Men and body image in the media

Two sad and fascinating stories on men and body image came across this Feminist Philosopher’s screen this morning:

1. Muscular Body Image Lures Boys Into Gym, and Obsession:

Pediatricians are starting to sound alarm bells about boys who take unhealthy measures to try to achieve Charles Atlas bodies that only genetics can truly confer. Whether it is long hours in the gym, allowances blown on expensive supplements or even risky experiments with illegal steroids, the price American boys are willing to pay for the perfect body appears to be on the rise.
In a study to be published on Monday in the journal Pediatrics, more than 40 percent of boys in middle school and high school said they regularly exercised with the goal of increasing muscle mass. Thirty-eight percent said they used protein supplements, and nearly 6 percent said they had experimented with steroids.

Thanks to an FP reader for emailing us this story.

2. I Get Mocked For Being Fat, But It’s What Guys Do, By Edwin Lyngar

In my day job, I work at a state wildlife department. It’s a manly, bearded, and flannel-clad kind of place. Although I’m a public relations person, interacting with people and writing press releases, I work with game wardens, biologists, and other outdoorsy types. In such an environment, it is not unusual to hear someone called a “fat fuck” or a “goddamn prick.” It’s not meant to be personal when men insult one another. If you have red hair, they might call you red or if you’re bald, they might call you baldy (in a fit of originality). For me, I sometimes hear fat ass, fat fuck, or chubby. Among men, these kinds of insults are normal, even expected. If someone isn’t cruel to you regularly, it probably means you are not well liked. Ironically, the more other men like you, the more often they might hurl a “fat bastard” your way.

From the terrific online magazine Role/Reboot which focuses on culture and gender roles.

In my dreams of equality I want women to enjoy the bodily freedom that men have traditionally enjoyed but sadly it looks as if we are getting equality by leveling down: pressure, anxiety, and fear all round.

6 thoughts on “Men and body image in the media

  1. Thanks for the followup, Dr. Protevi. Very thought-provoking.

    This stuff’s destroyed my life. I’ve had health issues throughout my 20’s due to drugs mentioned, and due also to Accutane which I took for skin “problems”. Many of these issues were/are cosmetic (ie the drugs made me look worse, by my crazy standard for “worse”) and accelerated my dysmorphia. However (and sadly), I can honestly say the pressure on me was so large my ONLY regret is taking the drugs irresponsibly, not taking them generally.

    So, I’m so jaded and cynical about this topic I don’t think I can agree even with attempts to fix the system. At a certain point the “jokes” (as in the OP’s #2 article) and pressure are so overwhelming, one becomes annoyed by people who try to tell them they’re OK, or who try to say looks shouldn’t matter so much (a very awful situation, indeed). I had very supportive parents who told me I was OK and needed to accept myself…and they provided such an environment for acceptance…however honestly I wish they had just enrolled me in a program where I could lift weights properly and safely and not have to figure it out on my own (dangerously).

    I think therein lies some of the resistance to change. The people who need to change (like me) are so embittered toward the system they would rather “win” against it than practice self-acceptance. Does that make sense?

    Have a nice/safe holiday everyone.


  2. I see this article as more proof that society is tough on everyone when it comes to body image, not just women.
    We are all taught, since very young age, that in order to be deserving of attention, respect and love, you should be as good looking as possible. If you don’t have a pretty face, the focus is naturally shifted to your body. ‘Why don’t you work out? Having a gym membership is not that expensive. If you have the time, why wouldn’t you want to work out? You don’t work out? Oh, you’re so lazy.’ and on and on it goes.
    Women are pressured to be thin and fit, men are pressured to be athletic and muscular. Everyone is pressured to “keep in shape”, but here comes the icing on top of the cake. Are people encouraged to keep in shape for health reasons? To live a better lifestyle? Maybe that is what society uses as a pretence sometimes to justify its own judgement. But in reality, as young people, even teenage girls and boys know, “taking care of your body” is about more than taking care of yourself. It’s about fitting in in a world that rejects and tries to essentially “spit out” anyone who either doesn’t live up to many swallow standards or isn’t trying their best to.

    – MT

  3. i agree with the writer. far too many women are upset by the comments pointed out by you. if you want to be equal start practising. other peoples comments do not upset me. i also make comments, just as many as men do. stand tall! paulina

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