Beef with beef

Is it ‘body shaming’ for ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’ to only seek ‘athletic and toned’ Pit Crew members?

RuPaul's Drag Race Pit Crew

The UK-version of RuPaul’s Drag Race recently put out a casting call for members of the Pit Crew, the show’s hunky helpers who basically stand around in underwear holding things.

The casting call asks for “fit and attractive males aged 18-35” who “must be over 6ft have no tattoos and have an athletic and toned physique.” But some online commenters have called their specs a form of “body shaming”?

One commenter on Reddit wrote, “Honestly, we are at least 3-4 seasons overdue for some real body/look diversity in the pit crew.” And they’re right.

Drag Race has long prided itself on displaying a diverse array of talented drag performers, but the show has yet to crown a big-bodied queen and its Pit Crew has long featured muscular, gym bunny, gogo boys types rather than the bears, twinks and average “boy next door” types who stan the show in droves.

It’s hardly surprising the show would seek younger, taller, muscular men: These bodies have been considered the “traditionally attractive” standard in Western art since the Greek era of 300 BC. And this standard continue to be shoved at viewers through ads for liquor, underwear, travel, hookup apps and gay bars.

And yet, in the modern era, there’s a growing appetite for representation that reflects everyday bodies and embraces the sexiness of actual diversity.

In 2016, the US clothes retailer American Eagle released an ad campaign for underwear featuring men of all shapes and sizes. Its the tagline stated, “The real you is sexy.” People were delighted with its progressive inclusion until the company revealed that it was all just an April Fool’s joke.

Related: Meat magazine’s Instagram page deactivated for being too gay, er, body positive

More recently, online commenters railed against the Australian gay bar Poof Doof’s leaked assignment brief instructing club photographers to exclude skinny boys and “boys with bad skin” to shoot only muscular and handsome men. The club’s managers claimed the brief was seven years old, but their online photos still mostly favor slender or muscular men.

It’s undeniable that unrealistic body images contribute to the higher rates of male eating disorders and body dysmorphia . And since RuPaul’s Drag Race fancies itself as a cutting-edge show, it could also help generate real world change by featuring a more diverse array of sexy, skinny and larger-bodied men in its Pit Crew rather than the same sorts of dudes we’ve literally been seeing for thousands of years.

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