Fame is no excuse for body shame

I love Greta Thunberg — but why is it ok for her to mock guys with small dicks?

4 minute read
A gleaming, low-slung orange Lamborghini with black interior and wheels, parked on a shiny white surface.
"A token of virility and status." (Photo by Toni Zaat on Unsplash.)

The last Internet storm of 2022 was the Twitter exchange between climate activist Greta Thunberg and Andrew Tate, an inveterate viral misogynist now detained for human trafficking. Tate started it off on December 27 by sending Thunberg a provocative tweet about his sports-car collection:

Please provide your email address so I can send a complete list of my car collection and their respective enormous emissions.

“He was probably hoping to enhance his status by mocking her climate commitment,” Rebecca Solnit says in the The Guardian. “Instead, she burned the macho guy to a crisp in nine words.”

Those nine words? Thunberg tweeted back:

yes, please do enlighten me. email me at [email protected]

“Dick pic energy”

Solnit’s analysis of this exchange is spot on: “Cars are routinely tokens of virility and status for men, and the image accompanying his tweet of him pumping gas into one of his vehicles, coupled with his claims about their ‘enormous emissions,' had unsolicited dick pic energy.”

Internet-dwellers were so happy about Thunberg’s read on this energy and her sly response that her tweet quickly became one of the top 10 tweets of all time. The takeaway? Don’t fuck with a smart, savvy, and snarky climate activist.

The other takeaway? It’s perfectly okay to mock guys for having small dicks.

An acceptable insult?

While I’m inclined to celebrate the cleverness of Thunberg’s response, I can’t help but feel that we shouldn't be mocking men about the size of their penises. Men with big cocks aren’t better or more manly. They just have big cocks. Men with little cocks aren’t inferior or less manly. They just have small cocks. It’s not as if men have control over this aspect of their bodies. So why is it okay to shame them for it?

Not to mention the fact that shaming people for the appearance of their genitals also risks harming trans and nonbinary people.

Thunberg’s not-so-subtle insult to Tate’s manhood works: she’s accusing him of displaying his collection of great big cars because he’s overcompensating for feeling small and inadequate. Basically, she’s calling him on his bullshit. And everyone loves to see that (especially when Tate’s arrest on human-trafficking and rape charges came, coincidentally, on the heels of this exchange). But any time we equate manhood with penis size, we’re also relying on the idea that accusing a guy of having a small dick is a horrible insult.

Instead of spreading the burn, maybe we should question why we think it’s ok.

What most men won't do

Whenever somebody is mocked for having a small penis, I think about what it must feel like to be a man with a small penis and live in a world where everyone is totally fine with equating a man’s worth with the size of his cock. Not only that, but where having a small cock is basically a punchline.

I know damn well that very few men are going to respond to news stories about Thunberg’s tweet by coming forward and saying, “I am a man with a small penis and this is hurtful and insensitive.”

Which is why, I, a 68-year-old cisgender woman with no dick at all, am raising the issue.

Why are we still doing this?

Body-shaming can take endless forms. For example, far too many of us are entirely comfortable mocking people for being fat. Fortunately, people who are fed up with being fat-shamed (and their allies) are pushing back. They point out that the size of their bodies has nothing to do with their value as people. And they are absolutely right. There’s still plenty of progress to be made, but fat acceptance has made it far enough into the culture that my five-year-old grandson is learning in kindergarten that it’s wrong to insult somebody by calling them fat.

Shaming somebody for having a small cock is just as rude and insensitive as shaming them for having a large body. If you're progressive enough to be invested in stopping climate change you ought to be progressive enough to refrain from jumping without thinking on the body-shame train. Maybe you think I’m being overly woke. I don’t think I’m being woke. I’m just trying to be a good, compassionate human being.

And I’m asking you —and Thunberg— to join me.

Greta Thunberg, I admire and support everything you’ve done to save our planet. And I’ve got no problem when you insult the heart or humanity of someone as foul as Andrew Tate.

But please leave his dick size out of it.

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