For a long time the debate on women looking in the mirror and being looked at has been a very focused-on subject in discussions, the media and women’s personal thoughts. But what about men? We know that the standard of women’s bodies has changed, in the Renaissance bigger, curvy women were the norm, while today 90-60-90 is the standard worldwide. The obsession with thinness sadly leads to many problems such as eating disorders and body image issues.
But, again, what about men? What is the ideal image of a man? One might be tempted to answer: “none”, as men are accepted and free to be and look like whatever they want. However, we can say that one would be missing the forest for the trees. It might be true that men aren’t the subject of critique as much as women, but they still are. The answer is that there is one standard of the male body image.
We live in a society where the male body image is often charged with sexuality. It’s kind of like air: we live in it all the time, but don’t take the time to notice. Sexually charged images of men are seen everywhere: in the media, on TV, on the Internet, etc. These create a standard that men feel they need to achieve, even though they don’t talk about it or show it. Although the palette of imagery is really big, the main concept is always the same: young, usually white and particularly muscular men are the standard. The men we are surrounded by in the media are strong-jawed, healthy, virile, successful, and sexy. And this has always been the case. The only difference between men’s body image today and in ancient times is that in ancient Greece for example, older men were looked at as they also valued wisdom, which they believed came with age. Of course, “old age” for them meant their 40s or 50s.
The problem with this is not that it’s wrong or bad to be young, muscular and to have big arms and shoulders; we are not slamming people who are strong, virile and powerful; the issue is that men who don’t fit this norm are too often not taken seriously.
There are two versions of this imagery: the power-look and the casual look. Of course, these two are in no need to be described: the power-look is the look of men who work in business and the casual look is for the more informal, sporty man. But still, these are two sides of the same coin; as power-look men wear suits that accentuate their v-shape more and more and casual-look men usually look like they are ready to get out of their leather jackets and white working t-shirts. It is a waste of time to try to analyze this as a class distinction or something else, as the power man becomes the casual man in his free time. And also another problem of the common imagery of men is that they always have expensive cars and expensive clothes. Even though some images present thin men, they present thin but still muscular men. This is a paradox: all the images we see of men around us present this type, yet the reality is completely different. And we want to live in reality.
Searching the web today, we can find tons of sites dedicated to men becoming big and macho.
Maybe you haven’t hear of the Adonis complex, which refers to various manifestations of men’s body image issues. Many men for example feel that they will be perceived as effeminate or weak. There are more and more men who suffer from BDD, or Body dysmorphic disorder, which means that they perceive a part of their body as being ugly. One variation of BDD is muscle dysmorphia, which means that a man, even though he is big and muscular still perceives himself as being too weak. These people often take illegal or weird supplements which lead not only to physical problems such as hardening of the arteries, but also to psychological ones such as maniac or violet behavior.
It might seem weird that we write an article about body image and how it isn’t so important while working on a blog about style and fashion. But what we want is for everyone; muscular, thin, large, wide, narrow etc to feel and look their best. You need to learn how to use the tools style provides to feel and look your best and this is what we are interested in. It’s not about your body, it’s about your attitude and what you put in the clothes!
It’s interesting how this has an equivalent for women too. Large women are seen in society as not deserving to voice an opinion or be loved. And that’s bad.
There was a joke on “30 Rock”, where Jack was cataloging “lesser beings: men with curly hair or people who need glasses”.
Of course, this is a joke and we can laugh at it, but it’s also a critique of society. Society actually does treat people who do not fit the standard as “lesser beings”.
The problem with men’s body image is that, besides not having alternatives, that it is not something that is talked about and moreover, there are no people militating for the democratization of men’s images. Women have celebrity spokespeople who talk about women’s body issues such as Portia de Rossi, Margaret Cho, but men don’t. It’s a silent battle for men.
Of course, there are people who prefer non-norm people, but it’s too little to be brought to the level of importance where we can speak of it as a general norm.
With this article, we just want to put in our two cents and raise a little more awareness and enlarge the group of people who care about what you do with your appearance and what your attitude and skills are, not what features you were born with and how much time you dedicate to working out and spending money.
Fraquoh and Franchomme
P.S. What do you think about the male body image today? Do you agree with what we wrote or do you feel men are under less pressure than women? Share your thoughts below!