
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Prostate cancer research has had a £75m welcome boost. Now let’s treat another killer of men

Each week in the UK, 84 men kill themselves – three times the number of women.

The opening months of 2018 have seen a flurry of activity in men’s health. In February, figures were published showing that the number of male patients dying annually from prostate cancer – around 12,000 – has overtaken female deaths from breast cancer for the first time. Whether coincidence or not, this news was followed shortly by two celebrities going public with their personal diagnoses of prostate cancer – Stephen Fry, and former BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull.

Fry and Turnbull used their profiles to urge other men to visit their doctors to get their PSA levels checked (a blood test that can be elevated in prostate cancer). Extrapolating from the numbers who subsequently came to ask me about getting screened, I would estimate that 300,000 GP consultations were generated nationwide on the back of the publicity.

Well-meaning as Fry’s and Turnbull’s interventions undoubtedly were, they won’t have made a jot of positive difference. In March, a large UK study confirmed findings from two previous trials: screening men by measuring PSA doesn’t actually result in any lives being saved, and exposes patients to harm by detecting many prostate cancers – which are often then treated aggressively – that would never have gone on to cause any symptoms.

This, then, is the backdrop for the recent declaration of “war on prostate cancer” by Theresa May. She announced £75m to fund research into developing an effective screening test and refining treatments. Leaving aside the headline-grabbing opportunism, the prospect of additional resources being dedicated to prostate cancer research is welcome.

One of the reasons breast cancer has dropped below prostate cancer in the mortality rankings is a huge investment in breast cancer research that has led to dramatic improvements in survival rates. This is an effect both of earlier detection through screening, and improved treatment outcomes. A similar effort directed towards prostate cancer will undoubtedly achieve similar results.

The reason breast cancer research has been far better resourced to date must be in part because the disease all too often affects women at a relatively young age – frequently when they have dependent children, and ought to have many decades of life to look forward to. So many family tragedies have been caused by breast malignancy. Prostate cancer, by contrast, while it does affect some men in midlife, is predominantly a disease of older age. We are more sanguine about a condition that typically comes at the end of a good innings. As such, prostate cancer research has struggled to achieve anything like the funding momentum that breast cancer research has enjoyed. May’s £75m will go some way to redressing the balance.

In March, another important men’s health campaign was launched: Project 84, commissioned by the charity Calm. Featuring 84 haunting life-size human sculptures by American artist Mark Jenkins, displayed on the rooftops of ITV’s London studios, the project aims to raise awareness of male suicide. Each week in the UK, 84 men kill themselves – three times the number of women. Suicide is the leading cause of male death under 45 – men who frequently have dependent children, and should have many decades of life to look forward to. So many family tragedies.

I well remember the stigma around cancer when I was growing up in the 1970s: people hardly dared breathe the word lest they became in some way tainted. Now we go on fun runs and wear pink ribbons to help beat the disease. We need a similar shift in attitudes to mental health, so that it becomes something people are comfortable talking about. This is gradually happening, particularly among women. But we could do with May declaring war on male suicide, and funding research into the reasons why so many men kill themselves, and why they don’t seem to access help that might just save their lives. 

Phil Whitaker’s sixth novel, “You”, is published by Salt

This article first appeared in the 18 April 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Enoch Powell’s revenge