Insecurity about their bodies is something all men experience — yet finding a man to speak openly about these issues is like finding an oasis in the desert.
The body positive movement has swept through the media over the past few years — more and more films are showing people of all body types, plus-size modelling is being celebrated more as women of different sizes are allowed to own their bodies, and people like Nicki Minaj and Meghan Trainor are writing painfully-catchy songs about curvy bodies.
It’s clear that we are becoming more comfortable having an open and honest discussion about what makes our bodies different — and what makes us feel insecure.
Well, most of us, anyway. All of this open discussion about our body image does bring up an important question, though:
Self Esteem Tips- Dealing with Body Image Issues. Post continues after video.
Where are all the body positive men?
As a young, non-white man in the body positive movement, I was quickly treated as a refreshing change of pace from the advocates people have gotten used to over time. This became clear fairly quickly as I began to notice that most of, if not all, my peers were women. Though a jarring realisation, as soon as I gave it some thought, it made sense for a lot of reasons.
Women are held to a much tighter standard of what “acceptable body types” are when compared to men: Beauty pageants and the mainstream modelling community idolise thin, “conventionally attractive” bodies. Did you know that the original Miss America competition used to have entire categories dedicated to body structure and facial symmetry?
If you take a look at most billboard and magazine ads, you’ll see how quickly women are sexualized to sell products that have nothing to do with sex — I’m not entirely sure what this lady in lingerie has to do with selling Burger King but damn am I hungry. And if you look at any mainstream television show where an unconventional-looking guy is dating a thin, gorgeous woman (King of Queens, Family Guy, Big Bang Theory, etc.) you’ll start to notice a pattern in the standards upheld when it comes to women’s appearances.
Where are all the body positive men? (Image via iStock.)
Even in a society where it’s much more socially acceptable for men to look “unusual,” men still deal with extreme body image issues. I can’t tell you how many men I’ve had conversations with who talk about feeling unattractive because of their weight, their hairline, their lack of muscle, or not having a model physique. Insecurity about their bodies is something all men experience — yet finding a man to speak openly about these issues is like finding an oasis in the desert. What makes us so self-conscious about putting ourselves out there?
Two words: Toxic masculinity.
Toxic masculinity is one of the less-discussed side effects of the patriarchy, and one of the many reasons why feminism is so important for men (aside from, like, believing women deserve equality?). Society upholds the dangerous belief that men are only valid if they embrace emotionless, stereotypically-masculine action and behaviour — behaviours that range from “boys don’t cry” to the “boys will be boys” mentality that follows them off the playground. These ideas teach young boys to reject their feelings out of fear as being labeled a “pussy” (which has its own slew of sexist connotations), and awards aggressive and violent behaviour among them.