I was talking to my brother about women’s attitudes towards their bodies, especially regarding weight/fat, and when he said “most guys don’t notice/care about that kind of thing,” I tried to explain why it was a lot more complicated than that. I ended up telling this story.
Body image is something that’s so hard to talk about, and it’s hard to express body positivity without sounding cheesy, false, or overly simplistic. But I’m gonna try. This is only my own experience, and it didn’t magically cure me of all my body image issues - but it was a major turning point for me nonetheless.
You know, Peeta’s unconventional masculinity is as relevant for traditional gender subversion in The Hunger Games as Katniss’s unconventional femininity.
It’s a bit annoying to see everyone and their mother praising Katniss for being such a unique action female hero, and then hearing those same people making fun of Peeta for being a weakling and a ‘sissy’.
Yes, Peeta paints sunsets and bakes cookies and frosts cakes. He is sometimes/usually unarmed and needs Katniss’s protection. He needs saving at several points across the story, and eventually he is captured and needs rescuing.
So what? Just as Katniss can be dextrous at archery, an assassin and a leader in combat, while retaining her kindness, humanity and selflessness, Peeta can paint, bake, and not be a traditional male action hero and still be the male lead and romantic hero of the story. He can still be sexually alluring for Katniss and capable of extremely heroic actions, while needing rescue and baking cakes.
And if you can’t see how relevant it is for this story and for a younger generation to understand that traditional and media-approved masculinity is also a social construct/imposition, as restrictive and reactionary as enforced traditional femininity can be, then the joke’s on you.